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18 Hacks To Stay Productive When Working From Home

Working life changed dramatically for many of us during lockdown with the emergence of the ‘home office’ and remote working becoming the norm. Whether you’re lucky enough to have a dedicated home office, have transformed the dining room table, or simply just use “wherever there’s space for the laptop” - there are lots of things you can do to stay productive when working from home. Here are 18 HIIT Kitchen home-working hacks...

by Alicia Drewnicki


1) Stay Hydrated
It may seem obvious, but water is essential for mental clarity, and many of us are frequently dehydrated. Did you know that being 3-4% dehydrated can lower your work performance by approximately 25-50%? [Source] We recommend keeping a water filter at your desk so you get into the habit of regularly topping up (and aim for at least 8 glasses a day!)

2) Monitor Your Productivity ‘Highs’ and ‘Lows’
Everyone has different peak productivity hours, but it helps to know yourself. Track what times work best for you, then arrange tasks accordingly. You can do this by writing down the hours you feel focussed vs the hours you feel distracted and low in energy.
Research shows that most people are most productive within the first 2 hours of waking up, and least productive mid-afternoon, around 3pm. This is because, just like your body, your brain gets tired, and encounters decision fatigue.[Source]. With this in mind, try and plan your ‘high focus’ work first thing.

3) Fit In Time For Exercise
Exercise should be seen as just as important as eating, sleeping, and working. A healthy body creates a healthy mind after all. It may come as no surprise that members of our team at HIIT Kitchen love fitting in HIIT training sessions during the workday. There really are no excuses - you can fit in a full-body HIIT workout in only 15 minutes, so schedule a HIIT break, and reap the rewards.

4) Use The ‘Pomodoro Technique’
The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method that dates back to the 1980s. You break chunks of work into short time periods (typically 25 minutes), then have a five-minute break, so you stay focussed. Then after four “pomodoros”, you take a longer 15-20 minute break. You can use this TomatoTimer to time your Pomodoro sessions and see how you get on.

5) Try Essential Oil Blends for Focus
Essential oils can be a great way to boost your energy and mental focus. If you’re feeling sluggish in the afternoons, we suggest using a diffuser and blending peppermint (4 drops), lemon (4 drops), and rosemary (4 drops).

Peppermint - increases alertness and memory. [Source]
Rosemary - is praised for aiding focus and cognitive tasks [Source]
Lemon - is great for stress reduction, and energy [Source]

6) Park Random Tasks
We mentioned this in our post about 10 Habits for A Happy and Healthy Mind. Our minds are constantly jumping between tasks, so instead of letting your mind take you “off-track” when you’re doing something important, get into the habit of having a blank piece of paper on your desk where you can write down/"park" any random tasks/thoughts. It could be something like “reply to John’s email”, or “check weather for weekend”, or “order new headphones”. Instead of doing it right there and then, having a place to ‘park ideas’ means you can address them later after the work is done without worrying about forgetting them.

7) Take Regular Breaks
This fits in with the pomodoro technique - and we can’t stress enough how important regular breaks are. Make sure these breaks aren’t just ‘browsing breaks’ though. Step away from your computer, and try to have tech-free time. Walk around the block, sit outside (ideally in nature if possible), and try and give your mind a chance to relax.

8) Know Your Boundaries
One of the hardest things about working from home, is knowing where the boundaries are between work life and personal life. It can also be difficult to factor in ‘down time’ when there’s no physical ‘leaving the office’. We suggest having certain “off limits” areas at home if you can - for example, the bedroom or living room. So you know, when you’re in that space, you’re not working. It helps if that also applies to the people you’re living with too (if possible!). On top of this, try and set yourself finish times, and stick to them. Don’t let your work life creep into your home life.

9) Plan Your Meals Ahead of Time
We’re champions of the fact that food should be a key component to healthy living, and act as fuel for the mind and the body.
Hunger pangs + no food plans = the risk of giving into temptation. Before you reach for the processed snacks - remember that what you eat, is going to impact your physical as well as your mental energy. If you’re looking for a snack/nutritious breakfast to set you up for the day, we’ve got plenty on offer such as our overnight protein oats.
As you might already know from our past blog post, we’re huge believers in the health benefits of oats. A key to good eating during the working day is planning. So menu plan in advance to resist the temptation for unhealthy snacks.

10) Develop A Morning Routine To Look Forward To
Rejoice and celebrate the fact you don’t have to commute into the office! Whether it’s a quick walk while listening to a favourite podcast, or doing some yoga, make the first hour of the day before work something that energises you and gets you in gear for a productive day. If there’s a habit you can get into every day this is even better, as the new habit will act as a trigger for starting work. It could be something as simple as making a cup of coffee before you start.

11) Tidy Desk, Tidy Mind
Before you switch off for the night, get rid of any scrap paper, old glasses and clutter, and write anything on your mind for the next day (such as urgent to-dos). That way, you’ll start the day feeling fresh and focused, rather than scrambling through piles of papers.

12) Avoid The Chores
When you’re working from home, make it a rule that you avoid household chores such as doing the washing or cleaning. Of course, small tasks like washing up a cup is fine, but don’t get sucked into the mammoth tasks that will take up hours of your time.

13) Get Some Air-Purifying Plants
Did you know there are certain plants that filter the air around us and absorb toxins? Not only do they brighten up your home, but they’re good for you too. Check out this infographic of air-filtering plants as recommended by NASA. (Credit: Love The Garden)

14) Invest In Your Furniture and Accessories
Don’t underestimate in the power of having a comfortable chair, a separate monitor, noise-cancelling headphones, a laptop stand, and an external keyboard. Think about what you need to make your home office set up the best it can be - you spend most of your waking hours in front of that screen, so it’s worth the investment!

15) Start The Day By Reviewing Your Actionable Tasks
Sometimes it can be handy to work backwards. Ask yourself “what would success look like at the end of today?” Imagine feeling satisfied at the end of the working day, then break this down into actionable tasks. Setting a to-do list helps you stay on track and remember the priorities for the day. We love using Trello at HIIT Kitchen.

16) Avoid Social Media (where possible!)
Unless you have to review it for work, try to avoid social media, which can easily suck you in and kill productivity levels.

17) Listen To Music (Especially Mozart!)
Did you know that music has been proven to boost performance? [Source]
Be careful about which music you choose though! Studies show that pop music can interfere with information processing/reading, so consider your playlists wisely. Perhaps opt for something without lyrics, such as classical music, video games music, or even binaural beats.

Fun fact: a frequently cited study relating to productivity is the “Mozart Effect”. Apparently listening to Mozart, even if just for a short amount of time each day can boost your abstract reasoning ability. [Source]

18) Stop Multi-Tasking
Did you know that the mind can’t actually multi-task? Instead, the brain switches quickly between separate tasks. So when you think you’re doing lots of tasks at once, often, it’s actually just slowing you down. [Source]
Instead of multi-tasking, try batching your work. "Batching" is a time management technique where you focus on one type of task at once, rather than jumping between tasks all day. Make a list of similar tasks at the start of the day, such as brainstorming, writing, editing, researching, social updates, and block out calendar time for these specific categorised batches.

So that's it - 18 top tips to help you master the art of home working and become a productivity guru. Have we missed anything? We'd love to hear your tips too!