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5 Easy Tips to Be Productive When You Can’t Leave the House

In the last handful of months, our lives have been unexpectedly flipped upside down.

Chances are yours’ have, too.

Amid the chaos of figuring out our lives facing this worldwide pandemic, we have found strength in what we know best––working from home as entrepreneurs. What we do has helped us create and form businesses, online courses for our classes at BYU-Hawaii, and money making opportunities. With our experience we can help you through this new, unprecedented time, too.

No Stability? Mundane? Actually This is Good

The stability and possible mundane-ness of attending classes, doing homework, studying for tests, and clocking into work are becoming a distant memory.

Remember when you wished that you didn’t have to go to class or work? Isn’t it funny how those once wishes have come true?

Now, we see you from behind the screen of your computer (or just a blank screen for you students who don’t connect your video camera on Zoom… Hello? Are you even there?) from oceans away. And honestly, it sucks.

We miss the interaction with you guys—our students. We miss your insightful comments. We miss witnessing the miracle of you guessing the right answer when spontaneously called on, even when you obviously didn’t read the assignment from the night before.

We miss you and we wish we didn’t have to. 
But, as with all things, this will pass. We will be together again (hopefully sooner, than later) and even stronger than we are now.

That’s the beauty of difficult times, they require strength.

Yes, we know it’s hard to stay strong in this seemingly unending situation. We know it’s hard that you had to last-minute move in with your parents (sorry, Mom). We know it’s hard that your graduation got cancelled. We know it’s hard that your temple sealing had to be postponed. We know it’s hard that you don’t have a steady income. We know because we’re right here with you (well, maybe except living with our parents again).

But, despite the forever-long list of difficulties, be strong.

Take heart.

You can come out stronger than you were walking into this. We know you can and we have just the tools to help.

For the First Time, Staying Home Can Make You Productive: Here’s How

Our seasoned entrepreneurs here at the Willes Center for International Entrepreneurship have shared their TOP FIVE stay-at-home-and-stay-productive tips. These have worked for them; these can work for you, too. Pinky promise.

Tip #1: Study Scriptures Before Working

It may come to no surprise that Willes Center professors prioritize their personal time with God before doing any work (businesses, clients, grading, course creating, you name it). Paul Wilson, aka “The Marketing Guru,” shared some great insights about putting his scripture study first.

Before I begin my work day, I’ll read my scriptures and pray. I’ve found my days are more productive when I put the Lord first. When I started doing this I found I was getting anxious while I read my scriptures. Each time I felt this way I stopped and considered why. I realized there were specific tasks I wanted to do. To help alleviate these worries now, I will stop and write in my laptop notepad the task that is nagging at me. It helps me know that I won’t forget what I think is important and makes concentrating on the scriptures that much easier.

This is a great practical tip to add into your day for a couple key reasons.

  1. You are putting who is most important, first.

When God sees that you are prioritizing Him, He helps you accomplish the rest that you need to. You’re telling him, “Hey, I’m putting you first. You are most important. Help me with these lesser important things, please.”

Even though reading scriptures seems to steal time from other important things from your to-do list, having the closeness of the spirit will help you work faster and more efficiently. God will help you even when—especially when—your schedule is crazy busy. Don’t believe us? Go on ahead and give it a try. We promise, it really works.

  1. It sets the mood and your mind. 

Reading and studying the scriptures will invite the companionship and closeness of the Spirit. Having the Spirit close by can help magnify everything you need to do to focus on the task at hand (reading scriptures, doing homework, studying for a test, helping a friend, doing a project, anything, and everything). The Spirit relieves anxiety, brings peace, clears your mind, and can set the stage for the rest of your work day.

However, like Paul Wilson said earlier, when something was nagging his mind and causing him some anxiety, he quickly jotted down what the task was so he could return to his studies. Doing this helps focus on your time spent in scriptures and allows your mind to be completely focused on one task.

After reading your scriptures, your mind is set and primed for the rest of the work you need to do. Your mind is ready to focus because it already had its “warm up;” your mind is ready to work.

The focus, productivity, and added strength that comes from reading scriptures first will really waterfall over into the rest of your day. Scripture power is real and can help you transform your day—even if all of it is spent at home.

Tip #2: Set a Schedule

Have you had a day where you didn’t have a schedule? You wake up late in the aternoon and your day is slow moving. Initially it feels like a must-needed and well-deserved rest, but before you know it, it’s 3pm and you haven’t done anything. These sorts of days all too oten creep up on us and steal our productivity.

One of the positives of having classes and work is that they require you to have a loose schedule. You know when you should get up, get out, and be by a certain time. But, when school and work happen at home, these time boundaries all blur together.

In order to be effective a schedule must be created. Knowing when specific tasks need to happen and how long you will be working on them is critical in order to stop the monotony of the day to consume your life.

As senior, Chad Samaseia, studying business management with an emphasis in marketing said:

“Everything seems optional when we don’t meet for classes in person. Now we really have to dedicate the time ourselves and it’s harder to do that when school is virtual.”

But, there is a way to take control over your work day instead of having time consume you. How? Treat your home like your workplace (we’ll get to this in tip #4). It’s definitely easier to get distracted at home (especially with a fridge in the next room over), but it is absolutely essential to prioritize your time and create a home schedule as you would create a school or work schedule.

