In a recent article, I wrote about how a podcast with Ezra Klein and The Extended Mind author Annie Murphy Paul changed my perspective of productivity. In short: We’re not computers and need to stop thinking of ourselves as such. We need rest and relaxation to give our bodies time to recharge and our minds space to be distracted.
Building on what I shared last time, I want to provide more everyday leisurely habits that can set your mind and body in motion to be creative and increase your productivity.
4 Surprising Ways to Increase your Work From Home Productivity
- Start your day away from the computer.
- Use your lunch time to take a walk.
- Take time in the afternoon to handwrite your notes.
- Keep a puzzle or game near your workspace.
1. Start Your Day Away From the Computer
Seems counterproductive, right? Previously, I recommended getting away from the computer. Now, I’m going as far as to suggest you start your day away from the computer.
Allow me to explain.
If you’re like me, too many times you’ve opened your laptop first thing in the morning “just to check your calendar.” And then the emails come in, and the Slack notifications, and the texts. And the next thing you know an hour has passed. Your coffee’s cold and your day’s off to a bad start.
Instead, take that morning coffee to your favorite spot in your house and spend 30 minutes reading a book or, better yet, get a subscription to your local newspaper. Take that time to get your mind ready for the day. Take a look at your handwritten notes from yesterday (more on that soon) to determine your goals for the day. Think about what you need to get done, what would be nice to get done and what can wait for another day.
I have two dogs, so I make it a point to take them each outside in the morning before I begin work. I typically listen to music that lifts me up (it’s winter in Boston right now, and Turnover’s Peripheral Vision album is my go-to for upbeat summer vibes).
2. Use Your Lunch Time to Take a Walk
Depending on how much time you have and whether you prefer a leisurely lunch, I recommend using your time to go for a walk (preferably with your dog . . . or maybe your neighbor’s dog). If you happen to be training for endurance events (like an Ironman), get a run in.
Switching from a screen to the real-world can reset your mind and clear out any cobwebs so you come back to the afternoon’s work fresh. Lunch can also double as time to get in the latest episode of your (*cough cough*) favorite podcast.
The modern work from home workday doesn’t have to stick to the nine-to-five grind, and my equivalent of a daily walk/run happens during all sorts of different 30-90 minute openings throughout my day. I actually find it’s helpful that my exercise breaks are not on a fixed schedule. Each day has its own unique mix of work and leisure activities that require careful time management.
3. Take Time in the Afternoon to Handwrite Your Notes
This is something I like to do towards the end of my workday. Not necessarily the final task, but after all my meetings are over.
It’s something that encompasses my entire day – personal and professional. I have two notebooks going at all times. One is more of a family diary and the other is for work notes. I could dedicate an entire post to my note taking practice. (Maybe I will....)
In my personal notebook, my entries often begin with notes about how my day began with our four-year-old daughter. I like capturing what we do together before school and the new things she says. For me, this practice ramped up during the first year of her life, which included a drive across the country moving from Los Angeles back to Boston. I have vivid entries of our time spent together at the Grand Canyon, on Bourbon Street in New Orleans, exploring Savannah, Georgia and so much more. I find that when I’m giving important personal memories their due justice through written transcription, I feel empowered to to focus and tackle all that’s in front of me at work.
On the business side, handwritten notes are just as important. They give my mind a new environment that spurs more creative thinking. I often put some of my favorite music on in the background during this time. I also like to treat myself with some stylish Field Notes memo books and Uni pens to make the writing experience more enjoyable.
Your notes may vary, but I like to reflect on the day and write out a list of goals for the next day that I can look at in the morning. For me, the benefits of writing notes by hand are two-fold:
- The practice helps me cement key takeaways from the day.
- I establish a strong foundation for the next day.
Depending on your caffeine tolerance, this is also my favorite time for another coffee or some tea. This helps me power through the evening’s greatest challenge: getting my daughter to bed on time.
4. Keep a Puzzle or Game Near Your Workspace
We’ve been taught that distractions are bad, but in fact they can help your mind gain clarity or see problems from a different perspective. For all the jokes I’ve heard about fidget spinners, the truth is that sort of body and mind connection can really help. And while I’ve poked holes in the idea of “culture” at companies, those office ping-pong tables serve as a way for employees to renew their energy for cognitively demanding projects.
Lately, I’ve been keeping a puzzle on a side table. I can wander over when I hit a wall in a task or just need a short break and my mind can focus on something entirely different. The type of distraction you keep isn’t as important as making sure it’s a physical object. Try a Rubik’s cube, a deck of cards for solitaire, or if you play classic games online (like chess_, set up a real-world board to ponder. Anything you can focus on for a couple of minutes and then leave and return to periodically will do nicely.
Hopefully this list gives you some tips for how to be more productive as you work from home and generally make your days a little more enjoyable. If you have any tips for mixing up the workday and keeping your mind and body fresh, I’d love to hear them. Hit me on LinkedIn or Twitter.