As fun as it sounds to work from home, it’s not easy. Getting work done in the same place you sleep, eat, and relax with loved ones is not a simple task. It’s even more difficult when you’re suddenly forced to change your routine, and you’re dealing with the stress of a pandemic.
No matter how much you may want to get work done, the hours start to pass by like so many grains of sand in an hourglass. Tasks that used to come naturally might now feel like torture as you drag yourself to your desk.
Well, good news: You’re not alone. It’s hard to focus when working from home, and there are many others just like you experiencing that challenge. That means you can cut yourself a break and talk about it with coworkers. Don’t be too hard on yourself!
It also means that you don’t have to chart the path to productivity yourself. Find out what works for others and use what works for you. Here are a couple of pointers to guide you as you adjust to your new routine.
When you first start working at home, the best thing you can do is try to preserve your typical structure and routine. Whatever you were doing before, you should keep doing it now. This will help you make a smoother transition and stay sane during the quarantine.
Get up at the same time you usually do, eat the same sorts of meals you generally do, and maintain the same expectations for yourself that you regularly do. While it may be tempting to mix things up and get work done around the house or work while wearing pajamas, you’re more likely to stay productive if you act as if your workday hasn’t changed all that much.
Build Your Routine Gradually
Creating a structure and holding yourself to it is one of the hardest things about working from home. That’s why you keep yourself to your old office schedule. As you settle in and find what works, you can adjust over time to adapt to your new situation.
You might find that a long lunch with family helps you focus better in the afternoons. Maybe your children need attention and help with homework mid-morning, so you can pattern your routine around that.
The key is to make changes little by little. If you try to create a whole new schedule, you’re likely to end up sleeping in and effectively taking the morning off.
Start making lists of tasks you need to get done. These are helpful at the beginning of a day to help yourself get situated, but it’s also an excellent way to wrap up a workday in the evening. Write out the top tasks you need to get done and plan when they’re going to happen.
And when you start first thing in the morning, full of energy and raring to go, consider going straight to these top-priority tasks. Highly productive people tend to tackle important and challenging tasks first. If you check your emails and do all the busywork first, you run the risk of losing your focus by the time you get to the big-ticket items.
Plan for Transitions
One of the biggest mental obstacles for employees working at home may be the lack of transitions. Instead of a 25-minute commute to prepare yourself from work, you have to walk into the next room and get started. Your mind needs time and space to transition efficiently between tasks, especially when you’re in such a closed area as your home.
Replace your commute with other routines preparing you for work. You can dial down your wardrobe from your usual office attire, but you’re not likely to get much done if you roll out of bed and sit down at your desk.
Create some regular rituals for starting your day, and then program transition time into your day between tasks. Take a break after you complete something so that you can mentally prepare for what comes next.
Efficient working from home requires dedication from you and everyone else in your home. You may be facing frequent temptations to take a nap, spend time with family, or fix something in the house when it really should be work time. You need to set clear boundaries and stick to them, both for time and for space.
Work time is work time, and workspace is workspace. Don’t play games on your office desk, even if you’re off the clock. Productive habits require clearly defining the purpose of each space. Trying to get work done on the couch in the living room is going to make your work less efficient and your family time less relaxing.
Respecting boundaries goes the other way too. When the workday ends, you put your tasks away and step back into the home and family space. Keep the two worlds separate and be fully present with your family. This will help you with your work/life balance while working from home as well.
Take Care of Yourself
If you’re going to perform well in your work and stay productive, you’re going to need to stay healthy. Working from home is a tough transition for a lot of people, and you may be under a lot of stress because of the COVID-19 crisis.
Dealing with stress takes rest, exercise, and nutrition. Eat well and make getting enough sleep one of your top priorities. Take lots of breaks throughout the day and get fresh air and exercise at every opportunity.
Be patient and kind to yourself. If you fall apart one day and nothing gets done, all you have to do is start again the next morning.