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When it comes to working from home, flexibility can be a two-edged sword:  It gives you the means by which to better balance work and home life demands, but it can also lead you down the path to procrastination.  If you enjoy working from home, but find you are not being as productive as you might otherwise be at the office, consider these tips for staying on task, which are based on neuro-cognitive research:

  1. Work in intervals: In fitness, interval training gives a high intensity, focused workout to one set of muscles for a fairly short period, then gives that muscle group a chance to recover a little by changing focus to a different set of activities and muscle groups.  The brain is a muscle, too.  As such, it also benefits from interval workouts.  As a general rule, the part of the brain that does the heavy thinking can only hold focus for about 90 minutes.  Then, it needs to recover a little while other parts of the mind kick into high gear.    Alternate between high intensity 90-minute brain workouts, such as writing or budgeting, and 10-minute, lower-intensity tasks, like answering emails, making calls, going to the bathroom, or filing. You will find your focus and efficiency improve on all types of tasks.
  2. Create email check points: Contrary to popular belief, it is very difficult for the brain to multi-task.  When you switch from working on a document to checking your email, answering a text message, or picking up the telephone, it takes the brain about 15 minutes to re-focus fully on the original task when you return to it.  So put away the big distraction:  close your email temporarily.  Focus on what you need to do, then reopen your email after you have finished.  For longer efforts, close your email and open it only every 90 minutes, as your low-intensity interval workout.  Alternatively, establish set times of day for checking emails, such as a schedule of first thing in the morning, noon, 3:00 pm, 5:00 pm.  For 90% of what we do, the world is not going to blow up if we do not respond to an email within 3 hours.   Keep others’ expectations about response times in check and improve your overall work quality and efficiency.
  3. Make your medicine your spoonful of sugar: Mary Poppins talked about finding something fun to do (sugar) to make the work (medicine) more enjoyable.  Consider turning your household chores into your spoonful of sugar.  For example, instead of laundry being a multi-hour task that eats up a weekend day, make it your low-intensity task that breaks up the heavy thinking during the work week.  Laundry becomes a relaxing break from thinking. That lightens the load on both your work and your home responsibilities, while both get done in a timely manner.

Looking for more ideas for how to make your staff or yourself more productive?  Contact Comprehensive Learning Solutions to learn more about our team training options.

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