Tune into this episode for a quick recap on where I’ve been the past few months and what I’ve been up to! I’ll tell you about some of the exciting work I got to do to help remove Trump from the White House and share some of the big projects and milestones I hit while on hiatus from the show!
Plan Podcast Episode 032: 5 Tips For Working From Home
Working from home often gets glamorized. I remember the days when I would sit in my cubicle and pin inspiration for my some-day home office. And I was so excited when I finally transitioned out of office life — but I also remember how disappointing it felt when I realized it wasn’t exactly how I imagine it would be. I’m sure that at least some of you can relate, and have perhaps even realized that when you have the choice, you’ll be more than happy to go back to an office.
I transitioned to working from home back in 2011 when we moved from Minneapolis, Minnesota, to Madison, Wisconsin, and it was definitely not an easy transition. Not only was I suddenly in a new city where I didn’t know anyone, I also no longer had that built-in network and social life that a job often brings. Working from home can be a bit lonely and isolating, and it can also feel kind of aimless when you suddenly have less structure and accountability.
I had to do a lot of work to build habits and routines that supported a healthy balance and made working from home both productive and enjoyable and today I’m going to share the 5 tips I have found the most impactful for helping me stay focused, find balance, and draw boundaries between my work life and personal life:
My first tip is to limit distractions. Our homes are full of them. Not only is there a comfy couch and Netflix, but you no longer have a boss looking over your shoulder to ensure you aren’t browsing Facebook. It can cause you to develop bad habits that ultimately waste your time. And I have two services that have really helped me: first is an extension for your web browser called Stay Focused. It lets you set timers for any website. So you can tell it that you want to spend a maximum of 20 minutes per day on Twitter and once you hit that limit it will block that URL for the rest of the day. I recommend setting these for all social media sites, news sites, or any online forum that you find yourself getting sucked into. My second suggestion is a website called PomoFocus.io and this site is built around the Pomodoro technique. You can google that if you want to go into more details and learn all the specifics of mastering the technique, but in a nutshell, it is focused on the idea that humans can focus for 25 minutes, so it suggests that you break your workday up into chunks of 25 minutes of focused work followed by a 5-minute break. This website makes it super simple to implement and the site is so pretty and easy to use that you really just need to visit it to see for yourself. If you go to the URL, PomoFocus.IO it is pretty intuitive. It’s more or less a timer that will track your work sessions as well as your breaks. It will also track your progress and show you daily or weekly streaks and you can compete against others which I personally find really motivating. So, give those a try — Stay Focused and PomoFocus.io. Links to both are in the show notes for today.
Tip number two is prioritizing balance. And this might look a little different for each of us depending on what it is you need to balance. After ten years of working from home I was really used to being alone and when Josh started working from home amid the pandemic I quickly found that I was just getting exhausted from the constant human interaction. I had to find a way to get time to myself, so I started going on long walks twice a week. Just a little window of time for me to be alone, no husband, no dog, just me. On the flip side of that, you might be feeling the opposite. You might have really thrived from the social aspect of your former office life and be struggling with the isolation. You might need to find COVID-safe ways to go for a walk or schedule a zoom call with people other than your coworkers in order to fill that social need…..Try to tap into what feels out of balance, because these things can creep up on you and really impact how you feel about your work. Is it burnout….or is the balance of your work environment just off and not working for you?
My third tip is to take advantage of the perks of working from home. While working from home has its challenges, you might also have more flexibility and privacy than you did previously. This is a great time to finally do things that you’ve been putting off. Like, starting to eat healthier. You finally have access to your full kitchen all day — if you don’t do it now, when will you? Or finally hydrating! It can take 5-10 days for your body to adjust to proper hydration and start producing enough ADH to regulate your urine output. So, working from a home can be a great time to finally break through and achieve optimum hydration. If your job has a more flexible schedule when you’re working from home I’d also encourage you to research sleep cycles to find out if you are genetically programmed for an 8-5 job or if you might be more productive if you shifted your schedule by a couple of hours in either direction. You’ve probably heard me talk about cycle syncing — which is syncing your work tasks to your menstrual cycle to maximize your productivity. Not always easy depending on your career, but something that can be easier when you’re working from home and have more control over your schedule. Other things might include detoxing your armpits and finally switching to an all-natural deodorant. Or oil training your hair so that you can spend less time washing and drying it. No one on zoom can tell if your armpits are a little rank or if your hair is on day three of dry shampoo. Now is the time, so take advantage of it.
