Are you working from home more than usual because of COVID-19? I’ve been working from home for more than 15 years, so I thought I’d share some tips for how to get the most out of your work from home experience.
#1 Approach each day as an experiment to learn from rather than a test to pass or fail.
You are your own unique operating system, but unfortunately you didn’t come with a manual. Each day is an opportunity to learn more about how you work best. Don’t give yourself a hard time if other people’s “productivity hacks” don’t work for you. If at the end of the day you don’t get as much done as you’d like to, be kind to yourself. Take a moment to reflect on what worked, what didn’t, and how you could do things differently the next day. The tips below are things that have worked for me, but you’ll need to experiment to discover what helps you get into your groove.
#2 Go to bed and get up at around the same time.
When you don’t have regular work hours, it’s easy to get into a cycle where you aren’t getting enough sleep because you’re going to bed too late, or getting up too early. Or on the flip side, you’re sleeping too much, and not getting enough work done. Try to start and end your day at around the same time to avoid overworking, under-working, and sleep deprivation.
#3 Add some movement to the beginning and end of your work day.
When you work from home, it’s easy to not stand up from your desk. At least when you’re in an office you might walk to another part of the building for a meeting. Doing some simple movement, like taking a walk in the morning, will give you energy and help generate new ideas. Taking time to stretch and move after work can help you unwind and serve as a transition time to stop thinking about work and turn your focus onto other things. My friend Heather Alaine is offering affordable online stretching, yoga, dance, and strength classes twice a day every day during these challenging times. Join her Mindful Movement w/ Heather Alaine Facebook group for more info.
#4 Get dressed.
It’s easy for your personal and professional life to become blurred when you’re working from home. Getting dressed for work and then changing into comfier clothes after work helps to create boundaries. I’m not saying you have to wear a suit, or dress. Just not pajamas ( : Plus, you want to be ready if you need to jump on a spur of the moment Zoom call.
#5 Map out your day in 30, or 60-minute blocks.
Without a fixed schedule, you can find yourself at the end of the day thinking, “What did I do today?” Or making the mistake of creating to-do lists that are too big, so you end your day feeling frustrated rather than satisfied. Try mapping out your workday in 30, or 60 minute increments. It will help you have a better understanding of how long it takes to do things and create a more realistic plan for your day. As the day progresses, you might not do everything exactly in the order you planned, and that’s OK. I bet you’ll get more done anyway.
#6 Take breaks
When you map out your day, don’t forget to add in times to take a pause! Your brain simply doesn’t work as well when you ask it to be “on” constantly. I’ve found the Pomodoro Technique to be a helpful way to remember to take breaks. You work 25 minutes and then take a break for 5 minutes three times. After your fourth 25-minute work block, take a 25 minute break. You can use your phone’s timer, or download an app to help you remember. I use the free app, Focus Keeper.
#7 Create an ergonomic workspace.
I’m the first to jump at the chance to work on a soft, comfy couch, or bed, but I’ve also paid the price. Years of sitting improperly have caused all kinds of aches and pains. At a minimum, if you work on a laptop, purchase an external keyboard and mouse, so you’re not hunched over your computer all day. You can also put your laptop on a stack of books so that the screen is at eye level. Here’s a link to office ergonomic guidelines from the Mayo Clinic.
#8 Reduce email churn. Get on the phone or Zoom.
Emails and texts are great—until they’re not. If you find yourself having a ton of back and forth with someone, save yourself some time (and frustration). Pick up the phone, or jump on a video call, and chat it out.
#9 Create moments of connection throughout your day.
As I mentioned in my post, 5 Ideas for How to Find Time for the Things You Really Want to Do, my friend Jesica Vega and I have been virtual co-working buddies for the past couple years. We’ve done everything from working together at the same time over Zoom, to taking short breaks together throughout the day on Zoom, to meeting in the morning on Zoom to set our goals and then checking in by text throughout the day. You can also set up virtual lunch, or coffee breaks by video, or phone with friends and colleagues. My friend Tara Mohr is offering free virtual co-working by Zoom to help people stay connected these days. Sign up for her mailing list to be notified of gathering times.
If you need a thought partner to help you get the most out of your work at home experience, or adapt your Big Vision plan for these uncertain times, please reach out. I know some of you may be experiencing income fluctuations right now. If you are committed to your Big Vision for your work in the world, but your budget is super stretched, please let me know. We’ll work something out ( :
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