I know many of us are working from home for the first time, or at least more consistently, certainly than usual. I too found myself in this situation about five years ago. I was working in a local non-profit organization and they moved completely to virtual offices. So, we went from having a physical office to all becoming work-from-home employees – cold turkey. And I too was excited at first but then found some challenges. So I have five tips to help you get through these challenging times. And hopefully, try to get a little bit of work done in the process.
Set Up Dedicated Spaces
Just like during your normal work day in your office, don’t stay at the same place all day. You might work at your desk, then have a meeting in the conference room, then go to lunch, then go out on a donor visit…whatever it is, there’s variety. That helps our brain focus. It answers the “What mode should I be in at this time?” question. So, now we’re at our houses, but you can still do that within your house. So maybe I read in a chair, I do Zoom calls in at this table, I do concentrated work up in the guest bedroom. Moving around can really help you to kind of break up that day, and provide some variety and some interest — all of which will help you focus.
Time Block Your Day
Consider dedicating a certain portion of each day to doing specific tasks. Maybe project work, email, social media, etc. You’ll have to learn when you are most effective, when you have the most energy, when you can concentrate the best, or maybe even when you know your distractions are going to be less. Because we’re all dealing with things like…
“Dad, I’m hungry.”
“Chad, we’re out of wine.”
But we know that these things are going to happen. So when can you get that concentrated work in and can you have an agreement with your housemates. Perhaps saying “Okay, I need two hours of concentrated time and the rest of the day I can just kind of get in what I need to get done.” We’re all adapting but time blocking can help you do that.
Put On a Uniform
Put some real clothes on! Don’t just go bumming around in house clothes. It doesn’t have to be formal work clothes. I’m not asking everybody to put on a suit or a dress at home, but do pick something that tells you you’re in work mode. I have a rule of no sweatpants after 9:00 AM, if it’s a work day at home. I can get my day started, I can do some reading, but at some point I’ve got to get ready. I have to put on clothes that would be presentable to leave the house and that kind of tells my brain, “Okay, now we’re in work mode. It’s time to be effective.” Try it … it works.
We can’t forget about self care in these times. A lot of us are missing something very important now that we don’t have our commutes: decompression time. The commute for a lot of people is the time that our brain and body needs to switch between work and home. And that is important for self care. It lets us separate things, gives us that buffer, that margin, that time to breathe. So just getting outside and going for a walk, sitting out in your yard, going out on a balcony, just getting a little breath of fresh air can provide some of that mental break. What do you do on the walk? I love to listen to podcasts, but sometimes I just need the turn off the input and let my mind wander, let it synthesize everything I’ve been thinking about. So give yourself that freedom to do what your brain needs at that time.
Give Yourself Some Grace
Give yourself some grace, and accept that we are in a transitional period. This is a new normal for us. It’s okay if we don’t always have the most productive days. Don’t beat yourself up over that, take baby steps! Try to get a little better each day and at the end of each day sit back and reflect. What worked today? What didn’t? I know for my family, we didn’t start out with a schedule. That just led to fighting and other problems. And then we tried to do a structured schedule and that was too much structure for us. We were stressed by the schedule. Now we’re adapting into this blended mode where we have things we can do and things we actually need to do. You can do that same thing with your work schedule and how you’re getting your work done in these times.