Here’s a great example of a blog post I’ve been meaning to write for nearly a decade, and finally got pushed into it by the unfortunate circumstances surrounding the Coronavirus.
It has spread in Denmark extensively over the past week, and we woke up last Thursday morning to official news that the country was going on lockdown, which means schools and universities are closed, we’re encouraged to stay put, and companies have been encouraged to allow employees to work from home for at least the next two weeks. On Saturday they closed the borders and the airport. So it’s safe to say that I have a new officemate for the foreseeable future: my husband.
Although the companies he has worked for have always had generous work-from-home-when-ya-want policies, he’s never been one to opt into it. He tends to work better in an office environment, and I think he enjoys the structure and camaraderie that tend to come along with it. Although working from home is a fantasy that a lot of folks have, it can also be a bit of a rude awakening when you realize that it requires more self-discipline, time management, and social isolation than a lot of people expect.
Watching him ease into the work-from-home life the past few days made me realize that after ten years of working from home myself, I might just have some helpful advice to offer in this department! So, here are ten things I’ve found helpful, and hope they might help you, too:
Create a designated workspace. A separate office with a door is great, but any space you can claim as your own will do. Try to make that space only for work, which can help your brain and body both ease into a focused work mode. Having a door is a good way of turning work “off” for the night or the weekend. A lot of folks right now might find themselves kind of thrust into WFH life with no option other than a guest bedroom or a kitchen table. You can make it work! Put in the extra effort to clear off the table, maybe move it up against a wall or window, set it up as you would your desk, light a candle. Anything that will help your brain separate it from “where you eat dinner and play board games” to “the place to get sh*t done”.
Designate different spaces for different tasks. Along with the designated “office”, it can also help to identify spaces that are ideal for different types of tasks. For example, I try to stay off the couch while working, but allow myself to cozy up with our dog and my iPad when I’m moderating social media posts or working on new graphics. I always avoid having a TV on but will sit at a table with a show on when doing repetitive tasks such as making templates or editing photos.
Have a designated wake-up time and develop a morning routine you love. If your work-from-home gig doesn’t have a designated start time, set one for yourself. People are often surprised to hear that I have been at the computer by 5AM for most of the past 10 years, despite the fact that I could easily get up whenever I want. Humans are more productive at different times of the day and now you might have the freedom to determine what is going to work best for you. It’s also worth setting your end time so that you don’t let your work life spill over into your home or social life. Developing a morning routine can help you roll out of bed on time, and can also help you wake up feeling motivated since you get to start the day with things you love and enjoy. If you want to wake up earlier but struggle with it here is my favorite tip: pick out a podcast or playlist the night before. Make it something you are really excited to learn more about or get up and listen to. Then put your headphones next to the bed. When your alarm goes off, put your headphones on, press play, and ease into your day with some simple stretches in bed while the podcast wakes up your brain.
Utilize a daily page/to-do list. One of the best things about being self-employed is the feeling of freedom. It can be nice to wake up knowing that you get to decide your schedule and maybe even what you’re going to choose to work on that day….but the newfound freedom can also be overwhelming in a way that leads to procrastination or to complete inaction. If you find yourself firing up the computer and then reading the news for the first 3 hours of the day try this trick: start creating your to-do list the night before. It will clear a bunch of information from your head so you’ll sleep better. Take it one step further by identifying your Top 3 Goals for the day, and a reward if you accomplish it all — such as spending an hour reading in a park, painting, or watching your favorite show in the middle of the afternoon. Shameless plug but this is what my best-selling product, The Daily Page, is designed to help with. I created it ten years ago when I first starting to work from home and wanted to align my work + wellness in one place and have been using it ever since (you can take 10% off with code HONEY at checkout). My page is designed with a lot of science-backed studies in mind, but you could also design one yourself in a program like Microsoft Word or a site like Canva.com. Listen to Episode 028 of my Podcast to learn all about The Daily Page.
Get ready each day. I won’t lie, not needing a full face of makeup every day is a major perk of working from home, but there’s also something about staying in a “get ready” routine that feels so good. I swear it even makes me more productive and creative. Sure, I don’t put on a suit or curl my hair, but I put in the effort of getting ready each day as if I was meeting a friend for a casual coffee. Personally I find that this has a huge impact on my mindset and attitude throughout the day. Reading inspirational quotes for work can also keep you motivated throughout the day.
