Are you working from home right now?
For the past few weeks people the world over have been encouraged to work from home wherever possible.
And as of Monday this week, on March 23rd here in the UK, we’re on lockdown due to COVID-19. Meaning: unless you absolutely cannot work from home, or you’re a key worker, you have to relocate your work.
This prompted me to think about what my first forray into working from home looked like – wayyy back when.
Heyyy 2011 kitchen table ????????
Now that I’m nine years in, I feel like I’ve got a good groove going on the WFH front and so I wanted to share my productivity tips, and shed light on how I stay motivated.
I hope that this blog post can be of help if you’re just embarking on a new work reality, and want to know how to stay on top of your productivity (and sanity!).
If you have any questions, please leave them at the bottom of this post, and I’ll get back to you ASAP.
How To Stay Motivated When Working From Home
1 – Create A Dedicated Environment
These are exceptional times, and it’s likely that you’re having to make do with whatever home office setup you can create.
If you have a spare room, now’s the time to use it. It helps to have a room you can close the door on at the end of the day, and one which you can truly call an ‘office’ for a while.
That being said, having a spare room you can turn into an office is a luxury. And I know it’s not one everyone has.
In fact, for many years I used my kitchen table as my makeshift office. And for years after that I set up a desk in my bedroom, since Oli and I were sharing with a flatmate and we just didn’t have extra room.
If you’re leaning into more of a working ‘nook’, my advice is to still set up an area which is specfically for your work – no matter how big or small that may be.
I’ve worked in 1m squared for a looooong time – it can work!
If you can’t create a physical space, draw an imaginery line around your working nook. And try to think of stepping ‘into’ your workspace every day so that you can make that mental shift too.
Wherever you set up your workspace, my general advice is to:
– have all of the equipment you need within easy reach. So much time can be spent (read: wasted) trying to find odds and sods when you need them!
– make it a space you like going to. Small things like using your favourite mug for your coffee, relocating a house plant to be near you, and having the comfiest chair you can find, make a huge difference. Plus – keep it clean!
– set boundaries – for yourself and anyone else working alongside you. Chloé Digital shared a great blog post on working from home with a loved one.
By developing a space you want to go to, you’re half the way there in terms of motivation.
I look forward to going to my office every day, and I love that I can close the door on it too.
Even when I worked from my kitchen table, I made an effort. Both in terms of my environment, and how I structured my day.
Speaking of which . . .
2 – Set a work schedule
Setting a work schedule is SO important when you work from home!
Just like when you’re working elsewhere, knowing when you clock in and clock out helps you to organise your day, and to focus on your to-do list.
A pace really helps.
When will you start your work day? What time will you take your breaks? When will you clock off?
Usually I start working between 9 – 10, and finish between 5-7.
If you have the flexibility to do so you can think about when you’re most productive too.
Perhaps you’re an early riser, and so the mornings are a good time to get your biggest tasks completed? Or maybe you get a surge of energy in the afternoon? Pay attention to when you’re doing your best work, and if you’re job allows for it, try and structure your day to reflect your energy.
A tip! Have a ‘close down’ routine.
It can be easy when you’re working from home for your work life to seep into your home life, so having a ‘close down’ routine can really help.
I like to have a rough time I plan on finishing up for the day.
At that point I’ll close open tabs and programs on my computer, tidy up my desktop, and have a little refresh of my desk. It seems like a small thing but clearing your space of cups, mugs and rubbish helps you to finish one day, and prepare for the next.
(Note that I consistently advise keeping your working area clean and tidy! Clutter-free space = clutter-free mind ????????)
3 – Use Macro – to Micro – To-do Lists
Macro to-do listing looks at the big picture.
Micro to-do listing looks at the everyday.
They work hand in hand! When you’ve completed your macro to-do list/s, your micro to-do list/s will naturally follow.
I’ve written an in-depth blog post about to-do lists, but essentially using this technique means writing a big ‘master’ to-do list for a long time frame (say a week, or a month). And then using this large list to inform the tasks you need to work on daily. This ensures that you’re always working towards your bigger goals.
If you don’t already have a notebook, or pad of paper for your lists, I suggest digging one out or ordering one ASAP.
4 – Have Colleagues You Can Call Upon
For you, you may genuinely have colleagues you’ll be interacting with remotely. In which case, hopefully you’ll already have a system in place for staying in touch.
If, like me, you work largely alone, it’s still important to have those ‘colleagues’ you can call upon.
For me that means a handful of friends who work in the same industry, my accountant and tech support team, and my parents who act as my mentors. Not to mention Oli who’s my live-in Instagram-husband and all round support system, always.
I’ve noticed that while we’re navigating this whole new arena of COVID-19, that friends in different industries have been reaching out too. It’s a time for helping each other out, so if you can lend a hand to anyone, be sure to extend it. Equally, if you could do with some direction, see if there’s someone that can help you too.
5 – Have something you consciously do outside of work
Here’s the funny thing about working from home: yes, you can get lazy if you’re not focused (hence why a schedule and to-do lists are so important), but the very opposite can happen too.
Work can consume your thoughts and time.
It is so important to have something you consciously do outside of work.
Recently Oli and I have been enjoying an early ‘happy hour’ in the garden, and we’ve been trying to catch up with friends over Skype/Zoom/*insert other technical thing we’re new to* whilst we all self-isolate.
In choosing to focus on things outside of work, I’ve found that I have more energy for work. I come up with ideas faster and more frequently. And I can make better decisions since I give myself time to think.
This goes for breaks too! Make sure you schedule in breaks during your day. I like to take a quick break in the morning and afternoon, and some time away from work for lunch.
Final note! -When working from home, if it’s ‘not happening’ don’t force it to.
A quick walk (if you’re able to right now), a phone call with a friend, or even ‘closing the office for the day’ may be what you need to reset your motivation.
Sometimes you just need to step away to come back to your work refreshed and focused.
It takes time to get into your work from home groove, so don’t worry if it feels unsettling at first.
Everyone has a different working style. Go easy on yourself.
Crucially set up your space, set your working hours, get those to-do lists going, and focus as best you can. And then, when you’re done for the day, log out.
Alongside all of the advise above, a little reminder: take a moment every day, to pause and reflect on how far you’ve come. For many of us this is a new reality.
It’s easy for a day to pass without taking stock of something good you’ve done. So make sure you reflect.
This simple happiness habit has been a huge boost to Oli and I both, and it feels more poignant than ever right now.
What’s Your Take?
Good luck with navigating your work from home routine! I hope that this post has been helpful.
If you have any questions, or advice you’d add into the mix, let me know!
I’d love to hear from you.
Love, Monica x
Photography by Charlotte Bryer-Ash