My WAH Productivity Routine

February 07, 2021

I never saw myself being a remote employee. I always knew I would always prefer being in an office setting because the ambiance there makes me focus more, thus increasing my productivity. I was one of those employees who still went to the office five times a week even though we can actually do work from home twice a week. This is because I knew in myself that I would never be productive at home. There's just too many distractions. It also doesn't help that my bed is just a few steps away from my work desk. 😅

Well, my ability to adapt to changes was sternly put to the challenge last year (like everyone else's in the world). I have been working remotely for almost a year now, and I am proud to say that I have finally arrived with the magic formula that made me the most productive in my work-from-home setup. It was not a straightforward process. I had to do a lot of tinkering until I finally discovered the process that worked for me the most. With the current method I have (running for 3 months now), I can say that I have been utilizing my time well each day of the work week.

Here's an overview of what my current method is. I hope this can also help you in devising your own productivity routine! 💪💡

1. The Pomodoro Technique. 🍅 
This is not an entirely new concept for me, but I guess it was only later in the WAH game that I got to realize that this is the key to avoid being fatigued after my work shift (and still have the energy to do some personal tasks). During the first few months of working from home, I noticed that I felt drained at the end of the day. Then I discovered the root cause: it's because I didn't take frequent breaks during the shift. Unlike at the office, I didn't have the distractions of random chatting with colleagues or walking away from my desk so we could buy some coffee downstairs (tara kape tayo! aww I miss those moments 😢). Instead, I had all my focus at the screen and on the work that needs to be done. One advantage in the WAH setup is that it's so easy be "in the zone". It's great during the first few hours or so, because the momentum is in full gear. Eventually however, the energy goes down and fatigue starts to take over. 

Well these all changed when I started using the Pomodoro method. The ratio that worked for me is 1 hour work : ~5minute break per round, although I usually sometimes exceed in my break time due to random errands, etc. Breaks gave me opportunities to do some stretching and to just walk around the house (and pet the cats!) to relax my mind for a bit. When I started doing this, I noticed that I recover my energy every after break, which makes me more productive for the next hour of work session. I highly recommend this method!

2) The Noting Technique. 📝
This is incorporated with my Pomodoro method. During the working hour sessions, my mind tends to spawn a lot of thoughts and ideas. With what I have learned on Headspace, this is a natural process inside our minds. It's impossible for the mind to be totally "silent". However, there's a way to not be distracted by these thoughts: do not be involved with them. This is similar to what happens during meditation, and I found it effective also in handling unavoidable distracting thoughts during work. Whenever a random idea tries to grab my attention, I just write it down on a post-it note. I deal with all of them during the break time. 

Oh, I'm short on cat litter, I'll have to order more online. 
Okay, I'm writing it down. 

That's actually a great idea for a blog post: how to train cats to use the litter box. 
Okay, writing it down again. 

We have some extra bananas in the kitchen. Aside from banana bread, what other stuff can I make out of it? I need to research recipes! 
Okay, sure, writing it down for later.

The list tends to grow longer throughout the day. But I always made sure that I don't entertain those ideas during my pomodoro hour, because I knew once I do, I will then be sucked into the distraction blackhole. Before I realize it, several hours have already passed and not much progress has been done on my work load. 

It's difficult at first to get a hang on this process, but once I finally buried it into a habit, it's just second instinct now. The only caveat is that my desk is now filled with post-it notes!

3) Triaging Tasks 🏷️
One mistake that I was unconsciously doing for the longest time on my to-do list is not prioritizing the tasks. I would be able to cross out a number of tasks each day, but at the end of the week I realize I didn't really achieve anything significant for the week. Now, I know better. 

The overarching rule is simple (and it's even common sense): do the most important stuff first. The TED Talk above drives this same point, but with an added complication of every task seemingly looking as important as the rest (imagine being an ER doctor, and how you prioritize patients has life-or-death consequences). Following the advice of Dr. Darria Long, I now always label my tasks under 3 categories: red, yellow, and green. Usually the tasks that I tag as red are adulting-related things. Yellow tasks are those that are time-sensitive. Green ones are mostly things that I wanted to do for entertainment. Each day, I see to it that I make progress with each of the red tasks. Even though it's just a small progress, it's still progress! I become one step closer to the direction of my goal each day. 

Then the yellow and the green ones follow. Some tasks that fall under the green tag are blog writing and watching Netflix. Now that I have written this post just meant that I have already finished my red and yellow tasks today (yay!). My yearning to continue watching a Netflix series is actually my driving force to finish all the red and yellow tasks. 🤣 I'm pretty strict with myself on this. This is the reason why I'm still not finished with Bridgerton, and the lineup of Netflix shows that I wanted to watch is starting to pile up. But it's okay. Watching those shows is not a priority. 😇 I think delaying gratification works for me. I enjoy watching the shows more because I know that I have done the things that are needed for the day and this was my reward for myself. 😁

I must say I am proud to have finally arrived on a routine that is working for me. Although I know that what's working for me now might not be as effective in the future, because things can change, but I just want this post to serve also as a note to myself of what worked for me. It may be a useful reference in moving forward, learning from the gaps that occurred, so I can make this process as agile and adaptive as necessary for myself. 

Hopefully, you can also pick up some tricks from this list to incorporate into your life! 😁

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