With COVID-19 still terrorising the world, quarantine and self-isolation is the best thing for both your and other’s safety. However, forcing all of us into the solidarity and sanctuary of our homes means that instead of waking up each morning and bringing a cup of coffee into the office to get work done, our travel mug becomes a normal mug as we have to work from our home offices rather than professional ones. (This obviously doesn’t apply to all of you who already work from home – if that applies to you maybe you can share your tips for how you successfully work from home for all of us who aren’t used to it?) That being said, working from home may seem like an assignment from heaven or a dream come true, but after a few days we realise that that isn’t the case. Yes, it may be more comfortable and relaxed when working from home but it can also throw your whole routine out of whack. It can be difficult, distracting and near impossible to be quite as productive when at home as opposed to at work so how are we meant to get anything done when we have no other option? Fortunately, there are a few things you can do and steps you can take to make sure that you stay productive and keep your work levels up in the same disciplined approach that you had at work. Let’s get started, shall we?
Try the habit of waking up early
Ugh why on earth would I wake up early if I don’t have a 9am meeting or a designated time to get to the office? If we get to work from home, why not make the most of it by sleeping in instead of having to wake up at the crack of dawn? Well I hate to be the thunder cloud on that parade but there are still advantages to waking up early even when working from home. This is probably the most important and effective tips yet it is most ignored. Waking up early is beneficial for your work as it can help you focus. Why? Because, as a lot of experts say, you’re freshest and have the clearest mental state when you wake up because you haven’t had all the thoughts of the day to process, taking up your thinking space. Another great reason to wake up early is that it gives you more hours in the day. If you wake up at 7am instead of 9am, that gives you an extra two hours to get work done so that you have more potential relaxing time later in the day. Or, if your mornings are busy taking care of your family, waking up earlier gives you a little extra time to sort things out, a metaphorical quiet before the storm. So, even though you don’t have to, try waking up at a ‘normal’ hour (aka early). I promise it will help you get more things done, or at least start off the day with a kick.
Plan your day the night before
Ahh my favourite word – planning. It may seem a bit ridiculous to plan out a day that is really sitting at your desk with your laptop in between doing housework and cooking but there is method to this madness. During the day, being indecisive about what you’re doing can seriously kill your productivity. Not knowing what you’re doing next or have to get done in the day cuts your working time down and can lead to procrastination. Planning what needs to be done can help you avoid this by streamlining your day and removing all of that potential time wasting. Outlining what we need to accomplish the night before also stops us from backing out of responsibilities and forces us to focus on what’s really important. How I like to plan my day is to give myself a to-do list the night before and I know that I can’t cuddle up with my book until everything has been ticked off and completed. It sounds silly but when the temptations are all so close, it’s incredibly helpful to have a plan to keep you grounded and focused on what’s important.
Know your most productive times
To get your work done properly, you need to give it your full attention, right? And in order to do that, you need to be able to work when you know you can dedicate all of your focus on the task at hand. This is so much easier to do when you know when you are most productive. Everyone works better and is more functional at different times, much like animals who are more active during the day versus the late hours of the night. My older brother for example, works best at night, while my younger brother likes to sleep for most of the morning and get his work done in the afternoon. I’m a little bit different, as I tend to be very productive in the morning but I also tend to work better and have longer focus in the late afternoons and evenings. Figure out when you work best and then engineer your work schedule around that so that you are busy getting things done when it suits you best.
Set yourself working hours and stick to them
If you’re at work, you don’t take an hour break in the middle of the day to watch Netflix on your phone under your desk. I’m sure you also wouldn’t ask your boss if you could go home to do laundry, or wash the dishes or take a nap. That sounds absurd right? When you’re at work you don’t break up that schedule with other tasks, so why do that now even if your working environment has morphed into a more casual domain? Setting yourself work hours when you’re at home may not be practical in your circumstances, but if you can, the structure will help you achieve more productivity during the day. The set hours help to focus your mind on the tasks at hand, and allow you to get more done because you will have dedicated hours for work, house tasks and relaxing as opposed to trying to split your focus over the three during sporadic hours.
Time block and take breaks
Once you have your hours set, don’t forget about taking breaks and dividing up your work time. When you’re at the office, you still take a lunch break, or a few minutes every hour to stretch your legs, chat to colleagues and refresh your coffee cup and those little breaks are crucial. They are good for both your mental and physical health because it allows you to take your mind off work for a little(and thus avoid burnout), and also move your body so you don’t spend hours on end sitting at a desk. Also, if you work for 45 minutes and then take a ten/fifteen minute break, it helps you focus more when you are working because you aren’t stretching your concentration for too long. We’re not robots and can only work in a focused manor for a certain period of time, so instead of pushing yourself rather give yourself those small breaks so that you can work more productively.
