When people think about working from home, they often picture themselves in pyjamas all day, on the couch, watching TV and eating one bowl of Cheerios after the next, doing work here and there, being isolated. I have been working from home for a few years now and always find new aspects of it that I truly love, and new ideas of how to improve the experience on the days that are not that easy.
I set the alarm and ditch my pyjamas after 10am (usually).
My power hours are in the morning, which is why I established a routine of getting up fairly early every day regardless of when my first (virtual) meeting is scheduled. I also prefer to switch my pyjamas for “real clothes” after 10am. I can take myself more seriously that way and feel like I am actually working. My confidence level rises. What’s better than starting the day feeling good about yourself?
I embrace my “morning commute”, doing things I enjoy.
Let’s face it: my morning commute consists of a few steps from the dining table to the desk, coffee still in hand. I absolutely dislike taking public transit or getting stuck in traffic during rush hour. I embrace the time (and nerves) I am saving by working from home, doing the things I would do during my commute (listening to the news, reading the paper, answering emails, calling friends) from the comforts of my couch. A much better alternative in my opinion!
I design my workspace the way I want and need it.
One of the most exciting things about working from home for me is that I don’t have to wait for a promotion in order to get a workspace I like. I am free to pick whatever furniture I want and choose the supplies I need in order to succeed. I scored a seat by the window on my first day of work!
I am honest with myself.
Working out in the morning what kind of day it is going to be is key in order to set my expectations. Because I am on such a flexible schedule (depending on the deadlines I am facing), I believe it is okay to say “I am not going to get much done today” and accept it. Instead, I then do other (important) things rather than “kind of” work, but in the end having spent all day at the computer but not produce anything. And let’s face it: we all need the occasional “research”, “paperwork”, or “office optimization” day.
I try to stick to schedules, not (only) to-do-lists.
Although I absolutely love my to-do-lists, I try to stick to schedules instead. To-do-lists can be pretty overwhelming with an increase in different projects or project size. Assigning a specific time slot helps me stay sane and gives me the feeling of being in control. It also helps me find an end to tasks and ultimately, the day.
I try to separate work from meals.
This one is very important, but I am still working on making this a habit. It is very tempting to eat in front of the computer. But for health, sanity, as well as productivity reasons, we all know that we should clearly separate the two. My goal: set a lunch hour (okay, let’s be honest…more like 30-45 minutes…) and spend it eating without distraction, going for a walk after, and consciously enjoying that time.
When the workday is over, the working has to stop.
I personally tend to leave my (home) office at six pm. I try to consciously shut down the computer and close the door to get that feeling of completion. Of course, sometimes I have to work overtime, but my amazingly flexible holiday schedule (Yay for working on the beach or at the cottage) totally makes up for it!
I allow (some) distractions.
Yes, I get distracted. Yes, I sometimes wish I didn’t. But, I try not to stress about it. I find emptying the dishwasher or folding the laundry very therapeutic. Luckily, I don’t have an attitude of “I need to clean the whole house spotless before I can sit down at my desk”, but I use smaller jobs around the house as a break from the screen. It is my alternative to “grabbing coffee around the corner” or “going for a smoke”. I guess, technically, you could say my dishes are my colleagues. I gave them names, too (…I am joking…of course…).
I get out.
I attend conferences, meet-ups, etc. on a regular basis. I also take breaks during the day to grab a coffee or lunch, or just go for a stroll with friends. This fights the feeling isolation, and very importantly: helps me to stretch my eyes. Personally, I find a little fresh air and a look into the distance very motivating.
I own my day and week.
Imagine never having to do the shopping when everyone else is. Imagine strolling through the mall or supermarket without stopping every other minute because the person in front of you decided to browse the selection of different kinds of tuna. I absolutely LOVE having the freedom to do my shopping (and run other errands) during the week, during the day. On the occasional weekend shopping trip, I am always reminded of how lucky I am.