Working from home appears to be the future both for business and society. Today more than four million people in the UK won’t go into an office or factory – we’ll earn our crust where we live.
But for many people, working from home actually brings even greater potential for distraction, interruption and procrastination. So what are the keys to productive home-working?
1) Clarity: your innate capacity for productivity
We all have an instinctive capacity to clear our mind - the source of motivation, creativity and high productivity. These states of clarity are sometimes referred to as ‘flow’ by writers or computer programmers, and as ‘in the zone’ by athletes, dancers and other performers. When you’ve got clarity, you have nothing on your mind and are completely absorbed in the task at hand.
So how do you find clarity?
Clarity emerges naturally when you’ve got a clear mind, and it results in massive productivity when you’re doing something challenging that matters to you. You’ve probably had days when you can’t put a foot wrong; when you seem to be effortlessly productive, and you’re able to navigate obstacles which would normally slow you down or even stop you. When you get to the end of those days and look back at all you’ve accomplished with a sense of satisfaction, that’s a day with a healthy measure of clarity.
Tapping into your inherent capacity for clarity and clearing your mind is one of the keys to highly productive home-working. The question to ask yourself is “What gets in the way?”
2) Dealing with distraction
The main thing that interferes with having a clear mind is distraction. And just like you’ve all had days where you couldn’t put a foot wrong, you’ve also probably had days when you were distracted and less than productive.
Home-working offers the opportunity to minimise external distractions - you can switch off your phone, turn off your email alerts and focus on the task at hand without a colleague tapping you on the shoulder for a chat.
But, one of the biggest obstacles to ‘flow’ is actually internal distractions, such as feelings of boredom, worry or anxiety. These feelings keep apps, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, in business, as we reflexively turn to our smartphones to distract ourselves. But ‘flow’ is waiting just on the other side of these feelings.
It often appears as though feelings of stress or worry etc. are coming from external factors (e.g. work, a deadline, or your boss etc.), but, in reality, those feelings are always letting you know about your moment-to-moment thinking.
So when you believe your feelings are coming from external factors, it makes sense to look outside for a solution (e.g. to an app, a biscuit or a cigarette). But when you realise that your feelings are letting you know about your own thinking (and nothing else), it wakes you up and brings you back into the moment. And the present moment is where high productivity occurs.
3) Tuning in to intuition
Working from home means you’re not plugged into the ‘factory timetable’, so it’s an opportunity to start tuning into your inner guidance system that lets you know when it’s time to change task, to pause, or to go for a walk etc. I’ve asked hundreds of business leaders “When do you get your best ideas?” and the answers are always similar; while out walking, at the gym, travelling to work, or in the shower etc.
It turns out we often get our most innovative insights when we’re not directly engaged in the task at hand. You’ll soon find that you get aligned with your personal rhythms of productivity and engagement.
The Bigger picture
Many of the world’s fastest growing organisations (such as Google, Airbnb and Uber) have a ‘massive transformational purpose’ and autonomous working arrangements that serve as a beacon that attracts the most talented and motivated employees to work for them.
It turns out that doing work that matters isn’t just one of the best ways to attract the best talent; it’s also one of the keys to unlocking the kind of motivation and productivity that has people perform at their best, whether they’re in the office or working from home.
By Jamie Smart, Business Consultant and Author