So you’ve been working from home for a couple of weeks now. How is it going?
- Outstanding! I’m more productive than ever.
- I’m doing okay. There was that one snafu with the Zoom call, but let’s not talk about that.
- Just wake me from my coffee coma when this is all over.
If you chose “3” I’m here to tell you it’s okay. I promise you are not alone. I do want to share some tips to help make your home workspace as user-friendly, productive and pleasant as possible. Believe it or not, there are several things you can do, and luckily none of them involves getting within six feet of another human being.
#1. Multiple Monitors
One thing I’ve found to be extremely useful when working from home is to hook my laptop up to a secondary screen. A light, compact computer like the Microsoft Surface Pro Tablet is great for being able to work on the go, but many of us are used to a larger screen. By plugging an external monitor into my Surface Pro, I can not only get a larger image that’s easier on the eyes, but I double my digital workspace.
Since I interface with clients all day long every day, I use one screen primarily for my email and Microsoft Teams. The other screen is where I view websites, do research, etc, and it’s very easy for me to pull something from a website on my external monitor and drop it into my communications with clients on the other screen. It’s even kind of fun.
Multiple monitors are also very useful for the virtual meetings we are all having to do now. I typically will have my Teams or Zoom meeting on my Surface screen so I can look into the camera, and have my other screen open for any reference materials I may need during the meeting. If I find myself leading the meeting, I will use my external monitor to display the agenda and capture notes.
If you do design work or have multiple projects you are managing at same time, you could dedicate one screen to each major project. However you use your monitors, once you double your digital workspace, you won’t want to go back. Heck, I even know people who use three screens!
#2. Avoid Distractions
It’s not impossible, I promise. Well, it may be impossible when other people are around, and that is why, before a couple of weeks ago, I would primarily work from home when the house would be empty (except for the dog). If you don’t have that luxury, it’s imperative that you have a secluded, low-traffic area to work in. Hanging a skull and crossbones sign on your door may work if you have little pirates (or princesses) on your ship. Now that my family is home with me while working, they know that if my door is closed to leave me alone. However, there have been a couple of occasions over the past week where a little pirate has walked in during a MS Teams meeting. If that keeps up, I may need to find a window where I can build a “plank”!
#3. Take Frequent Mental Breaks
So here’s the paradox about working from home that you may or may not have discovered: you have more time than ever to get everything done and yet all of that time mysteriously gets filled up, usually with work. Sitting in front of a computer for hours and hours is exhausting, bad for your eyes and posture, and takes a toll on your mental health. That’s why it’s so important to schedule breaks into your home-based work day. To keep myself on track I use my FitBit to remind me to get up at least once an hour to complete 250 steps. Alexa or Siri are good for reminders, too.
Walk the dog, throw the laundry in, take a bonafide actual lunch break, do some sun salutations, check in with your partner and kids, check the news (in fact if you limit your news-checking to only during breaks, you’ll be doing your mental health another huge favor). What you actually do on your break matters little as long as it doesn’t have to do with work and forces you to look away from the glowing rectangle. Look away!
#4. Avoid the Myth of Multitasking
Yes, multitasking is a myth. Whether you are listening to a video call while texting or typing an email while talking on the phone, you aren’t multitasking, you are task-switching– moving quickly back and forth between two tasks. It’s incredibly inefficient, leads to mistakes, and taxes our poor brain (which, let’s face it, has enough on its plate right now). If you have a number of tasks on your to do list, you’ll have a better outcome if you knock them off one at a time, giving each one Your. Complete. Attention.
Sometimes people ask if listening to music while you work counts as task-switching. That depends. If you can focus completely on your work while having music in the background, that’s fine. But if you find that the lyrics or killer drum solos are dragging your attention away, switch to nature sounds or that golden thing called silence.
#5. Master Time Management
You can make the most of your workday by practicing effective strategies like those we cover in our five-hour self-paced Time Management course. The course offers tips for organization, prioritization and planning, covers learning modalities like the ABC and Eisenhower Methods, and teaches how to maximize scheduling systems such as activity logs, action plans and to do lists.
So that’s it! You are ready to take your home workspace to the next level. If you want more tips, check out this article. And, even though I said there were only going to be five, I can’t leave out a sixth and final personal recommendation for being productive at home:
Coffee. Lots and Lots of coffee.
About the Authors
Cory Camic, PMP®, Business Development Manager
Cory has provided services to Solarity for five of his nearly 20 year career with proven ingenuity in the areas of sales team development and management, as well as leveraging solutions-based selling to increase corporate profitability. Additionally, Cory has 15 years of experience working in the technology field, helping to design, implement, and manage technology solutions for enterprise organizations in both the public and private sectors. Cory is characterized as a results-driven individual with excellent interpersonal and communication skills.
Christy Swift has been a writer and correspondent in the United States and Canada for over 10 years. With a degree in English and technical writing, she has a knack for making complicated subject matter digestible and even tasty. Christy regularly conducts research into the latest trends in project management to provide the Solarity Group with engaging content for its website and e-newsletters.
Our mission is to help people, organizations, and communities THRIVE! Our broad range of experience and knowledge in a range of different industries allows us to customize our approach to fit the situation. We work in total partnership with our clients to understand their business needs and the current environment, and then match the right amount of process to meet the culture and the project.