For the last 7+ years, I’ve worked from home. I wouldn’t call myself an introvert (I’m more of an ambivert—someone who easily flips between introversion and extroversion), but I do find that working from home (WFH) allows me to be more productive and less anxious. That said, WFH comes with a set of challenges that might be easily misunderstood—until you are in that position yourself.
With what’s happening in the world right now, you may have recently been thrust into a WFH situation unexpectedly. It’s a work environment that you might not be used to and you may find that you don’t thrive in it. It will be an especially challenging time for those of us with kiddos, too, navigating this time sans childcare. That’s OK because this won’t last forever, but in the meantime, I’m sharing some tips today that will help you navigate this new territory. And for those of you who already do WFH, I hope these tips will help you shape a more productive day and schedule!
Value Your Morning Routine
While I’ve had my fair share of legging and hat-wearing, eat-on-the-run kind of mornings, I find that I’m much more motivated and excited about my day when I begin with my full morning routine—getting ready, eating breakfast with my son, filling out my Mindful Journal and Five Minute Journal, stretching, putting away clean dishes from the washer, etc. If you’ve heard the ‘Make Your Bed’ speech by Admiral William H. McRaven or read the book, you get the basic concept. Starting the day with small accomplishments can do so much, including:
- Builds confidence
- It’s a mood-booster!
- Places importance on self-care (and in turn, allows us to more thoughtfully care for others)
- Provides a sense of preparedness for the unexpected
Fight distractions like scrolling social media upon waking, checking email or in these current turbulent times—becoming obsessive with watching the news.
For those of you currently working from home with kids during the coronavirus pandemic: Create a morning routine for them, too! For instance, our son’s preschool class does a morning meeting each day discussing what will happen throughout the day and we’re continuing to do the same at home. Beyond a morning routine, a full daily routine is great, too. Older children might even enjoy seeing a timeline written out or a laminated page where new daily activities can be added each day with an erasable marker. Most importantly, give yourself some slack and break-free of the routine when it feels right to do so.
*I highly recommend a solid morning routine for new parents too during maternity or paternity leave! It brings a sense of normalcy and structure during a time of change that can be overwhelming and challenging.
Set the Scene: Create a Dedicated, Decluttered Workspace
It’s proven that disorganization can have a cumulative effect on our brains and even affect our cortisol levels. That’s bad news when it comes to productivity in a work from home situation. Similarly to the process of getting ourselves physically ready for the day, it’s important to prep our workspace for the day as well—removing any non-essential items or distractions from the setting. For example, don’t leave that pile of bills in glance-view on your desk (unless they are work-related!). Set the scene… light a candle, fill up your water bottle, prep a morning snack, put your motivating work playlist on and get to it!
If you don’t have a personal office or space to be alone, it’s still important to claim a dedicated spot in your home to work even if you don’t have a spare room or office. Make sure to communicate to your family/kids/roommate that you’ll be setting up shop to get work done for X amount of hours. And, a good pair of headphones will go a long way!
For those of you currently working from home with kids: Create a playspace or craft area in your workspace where you can keep an eye on your kiddos while giving them a task to do. This won’t work every time, but it’s a good start and such a good alternative if you have kids who are too little to leave alone in a separate room.
You might also love: 5 Tips for Creating a Workspace You Can Thrive In
Start Batching Your Tasks
Unfamiliar with batching? Maybe you’ve heard of it but never really tried it? It will change your life, I promise! Stop multi-tasking, my friend. When we toggle from one task to another quickly and consistently, our determination and motivation decline resulting in less productivity. Switching between tasks increases the need to make constant decisions relating to different topics, ultimately leading to habitual work stress. Batching is a great practice not only for those who work from home, but everyone really. The simple idea with batching is to group similar tasks and dedicate a set amount of time to each task. Things like: email, social media, invoicing, phone meetings, writing blog posts, ordering, etc.
How To Batch Work
- Determine your top priority tasks for the week and list them out.
- Set a goal for each task, for example: respond to 50 emails, write and schedule 10 blog posts for next month, batch 5 phone meetings for one day
- Estimate how long it will take to complete each task goal and block out that time on your calendar.
