Working remotely and having trouble focusing? Here are a few work from home tips that work for me!
I originally wrote this post as a response to frequently asked questions about working from home – and I figured we were bound to have a snowstorm or polar vortex that prevents people from getting to an office this winter. But now that the coronavirus is shutting offices down left and right, these tips are more relevant than ever! And let’s be real, if you’re not used to the work from home life at all, it can be EXTREMELY disorienting.
The key is to remember that we all have different working styles, so use these tips as a guide, but don’t be afraid to alter them to work for you! You might be like “Lauren, you’re crazy for XYZ” – and that’s fine! The beauty of working from home is that you can listen to whatever helps you be the most productive and effective worker. Even if that’s not the same as someone else. Pretty cool, right?
Work From Home Tips
Block your calendar.
This is the first thing I tell people when they ask for work from home tips. If you’re worried that you will have a lack of focus, then make a point to CREATE focus every day. Instead of just making one master to-do list, I like to think about what NEEDS to get done that day. Separate that from the other things you’d like to get done. (Hold on to those for the next tip!)
Since a lot of you are probably used to your calendar blocked with meetings, calls, and brainstorming sessions… why should you stop doing that just because you’re working alone now? It’s likely that you still have a ton things to do – there’s just no one right there to hold you accountable. But you can hold yourself accountable by blocking your calendar and treating each block like a meeting.
For example, I’ll schedule 2-3 hours for one project so I can solely focus on getting that done – and I don’t respond to emails, check my phone, or anything else during that time (besides maybe let Luna out).
Wondering about that secondary to-do list of things you’d like to get done? Or smaller tasks that might only take a few minutes? Instead of wasting time scheduling 10 minute blocks for little things, I’ll just schedule a block that just says “admin” to give myself the space in the day to catch up on emails, send invoices, respond to DMs, etc.
Here is an example of what one of my weeks might look like.
I don’t account for every single minute of my day, but this is a high level example of how I get specific about some blocks, while leaving others more general. And some days might look “busier” than others, but that probably means that I was focused on smaller tasks vs. big projects on those days and I didn’t want feel the need to block it all out. Like I said, make this work for you!
Hold on to that secondary to-do list!
Now that you have your time blocked to ensure those important tasks get done, it’s helpful to have your other list handy! I always like to keep this running list right on my computer. This way, if I think of something else I have to do while writing a blog post, I can quickly write it down so I don’t forget it, but it also doesn’t distract me from the task at hand. These lists also help me stay productive when that “admin” block starts, or when I don’t have anything blocked at all! Instead of wondering where to start or what to tackle next, you already have a list ready.
How do you decide what should be scheduled as it’s own block, and what you should just get done without overthinking?! This instagram from @freelancingfemales really nails it:
Determine your most productive work time.
For some people, it’s best to stick to normal business hours as if nothing has changed. But for others, it can be helpful to be honest about when you’re most productive throughout the day. Maybe you like getting up early and getting ahead before emails start to come in. Or maybe your brain doesn’t work well until after a coffee and a workout in the morning, but you get on a roll later in the day when a lot of other people are shutting down.
If you work from home, you have more flexibility to work when you are the most inspired and productive. Take some time to notice what works best for you and then build your schedule around that! For example, I love a mid morning workout that would normally make most people late for work – but if I wake up and start early, I’m really not missing any hours in the day, I’m just rearranging them! Plus, it gives me a little energy boost to get through the rest of the day.
Schedule that mid-morning workout class! Go for a walk! Eat lunch without your computer – even if it’s just for 10 minutes. It’s easy to just plow through the whole day without stopping (I’ve been there!), but taking a breather can help you come back to your work refreshed!
Set up a work space.
If you’re worried about how much space you have at home, don’t stress! A designated work space doesn’t even need to mean a separate room or typical desk. I sometimes work from my couch so Luna can snuggle up next to me! But there is one corner of the couch near the windows and an outlet where I can be just as productive as I would be at my desk. Find those spots in your home!
Get a change of scenery.
I’ve been working remotely for a long time and I actually really enjoy working from home. I find that I can easily get in the zone, and a lot of things that people find distracting at home just don’t distract me. That being said, I am fine with leaving dishes in the sink and laundry unfolded to get work done… and I know that not everyone is like that (it drives Adam crazy ?). If you can always find things to do around the house besides work, get out of the house! Find a local coffee shop and go there for a few hours each day. Or if you want something more focused than that, you can join a co-working space like WeWork, The Wing, Soho House, etc. If you have to take a lot of conference calls and in-person meetings, that is a great option!
Find a work buddy.
Sometimes it can be hard to stay focused without interacting with other humans in real life! If you could use a buddy, try to find a friend who also works remotely and ask if they want to meet once a week! I’ve started doing this with my friend Blair. And it’s been SO nice to get that change of scenery and have someone to ask questions/bounce ideas off of.
This can be a little tricky though. You want to find someone who is okay with silence when you both need to focus on something. If you just chat and waste time the whole afternoon, you’re going to come away from that even more stressed. Who has time for that?! Try to find someone who helps you stay productive, instead of distracting you from your work.
Limit social media while you’re working.
Turn those notifications OFF! Put your phone DOWN! A lot of my job is based around social media, so if I can do this, so you can you!
Listen to something.
This one is very personal, but sometimes it can be really hard to work in silence. I mean, think about it – was your office ever silent?! I tend to get bored when I’m doing something simple like editing photos or scheduling pins for Pinterest, so I’ll put on a podcast or a tv show I’ve seen before (Parks & Rec!) while I’m working and I find that it makes the time go by faster and I stay really productive the whole time.
When I need to focus more, I’ll ditch the podcast/TV and put music on. I tend to like mellow tunes when I’m writing!
Ask for respect from family and friends.
It’s easy for people to think that you are always available. After all, no one will tell on you if you take some time to chat with your Mom for an hour in the middle of the day. That being said, it’s important to let your loved ones know that just because you aren’t in an office, you are still working!! You still need to get the work done and make that money! Just because you’re not in an office doesn’t mean you’re twiddling your thumbs all day!
That being said, it’s understandable that a lot of people have trouble understanding this. Because it might be not problem to chat that day! How lovely! The best advice I have is to remind them that a simple “do you have time?” before calling, stopping by, or assuming you can meet last minute is always appreciated.
This one seems silly, but it’s real. I refill this tumbler and keep it with me all day.
Does anyone else have any other work from home tips?
Let me know if I missed any good ones!