Have a designated time for chores and limit distractions. While it can be tempting to toss in a load of laundry throughout the day (and I’ll admit…that’s a major perk of working from home) the ability to dive into household chores whenever you need can also be really distracting. I’m the type of person who has a hard time focusing if there’s a basket of laundry waiting to be folded, or dishes waiting to be put away, so I try to have everything done before I sit down to work. It’s also nice to communicate this to your partner. If they know you need a clean home in order to focus, they’ll (maybe?) be less likely to leave dirty dishes in the sink before they head out the door. Another aspect of working from home is that you suddenly no longer have co-workers peering over your shoulder to see what you’re working on! It can be so freeing…but also so tempting to endlessly scroll Facebook, chat with your college BFF, or work all day with the TV playing in the background. Sometimes it’s a matter of physically removing the distraction from your space (like putting the TV in the other room or keeping your phone in a drawer), and sometimes it’s a matter of setting up rules and restrictions. StayFocused is a great extension for Google Chrome that allows you to set time limits for any website. Want to only spend 20 minutes per day on Facebook? Set that limitation and the extension will block the website when you hit it.
Convert your former commute time into time for a new healthy habit or inspiring hobby. Transitioning to WFH is a great time to develop new, healthier habits. You probably won’t spend quite as much time getting ready in the morning, and perhaps you no longer have a commute. Rather than sleeping in or wasting that time, consider converting your previous commute time into a long morning walk while you listen to a podcast, enjoy an at-home yoga session, or start a journaling or meditation practice. My favorite tips for developing new habits is a method called Habit Stacking, and I wrote an entire blog post and podcast episode about it if you want to learn more. Working from home is also a good time to consider working OUT from home, especially during the pandemic when a lot of gyms are temporarily closing, so check out my blog post about how I do Free Work-Outs at Home Using Instagram.
Keep tabs on feelings of isolation or loneliness. After ten years of working from home, during which I’ve set up shop in new cities and new countries, I can tell you that loneliness has always been the hardest part. While it’s great to make new friends (although that always takes a little time!) and go to networking events (ya know, when those are allowed again) it’s also worth noting that listening to a great podcast, interacting with people on Instagram Story, having a virtual accountability buddy, participating in an online course or mastermind, or simply writing emails back and forth with your closest friends can go a long way in helping you feel connected. The feelings of social isolation can mimic burnout (fatigue, lack of motivation, disinterest) which can quickly make you feel restless or like you hate what you’re doing, so it’s worth checking in with yourself regularly to keep tabs on how you’re handling all the alone time.
Eat healthy foods. One of the comments I get most often is, “It must be nice to work from home and just have full access to your kitchen!” And yes, it sure is! While that access makes it easy to make healthier choices, it can also mean mindless snacking. My best tips are to plan ahead (another thing The Daily Page helps with), find healthy meals you like and can rotate every week or so, and keep healthy snacks on hand. Also, don’t forget: sometimes when our brains are triggering hunger it actually means we are thirsty. You might have easy access to the kitchen but you also have easy access to the bathroom so use this as an opportunity to stay hydrated! Need motivation? Follow my hobby project @HeyYouDrinkWater on Instagram for hydration reminders, check out this blog post/podcast I did about How to Achieve Optimum Hydration, and head over to this post for a complete list of My Favorite Healthy Snacks.
Remember that learning isn’t lazy. Hear me out on this one: if you were in a traditional office setting and you needed to learn how to extrapolate in Excel or embed a video into a blog post you’d watch a tutorial on YouTube and you wouldn’t feel bad about using work time to learn a new skill. But for some reason, this gets tricky when you work from home (especially if you’re self-employed). Suddenly sitting there watching YouTube feels like cheating. So, this is just a friendly reminder that learning isn’t lazy, and to encourage you to lean into this. I absolutely love watching YouTube tutorials for Procreate or Photoshop and I have to remind myself that learning new skills and keeping them sharp is part of my job. You can find a lot of resources for free on sites like YouTube, but if you want to use this time to really dive into a new skill you could also check out Skillshare. I’ve taken classes on digital illustration, handlettering + more. They have a 2-Month Free Trial that you could start using today. (Sidenote: if you’ve been debating investing in an iPad Pro for your business check out this blog post I did about all the ways I use mine for my business).
So, there ya have it. 10 of my Favorite Tips for Working from Home! Something tells me that in a week or two I’ll maybe have some additional tips for working from home with your spouse without killing each other (!!!). Any you’d add to the list? I’d love to hear what has worked for you, so pop them in the comments below.