4 things I learned about productivity during the quarantine

I've working for the past three months at home and I changed completely my views on productivity. Here's 5 things I learned about my work rhythm.

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This is real: I’ve been working from my home for the last 3 months, due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Luckily I have a job. I still continue to perform my marketing functions. However, the whole team needed to readjust content marketing planners. As for my part, I continued to proofread SEO Content.

Before this experiment, I was already a fan of remote work. It just made sense. Cutting transportation costs, save time, work-life integration for more balance, free time to engage in other activities like reading and exercise plus helping the environment with less traffic and pollution. Yes, remote work made sense for now and for a better future.

When the quarantine started, I was sure I was going to be more productive.

Even before I knew I was going home (but suspecting it would happen soon) I started to plan my home office life. I would totally work out during lunchtime and eat more fruits at home. And I would also do some online courses, like 30 minutes per day after work. I could even do a report for my blog detailing how these days made me a productive machine.

Staying at home working became a challenge to see how much I could do and accomplish just by being at home with an Internet connection.

After 3 months working from home this is what I learned about my productivity.

1 — Multitasking will kill you in the long haul

I type fast and I like to make things fast. It’s a mindset I cultivated since I was a child. If I can make things well and fast, I have more free time to enjoy life.

Multitasking was, therefore, a way to achieve it. I had multi-tabs open in the computer and I jump from writing a few paragraphs to reading articles to respond on Teams, while I am listening to a webinar about some topic I am interested in.

With the remote work in quarantine, multitasking seemed like a good strategy. With the urgency to respond to our clients and create new marketing strategies, people have more work and hence the rapidness factor can be helpful. Other tasks fell into my lap and so I was doing more in the past 5 weeks.

I started multitasking early on, but it just doesnt’ work, because instead of doing great work, I just ended up doing multiple meaninless tasks.

Multitasking will kill you in the long haul because you will accomplish very little. Jumping from one task to another may give you a sense of productivity but it will leave you more confused. By week 5, I couldn’t focus on one simple task. Why? Because I needed to “distract” myself with other tasks that weren’t meaningful. Instead of tackling from the first stage and get done after 20 minutes, I just put it on standby until I found the courage to get it right.

Since then I started to detail my focus and focus one thing at a time. It may seem I am not progressing as I wanted but by the end of the week, I will have accomplished what I planned. And that’s productivity done right.

2 — We do too much that has too little importance

We spend more than 8 hours on a cubicle 5 days per week. We still feel like we need to show we earn the salary. Of course, we need to prove we earn it, because we are professional, not because we are robots. Working at home I saw how much we did at the office that wasn’t important. Since we are in quarantine and business lives’ are at stake, managers started to think about what’s important.

Suddenly, communication is clear and efficient.

Teams make multiple video chats to clarify their doubts about a task at hand, and reports are delivered at the right time. Also, with most parents with their kids at home, they cannot too much time at work. They need to be selective and understand at so many attention requests, what’s the most important.

So we humans focus on what brings more value at the end of the day. At home, I found how easy it is to do multiple tasks but also how important to take time to think about specific issues, plan new projects and discuss new strategies. Having this time helps us do more and better. And to do more important tasks, I got an idea.

3 — Briefings are the way to go

This is an important skill I am developing during remote work experience: the ability to do a briefing before making a project.

Coronavirus changed companies strategy and plans for 2020. So you need to come up with new ideas and continue with the projects you had at hands. New tasks and ideas started to appear and as everyone was on “urgency-mode” I wanted to follow a different approach: the “let’s think about the plan first” approach.

When we see tasks handled by more than 2 people, we need a manager, we need coordination, to not create entropy and repetition and of course, lose efficiency. Creating briefings is a good way to start. I write down detailing what’s the goal of the task, which person is the owner, how is it going to be done, what’s the deadline. Everything gets documented and then it guides people’s days.

For managers, briefing are perfect to set expectations, define goals, delegate tasks and manage the team’s efforts as a whole. So to have an even more efficient team, create a meeting, discuss it together and delegate tasks. It will work better as you know what everyone is doing without micromanagement.

4 — Don’t forget to organize your free time

One of the conclusions I can attest to is that people at homework more hours. Just take a look at your work. How many of us are turning off the e-mails at 5 even if we are home? Not many I would say.

Without a commute, you stay longer. With a shorter lunch hour, you start to work after you have eaten. And when you do the math you are working more than the hours stipulated.

It happened to me because I had too much I wanted to accomplish. Online courses, written exercise, blogging in Medium, blogging on Linkedin, just review my blog. The tasks were immense and in the first weeks I was loving how much I was accomplishing. But by week 5, it started to feel too much. Too many hours looking at a screen and less free time until bed.

These are some things I learned about my productivity. The key take away is: do simple but important tasks; prioritize; don’t multitask and avoid distractions; build your skillset one skill at a time; create a project-like mindset and processes on your team for more efficiency. And take a nap once in a while, it will do wonders!

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