While most of the world struggles to shift into a work from home (WFH) mindset, now is the perfect time to set yourself up for success. If you’re like me, you may have been WFH for quite some time before the pandemic. However, if the concept of working while you happen to be home is new to you, read on. It can seem amazing at first but is full of its own set of self-sabotaging traps. The main one being anxiety surrounding what you think needs to be completed versus what should be completed.
In my opinion there are several ways on how to effectively and efficiently practice WFH to get the most out of your day without feeling rundown or unproductive at the end of it. Finding out what you need to do that is important by practicing ‘Essentialism’ could be the key for you.
It all starts with balance
First things first, you’ll want to create a clear and purposeful divide between your work life and your personal life. This is imperative. Even in this current state, it’s important that if possible, you create a home office that is separate from your communal living space to serve as a visual boundary. I believe the time spent setting up a comfortable and pleasing home office for yourself is the foundation of being productive while working from home.
Splurge if you can and get yourself a first rate chair and desk. These are going to be the main support items that you use the most for hours on end. Whatever is most comfortable for you is what you should aim for. I like to choose chairs that are low to the ground due to my height, with rigid back seats and adjustable seat depth. As for a desk, I keep it as small as I can get away with, just enough to hold my laptop, a portable printer, a small lamp, my water bottle, and some basic writing tools. That’s it. For me having a small desk surface means I will be less likely to clutter up my work space.
Whenever possible pick a spot that is well lit, quiet, with fresh air can make all the difference. It’s healthier to have fresh and/or moving air to keep you alert and increase energy and brain function. All in all, you will think more clearly and get to enjoy the brief scent of outdoors.
Chase less, do more
If you are not familiar with essentialism, it’s the idea that facilitates a new way of thinking about productivity. It helps create a disciplined, systematic approach for determining what the maximum point of contribution is by then turning the steps to completing into easier work.
It can be broken down into a simple three step process, one that I had adopted before learning there was name for it. Turns out a global pandemic does absolutely nothing positive for staying focused while WFH. I feel my goals are not being identified and executed properly. For me I’m deciding to eliminate the unnecessary day-to-day stresses and anxieties that are preventing me from being productive with work.
“Essentialism is not about how to get more things done; it’s about how to get the right things done. It doesn’t mean just doing less for the sake of less either. It is about making the wisest possible investment of your time and energy in order to operate at our highest point of contribution by doing only what is essential,”
— Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown
Step 1: Explore
Dig deep and really explore what makes you happy and then compare that to what is actually happening now in your life. I write a lot of ‘Pro vs Con’ lists. This is where I would jot down what is making me happy and what isn’t. I use this for my personal life as well as for my professional life (especially since they exist under the same roof). When you start exploring remember to ask yourself some questions like:
- Which tasks do I dislike doing?
- Do I have a set “work” schedule while home?
- What hobbies do I get excited for?
- Are there situations that trigger stress and anxiety?
- What do like the most and least about my work?
- Could I see myself doing something more enjoyable, and how can I get there from here?
Think carefully about these questions — focus on locking down factors that motivate and push you so that you aren’t stuck in a negative thinking bias loop. Change is hard to do, even with the best intentions, so if you feel some changes will need to be made in order to be more productive, be honest with yourself but take the first step in doing so.
Step 2: Elimination
That’s right, we’re getting rid of stuff in this step. Look at your surroundings of stress-inducing or unessential elements and reduce their presence or impact. The point of this step is to create more space for you to focus and begin actionable movements that you explored in your earlier questions. Here are some areas I had to focus removing or heavily reducing:
Social media scrolling
I installed a handy app called Moment for one week and used social media as I normally would. Even though I wouldn’t consider myself a “heavy” user, seeing myself creep up near the double digits on the weekend made me more aware of my boredom tactics. Unless it’s helpful for the growth of my business I now limit personal social media time tremendously.
I had to ask myself: What am I getting out of this much social media usage? How do I feel after I use social media? I realized I would feel agitated and sometimes sad that I was not living an “Instagram worthy” life daily. This caused me to take a much needed hiatus. I do this as often and for as long as I feel is necessary.
Careless online shopping
I realized that when I was bored I would find useless things online to purchase for myself or my home. But, once I took a step back looked at if the items were actually helping me accomplish my goals I realized many of them were not and had no purpose in my life.
All online shopping did was create more of a barrier of stuff that was preventing me from focusing on my goals. Not only that, it was creating a visually cluttering look to my workspace.
Dying connections assessment
I have friends from all over the world. Most of us have been friends for years and years. But, we don’t really see each other anymore nor even share the same interests. We all outgrow people for one reason or another. Just like a hobby that you haven’t participated in for months or years (yet still have all the equipment to), it could be a sign to move on.
I deleted over 50 contacts from my phone of those I had not talked to in more than 10 months. I identified the anxiety I felt about keeping up contact when it seemed one-sided or not fulfilling and eliminated that.
Lastly, I continue to work on letting go of control. I have a innate tendency to want to control the little details. I am creating my own stress by my unwillingness to accept that there is more than one way to get to a desired outcome. I’ve gotten better at delegating tasks both at home and at work. I can now sit back and watch how those I’ve asked choose to complete tasks. It might not be the same way as I would’ve done it, but it still gets done and sometimes I learn a new way of doing something.
By carefully editing my life, and changing particular habits and patterns I have been on a better course to eliminating most sources of stress in my life. Hence, allowing more time for quality work.
Step 3: Execution
Once you identify the places within your life (or day) that you would like to focus on and eliminate what is needless, you’re ready to start taking initiative.
I’ve explained before, but don’t forget you have the power to say ‘No’ anytime you like. Try to only agree to commitments that help you move toward your goals or that you genuinely enjoy. If your goal is you want more division between work and personal time, set out to create a WFH schedule with breaks. I use a desktop and mobile app called TrackingTime that allows me treat my “work hours” like work hours, even though I am at home. Plus, I enjoy clocking in and out as a trigger to my brain that I’m starting or finishing work for the day. Otherwise, I have a habit of working on and off during all waking hours.
The beginning of my day includes sitting down and carefully writing a list. I write what I need to do that day to progress further toward my goals. I make mindful decisions to support the elements I pinpointed in step one. Then, I do my best not to get distracted (i.e: only let the kitty on my keyboard once and no YouTube).
Before intentionally deciding to practice essentialism while working from home, I felt that I was always busy. I was always on the verge of something needing to be done, created, worked on, thought about, etc. I was swallowing up a lot of my precious personal free time.
It’s easy to forget that you don’t need to do it all, you might not even want to admit you don’t actually have the energy to do it all. Essentialism focuses on the priority, not the priorities. This is where doing less is really more. When you’re selective, you give yourself more time to create focused, high-quality work and high-quality work goes a lot further than mediocre work on several avenues wouldn’t you say?