I’ve been self-employed for the last 16 years and have worked solely from home for the last 11. I was lucky to transition into home-working really quite smoothly — as an introvert I found I became so much more productive (and calm) working in the quiet of my home. Working in an office always drained me and it never felt like a fit.
For those of you who are now figuring how to best work from home while we wade through this highly unusual and unexpected time, I hope this feels like an opportunity to try something new. In my years of working in this online world I’ve noticed that some people work best with lots of structure, while others need a more free-flowing day. I’m the latter — as soon as I try to schedule my day I feel suffocated. I work from home because I like having the freedom to UNstructure my day.
BUT! As you first transition into working from home it’s going to feel weird not having a boss holding you accountable and no colleagues to chat to. So here are my tips for making working from home as joyful and productive as possible.
— Get ready for work in the morning. Working in your PJs is great until day 4 when you feel a mess and can’t motivate yourself. So shower, get dressed in something comfortable that makes you feel put together and eat a good breakfast.
— Find your space and set it up. Commandeer the end of the dining table or clear space on the kitchen table. Even better if this is a permanent space. Gather your favourite pens, notebooks, a scented candle or incense. Make a cosy creative cave. Make a space you want to hang out in.
— Keep to “office hours”, but decide what those hours should be. You don’t have to sit at your desk/table for 15 hours. Enjoy the flexibility of setting up your days to flow with your energy levels. You could start at 7am and finish at 2pm. You could do four focussed hours then rest the rest of the day. Or work every other day. Obviously if you have a remote team or are expected to keep traditional hours while we’re in this transitional time that’s another story, but if you’re entering into full self-employment make it work FOR you.
— Keep your day spacious within those office hours. The whole point of working from home is space, so take a whole hour for lunch and don’t eat at your desk. Pause to dance it out in the kitchen. Linger in the garden if you have one. Take lots of coffee breaks, with or without coffee. It helps to lessen the intensity of the day (which is so needed right now).
— Make a to-do list. Sounds obvious but easy to forget when faced with the freedom to do what you want. I make mine in a notebook. Pro tip: it’s possible to spend an entire day “organising” so watch out for that. Keep it simple. And don’t try to complete your to-do list every day. The top three items are enough.
— Schedule your day if that works for you. Knowing exactly what you’re doing hour-by-hour might free your brain up to switch from task to task but don’t be annoyed with yourself if it doesn’t. Some people love it, others don’t. See what works best for your temperament.
— Make time for lunch. Now you’re home you could make it from scratch every day – and if you enjoy that, do it – but my fave thing to do is make a big batch of something (stew, soup, quinoa) that will last several days. Love not having to think about what I’m going to eat every day!
— Give yourself permission to take a nap if you need it.
— Just because you’re at home doesn’t mean you have to do the laundry. You’ll feel guilty when you see the dishes in the sink but ignore them! When you’re in your work hours, BE in your work hours. The dishes can wait.
— If you’re a procrastinator like me, use a timer to get things done in an allotted time (20 min chunks work best for me). Switch off the internet to work offline. Use app-blockers so you can’t access certain sites. Switch your mobile to silent (mine’s always on silent – it’s a sanity saver).
— Drink lots of water!
— Weave in self-care treats. My new fave thing is to read a chapter of my current novel when I need to recharge my brain. This could be while I’m eating lunch, but it could also be at 3pm when my energy dips and I have no more inspiration. I’m also a big fan of the decadent lunchtime bath. What would feel like a treat for you?
— Learn new skills online. This is the perfect time to invest in your learning while you have time to actually do the courses.
— Organise Skype dates with colleagues and cohorts. Normally I’d suggest lunch dates and co-working days out of the house, but for now, Skype, FaceTime, Zoom, Voxer and WhatsApp voice messages will keep us connected. This is especially helpful for extroverted peeps who like to brainstorm out loud with other people. Organise daily check-ins.
— Finally, at the end of the day do something to switch your brain from WORK mode to HOME mode. Not being able to leave work at work can be tricky, so it’s a good idea to mark the transition in a way that’s meaningful to you. Ideas: put your laptop in a drawer, take a shower, walk round the block (if you’re allowed out), change up your music playlist, change your clothes. Having your work space away from your living space will help – try not to work in your bedroom!
I hope some of these tips help. I don’t have kids so obviously my days are differently shaped to those of you who do, but if you can create the space for work it’s amazing how much you can get in done in a lot less time.
Now if only I could stop procrastinating on Reddit :-)