These days have more people working from home than ever. Not only is it a whole new world to many–we are used to having a schedule which involves getting ready, having a commute, stopping for a coffee, and a time when we are supposed to report to work and we know exactly what’s expected of us. There is the added stress this pandemic brings.
We are trying to keep our kids safe and mentally healthy. We are cooped up together with very few outlets. We’ve all thought of the worst case scenario ten times over and are worried about the effects this will have on the economy.
Working from home is not easy
It’s safe to say we aren’t simply working from home. Our lives have come to a sudden stop, we are stressed to the max, and we are trying to concentrate and work effectively. And it’s not easy for anyone.
I’ve been working from home for four years now. At first, I struggled to stay focused and get my work done–it’s so easy to see all that needs to be done around the house and get sidetracked. Not to mention that family and friends don’t take your work as seriously when your home is your office. They think you can chat it up at a moment’s notice. They think they can stop by, or you are always free to go to lunch. It’s not easy to stay disciplined when you don’t have a boss breathing down your neck and you can put something off until later.
Having my three kids at home full time now has brought up a whole different set of challenges. After a few weeks we were able to iron those out and get into a groove. Along the way I’ve found a few things that work for me and other working moms I wanted to share.
Here are working from home tips that helped me
1. Decide when your most productive window of time is.
Some people are better thinkers after lunch, some like to rise and shine and get to work. Others like to work hard for an hour here, then a few hours there.
I’m definitely someone who does my best work from about 9am-2pm. I know this about myself and I stick to it. Every time I tell myself I can get to something later, I realize that later I’m not as sharp. So during my most productive hours I really buckle down, turn off all distractions, tell my kids I’ll be working so they know I’m not as available.
2. Start with more taxing jobs first.
Getting the tough things out of the way first gives me a sense of accomplishment and makes me feel lighter. When I save harder tasks for later, they stay on my mind and hinders my other work.
I consistently save the busy work (like answering or sending out emails) for after I complete the things that require more concentration so I start my day knowing I’m not going to get distracted because I’ve already dedicated time to do things instead of letting myself get interrupted every half hour.
3. Establish a routine.
Maybe you are better when you shower in the morning. Perhaps you like to get in a little exercise before you sit down to work. It could be that setting your alarm isn’t necessary but it helps you get up and have a sense of order over your day.
I’m at my best when I get up and exercise before work. This gives my energy a boost, and guess what? I’m not taking energy away from my work because I’m trying to talk myself into working out later when I’m done and already exhausted.
I have a friend who always gets up now and makes a special coffee for herself in lieu of hitting the Starbucks drive-thru like she used to on the way to work. She said it’s like Pavlov’s dog–she’s immediately in work mode after the first sip.
4. Reward yourself.
If you are able to work really hard and get your work done so you can take Fridays off and have a long weekend, that’s a huge motivator. It’s also fun to schedule something nice like a Zoom call, or a Netflix binge when you are finished work so you have something to look forward to.
Here is what some work-from-home moms say
I asked some working-from-home-moms what they did to keep themselves productive during the work day and this is what they said:
Kate G. said she’s the most productive when she works in spurts “ Don’t try to push through. Stand up, take a break, drink some water, weed your garden a little.”
Change is always good and Anne L. said it’s all about the view. “I changed the location of my computer today for a fresh outlook.”
Heidi S. said a co-worker introduced her to the pomodoro technique which is when you use a time to separate your work with breaks. Typically 25 minutes of work, with a short respite in between of your choice. “It can be especially helpful when you have a long list of tasks to tick off for the day,” she says.
Tammy J. reports it’s helpful to act as if she’s leaving the house, “Get up, get dressed and have a morning routine. Make a list of goals for the next day or week. If possible, try to have a work space that isn’t also your kitchen table, or couch.”
Lynn P. has a few things she does each day to ensure productivity such as putting a note on the door when you’re on a call so your family won’t disturb you. And don’t forget to move. “Include short bursts of movement during your short breaks. Check the mail. Do chair stretches, etc.” she says.
There are no hard and fast rules when it comes from working from home. It’s best to experiment and find what works for you and keeps you motivated. Just because some like to get up and bang out their work early, doesn’t mean that is going to work for you and there’s no reason to try to fit into someone else’s mold.
It’s about feeling good about the routine you’ve set for yourself and changing it up every now and again so you don’t get bored or burned out.
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