Hyper-productivity at home

To give you some context, I've been working remotely for 8 years in a row. Previously, in my career, I worked at the office, but that didn't last even for a year.

Working remotely has its benefits: creating my own schedule, working with clients that I want to work with, earning a lot more than the local market average.

But remote work is not the same thing as working from home. We were stuck in our homes last year. Adding social distance, canceled live events and not a lot of travel made me a home-based, not a remote-based worker.

It's been a year of transformation for all of us. Even though I work from home most of the time, I found it hard to work from home while taking care of my body, mind, and family at the same time.

Various activities usually take place in separate locations: gym, cafes, parks, playgrounds, etc.

While working from home, I got distracted a lot by kids, a wife, a dog. Sometimes, I found it hard to do the work. I had to wake up early or go to bed earlier. The constant change in schedule increased my stress levels and reduced my ability to focus. I started thinking that I've lost my creativity, or I've burned it out. [1]

I started looking for answers to my questions. How to work from home more effectively? How to concentrate? How to reduce stress? As I realized later, the right systems, not tools or anything else, were the things that I needed.

I started working on a variety of activities trying to get me back in shape: meditation, exercise, reading, eating healthy, and drinking enough water.

Nothing lasted for longer than a few days. I got inspired, made a plan, strategized, started acting, but in a couple of days, everything became the same. I was back where I started.

I've been floating like that for a couple of months until I read a book. The one that completely changed the way I work from home.

The book is called Atomic Habits by James Clear. If you haven't read it yet I highly recommend it to you. It's all about taking small steps to produce outstanding results.

One of the takeaways that stuck with me was how the environment helps us shape our habits since the first few pages. How it affects our decisions daily and how powerful it can be when it comes to building a more fulfilling lifestyle.

I started to explore how I could apply that principle while working from home. First, I did it with my bottle of water. In my Fill in the bottle post, I'm outlining how I've changed my habit by changing the way I see the habit itself.

It's much harder to shape the environment at home.

Imagine going to the gym to do some workout. Or to a library to read. Or to work in the office. Or get a cup of coffee at the coffee shop. It's almost impossible for everyone to have such a structure at home (unless you have a gigantic house).

The same environment changes are well described in the Cal Newport's book "Deep Work". The author talks about how changing our environment helps us get faster into the flow state.

So I've done a deeper dive and defined the key elements I can use to improve my day, keep the zones to be hyper-productive, and get into the flow state.

Here are my findings and how I'm applying them.

Some of them might sound super obvious, but hey, give it a try before you give your opinion. And to add to that I don't pretend to be a productivity or working-from-home expert.

This is what works for me, and hopefully, some of it might work for you as well.

I keep my clothes related to the activity I'm doing

Working from home doesn't require any sort of dress code. There are definitely some benefits to it (you don't have to wear a suit all day long), but also some downsides.

Having a dress code for a specific activity makes you feel more into that activity.

You don't go to the gym in your suit, right? You probably wear comfortable shorts and a t-shirt.

Here is how I use this tip during my day:

  • When I wake up I stay in my PJ or turn on my home clothes: I go make my bed, have a cup of tea, and brush my teeth.
  • When I want to workout I get my gym clothes on. First of all, it looks cool. Secondly, once I wear them - I get into the sporting mood. Combined with the right music and training app - I leave my mind no chance to avoid exercising today.
  • When I sit to work I wear jeans and a t-shirt. It's my most comfortable clothes ever. When I enter my office to sit or stand in front of my laptop it feels more like working clothes, so I get into the working mode. Again, similarly to exercise, support of music gives no chance to have a distraction.
  • When I'm back from work (out of my workspace) I turn back into my home clothes. Now I'm in the dad/husband mode - I can play with kids, help my wife, cook something, or read.

I (try to) have separate activities in separate rooms

James Clear also talks about this.

I try not to work on my bed or my couch, or in the kitchen. I keep my laptop on the stand on my table most of the time. I can take my iPad with me to my bed or couch, but 99% of the time it's for reading a book or an article.

Same way, I avoid eating anywhere except the kitchen. Having a dedicated space where you consume food feels very intimate. I know that I can concentrate on the tastes and smells of the products and enjoy my meal fully.

This tip on not mixing the activities and environments helps triggers flow state much easier.

Same thing with working - the reason I have transformed our loggia into a workspace was exactly for having a separate space where I can do my work. Luckily, I can also lock myself in, so nobody will disturb me while I work.

When you know that the bedroom is for sleeping (and making love) - you'll fall asleep faster (or be active much longer) than if you try to sleep, let's say, in a living room.

I keep the music theme for each activity

If you don't know yet, music is very important for any kind of activity. It can support or ruin everything.

I love listening to music equally to how I love being in silence. Some activities, like exercise or work, supported by music helps to get into the flow easier and stay longer. While other activities, like meditation or eating, are better when supported by a human-to-human conversation or silence.

I keep a few playlists on my Spotify for each activity:

With all these steps combined, I train my mind and body to turn the right switch at the right time. It helps me stay hyper-productive with any activity I pursue.

Don't think that I follow all these steps day by day for everything I do. I'm also a human, so from time to time I take step-backs, mix and re-arrange them to get the most of specific tasks.

Footnotes

[1] Even now when I look back I have no idea if I would survive through that without the support of my family and close friends.