We’re so lucky to live in a time when remote working is possible for so many people. And in times of crisis, we’re able to continue to earn an income and make an impact with a few changes to the circumstances of our working environment.
It might not be the ideal scenario for most, but it’s possible to try and make the most of it. I’ve been happily working from home for the last 5 years, so I’ve become pretty adept to keeping myself productive and motivated, even at times when it felt impossible (teacher training days being one of those moments!).
If you’re reading this, whether you’re working from home out of choice or necessity, you can be assured that there are a few simple ways to be make life easier right now.
Here are my top tips for working from home (without losing your mind):
Create a work space
If you’re working from home for the first time, try and replicate your regular working space to ensure that your environment is conducive to maximum productivity. Take this step seriously even if working-from-home is only a temporary measure. Ideally set up a spare room or your least busy area of the house, with your necessary equipment; it might sound obvious but a desk and comfortable chair will help put you in the mindset of working, as opposed to sitting on the sofa with your laptop. Think about what you can do to make ‘work’ feel more real, and try and ensure your space is well-ventilated and has a good source of natural light wherever possible.
Schedule your day
Set a realistic schedule for your day and, more importantly, STICK TO IT! Write it down and have it visible throughout your day to increase your chances of sticking to it where possible. Humans crave routine – so even if you don’t ‘need’ structure and claim that you hate routine, to remove structure entirely can lead to stress and poor health. That’s why it’s so important to set a schedule that is as strict or loose as you are comfortable with.
Choose a work playlist
Selecting a work playlist has been a game-changer for me. I have different playlists on Spotify that I listen to depending on what types of work I’m doing. For tasks that require acute concentration, I listen to binaural beats to help me focus. At times when I’m brainstorming or doing work that requires less attention to detail, I have some creativity-inducing electronic music on a playlist. And before a meeting or Zoom call, I have some upbeat sing-along tracks, I turn up loud through the surround sound to give me energy. It’s amazing how powerful music can be in altering your mood. Over time, your brain will associate certain music with particular thoughts, so your selected playlists can quickly put you in a more motivated mood for whatever tasks you have ahead.
Give yourself a chance to be more productive by reducing any unnecessary distractions. Turn off any likely culprits such as television, Netflix, and social media. Also, trying to work with the kids around is not easy, so just be proactive and structure their day to enable you to focus on work when they are occupied. If you find you are easily distracted, set yourself ground rules and stick to them. Make sure your family know when your work times are, and request that no-one distract during those times.
Assign a lunch break
If you are trying to fit full-time work into part-time hours, it’s common to think that skipping lunch is one way to regain extra work time. However, I’ve actually always found this counterproductive. Your body needs energy and rest to function optimally – if you deny yourself either or both by missing a meal and/or a break, you’re not being as effective as you could be. Dedicating half an hour or even an hour to lunch and break AWAY from your work area will enable you to refresh both your body and mind. Sometimes it can be difficult to ‘get back to it’ after you’ve had a short break, but be disciplined enough to push through that resistance, and rest assured that you will be much more efficient once you’ve refuelled.
Don’t be tempted to do jobs
One of the benefits of working from home is that you can do things like washing, housework, shopping instead of doing them out of work hours. But your new work-from-home circumstance means that you need to prioritise actual work during working hours. When you switch between jobs, it takes an average of 23 minutes to refocus. That means you’re also potentially losing an extra 23 minutes every single time you stop work to do an unrelated household ‘job!’
Take a walk
I build a daily walk into my routine – a blast of fresh air before work and mid-afternoon is not only good for your body and circulation, but also has amazing benefits for your mind. It’s an opportunity to switch off and refocus, to listen to an inspiring podcast or audio book, or just to do a walking meditation. Having a pet dog has also hugely helped me to stick to this ritual, as I know it has exponential benefits on my health and wellbeing (and ultimately my business too), especially when I can’t be bothered to get dressed!
Stock up on healthy snacks
Being in close proximity to your food supply can be dangerous for sugar-addicts like me! So unless you’re pretty disciplined when it comes to your food habits, my advice is to avoid buying unhealthy foods such as cereal bars and biscuits, in order to avoid the temptation. Instead stock up on healthy snacks such as berries, nuts, protein yoghurt, boiled eggs etc. Snacking on healthy foods is an important way to make sure your body and mind are well-fuelled for optimal productivity.
When I was growing up, I used to suffer with headaches, tiredness and bad skin; but it wasn’t until I was an adult that I realised that I could quickly eradicate all 3 ailments just by drinking more water. Nowadays, I always have a litre bottle of water at my desk and commit to sipping it throughout the day. It does mean more toilet trips (which isn’t always ideal when you’re engrossed in your work), but I see it as a good sign that my body is absorbing the water and keeping me hydrated. This simple shift can also help banish fatigue and reduce the need for unnecessary snacking.
Meditation isn’t just for hippies and woo-woo types! When done effectively, mediation can reduce stress, anxiety, increase focus, and give you a positive mindset. I try and meditate a few times a day, even just for a couple of minutes between tasks, or during break-time. It helps me realign and refocus, and definitely helps bring a sense of calm when I’m feeling overwhelmed. Headspace is a fab app for both beginners or experts, so check out the free version for some good tips on getting started.
Build a remote network
Working from home can make you feel isolated, especially if you’re used to working in busy surroundings. Some might miss the social connection whilst others relish in their own company. But either way, it’s important to build a network of others in a similar situation to you – whether it’s parents finding themselves having to work from home (or even other employees and colleagues from your workplace/industry). Why not set up a Facebook group as a place to connect, and have remote coffee breaks together, share tips and news, or even have a rant if you need to. Some of the most powerful connections made and support I’ve experienced, has been from networks of like-minded people I’ve met through a common purpose.
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