When I first started to work from home, I remember looking up advice for how to stay motivated and productive. I tried to follow the information that was out there but didn’t find a lot of it helpful. With everyone self-isolating right now, I’ve seen even more working from home tips but some of the advice being shared never worked for me and I couldn’t understand why.
Over the years of running my business from home and working from home while employed, I’ve learned what works for me and typically find that I can be more productive at home now than in an office. So I thought I would share my experience in case you’re struggling.
The first thing is acknowledging that it’s going to be different for everyone and it might be something you find difficult. Don’t feel like you have to “get it” right away… especially with everything that is going on right now! You’re never going to be at 100% when there is so much distraction, worry and anxiety happening. And that is okay!
1. Getting ready for the day
While I do think it’s a good idea to get up, showered and ready for the day, I also think you need to figure out what that means for you. I’ve seen lots of people recommending getting changed into normal work clothes or putting on shoes. Let me tell you – I am not productive in normal clothes at home. I find it so uncomfortable. I can only work at home in loungewear or leggings. It’s odd, but I just find wearing jeans, shoes and makeup distracting while at home.
2. Set a schedule and stick to it
Figure out which hours are your working hours and which hours you consider to be home time. Work when you’re at your most productive, your motivation will naturally ebb and flow throughout the day. A routine should help you stay focused.
I chose to work 10am until 6pm because that is what worked best for me. Not only did that allow me to have a routine and boundaries, but it also meant that I got into the habit that during those hours my mind was in work mode.
Alice Audley suggests achieving as much as you can in the morning and allowing yourself an afternoon nap if needed to boost afternoon productivity.
3. Put boundaries in place
Having a set schedule can help when it comes to putting boundaries in place with friends and family members. Communicate your expectations with anyone who will be home with you, so they don’t disturb you while you are busy. If you get distracted easily, consider turning off your notifications on your phone and social media.
I used to tell family that even though I was in the house, I wasn’t at home. This mindset and having a work vs. home schedule can also help with that guilt that comes with being at home and feeling like you should be pitching in or doing household chores. Set aside time for that outside of work if you can.
4. Create a morning routine
Since I didn’t start work until 10am, I made sure to have a morning routine that made me happy. Spend the time you would be commuting on something for you. For me, this meant watching my favourite TV show, doing yoga or reading for one hour before work started. I needed that “me time” to set me up for the day.
5. Plan your day
Having to sit down and work in your own home can be difficult, and figuring out what to work on when you have things to do but no set plan can be overwhelming. So write a list of the tasks that need doing on a piece of paper and strike off each task once it’s complete. It will help you stay motivated and focused if you are working towards something.
6. Find your best working space
I know a lot of people advise keeping your bedroom as a sacred space for sleeping and relaxing where work is banned. But not all of us can do that if we’re sharing a house. So instead try to find your best working space and tap into your working mindset.
I typically prefer working at a spacious desk, I think of that as my work desk so it helps keep that working mindset. But occasionally, depending on my mood and how focused I can be, I like to sit in bed (Ikea’s KLACK Bed Tray is a must-have for me!) or on the sofa.
When working from home I usually like to be alone and in silence, but sometimes I need background noise to concentrate. You might find that certain background noises work better for you than others so experiment with different music genres, TV shows and ambient sounds. I also love Coffitivity, which plays different sounds resembling a cafe and is said to boost creativity.
Don’t be afraid to change things up throughout the day too. Sometimes I get frustrated and agitated sitting at my desk, feeling like I just can’t focus, so I’ll move to a different location or leave my desk and something else for 30 minutes. Taking that time away or changing your environment might just help!
7. Take breaks and get fresh air
Cabin fever is real, and there are times that you’ll suddenly realise that you haven’t been outside or had a proper conversation in a few hours.
My advice is to open a window for fresh air, get outside if possible to see some daylight and take regular breaks. Don’t miss any meals, keep water and some healthy snacks on your desk.
8. Be social
Social interactions can be really important when working from home to help alleviate feelings of isolations and loneliness.
Find an accountability partner to check in with or a friend/colleague that you can video call for a chat if you start feeling lonely. Take a look online to see if anyone is offering video calls or doing Instagram lives so you feel like you’re getting some human interaction. Even if it’s going for a quick chat with a family member or someone in your home while you fill up a glass of water.
Get creative! Organise a virtual get together so you can still hang out with friends – I’ve seen people organising quizzes for friends, story time for schoolchildren and Friday drinks with work colleagues. Netflix have a chrome extension that allows you to watch a show in sync with friends.
9. End your day with a routine
Just like I advised to start your day with a routine, it can also be helpful to end your day with a routine. This can create a habit that signals the close of your work day and the start of your home time. I like to have something to look forward to during the day as well, even something simple like knowing I’m going for a walk at 6pm and following it with a bath and a film.
10. Be selective with news updates
I know there’s a lot going on and it’s obviously important to stay informed, but getting too caught up in the news (especially if scrolling through social media) is going to be a distraction and cause some extra worry. Instead, be selective about your updates, read reliable sources and try not to get sucked in to the endless news cycles.
Sending you all of my well wishes…
This is obviously a very surreal time, there’s a lot of uncertainty and anxiety about what is currently happening and what is to come.
I know everyone is suffering, but as a freelancer in this space I’d like to help other freelancers and small businesses somehow as I know many of you are already struggling with finding work, keeping clients and pivoting your business. So please let me know if there’s any free content I can create that will help you. I’d also love if you could message me and let me know what services you provide so I can put a list together to share with other people.
I hope you’re all staying safe, we’ll get through this 💕