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Covid-19, aka the Coronavirus, has many people working from home as companies try to adapt CDC recommendations and protect employees and the greater public from the spread of the virus. For many people this is their first time working at home.
I have a flexible work environment and switched to primarily working from home about 6 months ago. There are things that I have learned that has helped me along the road have the best work schedule and get the most out of my work from home days. Working from home is the best, not only because it helps promote a better work life balance, but also because I get so much more accomplished. Without the distractions of an office, you will be amazed at how much you can get done.
But, it can take some time to get in the swing of it. So here are some tips on working from home.
Tips on Working from Home
Set an Alarm
When I work from home, I treat it like work. I set my alarm in the morning, just like I would if I went into an office. I workout in the morning before “going” to work. It is amazing how quickly a day can slip away from you if you don’t get up and get going.
Setting an alarm also gives me a sense of purpose in the morning. I know that this isn’t an extenuation of the weekend. It’s a workday and I treat it as such.
Have a Schedule
After getting up, working out, making breakfast, and getting ready for the day, I get to work. And, I give myself a schedule. Because of the nature of my work, each day generally looks a little different, so I come up with my schedule daily. But, if you can have the same schedule each day, you will have an even easier transition working from home.
Once you set your schedule, stick to it. Don’t have lunch early because you’re bored. Don’t stop working to do laundry. Don’t decide that in the middle of an email is the perfect time to stop and try that YouTube hair tutorial you saw. Stick to your schedule.
Also, having a schedule keeps you from working 24/7. While you’re at home working it can actually be surprisingly easy to work too much. You get in a rhythm and next thing you know, it’s 11:00 pm and you’re still sitting at your computer working away.
Once I have a schedule, I use time blocking to get things done. Time blocking is where the magic happens. I could do a whole post on time blocking. But, the basics of time blocking is, is you set a certain amount of time to tackle a project. And, then you work on nothing but that one thing until your time is up.
You can do hour blocks, 30 minute blocks, 10 minutes, whatever works best for you. Hardcore time blockers time block in 5 minute segments or less! I am in the hour to 30 minute block crowd. It is amazing what you can get done in 30 minutes, of complete dedicated, distraction free working.
When I time block, what would normally take me hours to accomplish in an office, full of distractions, can take a fraction of the time.
Part of what makes time blocking really work is setting timers. Once you have established the amount of time you want to dedicate to something, set a timer. Then you work, full on, no stopping until the timer goes off. This is why people tend to like shorter time blocks, because the idea is you do not stop. You power through. So, having a 4 hour block really doesn’t work because you can’t work that long without taking a break, letting your mind wander, getting a glass of water, etc.
Having timers set keeps you on task, on track, and prevents you from falling down the rabbit hole and looking up after a long day and not accomplishing your tasks that you set out to do that day.
Don’t forget to schedule in your breaks! Take time for lunch. Work in time in your schedule workout, cook meals, take the dogs on a walk, etc. And, when you’re on those breaks, actually take a break. Don’t eat your lunch while still working away. Stop all work and enjoy your break. This is so important for your mental well being.
Keep Distractions to a Minimum
It can be easy to get distracted at home. You are working, and suddenly you realize, you didn’t switch over the laundry. Or, you see that your latest Amazon package has been delivered. Or, the dog really looks like they need a belly rub at this exact moment. The problem with these distractions is that they can transform into time sucking activities.
On your way to switch over laundry you may see you forgot to unload the dishwasher, oh and that microwave is really dirty. Picking up the Amazon package, becomes trying on your new Amazon Swimsuit, which looks great! But, the beach bag you got to go with it isn’t the right color, so then you start the return process. And, everyone knows that puppy belly rubs, turn into cuddle sessions, which turn into games of fetch, which turn into Instagram puppy photo shoots.
Suddenly, you look up, and you’ve lost an hour! Crap!
By building in breaks, you can still accomplish all these things, but not at the expense of your work.
Have a Workspace
Having a physical workspace was a game changer for me. When I go into my home office, my brain knows, this is time for work. When I’m sitting in bed, I get sleepy. When I’m on the couch, I am more likely to flip on the TV and veg out. Having a space that is for working really helps with my productivity.
If you don’t have a home office, don’t fear! It is easy to set yourself up somewhere that makes sense for working. It could be on the dining room table, or at the counter in the kitchen. Wherever it is, I suggest keeping it clean, clutter free, and large enough that you can comfortably spread out, and have a nice big mug of tea.
Make To Do Lists
At the start of a month, week, and day, I come up with a list of things I want to do each month, week, and day. Because I’m a believer in a good work/life balance, this is both for work, and for life. This helps me set my schedule for each day to accomplish these things.
Check in with Co-Workers
This is healthy for both your mental health and your co-workers, as well as making sure you are on the same page with any joint projects. Working from home, can be isolating and some people go a little stir crazy. Especially during this time when we are social distancing, and you won’t be spending time with people outside of work hours either, this is especially important. Have a group chat, send a funny meme, and rejoice in all those meetings, that could have been an email, will now be an email!
This one I wasn’t originally going to put on my list, and is something I don’t personally do, but a lot of people are going to be working from home, with kids, who are also out of school for the next 6+ weeks.
Not having kids, I don’t know first hand how distracting kids are, but I can imagine. Since the kids are out of school, chances are their teachers aren’t doing much of anything over the next 6 weeks either.
My cousin hired one of her daughter’s teachers to come over to their house for 5 hours/day throughout the week. I thought this was brilliant. It gives both her and her husband the space that they need to work, while also making sure their daughter’s needs are taken care of, and she is still learning!
This may not be possible for everyone’s budgets, but if it is, I would consider it. Maybe on a smaller scale, less hours of help, or taking turns with your spouse. One of your on kid duty while the other is working, and then switch. I have found without distractions, I am able to do more work, in a shorter amount of time. So, powering through your workload may be possible.
And there you have my practical tips on working from home to help boost your productivity and help you maintain a healthy work/life balance. What tips do you have for working from home? Is your company having people work from home? Is this your first time working from home?
If you like this post on tips for working from home check out post on goal setting!