2020 showed us that working form home can be awesome, but challenging. Learn how to be as productive as possible while working from home in 2021.
Now that Covid-19 vaccinations are in full force, many of us are beginning to return to normality. And while that return to relative normality is definitely welcome, there's something that definitely isn't going back to normal: remote work. The pandemic has shown that not only is working form home possible, that working home is not only absolutely possible, but it can also be kind of awesome.
And sure, work from home IS pretty awesome. But it’s far from being a perfect arrangement. Those of us who have worked from home for years now know that it comes with its own set of challenges that need to be addressed.
Let’s take a look at a number of guidelines to help you be as productive as you can be while working from home.
1. Maintain Regular Hours
One of the biggest difficulties that come from working from home is all the distractions you’re constantly surrounded by. From easy access to social media, to other people sharing your living space asking for favors, there’s no shortage of things that can pull you away from work. And if you’re working full time as a real estate agent, you’re keenly aware that you cannot afford to lose productivity.
That’s why most of the suggestions we’re presenting in this article are all about establishing a clear separation between work and life. Not just physically, but also psychologically.
The first and most important way to make that work-life balance separation possible is to create a work schedule, and really stick to it.
Take a couple of hours, sit down, and plan what your typical week will look like. To make the planning process easier, start by examining your typical work day, and analyzing how you're spending your time.
How do you start your day at the office? How many hours do you dedicate to prospecting each week? Do you have any regular training hours set aside?
By honestly analyzing your current work habits, you'll identify any inefficiencies in your current schedule, and will also give you a starting point for your new work from home schedule. So for example, if you discover that you're not spending enough time reaching out to your sphere of influence, or you discover that some of your tasks could be handed off to an assistant, you will be able to make adjustments.
Next, pencil in what your work hours will look like. Make sure you include what time you’re going to start working each day, when you’re going to stop, a couple of 15 min breaks, and your lunch break.
When you work from home, it’s more important than ever to be organized, and disciplined. That’s because without constant oversight, and all the comforts and distractions found in our homes, it's very easy to procrastinate and put off tasks that we don't find particularly appealing,
2. Create A Morning Routine
If you’ve ever spent any amount of time listening to a productivity motivational speaker/influencer, there’s a very good chance that you’ve heard about the power of a morning routine.
A morning routine (or morning ritual), as the name suggests, is something that you do every single day before you get your day started. This routine helps you signal your mind that it’s time to shift into work mode.
This isn't exactly a new idea. If regularly listen to real estate podcasts or motivational speakers, there's a good chance you've heard about the power of a morning routine. Many of these influencers are so convinced about the power of a morning routine, that they attribute their success to it.
What should your routine be? It could be just about anything. You could go for 20 minute jog. Some people do yoga or meditation. Perhaps you could manually grind your own coffee beans and brew them to perfection.
Whatever you choose, it should meet these requirements:
- It must be something you find enjoyable.
- It must be relaxing.
- It should help you transition from the grogginess of waking up to a mindset conducive to working.
By meeting these requirements, your routine will be something to look forward to, and a much nicer way than a loud alarm that it's time to get to work.
3. Dress For Work
It can be extremely tempting to sit down to work in your pajamas. It is, after all, one of those appealing promises of working from home. And we have to admit, at one point or another, we’ve indulged in this luxury, especially when it was a novel possibility.
But once you’ve indulged in this pleasure once or twice, go back to dressing for work, even if you’re the only person in your home. Not just putting on shirt in case there's a Zoom meeting, but fully dressed.
Dressing up for work helps you to psychologically transition into a work mindset. It helps signal the end of being “at home”, and that you're now "at work". In addition, it ensures that if you have a Zoom meeting, you're already dressed and look professional. and provides you with an extra layer of work-life separation.
In addition, if you ever need to jump into a Zoom meeting, you’ll always look professional, and you won’t be afraid to turn on your camera.
4. Set Ground Rules With People In Your Space
Chances are that if you work from home, you won’t have the home all to yourself from 9-5 each and every day. You may be sharing your home with family members or roommates.
So if you’re going to work exclusively from home, you need to speak with them about your new work situation, and set some ground rules as to how they can interact with you while you work.
That's because it can be very easy for people sharing your home to wander into your working space, ask for favors, or simply distract you with the noise of life. Sometimes they may find themselves doing these distracting things without realizing it, and you may need to remind them again about your work situation.
It helps to have a specific room of the house set aside as an office space to do so. But if this option isn’t available, and you’re forced to work elsewhere such as the living room, you should consider investing in a noise cancelling headset.
5. Take Your Scheduled Breaks In Their Entirety
Office work already leads to an unhealthy, sedentary lifestyle. And working from home can lead to an even more sedentary lifestyle.
In addition, it’s very easy to overwork, especially if you have workaholic tendencies. This is why it’s essential that you schedule regular breaks into your day and you actually take them.
