How to be more productive at work (& ditch the WFH guilt)

Updated: Jun 29, 2021

Think about the moments in your day when you’re MOST productive. What kind of work are you doing, where are you, what time is it? Have you eaten already, have you drunk enough water, are you dressed?

The tool I lean on most heavily when I need to have a productive working day isn’t time-setting, workload blocking, device-silencing, or any other of these (wonderful) concepts…

It’s tuning in to my own unique working style.

In this new work-from-home world, you’re still so paranoid about what people think of you when they can’t see you that I’ll bet this is something you’ve completely skipped out on.

Before 2020, while many companies were embracing the work-from-home culture & could already see the benefits - more businesses were still fighting the autonomy train, with a culture that named & shamed people if their chat status was ‘away’ or (heaven forbid) ‘offline’. We’re coming out of a world where if you can’t see somebody, you assume they’re skiving off.

But now that everyone is at home, even those who were previously the 'always-on jury' in that situation are finding themselves on the receiving end. And it’s time to realise how not being permanently visible can actually benefit your productivity, your performance & ultimately your success at work.

When you’re in the office, say you work an 8 hour day - how many of those hours would you say are genuinely productive?

Let’s now include the meetings you have in your diary - you’re also making coffee, making your way to the meeting room (in person!), waiting for others to arrive or join - and potentially... the meeting isn’t even something you need to be involved in.

Finally (& this is the kicker) - how much time do you spend flicking between tasks, focusing & re-focusing when you get interrupted, losing concentration & having a quick 5 (that turns into 20) minute scroll on social media, having to re-focus again?

Let’s assume in reality from an 8 hour working day, you get 5 hours of real work done. Fair? Yet you’re probably spending 8 or more hours in front of your screen (whether you’re working or not) because you’re panicking about people thinking you’re slacking off - but what this actually does, is leaves you totally open to more distraction & less available for the work you need to do.

On the basis that you’re generally available during normal working hours for those who you’re accountable to or are working closely with (& let’s not forget, if you had a 2 hour meeting, you wouldn’t be available to anyone else during that time), that you’re attending the meetings that are actually necessary, then who’s to say how, when & where you should be doing the work itself?

Allow your work to shine because you’re doing it well, be present when you communicate with your team, manager, or clients, & reap the benefits of that without giving yourself such a hard time, because those are the things that count.

That’s where your visibility lies - not with distractedly nudging the mouse every 5 minutes while you get lost in a YouTube rabbit hole!

So - now that we’ve kicked that work-from-home, under-the-spotlight guilt right to the kerb, let’s talk about how you actually get that valuable work done & make it feel easy!

We are all different. We have different personality types, we have different cycles, we draw energy from different places.

As an introvert, I do my best work in quiet spaces without anyone around me - I draw energy from time by myself so it’s unlikely for me to be able to focus on something intense, right after a meeting with my team.

An extravert on the other hand, would probably feel really fired up after a meeting & have a brain bursting with ideas to get down on paper. We’re different - just as good as each other, but we need to operate in different ways to get that same result.

Many people are affected by the moon cycle (you might have noticed on a night you just can’t get to sleep that it was a full moon, or a new moon - that’s not a coincidence).

Similarly for women, during the ovulation & luteal phases of our menstrual cycle, our hormone levels are higher, we have more energy & can harness that to really put ourselves out there with things that require a bit more confidence - things like pitches & presentations, writing a paper or doing a client generation drive.

The weather is also something that has a big effect on us, Seasonal Affected Disorder or SAD is something that affects millions of people (although is often undiagnosed or associated with depression), and can make us feel low & lethargic, so during a rainy week might be a good time to cosy up with a coffee & do some planning work for the next month.

Simply paying attention to your external surroundings & adapting your approach, giving yourself a bit of a break & being kind to yourself sets you up to be the most effective & productive you can be at any stage & in any environment.

It’s not about making excuses (“its raining so I don’t feel like working today”, or “oh I didn’t meet that deadline because I was on my period”), but considering you're here reading this, that doesn't sound like something you would do - you care about your performance at work & are dedicated to showing up as your best, so you can put these tips into practice with your integrity intact!

On a more granular level, you can pay attention to your daily routine & adjust your working schedule & to do list to fit. When you wake up in the morning is when your cortisol levels which cause you to feel stressed are naturally highest, so it’s great to get out & move first thing to release & reduce those, to enable you to start the day calm.

Here's an example of how I tune into my own working style - so I can be the most productive I can be:

  • My brain is also most active & energised early in the morning - so for me, I always plan to ‘swallow the frog’ & do the hardest, most time-consuming task that requires the most concentration & brain power then - before I get distracted with everything else I have to do in the day (things that should be easier to get done).

  • After that I usually feel a bit drained & need some time to myself to recharge - then I get a second wind late afternoon & can happily work into the evening doing bits & bobs or admin tasks.

  • For me (especially during the winter), it’s so important to get out in the fresh air & into nature - so it works well for me to do that in the middle of the day when it’s warmest & brightest, then I can get cosy, settle in in the evening & get some more bits done.

  • I’m a morning person though - you might be a night owl & have a totally opposite energy schedule than I’ve just what works for me might not work for you (or it might - give it a try & let me know!)

The important thing is to start paying attention to yourself, your body, your energy levels & your environment & simply notice how you feel when you’re doing your work.

When are you most energised? When do your brilliant ideas come to you?

When do you feel really drained ? Notice your responses & learn to work around them.

Forget the guilt of being visible online & start focusing on how you can genuinely show up to fulfil the needs of your job role, be the most productive version of yourself with the most efficiency, & start feeling better in yourself & about yourself, so you can prioritise your performance & generate a reputation that reflects your work.

If you need guidance to find your ideal working style, or support with implementing it (& shifting the mindset blocks that are holding you captive to the 'green status icon'), check out my coaching packages to choose the right service for you here

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