My Work From Home transition after years of a Monday-Friday office life was not smooth or easy adjustment, and I made a LOT of mistakes in figuring out how to work efficiently, effectively, and successfully. Here's my cheat sheet to success!
1. Start Every Day by Getting Up Early and Going Outside
In normal times, I schedule a Classpass class between 6:30 and 7:30 AM for almost every day I'm home. The external push to get up early means thats I never hit snooze and ignore my work out, and I've become a huge, huge fan of getting a good sweat in early in the morning. Days when I don't work out in the morning, I tend to just roll from my bed to my computer in pajamas, be much less efficient overall, and usually sometime around 2PM realize that I still haven't brushed my hair or changed into clothes. Starting every morning with a work out has become the most important part of my working from home routine, and has had huge benefits in my productivity and mental health.
In our current Coronavirus lockdown situation, I have been getting up and immediately going outside for a morning walk and/or run. Some times Brandon and I will make coffee and go for a walk together, or I will head out and run a few miles, and then do a home work out later on in the day. There is just no better way to start your day!
2. Put on Actual Clothes
Some people suggest getting fully ready for a day - I'm too lazy for that (and try to let my skin breathe and not be under make up when I'm not shooting). But I have learned there is a HUGE different in my mental state and overall productivity if I brush my teeth, wash my face, and change out of my pajamas. Some times that means jeans and a top (and an actual bra!), and sometimes that just means leggings or a fresh pair of sweatpants. Getting up and making a small effort to separate Work Time from Lazy Home Time is key.
3. Meal Prep
It might seem counterintuitive, because when you're home, you can cook much easier than being in the office. However, Brandon and I learned fairly quickly that making coffee, breakfast, lunch, dinner AND snacks every day was exhausting - both the cooking and the cleaning for every meal grew old fast, and seemed like it was taking up way too much of our day. Preparing easy meals and prepping ingredients has been a game changer. A few of my favorite meal ideas here:
- Make extra large batches of pastas, stir fries, etc and save a few servings in the fridge for later or the next couple of days. Even if you just double a recipe, there's an extra lunch or dinner that you just have to pull out of the fridge and reheat
- Lots of soup and stews in the winter - Brandon has been perfecting his turkey soup and will made a big crock pot full, which will feed us for a few days
- We haven't yet bought an InstantPot, but everyone else does and raves about it, so it's way beyond time!
- If you make a lot of salads/omelettes/any other meal with chopped veggies: chop 2-3 days worth all at once and store them in glass Tupperware in the fridge. Pulling out already chopped onions and spinach and sprinkling them into my eggs feels so luxurious.
- We will stock up on a few pre-made salads and sandwiches from Trader Joes, to just grab and eat quickly, when we are particularly busy and/or lazy.
4. Sit at a desk, or at least a table
When we started our business and weren't working an office anymore, it was very tempting to just pull my laptop into bed and try to work from there. I still do this sometimes when we're in hotels and on the road, but it never works very well. Brandon has an extensive archive of photos of me sleeping with my laptop on top of me as proof. At home, I have a small desk with an external monitor that I plug my laptop in to where I sit down to work. It has been said again and again that having a designated work space helps your brain focus on work mode as soon as you sit down at it - and that is definitely true. If you don't have or don't have room for a desk, the kitchen table will also work - any space with a table will make you so much more efficient than the couch or your bed.
5. Walk and Talk
One of the small things that I have found most important in working from home is getting outside at least a couple of times a day. When you have more casual phone calls that you don't need to take notes during, or easier tasks like social media posts, responding to DMs, etc, I have found that putting in my headphones and taking a quick walk around the block or two picks up my mood and makes sitting back down at my desk, even if it's only 15 minutes later feel like I have had a bit of a reset.
I particularly love my Airpods Pro for outside walks and runs, because the headphones have a Transparency mode that makes it so you can hear surrounding sounds (specifically cars) and stay more aware of what's around you. In general, if you live in a place where you can, go outside as much as possible!
6. Use a Timer
I started using the free Focus Keeper Time Management app a few months ago as a way to better stay on task, and it has been incredibly helpful for me. This app incorporates the Pomodoro Technique, where it counts down work blocks of 25 minutes, followed by breaks of 5 minutes. I will decide to focus on one task, whether that be blog writing, responding to emails, photo editing, research, etc and set my timer. The simple act of just having a timer helps you stay more focused - and the biggest benefit is that every time I inadvertently open my phone (which happens only about a million times a day), the first thing I see is the timer screen. It's a huge, flashing, red reminder to close my phone and stay on task. And I like to use the built in 5-minute break sessions to get up and move around - I'll take the couple of minutes to do the dishes or put away a couple of things, or dance around to one song, or just step outside in the sun. I know some people use the timer to block out their whole day and plan ahead how many blocks to use for each task.
7. Noise. Cancelling. Headphones!
For work days (and long flights - but we won't have any of those for a WHILE now), I swap my Airpods for my favorite Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones . Since we have a small apartment, we only have one little corner for our 'office' and Brandon and I sit only a couple of feet away from each other at our desks. We both live in these headphones as a way to create a little separation, drown out outside noise, and bring us to a better place of focus. I often listen to this Focus Flow Spotify playlist on repeat - it's has enough of a beat to keep me awake, but no real discernible lyrics, which makes it much easier for me to read contracts, write blogs, or work on any other tasks that need a high level of focus. Get my favorite headphones on Amazon here, or save $150 on last year's model!
8. Find a time to Turn Off
In our usual life, we are on the road so much that when I'm home, I have a tendency to try to do as much work as I possibly can to get ahead of it all... to varying levels of efficiency. Especially as a business owner, it's hard to pull away and not feel the pressure to work every second you can. I have learned the hard way that creating a balance in your life is KEY, and letting yourself have at least a couple of hours in your day that aren't dedicated to work, exercise, or daily tasks like cooking and cleaning makes all the difference in your happiness, and efficiency. For most people, the easiest way to do that is to set a hard out time in the evening - whether that be at 6PM or 9PM, set a time for when you are done and leave your computer behind. I find this is the most fulfilling if I step a bit away from my phone and TV as well, and DO something. Go for a walk with someone, play a game, work on a hobby, organize things, read a book, adding just a little bit of time in your day to do something you enjoy makes the rest of it so much more bearable.
Also if you are working for yourself, it's can be really, really easy to never take a day off or a weekend. Brandon and I rarely do. BUT making yourself take an actual weekend, even if it's just for one day, is such a great way to reset and actually reward yourself for being the boss bitch you are.
When in doubt, blame Cheryl. She sucks.
Good Luck out there!