One of the biggest surprises once I freed (er…released) myself from the traditional 9–5 environment was how much you absolutely lose your damn mind when you start working from home.
Your work days become a battle field where you have to exhibit superhuman forces of focus, battling temptation and maintaining momentum to keep firing off emails, scheduling calls, getting work done. You start talking to yourself, you feel isolated, you can’t focus and suddenly 3pm rolls around and you’re learning how to knit macrame on YouTube, which is NOT what you’re getting paid to do. You keep meaning to make yourself something real to eat but you settle for just shoving oats and almond butter in your mouth. You’re in pajamas until 4pm, hair matted
You can feel your productivity (and your sanity!) taking a hit — here’s been my tips for how I’ve been able to improve my quality of work and maintain my happiness:
- Set up an office
The environment of your bedroom is incompatible with the energy of work. You’ll find that your work is less productive and your sleep is less restful if you work anywhere near your bed. So, as tempting and comfy staying in bed and grabbing your laptop is, force yourself to get up each morning, put on some actual clothes and go to a part of your living space that you dedicate to working. Even if you don’t have a home office, just setting up a desk and chair that you declare as your working space will help you mentally transition into a “working” mindset. Keep your desk as clutter-free and tidy as possible to focus your mental energies. Put on clothes as though you were actually going into an office. It’ll help you transition your energetic from your resting self and into your working self.
2. Get intentional with your day
Having freedom is a gift as much as it’s a curse. Working from home demands extreme willpower, focus and discipline — so set a schedule for yourself and stick to it. Set an alarm even if you don’t need to. Schedule out your day with intention: i.e. 8–8:30am — go through emails. 8:30–10:30am work on social media calendar. Having fixed blocks of time will help you focus on the task at time and scheduling it out ahead of time will help you stay on task and focus on the big picture projects rather than allowing your mind to be ricocheted like a ping-pong ball.
BUT also give yourself impression to redirect course if an item just really isn’t happening. Sometimes the words just isn’t flowing and there are few things more painful than trying to force creativity. Start your day with intention and planning, but give yourself to permission to stick to routine tasks if you find that your big picture tasks just aren’t flowing.
3. Work outside
Working from home can feel very isolating, confining and lonely. If you have a patio or backyard, change things up every once and a while by setting up outside. Feeling the breeze and rays of sunshine on your skin can help you feel less confined and more free, joyful and light.
4. Take a lunch break and make a lunch
Working from home blends your work life with your home life and it can all get a bit murky. Your work time can be interspersed with home-like activities and your home environment is invaded by this feeling of work. In this weird space, you may feel disconnected from the ideas of cooking yourself an actual lunch. I, when I first started working from home, would just grab a handful of pistachios or oats and call it lunch, then wonder why I would crash and feel exhausted by 2pm.
Force yourself to break away from your screen for a half hour in the middle of your day cook yourself real food for lunch. Interacting with food helps us ground down in the real world — cook up some veggies, eat it slowly and mindfully, and you’ll return to your work feeling MUCH more energized than shoving bitefuls of a Lean Cuisine in your mouth while browsing Twitter.
5. Middle of the Day Meditation
This has been crucial for me — middle of the day, no matter how many emails I have or how stressed out I am, I meditate at 12pm. Getting a break from your mental stream of consciousness can help snap you into the real world and out of the confines of your mind. Meditation is an excellent way to get out of the trivia of day to day and gain some perspective.
6. Jazz Vibes playlist on Spotify
Or any other playlist you desire I suppose, but in my experience this has been the funkiest and most helpful. Music is a mood lifter, and music without words has shown to be the least distracting, according to research from Cambridge Sound Management.
Listening to podcasts or playing a Netflix show in the background may be tempting, but taking in so much stimulation could result in mental overload and dilute the project you’re working on.
7. Get Physical!
Most of us work in a very mental, screen-heavy environment, so it’s important when you create your own environment to remind yourself you have a body. The endorphins can help you with a mood booster if you feel isolated and your eyes will thank you from the break from the bright light.
I take ten minutes every two hours to do a few yoga poses, take some deep breaths or pace a couple times in my apartment. Perhaps you go for a walk or run during your lunch break. The physical activity can help stimulate some inspiration, so you’re able to tackle a work problem in an entirely different way. Answers to problems rarely come from where the questions emerged from so getting AWAY from your mind & screen and into your body could be just the distance you need.
8. Choose one day a week to work from a coffee shop
There’s so many cute coffee shops to work from and being a part of coffee shop culture can help you feel more connected and less detached from the outside world. With their ambiance and wifi, you’ll be less apt to get distracted by your home or surf unnecessary websites (what if someone saw you just browsing Facebook? Embarrassing!)
One day a week has been my golden number — only spending about $10 per week (and getting to explore all of the cute coffee shops in my city!), which isn’t much when you consider how much I’m saving in gas and food working from home.
9. Clean your house every Sunday
Being infiltrated in your environment puts all of its concerns right within your face — that laundry is undone, the floors that are unswept, the dishes in your sink. Dedicate Sundays to deep cleaning your home so nothing distracts you from your job.
10. Work not from home
Hey, looks like you have the freedom to work wherever you have a wifi connection! Have you considered traveling? You don’t know how long you will have this particular job and this particular freedom, and many places around the world are actually more affordable to live in. Why not take full advantage and try on being a digital nomad?
Here’s to taking advantage of the freedom, while still keeping your productivity and your sanity!