With more and more of us either choosing, or being forced, to work from home because of the dreaded (cue disaster movie music) Corona virus, it’s now more essential than ever that we figure out how to best make that work, both in terms of our mental wellbeing as well as how productive we actually are. As someone who already works from home, I have all the procrastination tricks up my sleeve and know exactly what works and what really doesn’t help when it comes to knuckling down and getting a tonne of work done. So I thought I’d share some of my work from home experience with you to help you get through the next few days/weeks without driving yourself bat shit crazy!
1. Ditch The Distractions
This is the hardest and biggest problem of all when it comes to working from home and is something I still fall prey of, despite my efforts. But if you want to get any work done at all then you are going to have to be strict with yourself on this one.
Distractions come in all different shapes and sizes, so let’s tackle them one by one:
- Social Media – The biggie. Yep we just can’t help feeding our FOMO when it comes to social media can we? Worried that we’re going to miss out on something, we keep tabs open in the background to check our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds and it is distracting AF. Especially with all this Corona virus malarkey going on, I don’t know about you lot but my phone is pinging notifications at me every 5 blinking seconds. And the problem is, when you work from home there is no one stood watching over you, no one to tell you to crack on with your work. You are 100% reliant on your own self discipline, which for most people isn’t that great. So the only solution that I find works is to allow yourself set times to indulge in some social media action and then shut it all down. All tabs closed, notifications turned off on your phone, and refocus back on the job in hand. The news isn’t gonna go anywhere, things certainly aren’t gong to change in the space of a couple hours, certainly not enough for it to make a difference to you. And any messages or status updates etc. are still going to be there when you check at your chosen social media time. And aside from being more productive, it also helps calm your mind and ease anxiety levels by steering clear of social media. And heaven knows we could all do with some of that right now, right?
- Emails – In a similar vein to social media, you’re email inbox can be as equally distracting. Unless you’re waiting for something mega important to arrive, make sure to only check your emails twice a day; once in the morning and once before you switch off for the day. Most things can wait, plus ask yourself whether you want people knowing you respond to emails straight away, as they will then come to expect it and when on the one occasion you don’t immediately reply, it could cause all kinds of tension.
- TV and Radio – Given the current situation it is so tempting to switch on the TV or radio to listen to any news updates, but this is a seriously rocky road to head down and one I would strongly urge against. Our anxiety levels are high enough as it is, without the added stress of watching repeated news stories and what is basically general speculation. By all means have some music playing in the background, but do yourself a favour and hide the TV remote away!
- Kids – With news of UK schools closing for most children come Monday and with many kids already off, distraction just hit a whole different level. Because not only are they going to distract you by simply being there – extra noise, questions… so many questions!, arguments, I could go on, but we are also expected to home educate them as well. Look, I’ve got zero experience of juggling shit like this, but what I personally intend on doing is sitting down and working out a timetable for us all in the hope to not only cling onto as much sense of normality as we possibly can considering the circumstances, but to also ensure each of us continue to get some degree of work done. It’s going to be a bit trial and error and we’re bound to have good days and bad days, but we will make it work if we keep things as calm as possible and as structured as possible. Well, that’s the plan anyway!
- The Fridge/Biscuit Tin – Many of us have got more food in our cupboards than we would usually, in anticipation of having to go into self-isolation. This doesn’t mean you can start eating more. Biscuit tins are tempting at the best of times, but when you work from home it’s like those sugar ridden baked discs of yumminess literally call out to you. You… just… have… to… ignore… them! Honestly, there is no other solution to this I’m afraid. It is plain and simple self-discipline. Plus if I were you I’d start rationing. Last week it was bog roll, next week it could be chocolate hobnobs and I for one cannot even begin to contemplate life without hobnobs!
- Household Chores – It’s amazing how attractive the ironing suddenly becomes when faced with a bit of work you really don’t want to do. On the one hand, maybe it’s a good thing, it certainly helps get the jobs done. But it’s not going to help you in the work productivity stakes, so step away from the washing and concentrate. If you’re going to multi-task you’ve got to do it wisely. So for example, I’ll put the washing machine on first thing, to get that done while I’m working. A cycle is roughly 1 hour 45 mins, that’s a good chunk of work time that I’m also getting a household job done without one affecting the other. It’s a good idea to allocate certain times in the week when jobs need doing, so that you are more likely to stick to it. And with the kids off school make sure you get them involved too… even if you do have to bribe them a bit with money/sweets/screen time. Do what works for you and what doesn’t equate to another procrastination tool.
2. Set Achievable Daily Goals
It’s all too easy to get carried away and think that you can be super productive when you work from home. And while sure yes some days you’ll get bloody loads done, there will be others when you won’t be quite as on form and it may seem as if you’ve got literally nothing done at all. We all get days like that, whether we work at home or work in an office. It’s totally normal so don’t sweat the small stuff.
