working from home

3 productivity tips for working HAPPILY from home

by Scott Crabtree

With millions of us working from home at least some of the time, it’s important to do it well.

Telecommuting can be awesome or awful, depending on how we manage it.

From a science of happiness perspective, I offer you these three brief productivity tips. For geeks like myself, I have included links to in-depth scientific studies.

Tip #1: Make working at home social.

Don’t isolate yourself by working at home!

The Science: We are social animals. Social contact and quality of relationships are primary factors in happiness. Science suggests a boost in happiness raises productivity 10-25%; please see this VentureBeat article of mine for sources to that claim. One main problem working at home brings is social isolation.

How to apply it: Call people instead of emailing them. Arrange for a lunch meeting. Get some human contact. This is especially important if your mood is low; moods are contagious so talk with someone happy!

Tip #2: Minimize multitasking and get into ‘flow’.

Distractions are everywhere, sometimes even more at home than in the office.  At the office, at least you don’t have to fight the urge to do laundry!

The Science: multitasking essentially makes you less intelligent and less happy. Frequent multitasking seems to make you more susceptible to  irrelevant interruptions ‘Flow’ is that magically productive state where you are in the zone. Everything is clicking. Time disappears. How to apply it: Get into flow by focusing for 20 minutes or more–without distractions–on a task that is challenging but possible.

Tip #3: Prioritize prioritization.

If you don’t prioritize first, you can spend all day doing the wrong things. There’s nobody at home to manage you but you.

The Science: One of the most important things we do with our prefrontal cortex (or “inner CEO”, as I call it) is prioritize. What too many of us do is exhaust our prefrontal cortex by multitasking our way through email, Twitter and/or Facebook to start the day. After an hour or so of that, our prefrontal cortex is tired. We fall into whatever feels easiest or best, which is often the less important task.

How to apply it: We should start our day with prioritization while our brains are fresh. Do the most important thing first. Then let ourselves dive into email or social networks.

I’d like to hear your experiences. How does working at home help or hinder your happiness?

(Photo by Ben McLeod on Flickr.)