Working from home, as you may have already learned, is not as easy as it looks. There are distractions around every corner and the snacks are abundant. Staying focused can be a major challenge. Luckily, I’ve been doing this for a very long time so I’ve got you covered with my tried and true tips.
Last night on Instagram I asked for your questions on working from home. This post covers the answers to the most commonly asked questions along with my top tips for working from home.
Setting up a productive space: First thing’s first. You need a space to work from that is conducive to productivity. If you don’t usually WFH, you probably don’t have a home office set up, but that’s ok! Takeover the dining room table or the kitchen counter. The most important thing is that you have a hard surface to work on. If you end up with your laptop on your lap, it’s all over. Trust me. Wherever you set up shop, bring your computer, charger, a pen, paper (for notes and schedules), a bottle of water, a mug of tea or coffee and anything else that your job requires.
Setting up a schedule: When you’re working from home, your schedule should include both home and work tasks. Realistically, you won’t be able to sit at your desk from 9-5, so schedule in everything from walking the dog to eating lunch.
Start by making a to-do list. Word vomit everything you need to do during the day onto paper. For me, this has to be handwritten but there are lots of apps, like Wunderlist, that are great if you’re more technology-driven.
Once your list is all written out, make another section on the list for your top 3 priorities for the day. I like this to-do list notepad because it has a section for that already laid out.
Then take another piece of paper or the notes app on your phone/computer and write out each hour on the left side of the page. Plugin the top 3 priorities first, leaving enough time to finish each one. I like to put those as early in the day as possible so that they are more likely to get done. Fill in the rest of the time slots next.
Don’t forget to schedule a lunch break. It might seem like a waste of precious time, but it will help you be more productive in the afternoon.
Avoiding distractions:/staying focused It is really easy to get distracted while working from home. You might see a pile of laundry out of the corner of your eye and start itching to get it done. Instead of doing it on the spot, write it into your schedule so you feel better about skipping it in the moment. A big part of avoiding distractions for me is lowering expectations. My house will not be clean, there will be dishes in the sink, and that pile of laundry might sit there for hours. That is ok! Spend an hour after work (or after your kids are in bed) doing these tasks.
How to WFH with a toddler or baby: The hardest part about this quarantine and working from home for many of us is trying to work with a toddler in the house. If you have a kid, things will be exponentially harder.
Work when you can: My advice is to obviously work while they nap (again, skip the laundry!) but also lower your expectations for them. Let them have more screen time. I promise they’ll survive it. What has worked for me is putting her in my office in a comfy chair on the floor and letting her watch her iPad in the same room as me. If she’s in the family room watching the TV, she often calls out needing something that she doesn’t even need at all. She likes to be physically close to her mama so that is what works for us.
Take turns: If your partner is home working too, take turns being “on duty” with the kiddos. Anel is doing virtual personal training sessions with his clients so last night we agreed that I would be on while he does those then he’ll take over so I can get my work done. If you both have to work at the same time, go for the iPad/screen time.
Be willing to pivot: Kids are unpredictable and might need more attention than usual on any given day. It’s ok to give up on your schedule and get your work done at night after they’re in bed. Avoid this when you can because I truly believe that a break at night is important for your mental health, but pivot when you need to. Give yourself a break. Be patient with your kids and yourself.
How to not eat all day long: I find it hilarious that this question came up so many times. I’ve been WFH for years now but hearing how many of you had this concern, it brought me back to my early days of snacking all day. If you’re a snacker, add snack breaks into your schedule! Give yourself 10-15 minutes to have a healthy snack. If you eat carbs and sugar while you’re working, you will be in a fog and I promise it will not go well. You can check out 15 of my favorite healthy snacks here. I usually do a big breakfast with eggs for protein early in the morning, a small snack (usually a smoothie) around 10:30am, lunch at 12:30pm, and another snack around 3pm.
Take breaks: After you finish each big task, allow yourself those previously mentioned snack breaks or use the time to scroll Instagram, do a meditation, or whatever makes you feel good. At least two breaks in addition to lunch is what works for me but it could be every hour for some people. Don’t try to push yourself past your limit. When you work in an office, you take breaks all the time to chat with coworkers, walk into meetings, and get away from your computer. While it looks different at home, you need those breaks or you might lose your mind.
Get dressed: Some people may disagree with me on this one but I always recommend getting dressed every day. Even if that means getting out of your PJs and putting on leggings and a sweatshirt. That change of clothing puts me in a different mindset for the workday. It is very tempting to stay in your PJs all day but it may make you feel lazy. It does for me anyway.
Move your body: Don’t forget to exercise or take a walk or even just do a stretch routine. I like to do this first thing in the morning before I start work
Let me know if you have any more specific questions below and I’ll answer them in the comments and add any popular questions to the post!
Photo by Julia Dags.