In light of recent world events regarding the COVID-19 virus, I've decided to throw together a blog post with some of my best tips for working from home. While I realize that working from home isn't an option for everyone, I do want to share what I’ve learned has helped me stay on track and productive while working from home these past couple of years.
Before you dive in, I do want to make this reminder: Allow yourself time to adjust to this new way of working, especially if this new change wasn’t by your own choosing. Working from home comes with it’s challenges, but know that you can adjust to this as your new normal until things get better and life returns to normal. When I first made the transition to working from home full time, my thoughts went a little something like this:
"I'm gonna meal prep every week!"
"I'm gonna work out 3 times a week!"
"I'm gonna get dressed every single day and not stay in my PJs!" (Hahahaha...)
"I'M GONNA DO ALL THE THINGS!!!!!!!!"
As ambitious as that was, it unfortunately didn't stick. With time I eventually did find a good routine that I'm happy to share. And who knows, maybe after this crisis is over, you’ll be able to take away some new positive habits that you can use in the future.
Let’s dig in, shall we?!
try a morning routine
When you have no commute to travel, it can be hard to go from cozy in bed one minute, to tackling work the next. But lack of commute does mean you can start your day earlier and be finished sooner. In other words you’ve just shortened your work day! One thing I find works magic is to establish some sort of morning routine for yourself. This will look different for everyone, but I do truly believe that having some kind of routine will help you get into 'working mode'. There are tons of resources out there on how to build your morning routine, so if you’re not sure where to start, a quick Google search could help. For me, my morning routine looks a little bit like this:
- I wake up (Duh!)
- Necessary chores: Feed and take care of Eddie (my dog)
- Get organized: On most mornings, I plan my day using Mel Robbins' 5 Second Journal - You can download a FREE pdf template HERE. I LOVE my 5 Second Journal because it's quick and efficient. You can learn how to use it HERE. I’ve never been one to maintain a journaling habit, but I love this journal because the prompts are already there and they give you a great starting point to plan your day. The process of filling it out only takes a couple of minutes. If you’re not one to journal, you could intentionally carve out time for the tasks you need to accomplish. For bigger tasks, for example redoing a website, rather than to put on your list “redo website” consider instead to plan to work on your website for 2 hours. The tasks will right away feel less daunting, and you’ll feel more accomplished.
- Gear Switch: I love to do a quick power clean up of the kitchen while my coffee is brewing. This is probably the most important step of all! Easing myself into work mode by doing an easy enough mindless task, for me, is one of the best ways to switch gears from sleepy to productive. Some people swear by making their bed, or getting dressed, or going for a walk. Find whatever works for you, but my recommendation is to look for something that is easy and will make you feel productive right away (I also recommend avoiding TV or anything really passive because that just puts me in lazy mode!)
- Work time: Since I am a freelancer, I get to set my own work hours which most of the time is amazing! I try to stick to 10 am-5 pm Mon-Fri to get office work done, and allow myself time off. If I'm not careful, not setting hours can easily turn into work-life balance issues like working until 2 am, and then eventually being on a totally different schedule than the rest of the world and that's no fun! It's important to decide at the start of your day when you will be done because it actually increases productivity during your work hours instead vs just pecking away at work 24/7. I've been there, and I've done that, and it's just not sustainable for me!
Find what works for you, if you’re a morning person try switching the day a bit and then reward yourself with an early evening walk (before the sun sets). If you’re an evening person, maybe you get to take time for a nice morning coffee rather than spending the time in a rushed commute.
identify and limit your distractions
Staying focused on the task(s) at hand can sometimes be challenging, especially when there are so many fun distractions in your environment at home! My main distraction is my cell phone. My job doesn’t require for me to take many calls, so one thing I personally love to do is to leave my cell phone in my bathroom or in a drawer out of reach (so weird, I know!). Doing this during work hours forces me to only check my phone a few times a day rather than mindlessly scroll Instagram. So whatever your distraction(s) may be, I would encourage you to identify it, and to set a realistic goal of how you’ll minimize it.
set up a space
If you have the option to work in an office, do it! Having a physical space that is dedicated to getting work done helps us stay focused. A closed office space is great for those video Skype calls with colleagues! If having a designated space isn’t possible for you, then do whatever is most comfortable and allows for you to minimize distractions.
prioritize and tackle
This is probably my most important tip of them all!!! Tell me if this sounds familiar: you come up with a huge list of all the things you want to accomplish. By the time you've put everything down, you have a look at your list, you have no idea where to start, and then you give up or get distracted: I call this "overwhelm paralysis".
What works well for me is to have two ongoing lists: a big list, and a little list. I have a longer list of tasks that I want to accomplish on the longer term (brain dump style). When I plan out my day I'll pick 1 or 2 bigger tasks and focus on those, and then work on other smaller tasks as they come up.
One of the best ways to feel accomplished, in my opinion, is to make a list and scratch things off as you go! For added feeling of accomplishment, you can even add tasks that you’ve already done, and then immediately scratch those items off. There's just something so satisfying about crossing things off a list that just created a chain reaction of productivity.
So there we have it! I hope this helps you get through this new normal, and remember, be patient with yourself as you adjust to working from home. Soon enough, this lockdown will be over and things will return to normal.