I’ve worked from home for 23 years and here are some tips for those of you that find yourself suddenly new to this:
- Have a morning routine that you do first that is clearly personal time. Whether it is quiet time, Bible study, meditation, reading, exercise, cooking, blogging, hygiene, household chores, etc, get it done efficiently and first. For me, I do my spiritual study and prayer, along with breakfast and blogging, first, before I get dressed. Whatever your morning routine is, make it clear to yourself and mark it off distinctly as to when that is over and you are shifting into work mode.
- Many people find that “getting dressed to go to work” even to work from home is very helpful. We carry ourselves with more authority when our shoes are on and our hair is combed.
- Have a clearly defined place to “work.” Don’t do it all over the house. I have worked on the third floor of our house so long, I actually use phrases like “going home” for when I’m coming down stairs. My husband has an office and recording studio in the basement, I’m in the attic, and the first and second floor between is “home.” Even if you are in a small apartment, set up a place for you to be that will be your work station. When you are there you work, and when you are not there, you don’t work. This not only helps give clarity and focus to you, but those around you know when you are on or off.
- Long time ago I was given the advice, “Do the Worst First.” Thankfully, since I love my work, I don’t consider any of it “worst,” but some of it is hardest, most detailed, or most avoided. Do those things first in your workday and the rest of your day will feel like a relief. You’ll sail far on the wind of the release you’ll get from doing that. Do not start your day with email and trivia. Start it with what is your highest priority, your nemesis, the thing that if you got only that done you could count the day good. Stephen Covey would call it doing your “big rocks” first. Save whatever “gravel” you have to do for later in the day when you are more spent.
- Divide your work into chunks, just like you would at the office or school. Give yourself a specific task and short time allotment in which to do it. Set a timer if you need to, and focus hard, knowing when the timer goes off, you are going to get up and move around, go to the bathroom, let the dog out, whatever. Then back to your workstation for your next specifically focused session. When you are not at your work station, you are not working, when you are, you are. These high intensity sprints followed by brief resets could be the topic of another whole blog post, this is so important.
- Curtail videos, social media, news, podcasts, fiction, and make sure they are not indulged in during work hours. This is especially true for those that work from home, because these pleasures are a time sink that makes you especially ineffective without supervisory eyes monitoring you. Save these things for after your day’s work is done. With a little discipline, you will find that working from home is much more efficient, so you’ll have more time than ever, later, for those other pursuits.
- Midday I give myself a break from working. For me, that is when my phone is the quietest, and I have some time to do other self care things. This is when I cook our best meal of the day, do household chores, go on a hike, or go to the gym. Other people will have different schedules; the point is to have one, so you know when you are going to get what you need, and when the work is going to get done. Late afternoon and evening I often work, so I am sure to grab midday for my personal time. You may be finishing everything up in the morning through midday, and take late afternoon and evening for yourself. The point is to have a plan that works both for your work as well as for your sanity and well being.
- Don’t eat either at your work station or where you can see it. The exception for this for me is water and herbal tea.
- If you do a bunch of video conferencing, check, and modify as necessary, what will be showing behind your talking head. Simple is best. Try to avoid revealing embarrassing or distracting clues about your private life, especially in reflected surfaces. Also being completely dressed is a plus here as well.
- Minimize interruptions. Keep a non-work list at your desk so that you can keep track of what you want to get done when you are not working; this helps you to forget about it while you do work. Let family and friends know your general schedule, so they can be considerate and minimize interrupting you. People will help defend your time and space if they know you want them to. Sharing schedules also helps for planning to join up at mealtimes, for doing chores, or for social time, if you are not alone in the house.
- Call an accountability partner if you need one. Both daughters do this with me when they are feeling over worked and are flagging. We decide what chunk they are going to get done before calling back triumphant, and at what time I should check back in with them if I haven’t heard from them. This seems to work great for them. Sometimes we just hang out on the phone together not really talking, with only scattered comments and quips, while mutually getting our “gravel” done together (daughter correcting classwork papers, me cutting vegetables, for example). Neither of us feels so alone or disconnected, and we are not distracting each other, but rather, companionably supporting each other through the boring bits. Maybe you and a co-worker could egg each other on remotely?
- At the end of your workday, decide what your first chunks of the next morning will be. On Friday afternoon, write down an exhaustive list for the following week, while you are still thinking about all of it. Then you can set down your work and not let it leak into your home life, while being ready to tackle it all when you resume.
Any other ideas I missed? Add them in the comments!
And please share this with someone who you know that could benefit from it.