It's time to work smarter, not harder

Mar 20, 2020
Working remotely can be a struggle, but the best way to manage it is to figure out what works best for you to be productive. Neil Kelders explains. 

You are not alone. We are all facing the same struggles. We need to manage these struggles by taking action. Find what the best ingredients are for you to be productive during an uncertain and stressful time. 


Ask yourself: what is going to stress me out while working at home? Write out your list and get your partner and kids to do the same and discuss. Address the issues and conflicts that come up and plan to overcome those obstacles. 

Calm the storm

When you wake up, spend a few minutes sitting with yourself. I meditate but if this isn’t for you, just sit and let your thoughts come, recognise them and let them go, focus on your breathing and the calm around you.

Schedule your day around your energy levels 

To ensure you don’t stress, you need to work with your body.

Some of us are ‘early birds’ so our energy peaks in the morning. Others are ‘night owls’ who achieve more and focus better in the evening. Which are you? 

If you’re an early bird, the morning is best for analytical work (figuring problems and planning). As an early bird, energy levels are lower in the late afternoon and evening so use that time for creativity and coming up with new ideas. Night owls work the opposite.
Meetings and calls are best scheduled for when you know you’ll have low energy because connecting with people raises energy levels.

Use distractions to your advantage

Our brain craves novelty. When something unexpected happens (like our phones buzzing, for example) it immediately captures our attention, right? Try to build productivity-enhancing distractions into your day, such as making your:

1. To-do list more visible.

Put your to-do list on a brightly coloured pad, so that your eyes are regularly drawn to it throughout the day. When you look away from your monitor, you’ll see the pad and your eyes are immediately drawn to your next goal.

2. Alarm as your assistant.

Do you lose yourself in something you love doing and need to be reminded to stop and start doing another task? Your alarm is now your reminder to stay on track.

Set end times for your activities. I set my timer for 45-minute sessions. I then take a break, reset the timer and go again for 45 minutes. Try it with your kids, build their structure into yours and take breaks together.

Sleep better

Better sleep does not start at bedtime. It starts with the choices you make during the day. 

Improve sleep by: 
  • replacing your afternoon coffee with a post-lunch walk with family (if not isolating); or
  • using your garden to exercise after work. From a sleep perspective, the ideal time for exercising is five to six hours before bed. 
Over the coming days (weeks? months?) you will head a lot of advice, but you need to explore what works for you. We all differ, so don’t become frustrated when advice is not working. Remember to adjust to what will work for you.

Consistency is key. This is our reality for now, so do things today that make more time tomorrow.

Neil Kelders is a coach and advocate for mental wellness and physical fitness. To receive a free eBook on working from home, email Neil.