No matter how busy you are, make sure you don’t skip those breaks. Whatever little productivity gains you get from working through your breaks are quickly offset in productivity losses from burnout and fatigue.
6. Leave Home
After work is over, it’s very tempting to just stay at home, lay on the couch, and watch Netflix all afternoon. And with the current COVID-19 situation, it’s even more tempting to justify never leaving home unless you have a showing, or a compelling reason that forces you to leave your home.
As long as you’re taking the right precautions, and you’re staying outdoors, try to get out of your home regularly. Your body needs to move, and the fresh air and natural light will do wonders for your mood and productivity.
7. Keep A Dedicated Office Space
In a perfect world, not only would you already have a dedicated room in your home to be a home office, but you would also have two computers. One which is used exclusively for work, and another used for your own personal use.
But this arrangement isn’t always possible. Either because you don’t have a room to turn into a home office, or because you don’t have the budget for a work-exclusive computer at the moment.
If you're not at that point yet, there's still an alternative. Set up an area of your home, such as a desk in the living room, that once you sit down, it's time to work.
Use that desk exclusively for work and nothing else. And once work is over, move away from that desk and do something else.
In addition, if you only have a single computer, you could create an additional work-only account. That way, you won't combine your work files, internet searches or background programs.
8. Look For Opportunities To Socialize
Alongside a sedentary lifestyle, people that work from home have to contend with feelings of isolation, disconnectedness and loneliness. This is by no means a new problem that came about because of Covid. It has affected remote workers for years.
So when working from home, look for opportunities to socialize. Interact with coworkers by means of group chats on Slack, Zoom meetings, etc.
Don't skip office meetings on Zoom. Force yourself to not just show up to, but also actively participate. And outside of work, make it a goal to actively reach out to friends and family members.
If it's already safe to interact in real life, schedule days out with friends, and actively participate in hobbies where you interact with other people.
9. Take Sick Days
If you're feeling sick, don't avoid taking days off. It may be easy to see that time off as a waste of time, and thus a waste of money, and you would be tempted to power through your sickness and continue working.
But not only will your work performance be compromised if you work while you’re sick, but it will also take longer to recover. It’s often better to rest and recover now, so you can be 100% productive sooner. And this often translates into more money in the long run as well.
10. Keep Lists Of Tasks You Want To Get Done Each Day
Organization and time management is absolutely essential in your success as a real estate agent in the best of times. But if you’re going to be working from home, organization is even more important.
Make sure you keep track of all the things that need to be done each day, and organize them according to their importance. Like we mentioned in a previous article, you can use a tool called the Eisenhower Matrix. This tool divides tasks into 4 quadrants:
- Tasks that are important and urgent
- Tasks that are important but not urgent
- Tasks that are urgent but not important
- Tasks that are not important nor urgent
Tasks that are urgent and important are things that you need to absolutely get done today, and can’t wait. These are the first tasks that you should tackle each day.
Tasks that are urgent but not important and tasks that should be delegated to someone else. This could be your personal assistant, a freelancer, etc.
Tasks that are important but not urgent are those that usually get neglected (such as prospecting), and should get a greater amount of attention from you.
Finally, there are those tasks that are neither urgent nor important. These are often things such as spending time in social media, sharing memes, or checking your shopping cart in Amazon. You should eliminate these tasks from your work schedule, and handled AFTER work.
11. Use A Time Tracking App
There is no shortage of time tracking apps out there that you can use to track your progress. Some of them, such as TimeDoctor, tracks the amount of time you spend on each program, checks your keyboard and mouse activity to make sure you’re working, and regularly takes screenshots of your desktop.
Others, such as RescueTime, have similar features to TimeDoctor, with the additional option of blocking distracting websites as well. These tools are absolutely essential to keep you on track and as productive as possible.
12. Force Yourself To Work Even If Ideas Don’t Seem To Be Flowing
There will be days in which you won’t have any “mental energy” and you feel like you have no will to work. That’s inevitable, and can happen regardless of your work environment.
When that inevitably happens to you when you work from home, fight against the temptation to call it a day early. Force yourself to work anyways, and rely on your Eisenhower Matrix of tasks that need to be done. On days like that, your organizational and task planning skills will save the day, and keep you from wasting a perfectly good day.
13. End Your Day With An End Of Work Routine
Just as you would start your day on the right foot with a morning routine, implement an end-of-work routine.
Just like your morning routine, this could be just about anything. It could be signing off your business messaging app, taking your dog for a walk, closing your office door, etc.
Whatever your routine you choose, make it a pleasurable way to call it a day, and do it consistently to mark the end of your work and the beginning of your life.
Working from home is not going away. As a real estate agent, you’re already not absolutely tied to a physical office most of the time, and even less so now. But with the emergence of virtual tours becoming the norm rather than a luxury, you’re going to be spending even more time working from home. By following the suggestions outlined in this article, you too will be able to successfully work from home, and remain as productive as you can be.
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