I have to admit, when I first heard about everyone being quarantined and working from home because of the coronavirus, I didn’t really believe it would happen.
I thought it would be some media hype that would blow over in a few days and everything would go back to normal, just like Ebola a few years ago.
But now it’s April 2nd as I’m writing this and I still don’t know when isolation will end. We were originally told until the end of March and now it’s the end of April, and who knows if it’ll stop there!
With so many of us working and studying from home, it seems timely to share some tips for working from home that I’ve learned over the years.
I’ve been working from home, by choice, as often as I’ve been able to my entire adult life. I’ve never been the person who studies at the library or at coffee shops and I am terrible about working around other people because I love to socialize!
So here are 7 tips that will help you be productive while working from home.
Make a Work Station
Setting up a dedicated work station in your home is the easiest way to feel like your at work!
Make this area at a table if you can! (Working from your couch or bed is for experts who know how to get in the groove)
If you have a desk, clear it off and make it dedicated to your work or studies.
Don’t have a desk? Take over part or all of your dinning room table! Feel free to leave this area set up and don’t feel the need to clear it away everyday. You don’t pack up your desk everyday at work right?
Having a set workspace will tell your brain when it’s time to work vs time to relax.
If you’re new to working from home, do your best to NOT work in your bed! When you’re in bed your mind is relaxed and you won’t get as much work done. It can also lead to sleepless nights if your brain starts to associate your bed with work!
Take a Lunch and Breaks
When you’re at work, you have a set time that you take breaks. You know how long you have until then and it gives you a time frame of how long you have to be productive.
This feeling of “Oh I only have to work for 45 more minutes” actually helps you focus and get more done! When you have endless hours stretched out before you, it’s SO easy to goof off in your emails and not really do anything.
So set a time when you’re going to stop working. Tell yourself that you’re going to take an hour lunch break at 1pm and work until then. Then make sure you get back to work at 2!
A bonus of working from home is that your breaks become more fun! When I’m at work and take a break, I normally end up scrolling through my phone or gossiping about useless stuff.
My breaks at home get to be fun things! Normally I take my dogs for a walk or go long boarding! If I feel inspired I draw for a little while. You have access to more options when you work from home, so take advantage of them!
Put your phone away or mute it
You don’t have your phone out at work do you? If you do, what job do you have??
When you are working or studying from home, put your darn phone away! Or at least put it on silent!
I am the queen of letting myself get away with stuff and to be honest, discipline is not a strength of mine. It took me YEARS to finally be able to put my phone away and not look at it! I just got to the point where I can have it on the desk with me while I work and not get distracted. (And now my friends get annoyed that I don’t respond quickly, there’s no winning!)
Putting your phone away simulates a normal work environment and that’s the goal with all of this!
Look we all know that you’re not going anywhere today, neither am I. But one of us is probably in PJ’s and the other is not.
Getting dressed at a reasonable hour and actually cleaning yourself up will do amazing things for your mental health and productivity.
I’m not saying I put on jeans everyday of the week but when I want to get some shit done, I put some pants and makeup on and I become unstoppable.
If you’re feeling like you’re having trouble getting in the groove and you’re in sweats, take sometime and get dressed. Then come back to whatever you’re doing and try again, see how it goes.
Start at a Certain time
Trying to mimic your work schedule is a great way to work from home without going crazy.
At work you show up and start at a certain time each day, so when you work from home you should be doing the same!
You don’t have to start as early as your normal work day does, choose a time that feels natural for you to start and go with it. For me, a natural time to start is around 9am. That gives me time to walk the dogs, drink coffee and get dressed and feel ready to start.
It’s Not too Late to Restart the Day
This one is a big one that not a lot of people talk about!
You can restart your day whenever you want. Let me explain.
I used to have this terrible mindset that if I didn’t start my day out right, it was ruined. If I woke up late or started off on the wrong foot it would instantly doom my productivity for the rest of the day.
This is a terrible way to think and it means that you’re holding yourself to unrealistic standards. Just because you forgot to write in your journal or slept in doesn’t mean you’re behind!
When these things happen, just restart you’re day out right at whatever time it is!
For example, I normally start at 9am. But say I slept in until then instead (this is common.) Instead of beating myself up over it and telling myself that I’m failing, I instead get up and do my normal morning routine. Then instead of starting at 9 I start at 10:30. I adjust my day accordingly and get to work!
Or say you have a terrible conference call that makes you feel worthless. Instead of moping around and trying to do work you’re uninspired about, do a reset in the middle of the afternoon! Take a break or go for a walk and come back with a clear head and start the day over.
You have to realize that you’re not perfect. When the person holding you accountable is yourself it’s hard to cut yourself some slack. Remember that you’re in a new setting and working under new conditions and give yourself some credit for doing your best!
Stay in Flow
“Flow” is a concept that my Master’s advisor introduced to me and it’s been life changing.
Flow is that state where you are just in the groove and being SO productive. That time that you get hours work of work done in no time and it’s not painful.
The concept is that in a normal work environment, you might be in flow for maybe 1-2 hours a day and the rest of the day you’re being much less productive. It’s just how our minds work. The part about staying in flow is being able to adapt to where your mind is willing to work at any time.
For me this looks like having 17 different browser tabs open and two different notebooks. As my mind focuses for brief periods of productivity on different things (and I mean less than 5 minutes) I can easily change to match the flow of my productivity. Maybe I’ll write a blog post for 10 minutes, then send out an email, next I switch to reading a scientific paper, then I’m back to the blog post.
Flow looks this crazy for me because I am constantly trying to balance my creative side with my scientific side so I need to be able to do both back to back to back.
For my coworker she can drill down and write for 2 hours straight, but then she needs to go for a run, then she can go right back to writing for another 2 hours.
My other coworker needs to change locations in their house in order to regain focus on one subject.
What I’m trying to say is that, yes, mimicking your work environment is the easy way to go when working at home. You’ll probably get the same amount of work done in the same amount of time.
But why not use this opportunity to figure out how your brain works the best?
Right now it’s almost midnight and I need to post this article by tomorrow morning, but I didn’t feel inspired enough to work on it earlier. Instead I waited until it felt right and here we are. I’ve been writing for about 45 minutes and I’m 1500 words in!
If I had done this earlier I would have taken 3 hours and I wouldn’t have been able to watch the Masked Singer with my mom! #goastronaut
What method works for you to stay in flow? Are you able to get a whole day’s worth of work done in a few hours and have more time for yourself? Why not take this time of isolation to figure it out??
Let me know what works for you in the comments below! If you want to know how to take classes online like a pro check out my other new post!