Skip the PJs (even though they’re comfy)
I’m sure everyone dreams about going to work in their pyjamas. Heck, even in school pyjama day was the most anticipated day because you could stay all cosy while writing notes or doing your maths and everyone knows maths is so much easier when you’re in pjs and fuzzy socks rather than actual clothes. Now that you’re working from home, it seems as if your prayers have been answered because you could very easily stay in your pjs while you work and no one would be the wiser (it’s not like anyone will know right?). Unfortunately, staying in your pjs to work isn’t as good an idea as it sounds. Yes, you may be more comfortable but it can often make you feel lazy and less productive. This is because you’re still in semi-sleep/comfy mode, as you haven’t changed into your work clothes that let your brain know it is time to work seriously. So, there’s nothing wrong with wearing your gown and bunny slippers all day but if you’re going to work, I highly recommend changing into proper clothes. Not only will it put you in the right mindset to work but it will also help stop you from crawling back into bed or taking a two-hour break to catch up on movies.
Get ready for your day (like you always do)
Morning routines, as varied as they can be, help us to set intention and our mindset for the day. If your morning was flustered or chaotic, that may have led to you having a stressful, unfocused day. However, if your morning was well organised and you’d had a peaceful start to the day then you’ll be able to start work with a more positive mindset. So, if your morning routine before work is to exercise, do some light yoga, read for fifteen minutes or have breakfast by yourself while listening to smooth jazz, do it! All of these things will help you get prepped and ready to conquer the day because you’ve had a good start, and have done things that can improve your health and focus (which you will notice, I promise). For example, in the morning I go for a run and then have an intimidatingly large cup of green tea with my breakfast before showering and then working. If I don’t do this, I often feel sluggish or unfocused, so my morning routine definitely gets me mentally and physically ready to conquer the work ahead of me.
Don’t neglect self-care and health
Working when you are sick or tired can closely resemble torture. It becomes so difficult to focus and get anything done, and you feel rubbish the whole time. Right now while we are working from home, making our health a priority and not neglecting self-care is essential to preventing these problems. Experts constantly remind us the importance of hydration, eating enough fruits and vegetables and maintaining a healthy lifestyle and as annoying as it may sound, those healthy tips are for a good reason. I’m not going to lecture you on the importance of all of this, because it is quite fairly your decision, but just think about this: that snap-second decision to order a pizza or drink a fizzy drink over water robs us of our focus and abilities to work efficiently. There is nothing good for us in those unhealthy choices, except perhaps making us feel happy for the few minutes we’re enjoying them. So please, during this period, try to make your health a priority. Also, don’t forget about taking care of yourself. Take breaks, remember to sleep and use the extra hours at home to treat yourself to some rest and relaxation. Being human means we need those opportunities to recharge so just because you’re working from home, don’t forget about all the other stuff.
Minimise the electronics
I know I sound like a mom with a teenager (if only my little brother could hear me now) but electronics and work are just two things that never mesh well together. I know some people think that they can totally get all their work done while having the TV on in the background. I too have sometimes considered myself to be a good enough multi-tasker to watch a movie and try write at the same time. Unfortunately the truth is that it makes all of us less productive – by splitting our focus and having the TV on to distract us, we may be getting work done but it is definitely less work than we could have gotten done if we hadn’t had the distraction. Save the TV for chill time, that way each activity gets your undivided attention and you can enjoy what you are watching more. Phones are also not great work companions because we can easily spend hours on social media without realising how much of our time has been sucked away by mindless activities. So, unless you have got the best self-control in the world and can work perfectly with your phone next to you and not get distracted (or you’re like my dad and half your work is on your phone), leave your phone alone too. I promise you can be reunited when the tasks are complete and hey, absence makes the heart grow fonder right? So you’ll enjoy being on your phone far more after a little time apart.
Take advantage of it
And finally, take advantage of working from home. I know that might sound bizarre or not really possible if you’re meant to be maximising productivity, but there are positives to working from home. Enjoy not having to commute hours in traffic each day, or the fact that you can still get a few more hours of sleep or relaxation around all the working hours. You get to work in the comfort of your own home, and instead of an energy bar, you can make something tasty for lunch. Working from home can be challenging and isn’t ideal, and there are ways to work efficiently at home yet still enjoy it and not work yourself to death. All it takes is getting the right balance between movies in your pjs with popcorn, and getting in that quality work time with your laptop.
And so there you have it! As I said, working at home certainly isn’t ideal and I know that everyone has all sorts of different challenges that can make the situation even more gruelling. However, the current global situation means we don’t really have a choice so we might as well try to make the best of it and get the most out of the hours we need to spend being productive at home. For all of you who might be struggling with the adjustment, or looking for a tip or two to make this way of working a little easier or more efficient, I really hope that this blog post was helpful for you. If you’re a pro at working from your couch/home office, please feel free to share any tips that you have or suggestions that have worked for you or if you’ve adjusted really well and figured out the secrets, I’d really love to hear from you. Aside from that, thank you all so much for reading today’s blog post! If you enjoyed it, please remember to hit that little like button at the bottom of the post and subscribe so you don’t miss out on future posts. You guys are all amazing and please stay safe during this pandemic (practice social distancing and avoid going out when possible)!
Lots of Love
Blondey on a Mission xxx