There has been an influx of people working from home since the worldwide pandemic of COVID-19, and many of you are new to this new lifestyle. I’ve been working from home since 2004, so I thought I would share some tips to help the rest of you who are new to this. I hope this helps!
Create and Stick to a Routine
When you work from home there usually isn’t a set clock-in and clock-out time. You get to create your own schedule, which is awesome. Schedule your work for the same time each workday, and schedule at least one day off per week. It’s also best for the other people in your home to know your work hours so they don’t interrupt your flow.
Dedicate a Workspace
It could be a corner of the living room or kitchen, or a dedicated office (if you’re fortunate enough to have an extra room). BUT, the best part of working from home is that (if you have a laptop), you can move to different spots and even take your work outside if you want to. When the world pandemic is over you can even go to a coffee shop and work. Working in a new environment can really help sometimes.
Set Boundaries for Family and Friends
Getting interrupted every time someone needs you is no way to work. You’ll get nothing done. Let family and friends know your work schedule and that you will not be available to run errands, do chores, or find whatever it is your other half is looking for in the fridge. It’s hard for family to adhere to this because they can see you when you’re working from home. Just give a reminder that you are working from 9 am to 5 pm (or whenever you work) and you’d appreciate not being distracted.
Distractions will eat up a lot of your work time if you let it. Social media is a big one for most people working from home. The best way to eliminate distractions is to get them off of your work computer. Just remove access to any websites that distract you.
A great way to do this is to have two different browsers: one for work and one for personal time. Your work browser will only have work-related bookmarks. Your personal browser can have bookmarks for social media, games, and anything else not work-related.
Get Noise-Cancelling Headphones
Let’s be real: there are going to be noises that distract you from your work if you’re working from home. Construction, sirens, neighbors doing whatever. Grab your noise-canceling headphones and get back to work.
My favorite headphones are my Altec Lansing’s Comfort Q Bluetooth Wireless Headphones. I use them to block out noise, make phone calls, go to video meetings, and listen to music. They are super comfortable and the battery lasts up to 26 hours.
Take Time Off
If you’re anything like me you could find yourself working constantly. I have to force myself to take time off. Sundays are now my mandatory time off. No work. I also try to stay off the computer completely during Sundays. It helps reset my brain and give me the rest I need from work. I am striving to take Saturdays off as well, as I think this will benefit me even more. You have to make sure you’re taking time off each week so you don’t burn yourself out.
Take Regular Breaks
Taking regular breaks throughout your workday is so important for your health (physical and mental). Since you’re sitting at a computer all day you need to get up and stretch and walk around a bit once every hour. I like to set a timer for 50 minutes so I can focus on my work. When the timer goes off I set it for 10 minutes for a break. I get up, stretch, and walk around the house a little bit. Sometimes I march in place or do some push-ups or squats.
Speaking (or writing?) of exercise, it’s important for everyone to work out on a regular basis. We’re not physical laborers that get exercise while we work, so we need to make time for it.
I currently spend about 20 minutes exercising for 3 to 5 days a week. I’m striving for 5 days a week, which will be even better. I find I feel better physically and mentally when I exercise. I even sleep better.
Choose something you enjoy.
I do some simple bodyweight exercises like push-ups, squats, leg raises, crunches, as well as some exercises with dumbbells.
Eat Well & Stay Hydrated
Break for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and any snacks in between. It can be so easy to skip meals or eat too much junk (convenience foods) when working from home.
Keep a water bottle at your desk so you can hydrate as needed.
The best way to eat healthily is to plan your meals and snacks at the beginning of the week. You can even meal prep on Sundays to save some time during the week.
Eating healthy means getting lots of fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, beans, and legumes.
Try a Time Management System
The Pomodoro Technique seems to be a favorite. It’s where you set a timer for 25 minutes, focus on one task, and then break for 5 minutes. I use an altered form of the Pomodoro Technique where I set a timer for 50 minutes and then break for 10. I just find this works better for me.
Practicing gratitude has changed my life, and I do this by keeping a gratitude journal. Every day, I write what I am grateful for, that I already have, on the left side of the journal. On the right side, I focus on what I want. However, I write that I am grateful for these things as if I already have them. It’s a way of practicing the law of attraction. If you’re interested in getting into this (it’s helped me achieve so many goals), grab The Secret by Rhonda Byrne and The Secret Gratitude Book. These have been life-changers for me, and I hope they will be for you too.
Write a To-Do List
I love writing lists. I have so many, and they help me keep track of everything. I keep a to-do list on my desk of what I need to complete for the week and cross things out as I go. You can also break that down into daily to-do lists so you know exactly what you need to get done every workday.
Boost Your Self-Discipline
Working from home, especially if you’re self-employed, requires self-discipline. You don’t have a boss waiting for you at the office, making sure you get there on time every day. You don’t have your boss and co-workers around you at the office making sure you are working throughout the day. You need the self-discipline to be your own boss. It’s not always easy.
The best way to improve your self-discipline for working from home is by creating and maintaining your daily schedule. It will be hard to stick to it at first, but the longer you keep doing it every day, the easier it will be. If you slip up, get right back to it!
Schedule Calls in the Afternoon
You will start to notice that your energy peaks at certain times of the day. If you work a typical schedule, you might notice that your energy slows during the afternoon. So, instead of trying to stay on task and get some focus-driven work done, use this time for phone calls and meetings.
Practice Good Posture & Ergonomics
If you’ve been slouching you’ve probably noticed some soreness, tightness, or pain in your neck, shoulders, and back especially. You first need to ensure you have proper ergonomics at your desk. See the diagram above for reference.
If you find yourself slouching straighten up!
Keep a Morning Routine
I recommend routines a lot because they make everything easier. You work better and more efficiently when your brain knows what to expect. A morning routine will help you get ready for the day and remind your brain that it’s time to wake up.
A morning routine can include meditation, journaling, reading, exercise, stretching, drinking water, healthy breakfast, and a shower.
Wake up at the same time every day.
Keep an Evening Routine
The same goes for the evening. Let your brain and body know that it is time to get ready to go to sleep.
An evening routine can include journaling, stretching, yoga, meditation, putting your phone on airplane mode, and reading.
Go to sleep at the same time every night.
Multi-tasking simply doesn’t work. Focus on one task at a time. If you have your attention split between two or more tasks at a time you’ll end up with poor results.
Noisli is an app I discovered that helps me focus, especially when my noise-canceling headphones just can’t completely block out the noise going on (I’m looking at you, neighbor with a motorcycle who likes to rev the engine too much).
It has options! You can choose from productivity, relaxation, random, noise blocker, motivation, sleep, studying, creative thinking, writing, or beautiful ambients.
I like to make my own by choosing the sounds myself. I enjoy the coffee shop and rain sounds.
There is a free or paid version.
When you’re working from home you can sometimes forget to get some fresh air. Sit outside with your favorite beverage or go for a walk to clear your mind. I enjoy a walk when it’s warm enough outside.
Do What Works For You
Lastly, do what works for you. You’ll get to know when you have the most energy and when you don’t. Not everything works for everyone. We’re different people with different needs. Some of us (not me) are morning people who thrive on getting up at 5 am every morning. Some of us (me) are miserable if we have to get up that early. Do what works best for you. Good luck!