Working a traditional office week of Monday through Friday brings with it a certain enforced rhythm or pace that may not be in keeping with your own. People who work from home, however, have a great deal of flexibility to set their own schedule according to their own needs. Understanding your own rhythm and pace can go a long way towards helping you achieve peak productivity. Here are some great ways for home-based workers to stay productive all week long.
Decide on your days of rest
Many aspects of the standard American workweek are based on a wide range of productivity studies. Almost universally, these studies show that maximum productivity is achieved through a strategic pattern of work and rest. While these studies are ongoing and the optimal formula changes regularly, the truth is rest is critical to productivity.
Whether you take one day of rest or even work a four-day week, scheduling your days of rest and sticking to them is the first step in achieving maximum productivity. The traditional days of Saturday and Sunday may work best for you, but for some Monday and Tuesday may work better or even Thursday and Friday. Choose the days that are best for you, but make sure and designate them as rest days and observe them accordingly.
Whatever day you take your rest days on, your first day back is Day 1. This might be a Monday, this might be a Wednesday depending on what days you chose as rest days. Part of achieving maximum productivity involves understanding your own makeup and planning your schedule around it. In order to plan your schedule around maximum productivity, however, you first have to understand your own optimal rhythm and pace.
Some people come out of their rest days swinging, but lose focus as the week wears on. Other people like to ease into the week slowly, but pick up steam as the week wears on. Still, others start slowly and peter out at the end, but reach peak performance right in the middle. If you start out strong, schedule your most demanding tasks first thing on “Monday” (day 1). If you start slowly and end slowly, you might want to schedule your most demanding tasks in the middle of the week. If you build slowly and finish strong, you want to plan those tasks at the end.
In a survey of more than 300 HR managers, 39% of them felt that Tuesday was the most productive day of the week. While the first day of the week may get off to a slow start, by the second, most everyone is picking up steam. Those that start their week off with a bang are still running at full steam by the second day. Knowing this, you can be your most productive by scheduling your most challenging and demanding tasks on Tuesday or the second day of your work week. This is also the day when you want to schedule your most dreaded tasks.
Another great way to increase production as well as by application of the Pareto Principle. Sometimes called the 80/20 rule, the general idea is that only 20% of your work will produce roughly 80% of the most results. By understanding and applying this principle, you can often accomplish roughly 80% of the work you need to get done in a week in a single day. Instead of beating yourself up that you can’t be that productive the other four days of the work week, just focus on making one day your 80% day.
Generally, the tasks you enjoy the most are the ones that demand the least energy. If you start strong and finish with a fizzle, you want to plan your most enjoyable tasks for the end of the week. Conversely, if you start slowly and end with a bang, then Thursday and Friday are when you want to schedule your most demanding tasks and start your week with the most enjoyable tasks.
While one survey found Tuesday to be the most productive day of the week, other suggest that this is in fact Wednesday. This is in keeping with the idea that overall, the middle of the week is going to be the most productive for everyone, but which day is the most productive is going to depend on whether you start strong and fade out by the end or whether you start slow and build up steam. Once again, however, maximizing productivity involves figuring out your optimal schedule and planning accordingly.
Sometimes called “hump day” this middle day of your week is going to be very different for different types of people. For those that get off to a slow start but finish with a band, Wednesday is when they really begin firing on all cylinders. For those that start off with a bang, Wednesday is when they start to slow down. For those that start slow and finish slow, Wednesday may be their most productive day.
Your “slow days” might also be a great time to get out of the house and go work somewhere else. If you have a shared office or co-working space in your city, going into an office might help to boost productivity, but even just going to a coffee house or other public location can help increase focus as well. When working outside of your home, however, just remember to take care of your (and your company’s) belongings and use public WiFi with caution. If your energy levels wane at the end of the week, you might go in on Thursday or Friday. If you start slow and finish strong, you might try going out on Monday and Tuesday.
If day 1 is the day you go the hardest, then day 5 is the day you want to make the fewest plans or plan the most enjoyable tasks. On average, approximately 35% less work gets done on Friday than on Monday for most people, so just keep that in mind when planning your week. Part of being truly productive, however, also means being brutally honest with yourself.
Just because you are not productive at the beginning of the week does not mean you are simply the type to start slow and finish strong. It could just mean you are having an unproductive week or may even be in a slump. While you will certainly have highly productive days and less productive days, they won’t always be the same day every week. If you have an unproductive day, it’s nothing to be too alarmed about. If you never seem to have a truly productive day, it might be time to do some deeper investigating.
Working from home gives you an almost unprecedented ability to create a work schedule that works best for your rhythm. Some people wake bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to hit the ground running at 5:00 am but are also ‘’dead’’ by 3:00. Others don’t really hit their stride until 10:00 am but are still going strong well after the sun goes down. The important thing is to identify your most productive times and create a work schedule that fits with it rather than fighting against it.
About the author:
Joe Peters is a Baltimore-based freelance writer and an ultimate tech enthusiast. When he is not working his magic as a marketing consultant, this incurable tech junkie enjoys reading about latest apps and gadgets and binge-watching his favorite TV shows. You can reach him @bmorepeters.