Working from Home and How to Make the Most of it
While it may not be for everyone, I absolutely love the freedom of working from home. I’m someone that can concentrate for a certain amount of time on what I need to get done and pound it out no matter where I am. All the better if it’s from the comfort of my home, or while traveling, which has been Ben and my case in the last few years since I left my 9-5 job in NYC. In light of the current situation, I’ve had a few conversations with friends and family about how to make the most of our time in the age of social-distancing. I figured the suggestions I gave them might be helpful to others whose offices are requiring you to work from home.
On a side note, I’m optimistic that the silver lining behind the changes we are currently being forced to make will allow for more flexibility in our work-life when things do go back to normal. It's becoming more and more common to telecommute a day or two a week, and I think we’ll be seeing more of this in the close future. All the better, since working from home can be a wonderful thing if you do it right.
Here’s what I’ve found to be most helpful for me. I will say that to those of you with kiddos at home, I am sending you a giant virtual hug. Since that is not my current situation, some of these suggestions might not work for you if you’re also juggling little ones and their schedules.
Get yourself a routine
I have found this to be key to keeping myself productive and to make sure work is separate from the rest of my life. While you might be able to sleep in a little to make up for the time you might otherwise be commuting, try to get yourself up at a reasonable time each day. I find that on days that I don’t heed this advice, the whole morning can get away from me and put a damper on productivity for the rest of the day. Maybe you don’t start work right when you get up. Maybe you designate a few hours in the morning and a few hours after lunch to work. Or, maybe you work right through the day and keep the morning and evening to yourself. Whatever you decide to do, make sure that you create a routine and stick to it.
I’ve been adapting my current schedule to make sure I’m social distancing, but my days this week have looked something like this: I wake up, meditate, then have my coffee while looking at news/social media/emails and make my to-do list for the day. When I’m feeling more awake, I exercise, then shower and get ready for the day. I have breakfast while getting back into work mode and work until lunch. After lunch, I have an activity to try to get out of the house. This week, I’ve been trying to get outside for a walk, or even just have lunch outside. Then, it’s back to work for a while before I finish for the day. I like having something after my workday is finished to look forward to, before or after dinner, depending on how hungry we are. Before this isolation started, I'd plan to meet up with a friend, go out for a drink with Ben, or do some window shopping. Now, I’m thinking of some new things I want to work on and learn over the next few weeks, for example, I've got some fun art supplies and a stack of books to dive into, and I'm scheduling FaceTime coffee talks and happy hour sessions with friends and family. Sometimes I’ll jump back into work to finish a few things after we eat if I have to, otherwise, I put everything away for the rest of the evening.
Keep track of when you work
This might sound crazy, but trust me on this one (especially if you’re just now testing the waters of working full-time from home). Keep a notepad right next to your computer or you could even use the notes app on your phone or computer and write down the exact time you start working and the exact time you stop, even during bathroom breaks, coffee breaks, and youtube video breaks. Distractions add up, and without the office-space atmosphere and boss looking over your shoulder, you might find yourself having a hard time staying on task while at home. I'd suggest giving this a shot even if you’re not someone who hates working from home and don't have trouble managing your time. Keeping track of the exact amount of hours and minutes that you work each day could be an eye-opening exercise and might help you figure out a schedule that works better for managing your time.
Find a designated workplace
If you have the space in your home, try to find yourself a spot where you can work away from your bedroom and away from where you eat, if possible. If you’re an urban dweller or have roommates, this suggestion might be difficult. Do what you can in the space you have, but try not to work from bed. If not, before you know it, your bed will become your workspace and you’ll never be able to put work aside. Or, if you’re like me, naps might get in the way of work if they are so easily accessible! Ditto for working where you eat. I try to keep my work away from these two sacred places so that I can really ensure my job is not crouching into other areas of my life.
Get a space away from people
Speaking about your workspace, find an area away from the people in your home. If you can’t do that, put earphones in, so that you’ll be less distracted from others. I invested in a pair of noise-canceling headphones, and I find that just putting on some soothing music and canceling out background noise is my best atmosphere for getting in the zone.
Re-group and re-focus
It's a given that distractions are going to happen. When you find yourself in need of a reset, stop, make yourself a tea or coffee, set a timer for twenty minutes, then sit down and get back to work. Remind yourself that you can easily do anything for twenty minutes. Oftentimes when the buzzer goes off, you'll be in the work mindset and will be able to finish whatever task you started.
This is something my high school students shared with me when I was teaching. If you feel that you get trapped in the never-ending loop of checking emails, looking at social media, and reading the news, then maybe ColdTurkey is for you. Simply download the application for your phone or computer and it blocks distractions like social media, games, apps, Youtube or even the entire Internet for the amount of time that you set it.
Make a point to get out of the house
Once you start working from home, you’ll find that it’s really easy to just stay inside all day long. Don’t do this! Get outside and see the sunshine and breathe the fresh air. Plan something to get yourself out at least once and hopefully two or three times during the day. I do this first thing in the morning by going for a workout or a walk outside. I try to plan a few activities during the day as well, even if it’s just to run an errand. While we’re social-distancing ourselves, just go outside for a walk or eat a meal outside.
Take time for meals
For me, there is a fine line of not spending too much time preparing meals (and therefore procrastinating doing something I should be doing work-wise) and totally skipping meals while I’m on a roll. I like to meal-plan during the weekend so I can grab a quick lunch. This ensures I’m not going to spend an hour or more getting lunch ready.
During my lunchtime, I really try to put work aside. For me, this goes with my tip about finding a designated area to work. It’s all about separating work from the rest of your life.
As tempting as it might be to work from your pajamas, my suggestion is to get yourself dressed and ready every weekday. It puts you in the right mindset and reminds your body that it’s not the weekend and that you do need to be productive. Also, you’ll be on track with those important things like brushing your teeth at the right times of the day, and simply you’ll feel better about yourself.
That being said, take total advantage of not being in your office. Enjoy that face mask while on your conference call, soak your feet while doing emails, treat yourself to a day or every day of no-makeup, embrace the top knot, cook that recipe for lunch that you’ve been wanting to try. Our lives can be void of taking care of ourselves. What better time to make up for lost time than now when you’re stuck at home!
Make time for gratitude
Do not be hard on yourself if you are not as productive as you feel you should be. During this strange time, we have a lot on our minds, much more so than during normal times. Get in the habit of taking time out of your day to be grateful for one good thing. Share it with those around you, make note of it in your calendar, or write it down in a gratitude journal. It could be things like: the flowers outside of my room are blooming, I exercised today, the sun was shining when I went for a walk, or I had a great conversation with a friend I hadn't spoken to in a while. You could think about the people in the service industries, medical professionals, and delivery drivers who are helping all of us out and extend a little gratitude their way. Remembering that we are in this together and tapping into this common thread can help alleviate anxiety and put things into perspective if your attention span or productivity is feeling low.
Does your office have you working remotely? What are you doing to stay on track? Moms and dads, what tips can you add to this list for the other parents working from home? Leave a comment below!
I’m hoping that you and your family are staying healthy and safe during this crazy time.
Thanks so much for reading and sharing!