After over a month in lockdown, most of us have settled into a routine. By some standards, a somewhat imperfect routine, but under the circumstances, we're doing the best we can. This "pandemic life" is new to all of us, and there is no roadmap guiding us. That's okay, though. We're designing our road maps. We may even be recognizing that there are new and better ways to do old things. Maybe we realize now that the way we used to do something is not necessarily the best after all.
We're anxious to reclaim our regular rhythm of life. However, as we slowly return to normalcy, we must understand that things won’t go back to the way they were just yet, even after the easing of social distancing restrictions. Many businesses, for instance, are asking employees who can stay home to keep doing so. And with schools closed for the remainder of the school year, many parents are choosing to do so.
To make your remote work experience less stressful and more pleasant, I'm sharing with you two simple strategies that will help you minimize interruptions and distractions, as well as create structure and take timely breaks. Check them out and decide whether they're a good fit for you.
Strategy One: The Ivy Lee Method.
This productivity strategy, devised by Ivy Lee, has been helping people improve their productivity since 1918. Here is how it works:
1. Write down the five to six most important tasks you need to complete tomorrow. Some people recommend doing this before bed; however, my preference is to do it at the end of the workday, so once work is done, it's done. There's no point in thinking about work again before bedtime.
2. List those tasks in order of relevance. Always list first the one task that will have the most impact on your productivity. Then the second and so on. Be realistic when deciding on the importance of the items on your list.
3. The next morning, start with the first task and don’t move on to the next one until you have completed it. The goal is to focus on one assignment at a time! Also, remember that we're talking about tasks, not projects. When you need two steps or more to complete an assignment, you're dealing with a project, not a task. A task is a one-step assignment.
4. If you didn't have time to complete all listed tasks by the end of your workday, move the uncompleted tasks to the next day’s list.
5. Repeat this process every day, and you'll end the day knowing that you took care of your more pressing issues. If you find making lists annoying, check out Lino It. Lino It is a fun and straightforward alternative to keeping your tasks organized.
The Ivy Lee Method works well for two main reasons: first, it's super simple and user-friendly. Second, it requires you to focus on one task at a time instead of multitasking or wasting time deciding where to start.
Strategy Two: The Pomodoro Technique.
One of the downsides of working from home is that it may be difficult to take breaks. People tend to wait too long before they get up from their desks and take a well-deserved break -if they do at all. If you feel I'm talking to you, then the Pomodoro Technique is for you. It advocates taking scheduled breaks between periods of focused work. Here is how it works:
1. Find a timer. The developer, Francesco Cirillo, used a tomato-shaped timer (Pomodoro is Italian for tomato) hence the name of the technique. To start, set the timer to 25 minutes and work, undistracted, until the timer rings.
2. Take a 5-minute break at the end of the 25 minutes. Each period of 25 minutes of work plus 5 minutes of break time is called "a Pomodoro." Hence, each Pomodoro is 30 minutes long.
3. Every four Pomodoros (2 hours), take a 20 to 30-minute break.
4. Repeat the process until your work is complete.
A couple of tips. First, if interruptions come up (and they will), either ignore them for the remaining of your Pomodoro or write a quick note, so you don't forget. And keep working.
Secondly, take your breaks away from your workspace. Use this time to move around, stretch, and clear your head. After the break, return to your desk, reset your timer to 25 minutes and continue your focused work. It's vital that during these breaks, you don't do any work-related activities; you must clear your head and recharge before going back to work.
This technique works well because it's easy to master, doesn’t involve complicated systems, and can be done anywhere at any time.
Well, there you have it. I'm sure these two strategies will increase your productivity during your current virtual work or whenever you step back into your office. Feel free to combine them for better results. Remember, however, that no technique or strategy will work without your commitment to stick to it. If you believe these strategies might work for you, commit to doing them for a couple of weeks until they become second nature. Once you get used to them, they'll become effortless, and you'll be able to do your job without feeling overwhelmed. Sometimes, simplicity is all you need to achieve the outcomes you seek.
I would love to hear from you! Let me know whether these two strategies worked for you. Also, if you have tips or ideas you want to share, let me know! Please comment, share and like this post.