I’m lucky that I’ve been working from home for a few years now so I haven’t been very disrupted by the current quarantine. And before I went to college, I was homeschooled, so I’m used to motivating myself to keep working on my own.
But many people are working from home for the first time and it takes some adjustment. If you’re new to this, here are a few tips to get you started.
Set a Schedule
Some work-at-home people will have a schedule dictated by their employers or team, like my husband who has online meetings throughout the day. But if you don’t have set hours, it still helps to create a schedule for yourself when you will start and end work every day. This does two things: it helps you to avoid procrastination (you can’t watch one more Netflix show because it’s time to work now), but it also helps you to avoid overwork. There are times when I need to crunch and work a little later into the night in order to meet a deadline but if I did that every day, I would burn out fast!
Don’t forget to give yourself breaks. It may be tempting to get everything done in one long session so you can have the rest of the day free to do other tasks. Or you might think that you can multitask your work where you do a little bit of work, then scroll through Facebook for a bit, then answer another email… but this split attention actually makes you less effective. Set up breaks and then make sure that you only let yourself stop working during the breaks.
I’m a fan of the Pomodoro technique. In practice, this means that I set a timer (usually for twenty-five minutes) and work on a specific task while that timer is running. I don’t look at social media, pick up a book, run to grab a snack, or any other distractions while the timer is running. When it’s done, then I take a quick break (usually five minutes). That means that I’m focused during my work time and I can get a breather in between. It’s also good for me to do my wrist stretches between timers. After a few sessions, then I take a longer break and do something else.
Create a Morning Routine
Part of your schedule should be setting your morning routine so you are prepared for the day. The first tasks that you do in the morning can affect your mindset. It’s tempting, when you first wake up, to grab your phone and check your email… then social media… then some news articles…
Before you know it, you’ve wasted two hours, you’re annoyed or upset by something bad you saw in the news, and you’re behind on your schedule. You have to scramble to catch up and your whole day feels like a disaster when it’s barely even started.
Try this instead. Pick a few simple things you can do, starting this morning, to get you warmed up and ready to face the day. Then keep repeating those habits and adapt them over time to see what works. Don’t try to do everything at once; maybe just pick three to start and see if you can maintain them for three or four days. Suggestions:
- Personal hygiene like brushing your teeth, taking a shower, getting dressed, and don’t forget to make the bed (even if you’re staying home, it’s good to feel fresh)
- Drink a full glass of water. You’re dehydrated from sleep.
- A quiet activity like reading a chapter of a book, five minutes of meditation, drawing a Tarot card, journaling, watching the birds outside your window, or cuddling with your pet (to let your mind warm up)
- Active movement like going for a walk, doing yoga or stretching, using a treadmill (warm up your body)
- A healthy breakfast: even if you eat something small like a piece of fruit, it’s good to give your body energy, not just a cup of coffee.
Don’t Neglect Your Other Responsibilities
You may have children or other family members who still need you, and it’s hard to balance these when they’re going on the same time as your work. Everyone will find their own pace that works for them. But even if you’re home alone, don’t neglect other things that you need to do like household chores. Just like you’ve scheduled time for work, make sure you also keep up with regular cleaning. It’s tempting to let everything slip because the world is chaos but it’s more important than ever to work on the things that we can control.
You’ll feel better if you don’t see a mounting pile of laundry on your bed or dishes piling up in the sink. Carry on as close to normal as you possibly can.
Be Patient With Yourself
No one is going to get everything perfect right now. We are all learning new things and adapting to a difficult situation. We’re going to need a lot of patience to get through this, for ourselves and for other people.
It’s okay if you end up spending a day sitting in your pajamas, playing Animal Crossing and eating all the cookies. Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t juggle everything at once. Breathe, assess the situation, and try to do a little better tomorrow. With small steps in the right direction, you can get through this.
Good luck to everyone!