I have read many articles about getting things done, and have tried software specifically created for GTD, but I find myself sticking with the basics in order to stay productive.
As you might know, I work for a company who develops WordPress software for photographers. Since the company is all online, all employees are distributed. That means we are scattered around the world, and everyone basically works from home or from coffee shops when a change a scenery is needed.
Working from home has its challenges and drawbacks. Not only for getting work done efficiently due to distractions but also related to mental and physical health.
Physical because if you sit at a desk all day you are putting more strain on your back, and lessening your lifespan.
Mentally because you aren’t sitting in the same room as your coworkers as you might in a “normal” work environment. There is human interaction, but it’s not as much as the typical environment either. At Imagely we chat via Slack. So there is always a dialog, just not always voice and rarely video.
With that said, I thought I would share some of what has helped me stay productive when working from home.
Reminders / To do Software
Ever since Apple created the Reminders app for iPhone and then Mac (synced with iCloud) I have used it. I have multiple reminders lists:
- Reminders (for myself)
- Family (shared with Melissa via iCloud Family)
Whether you use Reminders or something more advanced, it’s important to have your calendar and your exact “to do” software separate from each other. That way you can really keep an eye on what’s most important and due first.
The school Melissa teaches at is roughly 45 minutes away from our house. So we have to get up around 6:00am for her to get ready (I make her lunch) and leave. I find myself starting work as soon as she leaves in the morning, although I technically don’t have to. I wind up working longer days typically. But I am so much more productive first thing in the morning than I am if I wait until 8am or 9am to start the day.
My home office is basically a bedroom. However, I have converted it into a more creative space, with my photographs on the walls, a white board, photography and marketing books and much of my photographic equipment throughout.
The space you work in matters because if it’s dull and boring then you won’t be productive.
But at the same time, you want to make sure the space isn’t distracting. So keep the door closed if people are in the house. Put on music that has no words (like Jazz), which can make you more productive.
Clear your desk of anything not essential to your work. For me I have my Wacom tablet, my laptop, second screen and that’s about all. At times I have photography accessories, card readers, etc. But for the most part my desk is clear so I have nothing distracting me from getting my work done.
I always get dressed in the morning, as if I was headed into the office. I don’t wear a suit or anything that fancy to work at home. But jeans and shirt and even socks and sneakers can make you more productive than sitting in pajamas all day.
Most Important First
Along the same lines is prioritizing by importance. The most important tasks of my day get done first, and then the less important are done after or put off until the next day.
Also going along with prioritizing comes Google Inbox. I only use Google inbox to keep my emails in check and under control. With it I can swipe to “snooze” an email for a day, a week, a month, or really any time frame of my choosing. Important emails to be read and answered that day are done in Gmail. But anything I need to forget for whatever time, I snooze using Google Inbox.
It is extremely important to know when it is time to take a break. In a typical day I am taking an hour lunch break at noon. Sometimes, depending on the day, I might take a few more breaks to clear my head. If the weather is right I will grab my camera and go on a 3 mile photowalk.
Part of my job includes social media, so I can’t turn it off. Sometimes I wish I could. There are times where the “alert” queue on social media is so deep that I get overwhelmed and avoid it for a while. So I force myself to handle those once a day. I don’t mean the random reply or mention here and there. But when I log into Google Plus and see 14+ notifications or something along those lines, it’s another story. Those I will get to when all the important work is done. I rely heavily on Buffer to keep my content scheduled.
This is too easy to ignore. Heck, working in an office you can also overlook the value of water. Aside from the obvious health benefits to drinking water, there is a less obvious reason. If you drink a lot of water you are likely to have to have to use the bathroom more often. That means having to get up and move around, potentially walking up and down stairs to a bathroom.
Distraction Free Writing
WordPress has a distraction free writing mode, but it’s not 100% distraction free as you can still see what’s happening on your computer outside of the browser. That’s why I use software liek ia Writer whenever writing content whether for myself, for Imagely or anything really. There are many alternatives to ia Writer, like Desk, but I find it the simplest without any unnecessary features. It also allows me to save in iCloud and pick up documents on my iPhone or iPad.
If you are wondering what distraction free writing means… imagine a completely blank screen with nothing but a cursor prompt. Think MS-DOS or Doogie Howser.
The beauty of this is having no choice but to focus on what is right in front of you. In this case, the words you are typing.
When I am done with whatever I’m writing, I simply copy/paste the text into wherever I need, like a WordPress post, an email or a Word Doc or iBooks template for an eBook.
An alternative to ia Writer which connects to many blogging and social platforms is Desk. However, I haven’t spent enough time with Desk to recommend it as strongly as I do ia Writer. Desk is also only available for Mac via the Mac App Store.
This is another area which has many alternative software choices. I hate a love/hate relationship with Evernote, for silly reasons that aren’t work talking about. But for the most part I love using Google Keep for keeping track of different projects I am working on. I can organize each project into a Notebook and then add individual notes for different things.
I can also send websites to different categories related to the topic. Or I can grab a snippet of text, or an image, from a website.
Googe Keep for iOS also integrates seamlessly into the operating system so I can add to a category from practically any mobile source.
To not overwork, I tend to end the day at 4pm, wind down for an hour or so, make some dinner and then start over the next day. With a child on the way, I’m not sure how my schedule will change. But I am certain that if I stick with my organization that I will be successful managing the changes.
As I think of more things I do (the less obvious things) I will update this post. Until then, thanks for reading and good luck finding what works for you.
If you have any questions about working from home, please comment below.