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I’ve been working at home since COVID started, and frankly, I kinda suck at it. I sleep in too late and get so easily distracted by regular “home” stuff. Not to mention my family and friends keep bugging me during the day.
How in earth have you been able to do this for so long? I’m so sick of this routine and I feel like I need a babysitter…for ME!
Ah the joy of working from home. Waking up when ever you want, going to bed whenever you want, working whenever you want…That’s what most of us think of right? Well, COVID-19 showed us that working from home isn’t all just fun and games. It can be stressful and completely unproductive in its own way.
When you work at home, it can be hard to take a break because work is always there! These tips can help you focus on your job, whether you’re working for a company at home, or are self-employed:
- Get dressed for the day. Yes, we love working from home because we can wear our grubby t-shirts and frayed yoga pants with no judgement from the outside world. However, when you make the effort to get dressed, you are putting your mind in a different state. Just like dressing up for an important meeting or job interview, when you dress up to work at home, you are showing yourself that you value the work you do. And it doesn’t necessarily need to be a full-blown suit…just something other than your frumpy casual wear.
- Keep a schedule, but don’t get seduced by it. Writing things down and crossing them off can almost be addictive. Be flexible as things can come up, but have deadlines for projects and tasks. Create regular office hours. Decide a weekly schedule and stick to it.
- Do your “feared thing” first. After your list is created, look at the one (or two, or three!) things that you’re dreading. Do them. First. That way, if the craziness of life creeps up on you, you’ll still feel like you accomplished something. You may just see that your procrastination disappears and you’ll have more fun because you’re saving the things you want to do for later on in the day, when we typically get more tired.
- Organize your office. Most self-employed people have a system: a way to log emails, phone calls, contact with clients, projects, etc. You don’t need a lot of space, but you do need a system. I use clip-boards to keep track of my various businesses. Once every three months I go through old files and toss the ones I don’t need anymore. Clean off your desk every evening so you aren’t faced with clutter in the morning.
- Fight the lazy distraction monster. The joy of being self-employed is that our time can truly be our own, but sometimes we do tend to put things off. Especially when there is laundry to do, or dinner to make, or we think, “I’ll just make a quick trip to the bank and then get started!” My goal is to do 20 items a day. (That includes answering emails, and other typical business routines.) I have a kitchen timer that I set for 99 minutes, and just do a work blitz. I get as much done as I can in that 99 minutes, and then take a quick break. It always surprises me how much I can get down if I just commit to a small chunk at a time.
- Restrict your time online. The great thing about the Internet is that there is just so much to explore! The downside is that you can get sucked into a vortex of searching and reading and before you know it, the kids are home from school and it’s time for dinner! Beyond using a kitchen timer to do work blitzes, you may want to look into browser-based systems to track or limit access to certain sites during certain times, (like RescueTime or WasteNoTime). While I’ve used both, I found I respond to even stricter methods: putting my Internet router on a timer. You know, those timers you set up when you go on vacation so your lights go on and people think you’re home? Do it with your Internet! In my house, there is only access from 5:30am to 8pm every day. That’s it. Of course we make exceptions for movie night, but I have found that having a set work-day really helps my focus my energy during a specific time.
- Get outside. Our love for what we do should not lead us to become hermits. If you’re feeling lonely, overwhelmed or maybe you haven’t been out of the house for a few days, go for a walk. Call a friend. Do some light stretching or yoga. Just getting into the fresh air can rejuvenate and invigorate you. Don’t just contact friends online or hang out on message boards. Maybe invite a friend on a walk and kill two birds with one stone. I like to schedule “yoga breaks” after my 99 minutes are up. Even just a 3-8 minute break gets the blood flowing again.
- Remind your family and friends that you love them. Just because you’re at home, don’t let everybody walk all over you with their needs. Make time for your family and make sure they understand when you’re in your “office,” you are at work. It took time, but I had to retrain my friends and family that although I worked from home, I still had a lot to get done. I couldn’t just run out for tea or chat on the phone all day! In time, they understood. And I now have a fairly balanced day. Fairly.
- Remember that this too, shall pass. COVID restrictions are temporary. I know it feels like we’re in a neverending cycle, but at some point, there will be a vaccine, we will be able to gather again, and for those who want it – working at an office – will resume. But, if you want your home office to be permanent, with time, practice, and flexibility, you’ll eventually discover a system that works for you!
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