8 habits of super-productive people who work from home

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After years of working from coffee shops and personal home desks, there’s one thing I’m sure of — working remotely takes a lot of purposeful planning.

Working from home is fantastic… right up until your neighbor starts firing up all sorts of power tools and noisy machinery across the street. Managing your own time and choosing your hours can be incredibly hard if you don’t deliberately plan your day ahead of time.

Leonardo Da Vinci once said, “While you are alone you are entirely your own master.” When working remotely, you are more likely to spend half your time battling procrastination, distractions, or managing energy dips. If you give in to your distractions, you could wind up devoting productive time to fighting off the guilt that comes from giving in to those distractions.

In the wake of COVID-19, many people are suddenly finding themselves working remotely, and often in close quarters with young children, partners, and family. So how can you keep your focus regardless of your environment?

Start Work as Early as Possible

Rising before the sun is a habit shared by most successful people. In a poll of 20 executives cited by Vanderkam, 90% said they wake up before 6 am on weekdays. This makes sense from a productivity standpoint — you will have fewer distractions and a close to a peaceful environment to focus on.

Believe it or not, one way to work from home productively is to dive into your to-do list as soon as you wake up. Merely starting tasks first thing in the morning before the rest of your family or roommates have woken up can be the key to making real progress.

Plus, according to one study, waking up early can also make you happier. Some evidence suggests that morning light exposure, which results in a phase advance of the sleep/wake cycle, improves depressive symptoms in seasonal affective disorder.

Dedicate Mornings to High-Value Work

Work on your high-value tasks first thing in the morning — cut the planning and start doing real work when you are most active.

Don’t waste all that mental clarity and energy on planning what to do for the next eight hours. If you are a morning person, you can get a tonne done in the early morning hours. It pays to focus on essential tasks for the day during your morning.

A plan from yesterday makes it easier to get started right away when you get up. Kenneth Chenault, the former CEO and Chairman of American Express, once said in an interview that the last thing he does before leaving the office is to write down the top three things he needs to accomplish tomorrow. Then he uses that list to start his day the following morning.

If You’re Not a Morning Person, Work When You’re Most Productive

When you’re working from home, it’s important to recognize when you are most focused and energetic and to plan your schedule around that. Energy is the critical component we all need to consistently produce our best work, no matter where we are.

For example, if you’re a morning person and are most clearheaded, creative, and productive from 9 am to 12 pm, use that burst of energy to get things done at that time.

If you are a night-owl and need a few hours to ease into the day, leverage your afternoons and evenings. If you are productive between the hours of 3 pm and 11 pm, plan your tasks accordingly and make those your work hours.

The point is that you can increase your energy by working with your body rather than fighting against it and forcing it to fit into anybody’s clock other than your own internal one. It’s better to concentrate your energy into a specific period than randomly insert it across chunks of time.

To capitalize on your most productive periods, save your harder tasks for when you know you’ll be in the right headspace for them.

Prepare For a Successful Morning in Advance

Planning your day the night before will give you back a lot of wasted hours in the morning and lower your stress levels. The first quiet hour of the morning can be an ideal time to focus on meaningful work without being interrupted.

Try this tonight. If you’re happy with the results, then commit to trying it for a week. After a week, you’ll be able to decide whether you want to add “night-before planning” to your life.

Structure Your Day As You Would Normally

When working from home, you manage practically everything — calendar, projects, tasks, and breaks. Without a proper structure, you can quickly lose focus or burn out.

“I make an hour-by-hour contract with myself that basically says, ‘When nap time starts, what are the two things I’m going to do?’” Martin said. “I write it on a piece of paper. A lot of people like to keep digital notes, but then when I sit down, there’s no question like, ‘what am I going to do?’” says Laura Mae Martin, Google’s in-house productivity expert.

To stay on schedule, segment what you’ll do and when over the course of the day. Use an online calendar to create personal events and reminders that tell you when to shift gears and start on new tasks. If your mornings are for writing while in the office, use the same schedule at home.

“Try to stick to some semblance of your original routine from before you started working from home,” says Eric Lam, a cross-asset reporter for Bloomberg. “Give yourself a little bit of time before you start to wake yourself up, have a coffee, make breakfast. Especially for those of us — like me — who are not morning types.”

You could even dress the part and remind yourself you are in work-mode. That means comfortable work clothes — not pajamas. “It makes me feel awake, fresh, productive, and less slovenly,” says Kristine Servando, deputy head of Bloomberg Asia digital. “It was part of the mental trick of demarcating between work and the rest of your life.”

And remember to take breaks, refresh and recover. When you live in your office, it’s easy to overwork. Log off when you’re supposed to. And resist the urge to come back to your computer after dinner.

Separate Work Zones From Relaxing Zones

When you work from home, it’s easy to curl up in bed with a laptop and pretend that you’re “working”.

