How to work from home: 11 tips to make working from home easy
Working from home is amazing (as long as you know how to work from home the right way).
You can wear whatever you want.
You can work from the comfort of your couch.
And you avoid common office distractions like gossip, drive-by requests from colleagues, and the dreaded weekend recap from Bob in accounting about his weekend at the renaissance fair…yikes.
Due to COVID-19, many people are now figuring out how to work from home effectively and suddenly the dream of working from home isn’t as amazing as they once thought it would be.
Whether you’re single and alone in an apartment, confined to a small space with roommates, or a parent trying to work and take care of young ones, learning how to work from home effectively is a challenge.
Of course, if this is your situation, be thankful this is the challenge you are dealing with. It certainly could be worse and I hope you and your loved ones are safe.
But what you probably didn’t account for before you started working from home is that all of your favorite things to do, watch, and eat are just a few feet away.
There’s a metric ton of Cheez-its in the pantry. Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime are on all of your devices with shows about crazy tiger people and Instagram’s readily available at all times.
Your home which was once a calming sanctuary is no more. The place that helped restore your energy and ability to concentrate now makes you feel like you have the attention span of a Golden Retriever…SQUIRREL!
If you’re stuck trying to figure out how to work from home, struggling to stay focused with all that’s going on in the world right now, and are tired of feeling like you haven’t accomplished anything at the end of the day, learning how to work from home effectively is one more thing you shouldn’t have to worry about in times like these.
Here are eleven strategies to teach you how to work from home effectively.
How to work from home: Time management skills and productivity tips
1.Develop a routine
“Routine is one of the most powerful tools for removing obstacles. Without routine, the pull of nonessential distractions will overpower us. But if we create a routine that enshrines the essentials, we will begin to execute them on autopilot.” – Greg McKeown, Author of Essentialism
I’m willing to bet that up until a week or two ago you had a well developed daily routine.
Wake up, eat breakfast, workout, get ready for work/school/etc., and head out the door.
Shockingly, in just a few days that long-established routine is gone.
Some of us are so dependent on our routines that without them we feel completely lost and are now struggling to figure out how to work from home effectively without our routine.
Whether you realize it or not, if you aren’t consciously developing a new routine, one is being developed for you.
The question is what kind of routine is it? Is it a new routine that will lead to highly productive days or one that will lead to the accumulation of bad habits and poor performance?
Now more than ever it’s critical to develop a high-performing routine that propels you forward throughout your day.
Go to bed at a decent hour, wake up at a consistent time, carve out space to learn and get inspired, and exercise daily to stay fit physically and mentally.
2. Dress like you’re going to the office
What are the chances you’re reading this sitting in your sweats or pajamas? If you are, when’s the last time you washed those pajamas? If you had to think about that, then it’s probably time to throw those pajamas in the wash.
Sometimes we all need a pajama day and it can actually be just the thing to boost your productivity the following day but if you string too many days in a row like this, you’ll feel it.
Just because you don’t have to go to the office anymore shouldn’t be an excuse to let your inner slob out.
Here’s a quick tip that will make you more productive: dress like you’re going to the office.
Now I’m not saying go all out with a three-piece suit but throw on a pair of real pants and put on a decent shirt. And no, switching from pajamas to sweats doesn’t count.
What precedes all great performances is a mental and physical transformation.
Dressing like you’re going to the office is the mental cue that you’re ready to work. Just like an athlete before a game, part of the routine that leads to their best performance is the transformation cued by throwing on their jersey.
3. Implementation Intentions: Plan your day and create a schedule ahead of time
As the saying goes, fail to plan, plan to fail.
If you go into your day without a plan, then you’ll waste more time thinking about what you should be doing rather than doing what actually matters.
Without a plan, it’s hard to distinguish between what’s urgent, and what’s most important. Emails, calls, and texts nearly always seem urgent, but rarely are they important.
This puts you into a reactive state rather than a proactive state and you’ll be less likely to accomplish important work.
One simple yet powerful way to reduce the gap between what you intend to do and actually do is to use a strategy researchers call implementation intentions.
This is a process in which you specify when, where, and how to act on a given goal or task. The two critical components to a successful implementation intention are one, scheduling, and two, planning for failure with if-then scenarios.
For scheduling, before your workday begins, identify your three most important tasks or goals for the day. Then in one-hour blocks from nine to five, schedule what you will be doing each hour. Write it down and put it somewhere highly visible. When you get thrown off course, refer back to the plan.
Distractions are inevitable, which is where if-then scenarios come in hand. Identify what your most likely setbacks are and then develop a plan to overcome them.
For example, if you know you waste a lot of time watching TV when you should be working, when you get the temptation to turn on the TV, then decide instead you will get up and do ten pushups before heading back to work.
It doesn’t matter what the if-then is, as long as you have the right solution for your distraction.
4. Use the Pomodoro Technique: boost your productivity by working in short intervals
Just as important as planning your workflow, plan little mental vacations.
Follow the Pomodoro technique for working which involves working for 25 – 30-minute bursts followed by 3 – 5-minute breaks. This leads to short bursts of highly productive work followed quickly by mental rest that will help increase your productivity.
5. Eliminate distractions
When you’re stuck working from home, the TV is always a few feet away, video games have never looked more tempting, and there are an endless amount of streaming services that make it incredibly easy to waste time.
So make it more difficult to use your distractions or eliminate them altogether.
If it’s TV, unplug it.
If it’s Netflix, log out of your account so you’re forced to log in every time.
