Working from home for me right now could not be any more inconvenient. Before the recent global events, I had sold all my possessions and gone traveling with nothing more than a 70L backpack and laptop.
I’m now back in New Zealand and faced with working from a minimalist setup, which consists of not much more than a desk, a chair, a laptop and a mobile connection that costs a whopping $20 per Gig.
Of course, many people probably have it worse. Although in times of hardship, you simply have to learn to do more with less. Here are a few simple productivity hacks I use to work smarter from home:
I Put Constraints on My Time
Interestingly, too many choices just lead to bad choices. Too much time leads to time wasted.
So, what’s healthy is putting in some constraints. Like you would remove unhealthy food from your house if you didn’t want to eat it, putting constraints on your time is the same.
To me, freedom comes not from doing what you want when you want, but rather, doing what you ought to do. It’s putting first things first so you can live a life of purpose.
With that, some of my constraints are:
- I Work Until My Laptop Goes Dead: When working from a cafe or co-working space, I never take a charger. Instead, I only give myself the 4–5 hours that my battery will last. And right now I’m doing the exact same thing from home. What Psychologists would call this is a “Forcing Function.” Not only does it force you to better use the time your battery will last, but it also forces you to take a break. Of course, if you’ve got a desktop, this strategy isn’t exactly going to work. Although you can probably find a way to do something similar. For example, you may try the Pomodoro Technique.
- I Have Non-Work Hours: Jim Rohn has said, “Work hard at your job and you can make a living. Work hard on yourself and you can make a fortune.” Similarly, Benjamin P. Hardy once wrote, “Spend 20% of your energy on your work and 80% of your energy on recovery and self-improvement.” Indeed, the worst thing you could possibly do is be constantly plugged in. This is like trying to chop down a tree with a dull saw; you’ll be using a lot of time and effort but getting minimal results. Instead, it’s important to have non-work hours where you detach from work and let your mind wander.
I Put the Same Song on Repeat
Although you have to ask: Is it fact or fiction?
Elizabeth Margulis’s book, On Repeat: How Music Plays the Mind, gives us a hint. She explains that when you’re listening to the same song on repeat, you tend to dissolve into that song.
You become so familiar with the sound that it almost fades away. Sure, it’s still in the background, but you’re not hearing that. Instead, you’re only hearing the little voice inside your head chugging away at the problems on the page.
You’re dialed in. For a moment, all your other problems are gone.
The cars stop rushing past, the power tools come to a grinding halt, you get your work done, and then suddenly, you wake up to the realization that 2 hours have passed and you’ve just listened to the same song 30 times.
If you’ve never experienced this, I recommend you give it a try! Experiment with different sounds and volumes. Personally, I find soft/uplifting music played at a low-medium volume works best.
I Plan My Day Ahead of Time
When you’re working under self-imposed constraints and trying to get things done as effectively as possible, the last thing you want is to be spending your working time trying to decide what to do.
Hence, this is where planning your day ahead of time comes in. And no, I’m talking about a to-do list. Gary Keller has famously said,
“Instead of a to-do list, you need a success list — a list that is purposefully created around extraordinary results. To-do lists tend to be long; success lists are short. One pulls you in all directions; the other aims you in a specific direction.”
Indeed, productivity is not about how much you do, but rather, what you do. It’s about being clear of your intentions and taking deliberate steps towards something meaningful.
Said Benjamin P. Hardy, “Success is 20 steps in one direction instead of 1 step in 20 directions.”
So, planning the day is something that need not take more than 5 minutes before going to bed. Simply take a few minutes to get organised and remove willpower, decision fatigue and procrastination.
Working smarter from home comes not from having the perfect conditions or circumstances, but rather, taking personal responsibility.
It’s realizing that you may not have the greatest internet connection, workmen may be making a racket outside and children might be running around.
Although none of that’s stopping you from getting your work done. Ultimately, it’s you!
Said James Allen, “Circumstances do not make the man, they reveal him.”
Liked this article? Join my email list to stay in touch.