Many of us have found ourselves working from home in order to #flattenthecurve of COVID-19. By now you are well into the second week of changing out of your day pajamas and into your night pajama with your office laptop sitting at your kitchen table willing you to be productive. You can't block out the distractions around you or the urge to open the fridge every time you pass by. Sound about right? I get it! Everything in the house is a distraction.
I have worked from home for the past five years. But I didn't always have a balanced workday. It takes time to find your groove at home when you are so used to a morning routine that prepares you to leave the house.
Here are 5 things you can do to ease the challenges of working from home, gain better work/life balance and feel like you are being productive!
1. Have a designated work area
Where you decide to work is one of the biggest challenges in order to block out distractions. Are you already tired of setting up and packing away your "desk" every mealtime because you've set up shop at the kitchen table? Having a designated workspace allows you to maintain the same work structure as if you were at your place of work.
Turn a guestroom into an office. No one is visiting you now anyways! Store your mattress and bed frame away for the time being so it can easily revert back to its main purpose when the time comes.
Use a living room sofa table or a bedroom end table as a makeshift desk. Some of these are usually around 30" high which makes for a comfortable area to type or write.
Make use of that awkward nook at the bottom of your stairs. You know the one! Whether it's in your basement foyer or in the transition between your living room and porch, it's generally an underutilized space. Set up a slim desk or a floating shelf as a work station.
(Tip! Participate in Zoom meetings regularly? Make your coworkers believe your home office is one of dreams with West Elm's video conference backdrops!)
2. Continue to follow your daily routine
We are creatures of habit and function better when there is a routine. One of the biggest challenges of switching from a public workplace to working from home is the upset to your daily routine. Working from home might feel a little like a vacation in comparison to your regular 9 to 5 because you can sit in your pajamas all day. Who would really know the difference right?
In order to feel some sort of control over your day, you should maintain your regular routine. It will help feel like you are still being productive in these strange times.
Get up on time
Practice self-care (yoga, a walk outside, coffee with a good book?)
Shower and get dressed for the day
Set the kids up with activities (if they're also home I recognize that is challenging)
Be at your desk at the same time every day
Schedule your coffee break in the morning and afternoon. Same goes for your lunch and dinner.
When the end of your workday arrives, close the door on your office and enjoy your time off
3. Dress for work
While we all agree is this one of the most important things to do for yourself while working from home, those of us who always work from home are chuckling because we ALL break this rule! (Of course we do!) How easy is it to sit at your desk in clothes that you just rolled out of bed in?
So go ahead, enjoy this new flexible time when you can actually sit at your desk wearing the same sweatshirt all week. It feels wonderful to not have any obligation to look "put together" right now! But it gets old fast, lemme tell you. And you will see it manifest in your work eventually.
When you dress for work every day, psychologically you "show up" and will be far more productive because you will take yourself and your work more seriously.
4. Get organized
It's important to keep not only your workspace organized but also your daily schedule. The common thread between those who regularly work from home is to set daily intentions, short and longterm goals and make a list.
Treat yourself to some cute file folders, baskets or paper trays. An organized workspace will keep your "office" clutter-free and keep you motivated.
We LOVE those lists! Layout your workday and your workweek, make a list of to-do's and start checking them off!
Break down your list by assigning 1-3 tasks as most important, important, and least important.
You will begin to recognize what actually needs to be completed first vs items that can wait until later in the day when energy is lower. It's best to begin tackling one of the 3 most important tasks first. (It's usually the one you are dreading!) Once that is out of the way, you will notice a huge surge in energy and productivity.
A good piece of advice from my friend Elaine who works from home with, Knowledge First Financial,
"being busy doesn't equal productivity." Recognize the difference.
Stay organized with a wall calendar or desk agenda. As I have shared before (video link here!) my go-to is from Day Designer because of the size, page layout and colourful jackets.
5. Work during working hours
It will be really hard to stay on task and not throw in that last load of laundry or prep for a meal. It can also be hard to resist working longer and getting emersed in your work to-do list. The division between home and work is not as clear while working from home.
Keep home tasks like meal prep, laundry, shopping even TV watching to after-hours
Stick to a regular workday. Your list will be on your desk in the morning.
Avoid snacking every time you need a distraction (so hard when the fridge is right there!)
Take regularly scheduled breaks throughout the day so you don't feel pressure to adapt.
It will absolutely take some time to adjust to a new workday so the main thing is to cut yourself some slack. The routine will come soon enough. You'll get there and I am willing to bet there will be big changes in the way the general public work after all of us are safe and the world resumes its wonderfulness. It will be interesting to see.
Stay safe. Stay home. And check in on your squad!
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