The current events happening in the world with the pandemic have left very few unaffected. These are the times that push us to be creative, that expand our comfort zone and find ways to make things work.
One of the things a lot of people are facing right now is moving into a home office and working remotely. Although it might seem like a dream come true for some who have always longed to not go to an office every day, it probably doesn’t take too long to realize that working remotely has its own set of challenges. Have you found yourself thinking- “Dang, this is far harder than I expected it to be.”
I have never worked from a shared office, so I’ve really had to figure out what are the things that bring results with remote work and what are the absolute nonnegotiables. I share these with the utmost hope to help someone make this adjusting-curve a bit smoother. So here are a few ideas for you to be productive with working from home and giving YOUR best at the moment.
Obviously wherever you work from your schedule is your lifeline, but especially working from home your plan for the week and for the day are critical. Of course, it has to be put together based on your current situation, but entering the day and week without any plan will definitely not set you up for success. If you don’t know how your ideal week would look like working from your home office, then it will be very difficult for you to start living it.
- Lunch, food, breaks
Although your fridge is probably much closer to you than it used to be in the office (+ probably filled with all the goodies you’ve stacked up), that is not the reason to invade it regularly. Schedule when you have your lunch break ( and/or some snack times if that’s what you do in the office too) and stick to it. Definitely do plan time for lunch though, because otherwise it will become a reactive thing (that you actually know can be scheduled proactively ahead of time) and it will already change your schedule.
- House chores
Trust me- doing laundry or cleaning your closet or whatever home chore you’ve been putting off for some time will become distractors. Especially when you know you should be professionally doing something that is not always the easiest thing to do (sales calls, client service contacts or whatever is a KPI for you). Dusting, cooking or organizing something, that in your mind might be justified by “I’ll just quickly get this done” will add up big time. If you wouldn’t start vacuuming or washing dishes randomly in the middle of your office work-day, then this should stay the same when working remotely.
- Clear working hours
When working from home it will be very easy to confuse “work time” and “home time. ” If you don’t intentionally draw a line yourself between those two, you’ll soon feel like you are working all the time, but won’t still get everything done. Why? Because you are not focused on the task in hand. Decide when you start and when you finish and give yourself emotional permission to not break those times. Even if I’d work from a shared office I wouldn’t be refreshing my email constantly in the evening and thus driving myself crazy, so I am definitely not doing it working remotely too. You shouldn’t too! (if you want to keep your sanity)
2. Family members and boundaries
This is the time where you and your spouse both might be working from home which adds another layer of distraction. What we have done with Nick is that we share our schedules with each other so we know when we are doing what. If we know that we want to give each other our full focus, then we also know not to engage during a time the other has to be focused on something else. If you want to eat lunch together, awesome- agree on that first hand, but help the other one stick to their plan too. The key here… communicate ahead of time!
We don’t have kids yet, so I might not be able to fully relate to the situation of people who have. I also understand that the current system of school being online adds a big obstacle to a lot of parent’s routines, so I don’t want to be mindful of not knowing the full story here. As a principle, there isn’t much more you can do other than figure out the best schedule for your current situation.
Designate a place that will become your workspace. If you start doing your email and projects, calls from your coach where you usually lounge and watch TV in the evening hours, then it is going to be very hard for your brain to focus 100% on a new given task. If you have the luxury of having a separate room, that is wonderful. If you don’t, just choose your corner or create the best option so that entering that area you signal your brain to be in a professional mode. The same way with leaving it. When you finish, close your computer and put away papers- it’s time for them to rest too.
3. Showing up
At the beginning you might be attempted to maximize your sleep, knowing you will be saving time with commuting and choosing an outfit for an office workday and thus sleeping longer than you would otherwise. This is a very important thing to tackle right away. Your mornings are crucial to the success of your day.
It would be easy to jump right from the bed behind your computer and start answering your emails, but if you wouldn’t show up in the office in pajamas or sweatpants, then you shouldn’t do this at home too.
Now, do I wear full make-up or put too much thought into if my earings or bag match with the current day’s outfit? Definitely not. Will I look presentable though every day? Absolutely (have to ask my clients…:D I’d like to think so!). When you look good, you’ll feel good. You don’t have to wear a suit as some of you might otherwise, but at least make a difference between your work hour clothes and your home clothes.
- Morning routine
I briefly mentioned this already above and I truly believe in the power of morning routines overall, so it’s important enough to expand on it a bit more. Figure out a clear morning routine for you and stick to it wherever you’d work from. My morning always includes gratitude, visualization, affirmations, a good cup of coffee, moving/working out, healthy breakfast. Those activities don’t have to take hours, sometimes 5-10 minutes of each will be enough, but there is a reason for all of those steps. My mornings never include snooze- button. So figure out yours and protect it with all you got!
You will quickly understand that working remotely there won’t be so many eyes on you as usual. That often correlates to less pressure, but unfortunately, often to more slacking too. No one is watching what you do in an unshared office, so holding yourself accountable becomes even more important. I, for example, send my schedule to my team- leader every Sunday. Not because I need micromanagement from him, but I know that when I do that my week will be more productive. In Southwestern Consulting we also track all of our metrics and view the ratios to be aware and honest first and foremost with ourselves.
One thing you might soon start missing is the quick chats or little jokes with the colleagues that are more likely to happen in a shared office. Although there might be fewer human distractions working from home, after weeks it can become a bit boring. So some things we do with our team who all work remotely are video calls and dialing together for prospecting, leaving video messages, etc. If now you and your significant other both work from home, leave each other some fun post-it notes to brighten up their day and make them feel not so isolated.
As I write these I have a heureka moment myself of how most of these things start with our plan. In Southwestern Consulting we always say that if we fail to plan then we plan to fail.
I’ll share here just a screenshot of my this week’s schedule.
Now don’t get caught up in the specific activities in there (your ideal week is YOURS), but focus on the principle. I do know when I work out. I do know when I am 100% focused on my calls and I do know when I spend time with my husband.
Bonus idea (not only relevant with remote office)- I plan our dinners ahead of time, not to think every evening- “Well.. what are we going to eat today.” The less we can get thinking out of the formula, the more we are able to act efficiently.
Now clearly not all weeks are the same. I also don’t have face-to-face meetings, workshops or new calls and I do have more coaching calls than usual this week, but that’s okay. That is this week. On Sunday I plan my next week and whatever will make the most sense then, will be in there. Do things change, some activities move and have to be figured out on the go. Oh, absolutely! (especially now). But will it be easier to do it when you have a framework? For sure!
So again- don’t get stuck on what I have in there, just think through YOUR plan. You don’t need to compare it with anyone nor compete, that’s not the goal. As I have emphasized probably 10 times here- The goal is to give YOUR best… and that will always be enough!
To sum up…you might have found some of these points very obvious and given props to yourself already for having strong habits with them. You might also have found some points that you have known you should be doing (whether you work from home or not), but you are not just putting them into practice persistently. And some of these points might be totally new ideas for you.
Well- whatever category you fell into- choose at least one for tomorrow and ACTUALLY do it. You don’t have to figure it all out over-night but focus on the progress!
If you want to discuss your situation or how we might be able to help you in Southwestern Consulting, then write to me.
Also, share what has worked for you working remotely with me and others, so that we can all get better, focus more on the positive and get through this interesting time together as fast as possible.