Working from home and feeling unproductive? How to take charge of your productivity & avoid pitfalls!

Productivity in Covid-19 times ist auch ein Probelm fuer viele Deutschsprachige Expats in Australien

Two questions: At the end of today will you have completed all tasks you were supposed to do yesterday? And will the number of tasks you have completed the same while working from home compared to working in the office or will it be lower? By now we should be used to working from home and have settled into a routine that allows us to be productive. The reality? Most of us are still struggling.

We get easily distracted by remembering to switch on the dishwasher as soon as we opened our laptop or monitor social media to keep up to date with latest trends of COVID-19 news. DiM-Intern Gloria Xixi Zou has been on a quest determined to increase her productivity in working from home (WFH) times and shares her findings here for the benefit of all of us.

“I feel under pressure”

“Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.” David Allen

Productivity is a progress. It’s about putting ideas in your mind into action. It is also a way to measure how long you have spent completing your task. Being highly productive helps you addressing and solving as many problems you are facing in the shortest amount of time. Productivity requires effective time management and multi-tasking skills. There are many strategies to improve productivity. For instance, we know that co-workers can increase their productivity through effective communication and collaboration strategies.

Viele fühlen den Druck, produktiver zu sein, wenn sie von Zuhause aus arbeiten

But as an individual, how we can become more productive? As a third year uni student, I am studying, working and volunteering at the same time. I feel under pressure when I have a lot of tasks to be done in one week, in particular now working from home by myself. I know many people may have similar experiences. So how do we deal best with this challenge?

Write to-do-list, but a wise one

Für viele deutschsprachige Expats in Australien, ist die Herausforderung groß ohne die Unterstützung von Familie

With more and more important uni assignments looming at the horizon, I decided to dive deep into productivity research and test strategies that I would find. Including strategies that will help us to becoming better at multitasking. We need them when working form home and juggling our family in addition to doing our “office work”. 

 The first strategy is one you’ll be too familiar with: write down a clear schedule. A to-do-list can help you make sense of what you need to focus on for the next few days. However, make it a wise to-do-list. I recently watched a panel discussion organised by Victoria Startup during which participants highlighted how crucial it is to have a focus on doing something significant. So look for the meaning of your tasks. Why are they significant? What problems do they solve? Why are they important to do? Every task has a purpose. Once you have found it, your motivation to complete it is much higher.

Next step: priorities your task to allocate time more effectively. It is worth mentioning here that when you prioritise, think about what you must complete instead of what you wish to do. Again, it sounds obvious but we all have a little unconscious bias.  By the way, there are many tools for you to create a to-do-list such as Google task, outlook calendar, todoist and so on.

However, we all know that creating a schedule is an easy task compared to making sure you stick to it. What if you find you get too distracted too easily? Apps such as Forest, Focus Keeper, Stay Focused may be of great help. Alternatively, I usually turn off my phone or put it into a bag to keep me more focused. If you are afraid that you miss important message, you may use an app such as Flipd to lock your social media platforms. Also, focus on the one or two tasks that you are doing – even if it is only for 15 minutes – instead of pondering about all the issues on your mind at once!

Resist the temptation to sleep in

Secondly, have you started to sleep in a bit longer? Many of us have. But: don’t! Wake up as early as if you were to commute to the office and take advantage of that extra time. Do some exercise, take time eating your breakfast mindfully and be ready for your job task earlier.  Still finding it difficult to get up? Why not trying to go to sleep earlier? Also, from personal experience, I find it less harder to get up earlier when I have a class or meetings that I want to attend in the morning. So  I deliberately find workshops, live chats or other commitments to get me motivated and be in the right mindset to tackle any tasks to come.

Aufwachen zur gleichen Zeit als ob man zur Arbeit fahren würde, hilft produktiver zu sein in COVID-19 Zeiten, wenn man von Zuhause arbeiten muss

Also, do not forget to find the most productive time for you. No matter if you are an early bird or night owl, taking advantage of the best productive moment will help you produce valuable output efficiently. For me, I feel more energetic in the afternoon, so making good use of the afternoon time to complete e.g. assignments is crucial for myself. There is actually no common rule for everyone. The best way is to try to have more practice and discover what kind of time management strategies best suits you.  

Take breaks – they don´t waste your time!

Wieder von Zuhause arbeiten muss man in Melbourne

And, do not forget to find a suitable spot to work from! Many people may not be aware that finding a great place to work from can help you a lot. I’m far less productive working in my bedroom and rather work at the table in the kitchen or in the common area of my apartment building. Again, take time and try working in different areas of your house or apartment. 

Thirdly, what is your approach to breaks? Many people feel that it could waste time if they are going to have a break during a busy moment. However, according to relevant studies published for example in renowed magazines like Psychology Today, a break can refresh you and enhance your motivation, which can help you have more creativity after the break. Yes, the break is not wasting your time, instead, it is a time to build more productivity capability for the next stage!

If you do not know what an effective way to have a break is, here are some easy and simple suggestions. You can eat a banana, strawberries or other healthy snacks, drink water, have a look out of your window or listen to the music. You can also set an alarm clock to ensure you will go back to your projects on time.

However, I highly suggest that you don’t look at your phone more than five minutes during your break. This is because the content on your phone such as social media can successfully attract your attention for a long time and all of a sudden your 10 minute break extends into  thirty minutes or even one hour of unhealthy browsing.

Daily self-reflection can help you

Finally, make sure you take some time out for a little self-reflection preferably in the evening or at night: Have I achieved my goals today? Can I do anything better tomorrow?” If you have finished many tough tasks in your scheduled time, why not reward yourself? How about ordering some delicious feast on a food delivery app, buy yourself flowers or allow yourself to spend more time on social media the next day.

Sich belohnen ist wichtig fürs produktiv sein

Self-reflection can assist you to figure out if you are productive enough based on the to-do list you have made for today. If you don’t, think about the factors that impact your productivity. If you did, reflect on why you achieved your goal on time. The lesson that you have learned can assist you building an even more productive strategy for yourself.

 “Until we can manage time, we can manage nothing else.”   – Peter Drucker

 Let you control productivity, not the other way around!

 Text: Gloria Xixi Zou – Copyright Deutsche in Melbourne

Gloria is studying in Sydney and at the same time doing an internship with Deutsche in Melbourne. If you are interested in an internship, get in touch with


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