I’ve been working from home for chunks of every week since I opened my business four years ago. And I love it!
If you’d asked me my best advice for working from home a couple of weeks ago, it would have been: Don’t do it all the time. I’d found a great rhythm of a few hours here, then the bulk of my day at my coworking office, then maybe a coffee shop here and there.
Working from an office, or a coffee shop or co-working space is great because you can work side by side with your coworkers (or strangers) and that will prevent you from slacking off. It also allows for more obvious separation between the work and not-work parts of your life.
Welp, that’s not very helpful advice in The New Normal. Now we’re all stuck at home, pretty much all the time—not an ideal situation. But since this coronavirus is keeping people at home for the long haul, it’s not a bad idea to learn how you can get more productive during home quarantine.
Here are seven steps for staying productive from home.
1. Set up a dedicated space for work
Our environments play a major role in triggering our habits, both good and bad. Set up a part of your home that is exclusively for work and try to build the association that when you’re in that space, you’re working. Ideally this would be an entire room but it could also be a desk in your living room or even your dining room table.
This dedicated space is also important so you can step away from it when you’re done working or taking a break. If you spend half the day working from the couch and the other half working from your bed, you have nowhere to retreat to once you’re done working.
Also we might be in this for the long haul, so spend some time (and money, if needed) setting up a good work space that helps you feel focused, comfortable and creative.
2. Be realistic about parenting demands
If you are a parent (like me), odds are your kids are running around the house right now with an overabundance of energy. And while it’s great that we can spend more time together, it’s also important to find moments of solitude in order to get work done.
As much as possible, try to avoid working while simultaneously watching young kids. You won’t get any work done and it’s hard to be a kind and patient parent while you’re stressed about work things.
Find a few chunks where your kids are either:
- Sleeping—early mornings, late at night, or nap time.
- Being watched by someone else.
- Occupied by an activity they enjoy (drawing, playing a game, watching a show).
This isn’t always possible, so do the best you can and be patient with your kids and yourself.
3. Take work breaks
At the office there’s always an opportunity to get away from your desk and have a chat with your coworker or fill up at the coffee bar. At home, there aren’t as many reasons to get up from your desk for a little break time.
But don’t take that as a sign to work for hours on end without a break! This will end up leaving you less productive and odds are you’ll end up wasting more time without taking breaks than you would by actually taking a few quick breaks! Take mini-breaks every 45 minutes or hour in order to refresh and regroup. Now would be a great time to walk your dog, do a few pushups or go run around with your kids! Just don’t go scrolling social media…
4. Keep social media away from your home office
Odds are you’ve been spending a little more time on social media than usual during this quarantine. It’s easy to get pulled away from work to scroll Twitter or Instagram. Since this is the case, you’ll want to create some sort of a buffer to make it harder for you to access these platforms. I like to make a rule to only check out social media away from my desk. If I want to check Instagram, I have to physically get up from my desk to check it. The last thing we want to do is give our brain correlation with our desk and social media.
Your desk should be for working only. Respect the work place!
5. Don’t leave your desk for water and snacks
Often times you’ll find yourself getting up from your desk to grab a glass of water or a light snack. This is a no-no. Every time you leave your desk to grab something you interrupt flow state, and often triggers further procrastination (noticing dirty dishes that need to be washed, checking your phone, etc.).
It’s going to take you 10-15 minutes to get back to being productive every time you change activities. I like to keep a pitcher of water near my desk at all times so I never have to leave my office. I also keep a jar of almonds on my desk anytime I feel like munching on something. It’s important to stay hydrated and nourished, but not at the expense of productivity!
6. Schedule around your energy
You may be expected to be available from 9am-5pm, but that schedule doesn’t fit our natural energy patterns. If you’re an early bird, consider diving into your most important tasks at 7am then be done by early afternoon, just checking email a few times later in the workday. Or if you’re a night owl, start your day slow, then tackle the big things later at night when you won’t be distracted by emails and notifications.
Your boss probably doesn’t care when/where/how you get your work done as long as 1) You’re reachable when needed and 2) You get your work done.
And hey, if you crush it during this working-from-home period, you might have a stronger case for a flexible schedule once life returns to normal.
7. Write down your to-do list and STOP when you’re finished!
One of the missteps people make when working at home is to never stop working. We think that since we’re working at home and have nothing better to do, that we can simply work all day long! This is another thing to avoid.
Write down 3-5 things that you need to get done for the day and when you finish those tasks, stop working. When we work all day in the office it’s easy to come home and separate work life from home life. But when you’re working from home it’s much harder!
Do yourself a favor and step away from work when you’ve completed your most important tasks for the day. It will help prevent burn out and you’ll remain productive for the whole week.