I’ve been working from home since 2011. I’ve learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t and wanted to share with you, in case it helps. The first thing is to give yourself a break for feeling upset and confused and less focused. Give yourself some time to get used to the new normal.
I remember when I first started working from home, I was upset with myself that I did dishes and the laundry during business hours. I felt like I was taking advantage and I had to add every minute I spent on the house and tack it on to the end of my work day. I didn’t always get dressed everyday and I’d roll up to the computer without getting clear or taking a moment for myself- bed to coffee machine to computer. I felt slobby and unfocused without taking the time to get clear about my day. And I wouldn’t really quit for the day or feel complete about all that I had accomplished that day. I would walk away from my computer and the work still felt incomplete.
Here are some tips that worked for me- in no particular order.
#1 – Be Honest About What You Need and What You Prefer
After a month or so of this- half in and half out of work day- I realized I need a new routine and to acknowledge a few truths about myself. First is that listening to a conference call while sitting around was tortuous for me. I then used the conference call time as time to move around the house. During con calls, I would start a load of laundry or even pull weeds outside (if it wasn’t windy and I could be well heard without background noise). Or I would walk, just make circles around the sofa and lap it during the conference call. I was able to better focus on the call and be more present, despite also doing some mindless work.
#2 Set Up A Schedule and Consciously Start and End Your Work Day
I also set up a schedule. I got up early like I used to and exercised, had my coffee, showered, and dressed for the day- even if it was in yoga pants and a comfy top. I set a start and end time to my day. And if I took time during the day for a walk or for my kids, I would then work those “missing” hours that evening after the kids went to bed. I had strict boundaries about home and work life, and when the day was done, I felt had completed as much if not more than I would have at the office. I started at 9:30 and worked till 6:30, tacking on any time for my kids after they were in bed. But I was clear that the work day had ended, so I didn’t keep work loaded in my mind and felt a sense of completion each day.
#3 – You’re Not Commuting Now. Those Hours Are a Gift
You likely have 2 extra hours a day now that you’re not commuting. Take that time to better plan your day and use it to set up a schedule. Be conscious about how to spend your extra hours.
#4 – Doing Your Housework Isn’t A Bad Thing
It’s ok to take 10 minutes to start a load of laundry and then transfer it to the dryer. It’s ok to fold clothes while you’re on a con all. It’s ok to stop and doing your morning dishes while you’re noodling on a work concept. It can feel weird to spend time on the house while at home but if you’re conscious about your plan, you can work 50 minutes per hour and then spend the remaining 10 min on housework. I think this will make you far more productive than you were at the office, where workplace chatting and mindless internet browsing are rampant.
And you’ll have more “down time” because your housework will be accomplished in tiny chunks of time and you’ll get super clear about your work day/plan
#5- Be Honest With Yourself. Establish Boundaries and Enforce Them. Be Respectful of Others’ Boundaries.
Working from home with your kids and your spouse/partner may a very new thing for you. You’re going to need to establish boundaries and enforce them with your partner and/or kids. Start work when you say you will and end the day on time too. Let your spouse/partner work without distraction from you asking questions. Treat him/her as if they’re at work. Would you call them for that question? Would you text them that thought? Keep all of these calls/texts/questions for a while then send them all in one batch. Don’t pop in to his/her work space with every thought that pops into your head. You’ll be more productive as well.
#6- Keep Adjusting Your Schedule As You Go Along
Keep tinkering with your schedule, day, and boundaries until it really works. It’s ok to change it up as something becomes clear about what you’ve planned. Working at home is like building a muscle. You have to train for it and try new approaches.
You can do this. You got this.