How to Do Great Work from Home
With “social distancing” underway, many people are finding themselves suddenly working from home. This can pose a huge challenge, as people struggle to establish a productive working routine from the comforts of home.
I know firsthand how tough working from home can be, even without the added complication of a pandemic – I spent years at home, writing my doctoral dissertation, while balancing an at-home virtual tutoring business, freelance journalism work, and a part-time job developing online course content from home.
Here are my best tips for staying focused and productive while working from home.
Build your own structure
One of the hardest parts of working from home is that the day can drift by like one big amorphous blob…and you get nothing done. When I worked from home, I treated my work like a 9-5 job and made a schedule for myself. I was at my desk by 9 am, and I divided my day into chunks of time, long and short, each devoted to different projects. Start each day by thinking about what you have to do, and what you’d like to do, and allot time to the items on your list.
Include Home Stuff in your Schedule
A common time-suck when you WFH is all of the household chores that you are suddenly able to do during the workday. It is 100% ok to throw on a load of laundry during your day or to simmer a soup on the stove – just don’t let these tasks hijack your productivity. When you make your daily schedule, slot those home activities in with their own timeslots, and respect their end times so that you return to your desk as planned.
Talk to Another Person…And Get Fresh Air
This is huge. When I worked from home, I lived with a roommate who was never around – I was basically alone all day and it made me crazy. So, I made a rule: every day I would go for a walk and on that walk, I’d call someone and catch up. Figure out your variation of that rule but ensure that each day includes some form of human interaction and some fresh air. You need it!
Get a Desk
Now, everyone is different but for me: couch + laptop = Netflix. There is no way I’m going to get good work done in an environment that says “chill.” Take the time to set up a desk- like environment; you won’t regret it. I have a bad back, so I’m all about the ergonomics – my dissertation didn’t really take off until I raised my laptop screen and got a wireless keyboard and mouse. It’s amazing what establishing a comfortable workspace can do for unleashing your best work.
Set up your workspace facing a wall or a window and clear away all clutter within your view. Any chore in sight is a chore you’re likely to do instead of your work. Consider using an app like Offtime to block social media, text messages, and even games to keep you focused.
The best part of working from home is that it’s an opportunity to do amazing big-idea work. You have no distractions from colleagues, no time taken up by commuting…you have think time!* So, take this as a chance to go beyond the work you have to do and begin to tackle some of the big ideas from your “someday, when I have time” idea pile. This is your chance to build something great and to work on the business, rather than in it.
*If you are reading this during the Coronavirus pandemic and you have kids at home with you – solidarity! I recognize that for you this is likely survival time.
By: Elissa Gurman
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