I’ve been working from home for at least 14 (wow really?!) years now, and I’ve gotten into a routine with it. When my hubby was between jobs, that routine was completely disrupted. Suddenly I had someone in the room with me playing computer games, sitting in a robe, and reminding me of life outside of work. It was distracting. I get it, a lot of you who are new to this working-from-home thing are struggling. How can those of us doing it for so long even like it? How do we get anything done?! Let me tell you, for the past many days, we haven’t been either.
I want normalcy in the midst of chaos, and for me that is being productive and getting work done during working hours. Suddenly, I’m in a situation where major clients and projects have been put on hold and I’m worried about buying basic normal things from the grocery store, not for lack of money yet, but because normal things aren’t there. Throw in an early morning earthquake shake up call this week, and my focus is wrecked. I am going to talk about a few tips for making it easier to work from home, but first I want to say that I give myself (and you should give yourself), permission to be distracted, to not get work done, to accept that productivity requires a state of mind that allows me to focus, and that just isn’t my state of mind this week.
Okay, so on to my recommendations for those of you who are new to this. First, REVEL in the freedom from the daily commute. I know that some of you have turned that into a time to learn, listen to music, listen to podcasts, and turn up the music really loudly to decompress after your work day. If you have, kudos, do all of those things at the beginning and end of your day, without the stress of traffic. This is your reward for giving up the office life. Eat breakfast and do a morning routine before you start your work. Sit in your car and turn up the music really loudly (don’t run the engine!) if your day has been stressful. The added distraction of kids at home is pretty much a guarantee that you’re going to need some serious head-banging tunes, or the zen of smooth jazz, whatever your jam is.
Second, keep normal working hours. If your office job was 8-5, with a few breaks and a lunch break, then your home office job is 8-5 too. Don’t think that you’ll just make up work during the evening, or on the weekend, because suddenly you CAN. Unless you like the feeling that you are always working, I recommend not blurring the lines as much as possible. Keep boundaries in place between being on the job and being at home chilling. If you want to do laundry, start a load during your lunch break.
Third, give yourself reasons to dress in regular work clothes. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t enjoy the sweatpants and t-shirts and slippers options you have now, but if you have a meeting, put on meeting appropriate clothes. It helps keep you in a more professional mindset and feel normal. In my early days of working from home, I put on work clothes. Now that this is my new normal, I don’t need that as much as I did, but early on it helped me create boundaries between work and home when I could change into comfy clothes at the end of my working hours.
Fourth, set up a space in your home that will be your new office. Don’t just work from the kitchen table, then the couch, then your bed, your backyard, etc. Sure, it can be a nice perk to work from anywhere, but when you do that, you might start to feel like you are always working, and it will be harder to focus and tune out distractions. If you have the space in your house to set up a room to work from, I recommend doing it. Go to that room to work, then leave work behind in that room when you want to be home.
Boundaries, that is what helps me be productive and not feel like I’m always working. I need to figure out how I can set boundaries between being distracted by the chaos of the world and all of the added little worries that are nibbling at me now. But not today, today I’m going to skitter around and TRY to get some work done, but recognize that my mind is still reeling. We’re all distracted, and stressed out, and unfocused, and that’s okay. The ripples of chaos will settle, the aftershocks will stop, and we’ll adapt and hopefully thrive.
I love this post by WebinarNinja that has some similar tips, but is a lot more fun than mine and has a great download. Work From Home Without Losing Your Sh*t: Guide + Download