Having a plan for the day is always beneficial to help keep you on track and to act as a kind of visual reward system. Nothing beats the rush you get from seeing tasks get ticked off a to do list… oh, just me then? 😉 However, be mindful of what is realistically possible to achieve in any given day. A to do list is all well and good, but when it’s completely jam packed full of tasks it can become daunting and often results in lots of unfocused dithering, which then of course completely defeats the purpose. Ideally you want to under-list, by which I mean it’s far better to underestimate how much you think you’ll get done than to go all out and whack down everything you’ve ever needed doing.
A good rule of thumb is to set yourself three main tasks when you work from home. This makes it 100% achievable and will therefore leave you feeling accomplished and positive about your days work rather than demoralised and down beat because you haven’t completed the twenty billion small tasks you may have originally listed. Once you get these three tasks ticked off then by all means get some more done – you’re totally winning at life – but keep your focus on these three things (one at a time please) and you’ll be smashing this working from home business in no time!
3. Keep Hydrated
When you work in an office with other people you can guarantee there will be plenty of coffee breaks. Whether it’s screen breaks at the water cooler, someone doing a Starbucks run, or drinks put on during meetings, you’re probably doing alright in the hydration stakes. But when it’s you on your tod at home, it is so easy to forget this most basic of human needs.
I know you might well be thinking you’ve got far more important things to be thinking about than how much water you’ve drunk, but not drinking enough can affect your health and your productivity. Healthwise, especially with this bloody virus doing the rounds, drinking plenty of water is more important than ever, as it helps to flush out any nasties and just generally makes you feel better. If you don’t drink enough, you are far more likely to experience headaches, fatigue, lower levels of concentration, and I’m guessing because you haven’t got up to get a drink you’re probably spending more time in front of your screen which will result in eye strain as well.
I am not particularly great at keeping myself hydrated when I work from home, but I try to factor in drink breaks at certain times in the day. So for example I always have a glass of water when I get in from the morning dog walk, then follow this up with a cup of coffee, something like squash or water with my lunch, maybe another coffee after lunch and so on. But even that isn’t really enough, and when you’re up to your eyeballs with work it is one of the first things to be forgotten about. If this sounds like you, I’d recommend filling a metal water bottle up with water (metal is good as it keeps the water colder for longer) and aiming to get through say at least two of these over the course of the day in addition to any tea or coffee you may have.
4. Get Plenty Of Fresh Air
No matter whether you’re already self-isolating or not, it is essential to ensure you get some good old lungfuls of fresh air every day. If you’re fortunate enough to have a garden and it’s not raining, get outside whenever you have the opportunity for a walk around, to breathe, to reset, to exercise, to contemplate, to play with the kids, hey if it’s warm enough take your laptop out there even, just make sure you get out there! If you don’t have a garden, then do the next best thing and open the windows, lean out (safely!) and take some lovely deep breaths.
Being outdoors has been proven to lift our mood, raise our endorphin levels and make us feel like everything’s fine and that definitely helps our productivity levels. and on top of that is has been shown to improve memory, help us sleep better, reduce anxiety, up our vitamin D levels (when the sun’s out anyways!), increase focus, and well just generally make you feel blinking marvelous – and heaven knows we need all the help we can get with that at the moment!
5. Take Regular Movement Breaks
All of us could do with moving a bit more and it is essential you come up with some ways to incorporates movement into your new working from home life that also doesn’t make you fall into the procrastination trap. I try to fit in some form of exercise first thing, as this helps motivate me for the day and kinda gets the hard physical stuff out of the way – that’s just what works best for me, you’ll soon figure out when your best time to workout is. The thing is it’s not just about that main exercise break, there needs to be plenty of mini movement breaks as well.
Eye strain, stiffness, RSI, bad posture, all of these things happen because of too few screen breaks and lack of movement. So factor in some breaks, that ideally incorporates getting outside (see above), as this will help prevent these unnecessary health issues as well as hopefully improving your productivity levels when you do sit back down again.
As of next week I’m making it my mission to get out for a run whenever I get the chance (hey for all we know we could be in lockdown in a few days/weeks, we need to make the most of our freedom!), take the dog for a walk twice a day, fit in some simple strength work like sit ups, press ups, squats,etc., and do some yoga with the kids first thing to encourage them to start the day well before we all crack on with our work. Movement (and perhaps a shitload of wine and chocolate) is quite possibly the only thing that’s going to keep you sane over the next few weeks/months, so make sure you structure this into your daily routine.
Listen, we all know this isn’t going to be easy, but there are ways to make it work and hopefully this will have helped. Working from home is the dream right? Doesn’t quite seem that way when it’s forced upon you, however I know.
Good luck everyone, you’ve totally got this!
Have you got any tips you’d like to share about working from home?
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Becky Stafferton is a full time blogger over on her website The Art of Healthy Living, mum of 2 and certified Queen of the hashtags. She continually strives to promote a realistic, sustainable and positive image of how to lead a healthy life. When she’s not writing she can be found swigging Prosecco from the bottle, running through muddy puddles, making lists of lists, having a good old moan, scoffing flapjacks and squatting like her life depends on it.