When I first heard the term “social distancing” last week, it immediately made me think of “conscious uncoupling”, a buzz term created to use in place of words that represent something pretty basic. Not to be taken lightly (hi COVID-19), it’s forced many people to not only pull back from going out, but also have to work from home, and if you’re someone that’s not a freelancer or has never worked from home for an extended period of time, you could have some difficulty adjusting because you may view it as being an extended weekend or that it’ll be a breeze to do. I’m here to tell you: it’s not as easy as you think.
About 80% of the work that I do can be done from home/remotely, so I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to work from home when needed for about 2.5 years now, and it honestly took a while for me to make it actually work for me. I used to have to go to coffee shops + cafes if I really wanted to stay focused and get my work done, but now it’s so much easier to do it from the comfort of my home. I’m not a professional coach by any means, but these are a few of the things that I’ve learned over the years that have helped me be more productive on the days that I have to work from home.
Maintain a Morning Routine
I know it’s tempting to do, but do not spend the entire workday in your PJs. Speaking from experience, every time I wait to actually get showered and dressed for the day, it doesn’t happen until well past noon, and/or something unexpected comes up and I hate going out around people when I haven’t showered. Getting ready for the day will help your mind shift into work mode so that you can handle your work load (like a boss!). If you have kids, keep them in the habit of getting up and getting dressed as well. Make your bed, cook breakfast, have coffee, etc. You’re not in a rush to be anywhere, so be happy that you can enjoy these small things.
Create A Dedicated Workspace
Remember: you’re not on vacation, you’re working from home, so it’s important to make sure that you actually get some work done while you’re there. You may not have an at-home office, so try to work in a space in your home where you can actually sit up vs. chilling on the couch on your laptop or in bed. I noticed a significant increase in my productivity when I started working from my dining room table vs. on my couch (I have a home office but it still needs some work). I immediately go into work mode once I sit down, even if I have Netflix on in the background. If I find myself getting too distracted, I turn on some music or a podcast instead.
Set Contact Boundaries With Family + Friends…And Social Media
If you’re someone that doesn’t typically work from home, you may not have experienced this, but most freelancers constantly get calls from family and friends who think they are just spinning around in circles during the work week. While I don’t think you need to put your phone on DND, I do think you need to have boundaries in places so that you stay in work mode during your office hours. Limit your calls, have your kids to do a few activities beyond just watching tv, and try not to stay glued to social media. Yes, it’s important to know what’s going on, but there is so much misinformation and fear mongering going on right now, so it’s best to limit your exposure to it.
Time Block vs Multi-Tasking
I know it’s tempting to want to throw a load of laundry in the washer while you’re checking email, but it’s important to stay focused during “office hours”. Multi-tasking very seldom works for most people anyway because we easily get distracted, and instead of finishing up the main task we’re working on, we wind up with 3-4 undone items on our to-do list. Before you start your day, schedule out blocks of time for whatever you need to accomplish for the day and work in blocks instead. You can still work on home stuff while doing work from your job, but this will allow you to do it in a smarter way and not feel overwhelmed.
Now, if you have really small children that have to stay home as well could mean all of this could go out the window on Day 1, but it doesn’t hurt to try to set yourself up for success. Whether you only have to work from home for a few days or a for a few weeks, I hope these tips help you to stay focused and on top of things as you go through your day.