I started working from home just over a year ago, and it took some major getting used to. I realize that COVID-19 throws other curveballs in the WFH game, like having children and partners home, a lack of job security, and a myriad of other challenges. But, in general, these tips will help you find some sort of normalcy and structure to your day.
Start by identifying your challenges. We all feel the distractions of people and the pull of trying to do too many things at once, but be specific about what those problems are for you and find a solution to mitigate each.
It takes a mentality shift, repetition, and patience, but you’ll find your groove.
Designate a work zone
When I started working from home, I thought I was invincible — I worked in an open-concept office for years, I was immune to distraction! Right?
No. I was not. Posting up in my kitchen with my laptop simply doesn’t work. There were too many distractions and nothing keeping me focused.
This is rule number one for me. I’m really affected by the energy my physical space brings. After years in corporate culture, I’m used to showing up to a desk with notes from the previous day and a calendar with weekly targets that made it easy to prioritize and get started. Beyond organizing my focus, I’d gotten used to certain office tools. I needed a second monitor, a mouse (track pads nearly killed my love of Excel!), and a little space for my notepads and colour-coded pens.
This is going to look differently for everyone. Maybe you have a home office, lucky you. But even if you have to set up a corner of your bedroom with a makeshift desk, do it. Spend the time making your space feel functional, so you can… you know, function.
Organize your day like you would in an office environment. For me that routine means starting with my emails, some social media engagement, and looking over the day’s list of to-dos.
Maybe you have to be available nine-to-five your job, I get it. But most of you probably have the ability to split your hours up as you please. In my normal life, my days vary based on things like my dance schedule, yoga classes, or when Julie’s here working with me. A normal day for me looks like:
- 8am wake up, coffee, dog walk, breakfast, Five Minute Journal
- 10am work
- 1pm lunch, dog walk, yoga/pilates/workout
- 4pm work
- 6pm dinner
- 8pm organize myself for the next day
- 8:30pm whatever the heck I want
Don’t force yourself to work through the distractions of kids, or the sun shining, or whatever. You won’t work as efficiently. That may mean shifting your mentality a little, but why not bang out three hours of work after the kids go to bed? Chances are, you’d just be watching Netflix anyways.
After all, isn’t this the biggest perk about working from home?
Make a list
Y’all know I’m a big list fan. Because it works.
You get more done in a day than you’re giving yourself credit for. Write a list with your small, medium, and large sized tasks on it. For the bigger items, break them down into smaller chunks that are attainable so you can see yourself chipping away. You’ll be surprised how quickly you burn through things, and that momentum will seriously take you places.
Hand written lists are awesome, but so is the Notes app on a Mac.
Long breaks! It’s your world baby.
You’ll notice in my normal schedule, I don’t work eight hours a day. Closer to five or six. Gluing myself to my desk for eight hours doesn’t mean I have eight hours of productivity. In fact, I usually have less productivity.
The breaks I take to move my body, get outside, eat, and enjoy myself mean I come back to my desk refreshed and ready to work.
Maybe you’re a sprinter like me, or maybe you’re a marathon runner. Find what works for you, but make time for the things you love that also keep your mental and physical health up.
Be ok with a pivot
The baby’s nap is cut short. Your mom calls. A delivery arrives. Your partner makes a delicious snack… You just don’t fucking feel like it!
Honestly, this happens in an office setting too, yet we don’t berate ourselves for it like we do at home. How often do you get called into a meeting, see a Slack message you have to find the perfect GIF for, or realize at 3:30pm that your brain is at max capacity and no more work will be done?
Dude, I’ve literally tagged along a smoke break with a friend… I don’t smoke. I needed to get out. It happens!
Sometimes you just have to surrender to the flow. When shit happens, there’s nothing that will waste your time or infuriate you more than trying to force yourself to be motivated.
Inhale. Exhale. Take a hot bath and try again tomorrow.
What logistical challenges or mental roadblocks are killing your WFH productivity?
What tips would you add to this list?