Working from home is often not conducive to productivity and focus. When you’re working in a place you associate with comfort and relaxation, it can be difficult to get things done, especially when you’re surrounded by easily accessible distractions. Which is why it can be helpful to break away from your traditional work style and try a completely different work philosophy.
A great one to try is called “popcorn working [our nickname for workstation popcorn],” a work style designed to drive productivity by basing different goals on different locations outside of your home. It has become popular and discussed widely on forums like Hacker News in part because it’s a great way for entrepreneurs and startup founders to stay focused on building their business when they can’t afford an office. After all, working from home risks tons of distractions in the early stages of a business.
If you’re finding it tough to focus while working from home, you can try popcorn working as an alternative way to get things done. It’s a relatively simple concept that can greatly improve your productivity and help you get a lot done in a day.
Here’s how to do it.
How it works
Popcorn working is meant to help you achieve specific goals in several different locations over an entire workday. To get started, all you need to do is list out three or four goals you want to accomplish during the day. Try to be as specific as possible with each goal by setting out all the sub-goals and tasks necessary to accomplish them.
Then assign each goal to a different location in the area around your home. Ideally, each location should be 5-10 minutes walking distance from the previous. Where you work is entirely up to you, and you can choose coffee shops, the library, a bookstore, or an outdoor area with Wi-Fi. Anywhere you can sit down and get work done is perfect.
The overall aim of each location you work at is to finish a goal before you move on to the next venue. If you strictly stick to the system, you’re not allowed to leave your first location until you finish every task associated with its assigned goal. That way, if you truly want that change of scenery - and the adrenaline boost that comes with it - you need to hustle your way through each goal.
When you finish up at your first venue, you can make a fresh start. Shut off your laptop, pack up, and move to the next one.
The benefits: walking
Popcorn working is intended to challenge you. You’re supposed to set out ambitious goals and work hard to make them happen. And there are plenty of benefits that you will be able to derive from completing a goal and moving on to your next location.
The first of those benefits is the travel time to your next location. Walking is a phenomenal yet underutilized tactic to help you either relax from a stressful few hours of work or to work through a problem that is bugging you. As you popcorn work, you’ll take several 5-10 minute walks from one place to another that will help you get the blood pumping and refresh your mind.
Depending on your mental state after a set of tasks, you might want to immediately start brainstorming on your next set of tasks, or you might want to simply get some fresh air, bask in daylight, and feel the pulse of the city. Either way, you’ll get to your next destination with recharged batteries, ready to take on your next set of tasks.
The benefits: a fresh atmosphere
There’s something truly refreshing about doing a new set of tasks in a new location every few hours. When you switch from one venue to another, you’ll be able to see how different each atmosphere feels, and how each is conducive to productivity in its own way.
And best of all, you’ll consistently feel like you’re starting a brand new work day, with a new feeling of direction, purpose, and energy. Each time you move to a new location, it’ll feel like your day is a blank slate. Time will fly by (productively!), and you’ll rarely feel like the hours are dragging on.
The benefits: productivity
At the end of a day of popcorn working, you’ll be able to look back at what you’ve accomplished and compare it to a normal day at work. And you might be surprised by the efficiency with which you completed your tasks and achieved your goals.
Approaching the day in chunks, having time in between to walk and recharge, and regularly changing your work environment removes a lot of productivity sinkholes that are present in your home office. This results in less burnout, less fatigue, and higher energy levels when your day wraps up. You’ll be able to better enjoy your downtime after work and return to the office fired up for a new day.
Popcorn working may not be an everyday work style. It is, however, one that you should try when you’re feeling unproductive at home. Rather than staying in the same environment that has you feeling slow and sluggish, you can focus on sprinting towards goals in new atmospheres.
So if you’re at a workplace that gives you the freedom to work from home, don't fall into the trap of lost productivity in the house. Give popcorn working a shot and get moving. You just might love the results.