How to Work Effectively at Home? Simple Rules that don’t take Superhuman Willpower

Iron self-discipline does not make us effective workers. What then?

Rick Mess       |       Apr 28, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many companies to switch to remote work. Many people have chosen freelance at their own discretion to have more freedom. Those of us who are used to working in the office are faced with unusual problems. Usually these are different interferences. Employees of our company have extensive experience in remote work, and we have something to share with you.

No control

It’s nice when nobody stands over you all the time and constantly asks how the work is going. Soon, however, procrastination attacks us, we relax and begin to concern ourselves with something unplanned. And then we regret it and suffer from guilt. Which of us is not familiar with this?

No motivation

The joy of getting rid of the office schedule can be short-lived for some people. Left alone with work and not seeing their colleagues nearby, many lose their excitement. Competition is intrinsic to mankind at the level of instincts, even though we aren’t always aware of this. After some time, do not be surprised why the whole courage has disappeared and the work became tedious. You don’t need to prove anything to anyone, but it doesn’t bring joy for some reason.

When working at home, employees see only their part of the work and lose their understanding of the aggregate picture. Even when the managers keep the team up to date and support virtual communication, it can’t substitute live communication with colleagues completely. Well, if it’s customary in the company to sum up the results, it saves the situation a bit. But let’s be honest — no program can replace real approval, a friendly pat on the shoulder and the simple praise like “Well done!” Many of us miss it, but we do not think about it — we just lose our inclination to work.

No end to work

Some of us after a procrastination attack postpone work for the evening, “for later”, etc. As a result, the first half of the day passes in a losing fight with distracting factors, and the second half — in attempts to force oneself to catch up. The result is sad: neither rest, nor work.

Family and other hindrances

It is not necessary to have a family whose members disturb your work. For some people it’s enough to just read the news to fall into a sluggish depression for the whole day, others can go online and get lost. Distracting factors are always there.

Don’t blame yourself for lack of self-discipline and justify failures with hindrances right away. It’s worth checking if you know what you really need to deal with?

Most likely, you have already heard (read) tips on how to work at home. It is necessary to organize a workspace — to barricade yourself from the family, sheathe your corner with soundproofing material and send out everyone except the cat. Do twenty push-ups, set time management, turn off social networks … And do nothing.

No, no one eliminates the importance of organizing time and work space. All this is necessary and useful. And obvious. However, there is still something unobvious, but very important.

1. Let the work captivate you

The fight against distractions makes us subconsciously think about these factors, on the principle of a white monkey. We do not know why we are distracted and unorganized. It’s just that our mind is not focused on work, but on external irritants (it doesn’t matter whether they are positive or negative). There is an effective way to focus — mentally give yourself 2 minutes to work, after which you can do other things. These 2 minutes usually work like a spark, and people continue to work on.

We work well when we want to work, when we are passionate about our tasks and get captivated by them.

2. Take small steps

Our subconscious mind does not like outstanding tasks. And it doesn’t matter which ones. But each completed job causes a surge in dopamine and serotonin. It’s worth making a plan and breaking up a big task into small simple steps. Each step taken will bring you satisfaction, and after a while even an unloved task will turn into a pleasant one. It works, and you can easily check this for yourself.

3. Boundaries in our head

We can dig ourselves a bunker for work, where no one will bother us, but it will not help if we disturb ourselves and violate our own boundaries. We must protect our working self from our home self — these are our different avatars. Do not sit down at the workplace in a bathrobe and with a bowl of soup, call friends and abstract yourself in any way. It’s better not to do anything that you wouldn’t allow yourself at work, surrounded by colleagues. Leave it to your “home” avatar when its turn comes.

A conscious decision not to mix personal and work affairs is very important. Each of us in our own way can distribute our time, and it doesn’t matter if you work better in the morning or in the evening. The main thing is to separate your working self from your resting self. And no, this does not threaten with split personality. When you take a break from work, you should not turn into your home self! This is the most common mistake. You can have lunch or take exercises, but do not rush during the break to wash the dishes or potter around the garage. It is likely that a home avatar will not give way to a working one. And as a result of violence against yourself in attempts to kick it away, you will lose your working mood.

The most effective employees are those who set their own boundaries, external and internal.

4. Recognize your needs

The willpower of each of us is limited. When we are tired or upset by something, our will weakens. The better we know ourselves, the easier it is for us to allocate the workload. For example, to do more difficult tasks in the morning when you have more strength, switch to another activity when tired. It is simple to be effective — to work enthusiastically during work and to rest enthusiastically during rest. And do not mix one with the other! There are no really lazy people. But there are many who are not sufficiently motivated, who are afraid of something, who do not understand what they really want. To work well without overseers, you need to be your own loving manager.