In the past few months, the way we work has changed drastically. We used to have a familiar daily routine, and specific structure to our days. We left our house, did our work, and then came home to our families. Now, many of us have found those routines turned upside-down with the sudden shift to working from home. The lines between work and non-work are blurring in new and unusual ways, and we’re having trouble shifting gears into the new normal.
Below are 10 helpful tips on how you can stay productive and sane while working from home.
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Set multiple alarms
Even if you don’t have to be up as early to leave for the office, you should still set an alarm to commit to wake up at the same time. This will prevent you from sleeping in too late and will keep you on a healthy sleep schedule.
Human beings are creatures of habit. We are incredibly dependent on routines, schedules, and structure. Alarms aren’t just for waking up. Consider adding an alarm for lunch, wrap-up, and other short breaks, since working from home tends to blur these lines.
Maintain physical & social boundaries
Try to maintain home vs. work boundaries when working remotely. Every morning, you should try your best to “leave your work at the door,” even if you are no longer going out the door.
Put on your work clothes every morning—casual Friday is fine, of course, but get yourself ready, nonetheless.
Deciding you'll sit down at your desk and start work at a certain time is one thing. Creating a routine that guides you into the chair is another. What in your morning routine indicates you're about to start work? It might be making a cup of coffee. A routine can be more just as powerful as a clock at helping you get started each day.
Maintain regular hours as much as possible
Set a schedule and stick to it! A strict routine and set specific work hours can help you to be more focused, more alert, and more productive. Also, clear guidelines for when to work and when to call it a day can help many remote workers maintain work-life balance.
Update your to-do list every morning
Unless your department is abnormally quiet at the moment, this is not the time for ‘busy work’. You should be devoting your energy to top priority issues and focusing your most important tasks.
Start your day by reviewing your priorities for the day and writing down all the tasks that you need to accomplish. When you make your task list, stick to it to the best of your ability.
Set goals and time limits for each task. After you complete each task, cross it off your list! This simple technique is both effective and fulfilling.
Keep a dedicated office space
If you have a separate room in your house that you can dedicate as your office space, do it! But, there’s a chance that you don’t have enough room in your home for this.
Instead, dedicate a desk and some peripherals only for work use. For example, when your laptop is hooked up to the monitor and external keyboard, it's work time. When it's on your lap, that's personal time. You may want to go as far as partitioning your hard drive and creating a separate user account for work.
Don’t assume that everyone else on your team knows what you’re working on. Post in Slack. Send emails. cc liberally. Ask questions. When you’re on a conference call to check in – participate in your teams’ brainstorm, or just talk about the weather.
Communicate more than you think you should. It's all good! And it's all IMPORTANT.
…And be concise with your communication
Learn how to write clearly and effectively. Why? Because a lot of your communication will happen via email.
The most important thing is to be concise so that you’re not making your coworkers wade through a sea of words to get to your point. The more concise you are, the better you’ll be able to hold each other’s attention, and the less time you’ll waste with fluff. The clearer you are, the less room you’ll leave for misinterpretations, assumptions, and other disastrous missteps.
Back when work was normal, did you sit at your desk from 8 to noon, take 45 minutes for lunch, and then continue working until 5 without any breaks? Great. Neither did we.
Know your company's policy on break times and take them. A lunch hour and two 15-minute breaks seem to be the standard for full-time US employees. And don’t short-change yourself on these breaks! They’ll help boost your productivity in the long run and you’ll avoid burnout. (If you followed our first tip, you will have already set an alarm for when it’s time for you to take your break.)
On your break, leave your workspace
To the extent that it's allowed and safe where you are during the COVID-19 outbreak, get out of the house – provided you can maintain social distancing of course. Your body needs to move. Plus, the fresh air and natural light will do you good. You don't have to go to crowded public spaces to get away from your solo workspace (and you probably shouldn't right now, either). Take a walk. Weed the garden. You get the picture.
End your day with a routine
Just as you should start your day with a routine, create a habit that signals the close of the workday. It might be a sign off on a business messaging app, an evening dog walk, or a 6 p.m. yoga class. Something as simple as shutting down your computer and turning on a favorite podcast will do. Whatever you choose, do it consistently to mark the end of working hours.