My Top 5 Tips for Working From Home
The COVID-19 pandemic has sent most workers across the US home to telecommute. Based on what I've been hearing from friends and family, and what I've been seeing on social media - this is many people's first rodeo with the working-from-home gig. The first time you've telecommuted for more than a sick day or two. And... it's kind of a struggle.
I get it. When I quit my 9-5 job to pursue my wedding photography business full time, I was suddenly yanked out of a structured position where I was accountable to a supervisor, thrust into a world of my own making, and accountable to no one but myself. My business has flourished, but in those first few weeks I had to learn to adapt fast to keep my momentum and stay productive.. and sane!
Here's what I learned, and 5 easy tips that anyone working from home during this difficult time can follow.
1. Keep your routine intact.
I understand. It's somewhat exciting to be released from the confines of your structured office and normal working hours into your own little world of fluidity, but I'm here to tell you that you really do need to set some form of schedule for yourself. Making sure that you keep structure in your day will not only hold you accountable, it will help keep your mind more focused on the tasks at hand. So establish office hours - like you're a professor.
You don't need to mirror your exact work day - if your 6am wakeup time to catch your train to the city was destroying your life before the crisis, set your wakeup time for 7am or 7:30. But resist the temptation to scroll on Insta for two hours after you wake up. In fact, you should get yourself up & out of bed, have your coffee, and make your breakfast just like you would on a regular work day.
2. Look good, feel good.
Congrats on making it out of bed. What's next? If your answer isn't some form of "shower, brush teeth, wash face, get dressed" ... I think it might be a good idea to re-evaluate. I've seen a lot of memes saying "when you change out of your day-time PJs and into your night-time PJs" - and I love the joke but I know for a fact that acting like it's laundry day 100% of the time will make you feel 100% gross.
I can feel you rolling your eyes at me through the screen, "Hannah, literally nobody is going to see me all day so why should I bother?". You should bother because putting care into an activity that is just for you is just plain healthy. You know that old saying "dress for the job you want, not the job you have"? Well, I have another one - "dress like you still have a job, because you do". I'm not saying give yourself a blowout, waste a full face of makeup, and put shoes on every day -- but I am saying that putting on a clean, comfortable outfit that you put effort into and feel confident in will make you feel like you can conquer the world.
It's all subconscious, baby. Play Jedi mind tricks on your productivity.
3. Make lists.
Now that you're home, your home chores and your work chores will be buzzing around your head in a totally new way than they were before. The lines will blur. What is work time? What is home time? I suggest you write everything down that you want to accomplish - a double-sided list that spells out your work duties and everything you want to get done around the house so that they're all in one place for you to see, but visually separated on paper.
Cross things off when you finish them. It feels really good to scribble out a particularly tedious task that you're proud of yourself for finishing!
4. This is not summer vacation.
I know it may feel like it, but this is not summer vacation. Summer vacation is summer vacation, and that is 3 months away. This is not the time to sit around and torpedo all of the goals you set for yourself back in January. Stop binging on Netflix and ignoring your tasks, stop ordering knick knacks and food you don't need, and stop ignoring the tasks you said you'd do, the goals you said you'd hit, and the projects you said you'd start.
Work is still work. Your goals are still your goals. You are still accountable to yourself (and to your boss) for the things you need to accomplish, so treating this time like it's limbo and nothing you do matters is (IMO) a waste.
You have been presented with an opportunity where you are being told to stay at home for the greater good. You've been given a large chunk of time to work on yourself and to sit and think of ways to hustle even harder at the things you love - do not let this time fly away! Grind.
5. Turn it OFF!
The hardest one to follow by far is to TURN IT ALL OFF at the end of your virtual work day, whether that is 4:30pm or 6pm. Being so close to your new temporary workspace, it is alarmingly easy to blur the lines between non-work hours and non-work days, and hop back on the computer "just to check something" that will "only take five minutes". Do not do this. It will make burn you out, make you feel sick, and really mess with your sleep pattern (which, even though you might not think is that important since you never have to leave your house, it is even more important now since it directly affects the way you feel all day!).
When the click strikes "done", save your progress and do a full shut down and mentally clock yourself out of the office and into your home life.
And a bonus tip, the most important one: TAKE A BREAK & FEED YOUR SOUL!
Okay I lied. I have one more tip I'd like to share. Feed your brain, feed your soul.
Make sure to give yourself breaks! Take regular breaks to walk or exercise (if you can -- and keep your distance from other people). Start that book you bought 6 months ago and shoved under your bed. Use this time to have deep conversations and meaningful quality time with your loved ones - friends, family, and pets. Pursue little projects "just for you". Practice self care.
You don't need to become a superhuman workhorse in your effort to not lose ground on your goals - it's so good to be able to switch gears from your workday for activities that are kind to your mind & body.
Stay safe. Stay healthy. Best of luck on your goals.