To improve your efficiency, build a separate home office/desk just for work. This sets your brain up for enhanced productivity — your brain gets spatially wired to think of the office as the place where work happens.

“By working in the same space each day, your brain starts to associate that spot with working. If you work in a different spot every day, your brain has to retrain itself every day to get work done in that spot,” says Martin.

Cancel Noise For Focus

The closest thing to magic for your money when working remotely is noise-canceling technology. I bought my first pair of noise-canceling headphones years ago. And I’ve never regretted the decision.

Working from home may expose you to sounds that become irritating or unbearable over time: traffic and street noise that penetrate through windows, the tick of a clock somewhere, etc. If you have kids, they probably would be playing close to your workspace.

Noise-canceling headphones or earbuds are great at removing those sorts of sounds almost entirely. They can also dull the sound of talking if you’re in a place in which other people (like your family or roommates) have to also function.

Combined with music, they work even better. The absence of background noise effectively enhances the music, and you can work without the distraction during your “focused” period.

Keep Socialising

Connecting with other people is needed more than ever to stay healthy, productive, happy and sane. You can hold virtual meetings, jump on a phone call, or send a friend a text. Reach out and support one another — and laugh!

“If you’re the kind of person who’ll miss your colleagues when you work from home, build opportunities for socializing into your day,” says Karen Eyre-White, a productivity coach and founder of GoDo business organization, who recommends trying to call colleagues rather than using email or Slack messaging.

Modern technology has made it insanely easy to stay connected. Use tools like Skype, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, WhatsApp, Facebook Workplace and Trello to stay connected with friends and colleagues at work. Positive social support can improve our resilience in coping with stress. Check-in with your friends, family, and neighbors regularly.

Working from home can be challenging for many people. How you choose to face that challenge won’t just determine your productivity — it will determine your mental health and even your happiness.

How to develop world-class behaviors in the next 14 days

Most people don’t realize they’re only a few key behaviors away from starting to live a truly world-class life.

You don’t need to adopt dozens of new, difficult behaviors of “successful people” — you just need a few. And if you make just a few key behavioral changes, you’ll build momentum and confidence that you can reinvest in yourself to master new and better behaviors.

Success doesn’t happen all at once — it’s a slow, gradual process that rewards those who can consistently follow the path.

You also don’t need a lot of time to develop these initial world-class behaviors, either. A couple of weeks will do. We’re not trying to transform your entire life overnight, we’re getting you to identify and adopt just a few key behaviors that will create the momentum you can use to continue the process. Because there’s no end to success, no limit or cap — you can go as high as you want.

But it starts with developing a few world-class behaviors.

Focus on Learning and Creating, Not Entertainment and Distraction

There’s a lot you’ll need to learn on this journey you’re on. When I was a no-name blogger with dreams of being a big-time writer, I foolishly thought all I needed to master was “writing.”

Now that I am a successful writer, I’m amazed at how many new skills I’ve needed to learn, like website design, email marketing, webinars, sales pitches, public speaking, relationship building, online course creation, scheduling software, and countless more.

That’s why your first world-class behavior to master is to simply focus on learning and creating, not entertainment or distraction.

You can learn a lot very quickly if you choose. If you play guitar 3 times a week, you might take a year or two to get pretty good. But play guitar 3 times a day, and you could become very skilled in a matter of weeks.

You can only find these shortcuts by intense learning and creating, making mistakes, building your abilities as well as your confidence.

But as long as you continue to focus on entertainment and distraction, you’ll always be stuck in first gear, unable to start gaining enormous momentum to break through mental barriers that you might’ve been carrying around for years.

It’s difficult to remove yourself entirely from these distractions. Major corporations have an entire department of professionals whose sole job is to make you pay attention to their products. With the enormous influence of technology, social media, smartphones, and advertisements, it can feel a bit like living in a casino, where every little detail is designed to keep you focused on spending your money.

It’s on you to say no to these distractions. The most effective response I’ve ever found to the endless tempting distractions is simply to imagine what my life will be like when I finally complete this journey — traveling the world, making more money than ever before, 100% in charge of my time and attention. That sounds much more appealing than watching another silly video online when I should be working.

Ask Yourself Direct Questions That Force You To Gain Enormous Clarity

One of the most common responses I get from my readers about all this is: I don’t know where to start!

Getting clarity on your most important goals isn’t easy. You might be afraid you’ll choose the wrong thing, and become paralyzed by analysis. Maybe you’ve never known what you want to do, and have been stumbling into whatever job, relationship, or situation seemed the most convenient at the time.

You need to ask yourself some direct, blunt questions about your life.

I read a terrific article by Zak Slayback about gaining enormous clarity on these important things that I bookmarked and go back to sometimes.

