The corona crisis is spreading across the world and has resulted in many people having to work from home for their own and others safety. For some people working from home is a dream and they are extremely productive. For others, its hell on earth especially with annoying spouses/neighbours/roommates or screaming children running around the house during this crisis. For those who have it a little difficult working from home, this article should help to get you started. This article will answer questions such as: How to start in the morning?How to make it so your day does not go to waste? How to avoid distractions? Stay inside and stay focused!
The most important thing when working from home is to set goals. This way you can work towards the goal and you can actually see and show your progress at the end of the day. You have a choice as to when you would like to write down your goals. Some people prefer to write down their goals the day before so they can immediately start the next day. Other people, including myself, prefer to start the day by writing down what they are going to do today and the goals they want to achieve today. The biggest pitfall when writing down goals when working from home is trying to overachieve. Especially during the first days of working from home, you are not used to it and can be a little less productive than usual. Don’t beat yourself up about it, it happens to most people. Start with smaller goals such as today you want to at least write one page of that report you need to write. Another good trick is to split the goals over the day, so for example set a goal to help at least 2 clients by lunch. When you reach lunch, see how far you got and use it to estimate the new goal for the afternoon. Try to push yourself a bit more every time.
How to get started
Maybe you don’t really have any issues when you are finally working but actually starting is a whole different issue… The instagram pictures about happy people with healthy breakfast while they are working on their laptops look great but are a bit of a romanticised idea of working from home. Most people just need a cup of coffee to wake up and then need to find the energy and motivation to get started. The best way to do that is by keeping your usual routine. If you normally wake up at 7 and start at work at 9 and stop at 5, keep that routine. Especially the first couple of days, shower, dress up in your working outfit, put up make up/shave and have the same breakfast you usually have and perhaps even consider cycling around a bit if that’s how you get to work in the morning. Make sure you sit behind your computer at your usual time! It helps you get your mindset to a working mindset instead of the holiday mindset and you still get your daily doses of exercise! You can even do the same routine when ending your day, if you change clothes do that too when you work from home. That way your body know the work day ended and it can relax.
What you want to avoid doing in the morning is any form of entertainment. This means no watching Netflix or reading the newspaper or social media on your phone during breakfast. Most people have a routine of waking up and scrolling through their phone, ideally you would want to stop that too but if it is part of your normal routine it probably won’t make much of a difference if you don’t. Other forms of entertainment during the morning will mean you are spending your focus hours on that instead of on work. It makes you lazy, distracted and bored with work pretty fast because your mind knows there is something more interesting it can do. I noticed this when I watched youtube video’s during breakfast, once I started I had difficulty to stop and starting with my work. On days I didn’t do that, it was much easier to start working after I was done with breakfast.
Still struggling to get started? Start with tiny steps, this is called the “eating the elephant” method. How do you eat an elephant? One piece at a time! You can’t eat an elephant in one piece, so you just need to eat very small pieces a lot to eat the whole elephant. The same applies to work, seeing all you have to do might be haunting but very small steps should look ok to you. Break down the things you need to do in teeny tiny steps that you are ok with doing. So just say to yourself that you are going to write down one sentence for that report or read one e-mail. It also helps to get started if you know you have to do something, like making it fun. If you need to read something, add something to do to the reading. So if you need to read e-mails or client requests write down in one sentence on a piece of paper what the e-mail or client request is about. If you need to read documents, get out an (online)marker and start highlighting the most important parts of the documents. Another fun thing to do might be to spot the spelling or grammar mistakes or take stamps with smileys and make stamp the document full of happy smiley’s for the things you like and unhappy smiley’s for the things you do not like.
It can also help to explore other methods of working. Common productivity techniques are the Pomodoro technique (25 minutes work, 5 minutes of rest) to or “Eat that frog!”.
Sleep enough. There is no point in trying to start working if you had 4 hours of sleep. It is going to break you up at some point during the day. Even if you were fine the first day it will definitely break you up after a couple of days and will make it nearly impossible to start working in the morning. Besides that, it makes your immune system suffer which is so very crucial to have during this coronavirus outbreak. You also do not have to travel to and from work anymore so that means you most likely have extra time you can spend on the things you like AFTER work is done. So don’t worry about sleeping a bit more. Keep your normal sleeping hours or even try to sleep a bit more if you normally don’t make the amount of hours of sleep you actually need. The average amount of sleep for most people is between 7-9 hours and women generally need around 20-30 minutes more sleep than men. Also realise that it takes 30 minutes to fall asleep, so if you wake up at 7 and need 8 hours of sleep be in bed by 22:30! Everyone needs different amounts of sleep, try to see if you naturally wake up a bit before you alarm goes off. That is a good indication that you have a good sleep ritme and you sleep enough. It is also good to know that the amount of sleep can change based on what you do during the day. For example, I need around 9 hours of sleep during a normal workweek or when I exercised a lot but I only need around 8 during the holiday when I am very relaxed.
I hope you work from home, alone, in an oases of silence and peace without distractions. However, it is much more likely that you are in a room with someone else (spouse/roommate) with noisy neighbours and social media that keeps peeping and flashing messages and notifications. Perhaps you even have a child or more running around the house. How to deal with all of those distractions? There are two things that might help with that. First, communicate focus moments. You get nothing done if you are distracted all the time so create time-slots during the day of absolute silence. They don’t need to be big, but have them a few times a day. Having a general meeting with your team or when going through your mailbox is not really time you need absolute focus. Having an important sales meeting with a client, you need to finish an important report or you are talking to your boss are all situations that might require a bit more attention. Communicate your focus hours (or half hours, or 15 minutes) with all the people in the room/house. So make sure you tell your children and give them something (it can be fun if need be!) that will definitely keep them occupied for the amount of time necessary or ask your spouse to take care of the children during that time. Or ask your roommate not to disturb you and take care of any nuisances during that time. Turn off or mute your phone and if you have the opportunity, go sit in another room with the door closed. The bathroom and toilet may look like weird working spaces but they are a good option if you can think of nothing else! The rest of the day you will have to accept that distractions are present. You can limit the distractions by noise-cancellation headphones and by turning your phone off or too mute but that’s about all you can do.
I hope the tips above help you stay focused during these trying times. Let me know in the comments if you have any other tips! Stay happy, stay healthy and wash your hands at least every 2 hours!