Next on the list is documenting your productivity and progress. One of the biggest realizations I had when I started working from home was that being at home could make the hours and even the days or weeks (or sometimes months) sort of blur together. And if I wasn’t paying attention and documenting what I was actually accomplishing it was easy to look back and feel really unproductive. I could get to the end of the day and feel like I accomplished nothing even if I had been working hard all day. I know that this suggestion is a bit dated and maybe doesn’t apply to all of us, especially if you are working remotely versus being self-employed. Most companies have a way to monitor your productivity — because of course they do —- so this is especially important for those who are self-employed and don’t have a supervisor monitoring your progress and providing that feedback. Find a method, even if it’s just a simple to-do list, so you have something to reflect back on when the blurring starts to happen. Most importantly this will help you be your own cheerleader and pause to appreciate all the growth and progress that is happening in between zoom calls.This is one of the things I love about my product, The Daily Page, because it captures not only the progress I’m making on work, but also the progress I’m making on my wellness goals — my hydration, nutrition, and other self-care practices. And those are wins that I want to celebrate just as much as the work ones because they are so intricately connected. When you feel your best…you can do your best work and learning to align your work and wellness is such a gift.
Okay so now we find ourselves at number five. Tip five is to create a wake-up ritual. Notice that I didn’t call this a morning routine — because the reality is that some people just aren’t morning people. This is about creating a ritual that helps you wake up feeling motivated and ready to start the day, rather than dreading it and wasting precious time procrastinating. This is about training your brain to enjoy waking up. If you wake up and start the day with stuff you don’t like — stop that! Instead, think of things that would make you feel happy, joyful, and motivated…and make those a daily ritual. This will be different for each of us, but I’ll tell you what mine are. The first is that I take 5 minutes at the end of my day to start filling out The Daily Page, my planner, for the next day and I always put one item on my to-do list that is something I’m looking forward to. This helps ease anxiety so that I sleep better, and helps me wake up feeling motivated to get work started, so I have time for that get-to-do item. Another thing I do the night before is picking out a podcast. I take a couple of minutes before bed to scroll new episodes and decide which one I’ll listen to on my morning walk. I’m always pretty excited to get up and get going because I want to listen to the show! Two other things I do as soon as I get out of bed are gua sha and warm lemon water. Gua sha is a fascial massage technique using oil and stone tools and not only is it great for your skin, but it is also such a nice way to start your day. The morning water is essentially just warm lemon water with sea salt and it helps replenish the fluids in your body to remove cellular waste so your body — especially your brain — is operating efficiently. I have blog posts about both of those that will be waiting for you in today’s show notes if you want to learn more.
And that, my friends, concludes my 5 favorite tips for working from home. You know I love a good list, so let’s recap them really quickly:
Enjoy the perks!
Document your productivity and progress.
Create a wake-up ritual.
You will probably notice that so many of these tips require you to develop new habits or change existing routines. If this is hard for you I’d suggest going back and listening to episode 026, where I teach you about Habit Stacking, my favorite hack for developing new habits. Habit Stacking is the trick I used to go from a frazzled, overwhelmed, unhealthy person to someone who is really grounded in good routines. I hear from people every week about how impactful that episode was for them so I hope you’ll check it out.
No matter what your work situation is in the midst of this global pandemic and beyond, just remember that working from home is not for everyone, and it’s perfectly normal if you feel a bit overwhelmed by the entire thing. Especially those of you working from home with kids by your side — I don’t know how you do it and I’m sorry I don’t have advice to offer in that department, but hopefully, some of these tips still feel applicable or adaptable for you.
I’ll be back here two weeks from today with another new episode of The Plan Podcast. Make sure to visit PlanPodcast.com for today’s show notes, suggest a show topic, or grab links to anything mentioned in today’s episode. Until then you can find me on the internet and I’ll see you soon.