Tip #3: Get Ready for the Day (yes, we mean put real clothes on)

If you are one of those people who stay in their pajamas all day when they don’t leave the house (no judgement, here), you are not alone. Paul Wilson shared a personal story that is all too easy to relate with.

I started working from home right after I graduated from college. Initially, when I woke up, I would literally reach over and pick up my laptop and start working. I wouldn’t dress; I wouldn’t eat; I wouldn’t even shower. I would go straight to work. It wasn’t even until later in the day where I would get ready. I even did this routine for years. Year after year, I saw my satisfaction in my work declining and I stepped back to help me realize why. Then I saw it. The days where I got up and actually got ready for the day were much more productive and enjoyable.

Getting ready for the day and stepping out of your bedroom in the morning really helps your mind prepare for the day. It helps set you right. It adds intention to your day.

For example, when you go to the gym you prepare yourself (yes, you really should workout regularly . . . if you’re looking for a sign to exercise, this is it). You get dressed into your workout clothes. You put on your athletic shoes. You listen to specific music to set you in the mood. You are intentional about your attire, your mind, and your preparation. The same applies to doing school and working from home.

Doing this simple thing will help your mind focus, improve your mood, boost your satisfaction, and in turn you will be more productive and prepared for your work day ahead, even if it is at home.

Tip #4: Dedicate a Workspace and Make it Inviting

As important as it is to prepare yourself physically by getting ready to work, the same applies with your workspace. Paul Wilson continues his story:

Having a specific space to work has been critical to me working at home. As mentioned before, I used to work right when I woke up, which meant my bed was also my workspace. I do not recommend this approach. At least, not the way I was doing it. Once I required myself to work at a desk or a place away from my bed, I found working much easier. If your bed is the only place you can actually work or study then I suggest improvising. You want to distinguish sleeping from working. Maybe create a makeshift desk by getting a laundry basket with a flat bottom and turning it upside down on your bed. It could serve as your desk and give you a place to put your computer. I believe making your work space different from your living space will help you be more productive.

There are many students who have created their bed to serve a 5-in-1 purpose. They use it for sleeping, doing homework and studying, socializing with friends, and a place to relax and watch Netflix. It makes it very confusing to differentiate what is supposed to happen at a specific time and can very easily become a slippery slope to sleeping or binge watching TV.

Your workplace should be your workplace. You don’t sleep at work. You don’t do homework at work. You don’t watch Netflix at work. You work at work. The same idea applies even at home. So dedicate one side of the kitchen table as your “work desk” and only do your work there. Time for lunch? Scooch over a seat and eat there. It will help your brain differentiate between the two.

Another great tip to help with productivity in your workspace is to make it inviting! If you take a stroll upstairs in the HGB and walk past Lila Magalei or Patiola Thompson’s desks you will immediately notice a change in atmosphere. They have nice essential oils diffusing, peaceful music, and very organized areas. Having a calm area like this helps counter the stresses of studying and working.

If you don’t have essential oils to diffuse or nice relaxing music melting into the background, you can simply keep your space organized. Being tidy and clean will help you focus better and allow you to think more clearly, therefore helping you be more productive.

Tip #5: Take Breaks . . . and Often

Throughout your work and school day, it is important to take breaks as you work. Taking breaks allows you to become more productive and creative. A post from Psychology Today shares great insight on why breaks are essential. In short, breaks help improve health, prevent “decision fatigue,” restore motivation, increase productivity, and improve learning.

Paul Wilson also expounds on the importance of taking breaks––or as his family calls it, “Daddy Breaks.” Daddy Breaks are his 15 minute breaks where he stops working and spends uninterrupted time with them. They happen about every hour and his six children make sure he religiously adheres to them.

This method of taking 15 minute breaks every hour is similar to a time management technique called “the Pomodoro Method.” With this method, instead of taking a break every hour, you take a 5 minute break every 25 minutes.

If you are one of those people who despises breaks and thinks they are a waste of time and actually kill your productivity, might this analogy help you see the importance of resting. In exercise (take this as sign #2 if you still haven’t felt the importance of regular workouts), rest days are just as important as work or load days. On those essential rest days, your body gets the much needed recovery time to mend muscle fractures and tears and restore energy stores. The rest actually catapults the work (form of exercise) you did forward. If your body is consistently under strain without a rest day, you will reach a plateau and find that improvements are marginal. Resting helps restore and improve the work you previously did.

So, take breaks. They help your brain rest and actually help you do better work. Managed breaks result in productivity. Use them smartly and with self-control. You deserve a reset, even if it is 5 minutes.

You Can Be Productive in Chaos

Yes, the world is littered in chaos and frankly, it probably won’t clear up soon. Even though the commotion around us disrupts our normal day-to-day schedule, you can conquer those chaotic affects that flood into your life by intentionally choosing and creating a productive lifestyle.

When it feels most difficult to be productive and organized, that is when you may need it most. Use these big 5 tips to help you set your mind right, prepare yourself for the day, and allow you to come out more refined, deliberate, and productive.