During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have suddenly started working from home. Even as the pandemic subsides, and communities and economies re-open, I think more people will find themselves working from home regularly.As someone who has worked from home for six years, I've had periods of working effectively and ineffectively. This week, I'm sharing a few of my best tips for working from home—and staying productive.
If your employer sets your hours, then you know when to show up. However, if you’re a freelancer, an entrepreneur, or just working on your side hustle, you may have flexibility in your day. If you do, I encourage you to set work hours and to find the times that work best for you. You may be an early riser, so your work hours may begin at 5 a.m. and end by lunch time. If you’re a night owl or you’re working on a project after your kids go to bed, those hours might be 8 p.m. to midnight. Whenever they are, set them, and stick to them. This will help your mindset (you’ll know when you need to be “on”), and it will help you keep clear divisions between work and home within a single space.
When I first started working from home, I found that work life and home life blended into each other. I was doing dishes and laundry in the middle of my workday, and I was answering work emails at 10 p.m. That pattern led to me feeling like I was always working and always doing chores. Neither worked for me. Setting my hours helped me be more present while working and while at home.
You’ll also need to let your well-intentioned friends and family know your work hours. If they wouldn’t call you at the office to tell you something or (in different times) show up at your office unannounced, then they shouldn’t be doing that while you’re working from home.
(Of course, some of us choose the work we do because it offers flexibility. If you need to take your kid to the doctor or pick up dog food, go for it. But do it intentionally so you can get back to working productively when you need to.)
The appeal of working in pajamas is real. And if that’s what you want to wear to feel your best, great. However, for many of us—myself included—there’s a real need to prepare for the day to delineate work and home. Even if “getting ready” means showering and putting on a clean pair of yoga pants, do that.
Many entrepreneurs treat mastering a morning routine as though it’s the secret key to unlocking multi-million-dollar success. There may some truth in that. Regardless of what your morning routine includes, I think it’s important you have one. Whatever prepares and motivates you for the day is valuable. A routine that shifts your mindset from work to home is equally valuable. In the same vein, at the end of the day, I value a shut-down routine that transitions into the next part of the day. It’s a cue that work is done and home life has begun. For me, that means checking my email for anything pressing one last time (I don’t check my work email after 6 p.m.) and looking at my calendar to see what’s ahead for the next day.
When I first started working from home, I wouldn’t take breaks. I would work feverishly for seven hours, look up, discover it was 3 p.m., then devour a handful of cookies instead of a proper meal. Trying to course correct, I encouraged myself to take breaks. Then I found myself getting up every 10 minutes to wander aimlessly around the house and check the cabinet again for any good snacks. A ten-minute break would lead to a 30-minute break, and one break would segue into the next so that I wasn’t really working at all. Neither end of the break spectrum works well if your goal is productivity. Instead, I try to take a lunch break every day (and not a working-lunch break either), and I tie breaks to natural segments of my day. For example, my pup likes me to sit outside with him for a couple hours every morning so he can watch the wild birds. When he’s ready for us to come inside, I use that transition to take a short break, then get back to work. Find the break schedule that works for you so you can stay productive and maintain your health.
Do you have a question regarding how to work from home productively? Send it to hello [at] howtopitchmedia [dot] com so we can chat!