If it’s your phone, turn it off, put it on airplane mode, or keep it in another room so you don’t mindlessly answer texts and scroll through Instagram.
How to work from home: 6 mental strategies to help you stay focused and mentally fresh
6. Get outside and daydream
Although social distancing is in order for many states and cities right now, that doesn’t mean you can’t get outside. Now more than ever it’s critical to get outside and get fresh air daily, just keep your distance from others around you.
Go for a walk in the morning, at lunch, and after dinner. You’ll be amazed by what a good walk can do for you mentally and physically. You may even find during these carefree moments you come up with great ideas.
In fact, research suggests that walking boosts creativity over sitting at a desk and thinking. Not bad, right?
Walking not your thing? No problem. Find an activity you love that’s easy for you to get lost in.
Many of Albert Einstein’s greatest ideas came to him after daydreaming while sailing or playing his violin.
His son Hans Albert noted, “Whenever he felt that he had come to the end of the road or faced a difficult challenge in his work, he would take refuge in music and that would solve his difficulties. […] He would often play his violin in his kitchen late at night, improvising melodies while he pondered complicated problems. Then, suddenly, in the middle of playing, he would announce excitedly, ‘I’ve got it!’ As if by inspiration, the answer to the problem would have come to him in the midst of music.”
Disconnect from your devices and let your mind wander while on a long walk, while playing an instrument, or while listening to music.
7. Pick a time to stop working
When you work from home and are cooped up inside all day it’s easy to let work bleed into all aspects and all times of your day.
Draw a hard line in the sand and when it comes to the designated time each day, stop working.
8.Connect with friends and family
Whether you live with friends and family or not, be grateful that many of us have the ability to still connect virtually.
At times like these, it’s easy to become isolated. We’re social animals so be social!
Call, facetime, or jump on a video conference and connect.
Just the other night my wife, sister, and their friend got on a video conference call and played a Jackbox trivia game. It worked amazingly well and it was a ton of fun. And the best thing was, Coronavirus wasn’t brought up one time.
9. Turn off the news
“The media cannot resist tapping into our fear instinct. It is such an easy way to grab our attention.” – Hans Rosling, Author of Factfulness
Yes, it’s important to be aware of what’s going on in the world but there’s a limit to it. As the old saying goes, if it bleeds, it leads.
While many industries and people are taking a hit right now, the media is cashing in. They want you to stay glued to the news.
Yes, it’s bad right now, but it can be worse. Yes, things may still get worse, but things will improve. However, if you pay attention to the news you’ll be left feeling like this will never end.
Before tuning in to the news, consider the mental cost it has on your psyche. As Dr. Jon LaPook has reiterated throughout the Coronavirus pandemic, “this is going to have a beginning, a middle, and an end. We are going to get through this, I promise, and we’re going to get through it together.”
10. Become a “neutral thinker” to control racing thoughts
“The things you think about determine the quality of your mind. Your soul takes on the color of your thoughts.” -Marcus Aurelius
Many self-help experts and personal development personalities spend an inordinate amount of time preaching positive platitudes that sound great but do relatively little for your mindset, outlook, and behavior.
Have you ever been really worried about something and been told by a friend or spouse to “relax”?
“Oh yeah, you’re right! I just need to relax and not worry. What was I thinking? Problem solved!” – Said no one ever.
For most people, positive thinking and affirmations feel just wrong. It makes you feel like a dorky, sweater-wearing Stuart Smalley from SNL.
You can keep saying everything’s fine and people love you but sadly, little changes.
This is what led high-performance brain trainer Trevor Moawad to develop the concept of neutral thinking.
By working with some of the greatest athletes from collegiate and professional teams, he realized positive thinking did little for his athletes. What really worked was reducing negative thinking because as he notes, “negative external talk can be four to seven times more powerful than positive communication.”
The answer, in turn, isn’t to be more positive but to reduce the negativity. Become a neutral thinker as Moawad would say.
We all have negative thoughts and feelings and when we verbalize them, we allow them to become weaponized.
The problem is, right now it’s impossible to avoid this negativity if you have your TV on or you’re on your phone. Every interview, commercial, and broadcast starts with how uncertain, challenging, and difficult it is right now. Of course it is, but that shouldn’t stop you from moving forward and doing what’s needed of you.
Minimize the negativity, minimize your exposure to TV, social media, the news, and for goodness sake, don’t verbalize those negative thoughts!
If you’re having a tough day or struggling to get through your work, don’t harp on it. Put your mind to the task at hand. Focus on your work, call a friend to check-in, go for a walk, and focus your energies on something productive and fruitful.
11. Lower your expectations
If you’re reading this, it’s probably because you’re a high-achiever. But that desire to do more, be more, and accomplish great things can also weigh on you.
If you’re fortunate enough to be working from home and find yourself secluded, or with a child and no daycare, you need to adjust your expectations.
Speaking from experience, I’ve had to drastically adjust my daily expectations. My wife and I have a soon to be one-year-old and without family in town and a daycare to rely on, work comes early in the morning, during naps, and by taking shifts watching the baby.
It’s not ideal but we adapt, react, and adjust.
Be fine with doing less each day. This isn’t business as usual so don’t put the pressure on yourself to accomplish as much as you normally do.
Focus on fewer, greater things and you’ll notice a boost in productivity, what you accomplish, and your sense of accomplishment.
Have a tip that could help others learn how to work from home effectively? Share it BELOW IN THE COMMENT SECTION.
Share a tip or try one of these tips out and let me know how it works for you.