April 3, 2020
Right now, a large percentage of the population has found themselves working from home – and for many of you, this is the first time. I thought it’d be helpful to gather tips from myself and other seasoned at-home workers about how we keep productivity up. I hope this list gives you some ideas to implement into your new routine and helps to make your transition from desk to kitchen table a little easier!
In the words of Admiral William McRaven, “If you want to change the world, start by making your bed.” Set yourself up for success from the minute you wake up – set an alarm, get up early, make the bed, shower, brush your teeth, put on real clothes, take the dog out, make coffee, have a good breakfast. Do all the things you’d normally do before you leave for work. The completion of little tasks in the morning gives you a sense of accomplishment that will follow you into the work day.
I could not live without my Google Calendar, I schedule everything. Structure is so important for keeping me on task throughout the day.
I start every Monday morning writing a weekly to-do list. It lists the large tasks I want to complete at the top, and then breaks them down to what I want to accomplish day by day.
Organize your to-do list in a way that makes sense for you. Block out specific times for individual tasks. If you are a morning person, do your difficult or time-consuming projects first. If you are not a morning person, schedule your meetings in the afternoon or start the day by doing something easy (like answering emails) and then get into your more detailed projects.
Set office hours. I have these listed in my email signature and on my Google website description. Work hours for me are from 9-5p on Mon-Fri, which means this is when people can reach me at my desk or schedule a phone call. I do not work on weekends unless I have shoot.
*It is easy to over-work from home because you are creating your own structure. It’s important to keep work-life balance so you don’t burn yourself out.
However tempting, I don’t recommend working from bed. Having a space for work, and only work, limits distractions and sets you up for optimal productivity. I’ve designed my office to be a super inspiring place for me – it’s clean, it’s bright with lots of natural light, plants hanging in the window, I’m surrounded by art and sweet notes from my clients and all of my supplies are within grabbing distance. I do not share this space with my husband.
On days when I feel like I need a change of scenery, I’ll go to a local coffee shop or cafe. I find that this mimics a typical work environment – background chatter, white noise, no home distractions (chores, pets, kids, etc.) that offers a refreshing change-up to my normal routine.
I do as much planning ahead as I can.
My husband and I meal prep on Sundays so I am not spending time cooking during the week.
I am smart about appointments. If I have a dentist appointment on a Monday morning, I run all my other errands (grocery store, post office, pet store, bank, etc.) directly after, so my out-of-the-house chores are finished for the week and I have a half day of productivity left.
I plan out daily exercise. For me, getting in an early morning walk quiets my mind and body and makes me more productive the rest of the day (…anyone heard of flow state?). It also keeps my dog content because his needs have already been met. If it’s a gym day, I will put on exercise clothes in the morning so around lunch time (when I’d normally be taking a break in a regular office setting) I go to the gym and eat a meal prep when I get back. This takes about an hour, and then I am back to work.
I cannot sit looking at a computer for 8-10 hours straight. My body hurts and my eyes get tired. If I break the day into chunks, I am much more productive and I actually enjoy sitting at my desk completing tasks.
Lunch is my longest break of the day, but I also take 5-10 minutes here and there.
A few tips – start laundry in the morning before you begin working, so that by the time lunch rolls around, you can spend a few minutes switching it over to the dryer. Take five minutes to go out and get the mail, fill up your water bottle, take a quick walk around the block, stretch or call your significant other.
Our cell phones are one of the our biggest distractions. Early on in my business, I was starting and stopping work and loosing track of what I was doing because I was responding to emails, calls and texts as soon as I received them. I learned to limit my phone use (and sometimes I turn it off altogether) –
As a small business owner, I do have to stay on top of my social accounts. To do this, I have two internet browsers open on my computer at all times. One is for my business-related apps where I do the majority of my work – Showit, WordPress, Google Analytics, CloudSpot, etc. The other is for social accounts that I use for work – Facebook, Email, Pinterest, etc. This makes it easy to hide whatever window I am not working in to keep distractions to a minimum.
The TV is never on while I am working. Looking up and down from my screen causes me to loose focus. If I need background noise, I will put on music or listen to a podcast.
I do chores during non-office hours, or in those small 5 minute breaks I take during the day. If I have a large home project that needs completing, I will often do it on the weekend. If it needs to get done during the week, I block it into my work schedule, which sometimes means spending a little longer at my desk in the evening if I am in a busy season.
I do not have experience working from home with kids (but I will soon!). I asked my cousin, who is a regular telecommuter, what she recommends when it comes to being a mom and working from home. Her response was – child care. If child care is not an option for you, naps and bedtime are opportune times to get the hard work done.
This style of working isn’t for everyone, but many find it beneficial. “Batch working” means working on one thing, and one thing only, for an extended period of time. For example, Mondays would be designated to blogging and you’d write as many posts as you can in a day so they are ready for publishing. Tuesdays for editing sessions, Wednesdays for shoots, Thursdays for designing contracts or updating your website. I do this, but not to that extreme – I will spend a morning blogging and then edit in the afternoon. Having multiple projects going at once works best for me.
If you are working from home with a spouse or family member, it is important to communicate your expectations about what working from home looks like to you and your business. You must set boundaries and be okay with saying no to social activities during working hours. Your time is just as valuable as your work. This will ensure everyone is on the same page and keep distractions to a minimum at times when you need to be at your desk.
Make yourself a work space. Get up and move throughout the day. Remember to drink water.
It takes a bit of adjusting, but you can do it!!
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