How to be productive working from home

Hello, I hope you are doing well. How was the weekend? Was it restful? Was it busy?

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I know people are different and react to things differently and also cope in various ways. Working from home has been in existence before Covid but used to be seen as convenient jobs and doesn’t pay as much as work in the office. With Covid came hard lockdown situations in which every company that could function from home had their staff start working remotely. It was an unplanned situation in which people had to device ways to cope with working from home.

For me, when I started my current job in 2018, I started working from home but had to go out about two to three times a week to attend events such as career fairs, meetings with high school counselors, face to face consultations with parents and students and mini fairs I organized for university representatives who visited from time to time. As the agency I work for has partnership with over 250 universities, I had to attend to so many of them on a monthly basis. I sometimes had to host about three universities and take them on high school tours so students could meet with them and ask all the questions they had. All these events, combined, meant that my work from home was not 100% work from home however, I did my follow ups, university applications and everything else from home.

With Covid though, things changed. All prior scheduled physical events were cancelled and I had to work from home 100% which meant back to back meetings. All those meetings I had to go for at different schools still went on- on my laptop. University representatives who couldn’t fly down, organized several zoom sessions. At some point, it felt like my work had tripled and even though I was no longer going out, I had so much work to do that just wouldn’t end. I was constantly tired, out of breath from non stop meetings and phone conversations. I think students and their parents also felt like I was home and should be able to pick my call and answer their questions 24/7. I was also struggling to keep my home together, couldn’t keep up with meal times, couldn’t clean as frequently as I used to and knew that I had to do something. I had to take some urgent steps to put myself in a better place. Below are the steps I took.

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  1. To-Do List: I realized that I had to focus on my to do list and put only things that were really important and couldn’t be moved to the following day. It simplified my life a lot. It is easy for us to think we can do this and that but are they really important or urgent?
  2. Dedicate a work space: having a section of your home aa your office space can make such a huge difference. It did for me. I won’t lie, I used to carry my laptop with me every where and worked everywhere~ on the dining, on the couch, on my kitchen table and even on the bed. I thought that was easier and thought I was enjoying working from home by being able to work anywhere around the house. I found out that actually worsened things for me. What I did then was to bring out my study table I used during my Honors and Masters programs about 6 years ago, dust it off and polished it nicely and put it in a corner in my bedroom. Yes, bedroom as that was the most quiet place in the house- it’s a really small apartment so I don’t have a study or a spare room to use. Also, it is a room where JBoy knows that he has to knock before entering and when he opens the door, he peeks and asks if I’m in a meeting or if he can ask me something quickly. That worked for me like magic and made my life easier. When I got to that table, I knew it was work time.
  3. Pace yourself: Another thing I had to do was to pace myself. I no longer RSVP’D yes to all video meetings and conferences. Rather, I asked if they could be rescheduled or if the session would run again on another date. When I did this, I realized that those on the other side of the screen are humans like me and simply set a date that worked for us both. My calendar events became reduced and clearer. I was able to select meetings that needed me to RSVP yes to such as fixed meetings and the likes.
  4. Strictly 9-5: I kept my work hours strictly 9-5. I no longer worked outside of those hours except in some very rare occasions that I just had to assist a student after hours. I always made sure to let them know that I had closed for work but willing to assist. What I found was that if I said to a student that I had closed for the day but would assist you, they end up saying that they would contact me in the morning. So I made it a habit and believe when I say this, most have really reduced reaching out to me after 5 and when they do they start with “hi ma’am, I know you have closed for today but…..” or “sorry to bother you after work….” It worked like magic. My work is mostly done through emails and phone/whatsapp so it’s hard to ignore some messages and I prefer to send a quick reply to messages like “why don’t we talk about this at 9am tomorrow ” and they get the message. This step really helped.
  5. Break time: I no longer took my break at some point because everything got muddled up and some calls ran into another meeting and would feel lucky to get a sandwich in or some juice. I stayed being intentional about my break time and made sure to take 30-45 minutes at least on break doing something totally unrelated to work. Maybe just read a novel or drink rooibos tea or play games on my phone.
  6. To-do list again: just before 5 and before closing my laptop, I did a to-do list to help me remember the emails I wanted to start with or students that I wanted to submit their applications the following day. I made sure I was clear on what needed to be done the following day and also gave allowances for any urgent situation that may pop up.

These steps have helped me a great deal and I believe they might work for someone else too. It has made me more productive at my job and I feel less stressed than I was before. I get jobs done more efficiently and my students and parents love me for my job or more like love the work that I do for them ☺

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What has worked for you since you started working fully from home? Are there any steps you took that made you more productive or merely just simplified your work life? Please leave a comment so we can learn more from you.

Thank you for stopping by. Keep well, stay safe. Be kind. Laugh often. Until next time, bye for now 👋

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