Hello from my couch to yours! Actually, I take that back. I’m not sitting on my couch. I’m sitting at my kitchen table, even though the couch is insanely comfortable and I’m the only one home.
Because I’ve learned that to successfully work from home, I have to be intentional about how I work, when I work and where I work. (So couch for me. More on that below.)
I’ve worked from home long before COVID-19 and—through some significant trial and error—I’ve discovered that creating routines and structure in my days does wonders to keep me focused and efficient. Keep reading to learn about these routines and structures.
Ok, I know you probably don’t walk around without pants on, but I know the temptation to wear yoga pants/sweatpants when you’re working from home is strong.
Do not give in. I repeat: Do not give in.
Why? When you put on clothes that you might wear around the house after work on a Tuesday or on a lazy Saturday morning, you’re essentially telling your brain that it’s not “work time.” This is not terribly helpful if you’re trying to get real work done.
Instead, wear the clothes you’d wear if you were going into the office. You might feel a bit ridiculous sitting at your kitchen table in a pencil skirt, but I’ve found that getting ready and putting on an “actual work outfit” makes a significant difference in my ability to stay focused and productive throughout the day. (Bonus points if you wear lipstick.)
Designate a spot in your house to work.
Having a designated working space (like your kitchen table—not your couch or your bed) also helps to keep your brain in “work/productivity mode” and not veer toward “sleep/Netflix binge mode.”
Believe me—working on the couch might feel like a good idea, but you’ll regret it when you miss that conference call because you fell asleep. (Yes, this is why I’m writing to you from my kitchen table and not my couch.)
If you’re sharing a space with a significant other or roommate, then try to create separate workspaces—maybe you choose the kitchen table and he takes the desk in the bedroom. Choosing to be intentional and create spaces for one another also helps to keep your relationship strong when you’re in close quarters for days on end.
Set working hours.
As much as possible, start working each day at the time you would on a normal weekday and stop working at the time you’d normally head home for the day. This will allow you to have some work/life separation (especially if you’re like me and live in a small apartment!) It will also help you stay in the same schedule/routine, which keeps you much more mentally and emotionally healthy.
Don’t do your laundry.
Neither should you bake brownies, reorganize your kitchen or wash the dishes. I find that when I try to be more efficient and “multitask” while working at home, I don’t do my work well and end the day feeling scattered and unproductive.
Leave the laundry, baking and reorganization to pre/post work hours (like you normally would). Stay focused on what you’d be doing if you weren’t stuck at home.
Do in the dark what you know to do in the light.
This wise advice comes from author and TED Talk speaker Hannah Brencher, who reminds us to continue doing the simple things that keep us grounded—pray, drink water, eat your veggies, get fresh air, go on a walk and call your mom.
Choose to maintain the small daily things that keep you healthy and bring you joy in the midst of change. As Hannah says, “These things are your lifelines.”
Start your day with gratitude.
Begin your day by writing down three things you are thankful for in that moment. Your kitchen table might not be comfortable, but it’s a table. You might miss your coworkers, but at least you don’t have to deal with that smelly office fridge. Your phone battery might be dying faster than ever, but you have a phone.
Begin in gratitude, wear pants and avoid the couch—these things might sound simple, but sometimes the simplest of things makes all the difference. You can do this, friend. You really can.