Abruptly transitioning from working in an office with space, people, and dogs to exclusively working from home, all by your lonesome, is extremely jarring for most people.
On a good day, it can leave you feeling lost, isolated, lethargic, and unfocused.
Add in a deadly virus and global pandemic into the mix (thanks Corona) and POOF! You’ve got yourself a recipe for one unproductive worker.
I should know because five years ago, I quit my full-time job to become a freelancer and, I’ll be honest, the adjustment was pretty tough.
It took me years to come up with habits and a routine that allowed me the freedom to work from home without procrastinating or wasting time (well, for the most part…I am human after all) and I’m going to share the best ones below.
I hope these tips help during the next weeks, months, or dare I say…years?! Just kidding.
#1: Write your “next day” schedule every night
Instead of waking up and wondering what you should do first, take 5 minutes (yes, just 5 minutes) every single night to write down your entire schedule for the next day…down to the minute.
If you’ve never done this before, it can feel strange, but I promise you’ll be 1000x more productive and feel way more focused than if you just wake up and wing it.
Here’s what my “daily schedule” typically looks like on an average day:
Do I always stick to the schedule 100%?
Do things come up and I have to move things around?
Do things sometimes take longer or shorter than I estimated?
Of course, but I’m much more prepared to handle the unexpected when I have planned for everything else.
And here’s the best part: you’ll often end up with a surplus of time (due to an overestimation on your part), which means you’ll have the freedom to take a break, start some of your other work earlier, and so on.
Try it tonight and to see what I mean! 😉
#2: Do all cleanup at night
When you’re working from home, it’s incredibly easy to get distracted.
While normally you wouldn’t think of cleaning the toilet before work, suddenly you’re all about it, looking for ways to distract yourself instead of answering emails or doing real work.
And if you’re one of those people who can’t work until the entire apartment or workspace is clean (I am one of those people), it’s even worse.
For these reasons, I always try to clean up at night before I go to bed so I have no excuses in the morning.
I do the dishes, fold the laundry, tidy up the living room, or do whatever I need to do so I can quickly start my day the next morning.
When I wake up, I’m able to immediately start working (well, after coffee, of course) instead of wasting 1-2 hours on housework and starting my day at 11AM.
#3: Designate two work areas
If you don’t work from home all the time, you probably don’t have a true desk or home office.
This means you’ll likely be in the position of “creating” a desk or workspace in your home, which can be tricky (especially if you’re in an apartment and/or sharing the space with someone else).
For many of us, that means working on the couch, at the kitchen table, or some other area that wasn’t meant to be used as a desk (which can become very uncomfortable, very fast).
This is why I recommend you have two “work spaces” you can alternate between so your butt, legs, and back will get a break from time to time.
For example, I alternate between my “standing desk” (aka a tall bookshelf with my computer on one shelf and the keyboard/mouse two shelves below it) and my L-shaped couch with a stiff seat cushion as back support.
In between stints on each, I try to do a little stretching and/or foam rolling, ensuring my muscles don’t get too tight or uncomfortable.
Just a word of caution: if you notice that after your first week of WFH you suddenly have this horrible pain in your neck/back or some kind of weird feeling in your wrist/arms/legs, it’s probably because of your work station.
My advice? Either change it up, incorporate more stretching/foam rolling into your routine, or find a really good chiropractor.
#4: Get ready in the morning
While it may be tempting to stay in your PJs and avoid showering (or doing your hair or getting dressed or whatever you normally do in the morning), I would not recommend this approach.
I’ve found that my brain associates my weekday routine (i.e. – waking up at a certain time, showering, wearing certain clothes, etc) with working, so I find it helpful to keep up as much of my routine as possible when not going to the office.
Doing so will ensure your brain stays in a productive mindset, which means you’re much more likely to remain focused and productive.
#5: Take breaks
This may seem obvious, but doing it actually takes practice, especially when things around you feel chaotic or you’re jumping from meetings, to slack, to email, to the bathroom, etc.
One way you can make breaks happen is by scheduling them.
For example, I pencil in 30 minutes every day for lunch (usually 12-1230PM) and another break around 3PM (on most days).
During my breaks, I like to stretch, use my foam roller (this is especially good if you’re sitting on a couch or uncomfortable chair all day), listen to 15-30 minutes of a podcast, play with my dog, read a chapter or a book, make tea, or chat with my fiancee.
#6: Don’t turn on the TV and don’t get into bed
As the title mentions, I have been freelancing for five years and the only times I have ever watched TV or gotten into bed during a workday was when I was legitimately sick or having some kind of mental breakdown (hey, it happens when you work for yourself, by yourself).
The reason I never do either is because it’s a slippery slope.
Maybe you start with one episode of The Office thinking “I’ll just watch this while I eat breakfast” and the next thing you know, it’s lunch and you haven’t even started work (this is a literal description of me every Saturday morning when I promise myself I will only watch one episode then do something productive, but then it’s 1PM and I’m eating takeout while watching).
Instead, save TV and things like that as your “reward” for working all day. And when it finally turns 5PM (or whenever you stop working), you won’t feel guilty and you’ll actually enjoy whatever you’re watching.
If you have insane self-control, feel free to indulge, but for the rest of us… hide the remote.
#7: Add some happiness into your workspace
Working from home can be fun, but when you’re forced to be there for an undetermined period of time, it’s going to get old. Fast.
So make sure to liven up your workspace, apartment, home, whatever with stuff that makes you happy.
For me, that’s fresh flowers, candles, plants and being by a window. But maybe for you it’s pictures of loved ones, stacks of your favorite books, a freezer full of ice cream, or your pet at your feet.
Figure out what makes you feel happy, zen, or focused and put it nearby. We’re in lockdown for God’s sake — treat yoself!
What are your tips?
How do you survive WFH when you’re quarantined? Or just in general?! I’d love to hear your thoughts below!
Thank you for reading — please stay healthy and safe!