It’s a 20-minute writing exercise you can do today that will provide crystal-clear clarity on your most important goals. Here are the questions:

Here are the questions:

1. I feel most unhappy when I…

2. I dread …

3. I am good at but do not particularly enjoy…

4. I cannot imagine doing … every day for the rest of my life.

5. I don’t understand why anybody would…

6. … does not appeal to me.

Here are some of my answers that might help you with yours:

1. I feel most unhappy when I…

  • am forced to work with frustrating people that force me to do busy work that doesn’t accomplish anything
  • when I have to listen to uninformed bosses that don’t know how to lead me
  • can’t write and do what I want to do with my time
  • am forced to work long hours doing things I hate doing
  • am forced to follow someone else’s silly schedule
  • can’t do things the way I want to do them

2. I dread …

  • going to work at a job I hate
  • dealing with rude and mean people
  • confrontation with difficult, assertive people
  • having to work on things I don’t want to do
  • having to spend time on tasks I don’t care at all about

3. I am good at but do not particularly enjoy…

  • Data entry
  • Empathizing with angry customers
  • Putting out fires made by other people

4. I cannot imagine doing … every day for the rest of my life.

  • working at a boring 9–5 job
  • busywork
  • data entry
  • working with people I don’t like or respect
  • staying in one city
  • a job where someone has total control over my career progression
    phone sales
  • commuting more than 30 minutes each way

5. I don’t understand why anybody would…

  • want to work at a boring job that crushes their spirit
  • work with rude, annoying, stupid people
  • not travel the world
  • not make passive income
  • let one person dictate their career success
  • be content to simply “survive” then they could thrive
  • let others bully and intimidate them

6. … does not appeal to me.

  • Anything I can’t control and create myself
  • Following orders from people I don’t trust
  • Living by someone else’s rules

If you want extraordinary results, you need to ask yourself extraordinary questions. Be precise in your speech; don’t allow yourself to sit in the vague fog of “maybe” that most people have been living in for a long time. These small questions, genuinely answered, will provide enormous clarity in your life.

Everyone Must Sacrifice Things. But You Get to Choose What You Sacrifice.

You actually don’t get to choose whether you need to sacrifice or not — you do. We all must sacrifice something.

But you do get to choose what to sacrifice. This choice will affect the rest of your life.

There was this funny-because-it’s-true joke in college that went like this: “Sleep, good grades, friends: you only get 2.” You had to sacrifice something.

Everyone must sacrifice something. Make sure what you sacrifice isn’t costing you dearly.

Sadly, most people are sacrificing the wrong thing — their potential, their relationships, their well-being, even their future. Instead of letting go of negative, toxic relationships, people cling to them. Instead of striving nobly to achieve an extraordinary career, people settle for their comfortable, mediocre jobs.

You must sacrifice something — make sure you choose wisely.

Years ago, I was working in one of the worst jobs I’d ever had — telemarketing. My boss was near-comic-book-villain level bad. I saw countless coworkers fired for not hitting sales quotas. I wanted out.

But I had been complaining for months about it, calling friends and family to vent my frustrations. I wasn’t doing much about it.

Finally, I mentioned my poor, sad situation to a friend of a friend — someone who didn’t really know me, and had the ability to be extremely blunt with me. He didn’t hold back on his feedback. “Look — it’s time to stop complaining. You need to get a new job, now. Cancel social obligations, stay in on the weekends, wake up early, whatever. But find a new job.”

It stunned me. At first, I was angry and defensive. How can he say that! He doesn’t know me! He doesn’t know how hard this has been for me! He was inviting me to sacrifice something I didn’t want to let go of.

Eventually, I saw his wisdom. I was sacrificing my happiness and emotional well-being working there — why not sacrifice some weekends and casual social hangouts for something that could change my entire career?

So that’s what I did. I chose to stop hanging out with friends (for a time) while I busted my ass finding a new job. Within a few focused months of networking and meeting more people in different departments, I was offered a job that was infinitely better than telemarketing! It was higher-paying, I got to travel, help people, and most importantly, no more telemarketing calls!

You must sacrifice something — that’s not up for debate.

But you do get to choose what you sacrifice.

In Conclusion

Small choices have big results. Once you start making the right small choices, you’ll start seeing the results you actually want, and not the opposite. It’s time for you to start acting like people living a world-class life — in charge of their time, money, relationships, and choices.

It starts with your behaviors. Once you consistently start making world-class choices — something you can start today — you’ll start seeing these behaviors grow into lasting characteristics of your life. You’ll become a disciplined, consistent, focused positive person with power and ability.

For many people, the hardest part is just starting. Most people don’t know where to focus their time and energy, so they continue wasting time when they should’ve started long ago.

Since most people have been making many foolish and unwise small choices, they’re see big, negative results in their life.

Choose to adopt some new, world-class behaviors in life. They don’t have to be enormous — just big enough to start creating some momentum. Use that momentum. Reinvest in your life. Sacrifice the right things so you can achieve the life you want.

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