When someone starts working from home, it seems like a logical step in the right direction. Set your own hours! See your family! Be available! They don’t realize, though, that productivity is going to suffer. It always does.
At least, that was what I thought. I’ve worked from home for almost a decade, now, and I’m happy to tell you that I was wrong.
Why Your Productivity Suffers
The short answer is that when a lot of people work from home, they don’t work at all!
Not useful, I know. The question is, why is it that otherwise productive people get to work from home, and then their productive time shrinks instead of expanding?
There are several factors, but in my mind it comes down to three big ones.
First, the change from extrinsic motivation to intrinsic motivation can be very difficult to overcome. If you worked in an office, you had a boss who would come around and give you hassle if you didn’t do your work. If you’re at home, your dog is just going to look cute; he’s not going to tell you to get to work! And yet… who doesn’t eat when you stop having an income?
Second, working for someone else means that they impose structure on your work. You have to deliver projects, and you have deadlines. You’ve got to do things in a specific way to work with other people. That structure can feel restrictive when you’re stuck in it, but when you don’t have it, you feel the lack of connection.
Third, which ties in with my post about writing faster, is the lack of ritual. When I went to the gym to run, it was part of my day; when I started running at home, I didn’t have to drink my pre-workout. I didn’t have to get my bag packed. I just put on a pair of shorts in the morning, and when I wanted to, I ran. But some days, I put on the shorts, and I never leave.
Any one of those things would be enough to take someone down a peg, but all three can spell disaster. So how do we fix it?
Fixing Your Productivity And Living Your Best Life
Once you’ve identified the problem, you’re already halfway to solving it. Extrinsic motivation is easy to impose on yourself, but if you need some advice, consider some of the tips from YouTube productivity guru Thomas Frank.
Structure is equally easy to impose. The number one tip I can give is to impose a schedule on yourself. Luckily, if you have to break it, that’s no problem, because you’re your own boss.
And of course, ritual is one of the central pieces of advice in my fast writing post. Find a way to give yourself a ‘wind-up’ that you use to throw yourself into work. It only needs to be a few minutes long, but it’s important to make sure that you have something.
The good news is, though, you’re not stuck trying to undo the work you did getting away from the office. You’ve got tricks at your disposal that struggle to work in the highly-structured office environment, and by that I mean reward structures and gamification.
By now I’m hoping that you’ve all heard of some kind of gamification, like the popular Habitica. You don’t need a whole web application to make sure that you do your work, but some people like it. More important is to understand that your work goes to something other than your paycheck at the end of the day.
If you can implement all those tips, you should already be well on your way!