Apps to Help with Batching
Batching work is easier said than done, especially if you’ve been in a multi-tasking pattern for the majority of your life. I’m still working on it! I use a couple of apps to help with time management and distraction-free focus:
- Flipd – to help stay on track when batching tasks. Flipd uses what are called ‘Mindful Moments’ to help you avoid distractions like checking in with social media or email (unless those are the tasks you’re working on). When you try to end your session before the set time is up, Flipd will ask if you really want to end—making you think twice about interrupting your flow.
- Toggl – I use Toggl to track time spent on specific work tasks, which is especially helpful for batch work. Not only does it allow me to see the time I’m spending in different areas of my business (and where I can potentially hire out or re-work processes), but it also encourages me to batch my work. When I start the timer to tackle a specific goal, I’m more likely to stick to that goal and see it through.
For those of you currently working from home with kids: Aim to align your batch work with your kiddos daily schedule. This will allow you to be present with them when you need to be and will help you build-in appropriate activity time based on your set goals. This will vary depending on the age group of your child/children and how much of the day they depend on you. That might look like 2 uninterrupted hours of email during your toddler’s nap or carving out a 1-2 hour quiet time or activity time for your older child while you tackle invoicing. It’s OK to let your kids know that you have your own ‘activities’ to complete and remember to thank them for being so helpful to you during that time. My friend, Monika Hibbs, has a really wonderful post full of activity ideas for kids—check it out here!
*You can also apply batching to many household chores/tasks as well—meal prep, laundry, cleaning/organizing, etc.
Working from home can be isolating (even if you thrive in that environment!). Make sure to check-in with family, friends, and colleagues once or twice throughout your day via phone or FaceTime. Social interaction is so important—especially while we’re social distancing during this coronavirus outbreak. Walking in and out of our front doors every day is something we take for granted. The ability to go out and connect with others that lights a spark inwardly, so that we can then go forth to create something and put it out into the world again. It’s a shifting of energy and love and the most beautiful part of our souls. Thankfully, we have social platforms to continue to drive that spark within us all and come out with something new on the other side. Prioritize that time and even add it to your calendar as a reminder.
Marco Polo is also a great way to stay connected and check in with family and friends—it’s a nice alternative for FaceTime, combining the best of texting, social media and video chats. What I love most is that you don’t have to necessarily connect with that person in real-time and play phone tag. You simply leave a message for them and when they are ready they’ll reply back, or watch live if they are available and vice versa.
For those of you currently working from home with kids: Now more than ever, kids will crave personal connection, too. Set up FaceTimes with their little friends a few times a week. You can ‘get together at home’ by doing a baking hour where you all try the same cookie recipe, a show and tell where the kids share a favorite toy or item they love or a book club where each child reads a book or two.
Build-in Break Time
Break time with any work setup is important, but particularly so if you work from home. Fewer distractions can be a huge pro but the con is that we forget to take much-needed breaks (or worse, purposefully skip them!). I like to prioritize break time by adding it to my digital calendar, otherwise, it won’t happen. It looks different every day depending on my schedule… some days that might be a five-minute meditation or making a soothing matcha latte, others it might be a quick class on obé. This 1-minute desk workout is fun, too! I also practice mindful lunches, where I absolutely do not work through lunch! On the days I crave a little more connection, I love using my lunchtime to check-in with family and friends on Marco Polo or FaceTime.
Set a Work End Time Each Day (and stick to it!)
One of the myths of working from home is that those who do, end up having more time for themselves or that they work less than people who work out of the home. But speaking from years of experience, it can easily turn into the exact opposite. Ask most people who WFH and they’ll tell you it’s a challenge to turn off work mode. That work/personal line can become very blurred if you don’t set boundaries for yourself. The Mindful Journal I mentioned earlier has a spot to fill out for each day that says “I will end working at:”. If you start your day being mindful about your boundaries, you’ll be more likely to stick to it.
For those of you currently working from home with kids: It can be tempting (and sometimes necessary) to work evening hours after your littles go to bed. I’ve been there and I’ve nearly burnt out because of not respecting my personal boundaries. It’s not worth it! Have you ever heard the saying that each hour of sleep before midnight is worth two? I personally find that I’m more well-rested and productive the following day if I get to sleep by 11 at the latest. I use the Bedtime Schedule feature on my iPhone, which sends me a reminder when it’s time for bed!
Do you have any tips for working from home? What challenges are you currently experiencing in the process and how are you overcoming them? We’d love to hear in the comments below!