As many of us are working from home for the foreseeable future, the novelty is starting to wear off. And it’s no surprise that many of us have struggled with our productivity levels, juggling work with home schooling, house chores and all the other bits and pieces that come with your average global pandemic.
As kids return to school and we tiptoe back to some kind of normal, there’s an opportunity to re-focus on work and re-claim some of those lost hours (and brain cells) thanks to Covid. To help us all find ways to increase our productivity, we’ve asked some of our sellers, who are pros at working from home, for their best tips!
1. Create a Dedicated Workspace
Many of our creative makers have a dedicated work space, whether that’s a room which has been converted into a studio space or the dining room table. Without it, it’s easy to get distracted and lose track of what you have been working on. Aimee Spillman from Woodle Books says having a dedicated room “means that this room is work and the rest of my house is my home” and Rosha Nutt explains “having this space means I can move between work and family life quickly, and when I do get some downtime from the children I can easily pick up from where I left off.”
Anita Mangan's home office
But if you’re looking for a bit of social interaction and a change of scene, the odd trip to a local coffee shop to check and answer emails can also be useful. Karen Evans owner of Gem Lettuce will often move to a coffee shop to handle the more ‘admin’ based tasks of her job, from answering emails, photo-shopping images or updating her website.
Caffeinate N8 Crouch End
2. The Power of The List
Making Lists is a great Productivity Hack. They keep you on track with what you need to accomplish, give you tangible goals and a smug sense of satisfaction when you get to tick all your actions off at the end of the day! Many of our sellers have a dedicated notebook where they write all their to do lists, with some keeping a separate book for orders or Post It notes for creative ideas that spring to mind. Cecila Child, owner of ByCecil swears by a form of list making called Bullet Journaling by Ryder Carroll. Cecila says “As a working mum of two small children, it is the only way I can keep on top of things. I like that you can tweak the journal to your own changing needs. If you google this method, don't let all the pretty layouts intimidate you. My version is purely functional; no pretty doodles for me. All you need is a nice book and a pen."
3. Exercise Increases Productivity (apparently!)
Former Vogue editor Anna Wintour used to hit the tennis court by 6:00 a.m. every morning before work. Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, also swore by starting his day with a morning run. These successful people know that exercise is shown to have a direct and positive impact on productivity. Exercise increases energy levels, brain function, sparks creativity and helps maintain a healthy work and life balance. And with Covid limiting our lifestyles and increasing our stress levels, it’s even more important to try and get out and get that heart pumping for health as well as productivity. Get dressed in your exercise gear to make it that much easier to go for that run.
Two of our sellers swim regularly at our local Crouch End pool, while Founder of The Cooper Family, Anita Mangan goes for a daily hour dog walk first thing; “it helps to differentiate getting out of bed to getting on with work… it’s almost like my personal commute to work. It also helps me clear my head and think about what I need to do that day.”
Our sellers also listen to podcasts and take lots of regular breaks - all key to increasing productivity.
4. Identify your Peak Productivity
Whether it’s morning or afternoon it’s important to know when you are at your most productive. Many of our sellers find they are at their best first thing in the morning (normally after a cup of coffee!) This is the time they crack through the more menial jobs or the ones they would rather not do like finances and admin!
They then reward themselves with the more creative tasks later in the afternoon. Rosha Nutt says “I’d love to spend all my time painting and coming up with new ideas, but running my business is at least 70% admin. I’ve heard it said many times to tackle the less enjoyable stuff first. For me painting comes in the afternoon, as my reward for my earlier focus.” while Shiri Atsmon, Founder of Helpful Kids, has developed her very own reward system whereby she only does the jobs she loves (developing new ideas) after she's done the jobs she hates.
5. Manage and Maximise Your Time (however much you have!)
Working from home and maintaining productivity can be incredibly challenging. It’s an obvious statement, but not all of us have the same amount of time to devote to our work, so it’s all about using the time you do have to really focus.
Rosha Nutt says: “It’s important to create structure and boundaries around your work time, keeping to a timetable helps. This year has been a huge challenge. I’ve had to adjust my expectations and be grateful for small wins.”
Cecilia Child also recommends carving your day up into sections to work out what you can do and when. She says: “When I first started working from home, I was getting frustrated with how little I was getting done. So I wrote a time bar for each day, breaking up my to-do list in each section of the day. And then, I wrote what I actually did next to it. I found that I was spending a third of my day on housework and I was massively overestimating what I could get done in a day"
6. Banish those Avoidable Distractions
Working from home can often mean you get easily distracted. There’s always a wash to do, the dishwasher to empty, or even, the sofa, with a duvet and back to back episodes of Netflix’s Selling Sunset. So don’t set yourself up for failure by giving into these avoidable distractions. Know them, be aware of them and set yourself strict boundaries so you don’t end up spending those precious productive hours focusing on anything but your own business.
Shiri Atsom says “9-12am, my brain power hours are sacred and dedicated to work. Therefore there is very little chance I'll allow myself any personal errand. I try to leave errands and housework when the kids are home. This allows me to involve them in the work even if it's only for 10 or 15 minutes. My biggest distraction is my phone. When I used to work in an office it would be embarrassing to constantly look at it but here I have no one to keep me in check but myself!”
Finally, our sellers have also shared some tips about maximising productivity at home:
Shiri Atsmon, Helpful Kids
Schedule to do 20 minutes of housework alongside your kids when they are back from school rather than when they are out of the house, even if they are young and playing "pretend" alongside you. Think about the best time to do this, for example, not after screen time.
Try to divide your day by blocks for both the time you have with or without the kids, these can be "brain power work" "simpler work" "out of home errands" "in-home errands" "housework with kids" "housework without kids" screen time, outdoor play, activities etc. Write these on pieces of paper and try to build a schedule that makes the best of your own tendencies and preferences. You don't have to put hours to the schedule, as long as you follow the order you will already be utilising your day in a more productive way.
Anita Mangan, The Cooper Family
My first tip would be to very clearly distinguish between work and home, ie start and finish at an agreed time, otherwise there’s a danger of it infiltrating home time. It helps to have a door you can close - to leave work, but if not, have a metaphorical door!
My second would be to not look at emails/phone calls out of hours. It might help to put a line on your email to say what work hours are so that people don’t contact you outside of them.
Karen Evans, Gem Lettuce Jewellery
Firstly, build yourself a little community of like-minded friends, in 'real life, and online groups so that you have a good support network and can work on projects together and also seek advice.
Rosha Nutt, Rosha Nutt Pop Art Flowers
Plan your time. Timetable like you’re back at school and keep your expectations achievable. Lots of small things add up over time.
Cecilia Child, ByCecil
The housework can wait. If you weren't working from home, it wouldn't get done so leave it.
Enjoy the flexibility. Take the day off when you need to. Meet a friend for coffee if you can. Go to the cinema in the middle of the day. I don't like crowds so visiting places midweek can feel like a real luxury.
Aimee Spillman, Woodle Books
Do what works for you, there are lots of people giving advice and saying what’s meant to work but that doesn’t always fit with your work pattern. Don’t stress too much, get work done when and where you can, enjoy being at home and all of the home comforts that brings with it.
One thing I would say though, try and get dressed! That’s a big mental leap from being at home and being at home working.
Check out our Gifted Local stationery for all your 'getting productive' needs.