I work at home and live alone. I have a lot of flexibility with my schedule. It would be easy for me to stay up all night to get work done and play all day or to take an extended break to watch the afternoon soaps. I don’t. Why? Because when I lay my head on my pillow at night, I like to feel like I have accomplished something – that my day has been worthwhile – that I have been productive.
Over the years, I have developed some habits that help me achieve that. Some of these ideas may sound trivial but they work for me.
- Definitively end the work day. A habit I developed when working in a corporate office was to spend five to ten minutes at the end of the day checking my calendar for the following day and writing my “to do” list of the next day. This habit closes the workday. Additionally, it helps me sleep better at night because I don’t need to worry that I have forgotten something. Sometimes my list is long but no matter, I choose three things on it that are “must dos”. I can’t sign off unless those are complete.
- Deliberately start the workday. When I went to a corporate office to work, the trip to my desk involved morning greetings with my co-workers, hanging up my coat and starting my computer. “Work” started with a review of my calendar and my to do list. The same is true today except, I don’t have co-workers to greet or outer clothes to store. My deliberateness now is to leave the “house” behind and sit at my desk.
- Move. I can be a manic worker. I get my head into something and I can keep going for hours. That is not good for me and I know it. I recognize that I need to stand and move. The solution for me is simple and symbolic – I set a timer for every hour of work. My timer cannot be shut off from my desk and it will not be ignored. To shut it off, I need to walk away from my desk. It gives my eyes a rest and my body a break. It also signals how much time I have spent on a particular task.
- Calendar everything. If something is not on my calendar, it likely isn’t going to happen. I put everything on my calendar from the standard meetings to pick-ups from the dry cleaners to theatre dates to social events. If you read my blog last week, you will see that I also schedule time for working on projects as I go through email. I may be a bit calendar obsessed but I pride myself on being able to keep my commitments and keep up with my friends.
- Sleep and meditate. Wait – what? Productivity can involve sleep? Yes, it can. Having good sleep hygiene habits makes a difference in your ability to function. Meditation breaks through the day can help you stay focused and are particularly helpful if you are facing a difficult or complex task.
- Turn off the alerts. By that I mean the ones that tell you when your friends love your latest Facebook post, when emails arrive in your inbox, etc. You can check those things during your move breaks or at particular times during the day. It is especially important to put your phone to bed at night so that your friends who don’t sleep, don’t disturb you. If something is urgent enough to get you up in the middle of the night, people can call you – I know it’s old fashioned but the ringing phone is a cry for urgency.
I am not perfect but I know from experience that exercising these habits consistently make me more productive.