I’ve been meaning to write about this for some time to share my own experience of working from home, but there were always “more pressing” topics that would come up on my blog or podcast.
But with the coronavirus “lockdown”, most of us have now been asked to work from home and there’s no better time to share some of my best tips on how to stay productive while working from home.
The thing is, I’ve been on both sides of the spectrum: I worked in the corporate office environment with its strict rules and routine, and in 2016 I quit my job and started working from home since. But the transition from working in an office space to working from home… hasn’t always been easy!
So in this post, I’ll share some of my best tips and practices I picked up along the way to help you stay sane and productive while working from home!
I know, you’re like: whaaaat? Gigi, that’s the best thing about working from home!
I hear you and, trust me, I’ve been there! My very first “working from home” week, back in February 2016, I wore the same PJ’s Monday-Friday (I’m sorry, hubs). Trust me, not a very productive week!
Getting ready for the workday even when working from home has been shown to improve your productivity levels. Now, I’m not saying you need to wear a pantsuit while at home – gosh, no – that’s the first thing I ditched after working in corporate!
Choose something that you’re comfortable in and that makes you feel good about yourself too. Put on some light makeup, if you wish, some jewelry, if you fancy, and go kill it!
Myself? I like wearing some black leggings with a clean statement t-shirt, brushed hair, a touch of make-up and maybe a necklace. See, doesn’t have to be over the top but enough to make me comfortable to jump on a Zoom call or a quick IG live.
When you’re working from home, it’s easy to navigate throughout the day without a plan or structure. But it’s also a straight line to a day filled with distractions and procrastination.
Set a routine for yourself that you will follow each day. It doesn’t have to be complicated and it doesn’t have to look like one of those Guru routines – make it work for yourself.
This will give you the discipline to start the day right and set you in the mood to work. The more consistent you are with your routine – the more powerful it will become.
One of my friends, after breakfast, dresses up and goes for a 30 min walk around the block – she calls it her “commute to work”. She picks up a coffee at her local cafe, she gets the newspaper and reads it outside her apartment for a bit. Then, she heads home and walks straight into her home office (which is a corner in her living room). She says that this helps her get in work mode + get some fresh air first thing in the morning!
My morning routine usually looks like this: my husband and I wake up around 6am and head to the gym. We come back, shower and get ready, and have breakfast together. My husband usually heads to work around 8-8.30am (although right now he’s working from home too).
I don’t start working until 10.30am, so I will use this time to clean up the kitchen after breakfast, read, catch up on social media and browse through the different newsletters I received overnight (no client emails!). At around 10.15am, I’ll make myself a cup of coffee, go into the home office, turn on my ONE6CREATIVE neon sign and that means we’re open for business!
So what routine can you set up for yourself to bring more structure to your day?
This is a very important tip that I learned early on when I started working from home. At the beginning, I was working from our kitchen table but this definitely wasn’t the most productive place for me to work because the work-life divide wasn’t very clear.
The same goes for working in your bed – you shouldn’t mix the spaces in your home that are dedicated to rest with work.
So what if you don’t have a dedicated room for a home office? That’s ok! Set up a corner in your house that will be dedicated just for work. Below are some beautiful examples I found on Pinterest if you’re limited on workspace in your home:
Each person has different productivity periods and “moods” throughout the day. This may take some time to figure out and nail it down, but learning when you’re most productive for various daily tasks will help you give structure to your workday.
For example, I know that the first two hours of my workday is when my analytical brain is most active. This is when I can focus on stuff like numbers stats and analytics, so I use this time to put together any reports I need for my clients, analyse my website traffic and identify patterns.
I know that this kind of tasks would feel impossible to me after lunch because my creative side is more active in the second part of the day.
I also like getting all the social stuff out of the way before my lunch break. I’m an introverted entrepreneur and so all the calls, videos, live streaming, etc. take quite a lot of time and energy from me. Therefore, I like getting it out of the way as early on as possible, so I can re-energise during my lunch break and dive into creative work mode.
So ask yourself this: when are you most likely to do your best work? When do you prefer to jump on calls and video chats? When are you more likely to give in to distractions? And build your day around that.
One thing I do miss about working in an office is my coffee or “water cooler” breaks. When you feel stuck, uninspired or unmotivated, instead of picking up your phone and diving into the social media rabbit hole, stand up, stretch, go for a walk around the block, read a book chapter or call a loved one. I repeat – don’t pick up your phone and check Instagram.
This is really more of a reminder for me than for you 🙂
Same goes for your lunch break – really make time for it during the day. I know it’s not always possible, but it’s so important. Make yourself a hearty meal and try to disconnect from your screens during that time. If you have other people at home, this is a great time to just talk, connect and share ideas.
P.S. One of my best kitchen purchases since I started working from home is a slow cooker. I basically dump all the ingredients in the morning and let it do its thing until lunchtime! Search for “slow cooker recipes” online for inspiration.
One big downside of working from home is that it can get pretty lonely sometimes. So connecting with real people is incredibly important to help you on this journey and remain sane!
Look out for local Facebook groups or communities within your industries. With the coronavirus chaos, a lot of online communities are hosting virtual co-working sessions so people can connect with other entrepreneurs and exchange ideas.
Can’t find a community? Create your own!
Recently, I created a mastermind with one of my biz besties and it’s been awesome! We created a joint project on Asana (y’all know I love Asana) and use it to keep track of our monthly goals. We focus on one big goal every month and a series of smaller goals to get us closer to our “bigger vision goal”. We FaceTime each other every two weeks to check in on each other and have a bigger Zoom session once a month to dive into our goals and our progress.
You can do the same with your own biz bestie(s) – again, it doesn’t have to be complicated and you can find whatever works best for you!
As someone who manages about 5 clients at the same time, plus my own business, plus a series of other personal projects, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. But the secret is to (a) organise your day in advance, and (b) focus on one task at a time.
Every morning, before I start my workday, I log into Asana and check out what I need to focus on today. I always have 1-2 “must do” tasks (which means tasks that need to be done, no questions asked) and a couple of “you’ll be proud of yourself if you get it done” kinda tasks.
At the end of the day, I always take 15 minutes to go back into my Asana and plan the day(s) ahead and shuffle things around, if needed.
Recently, I’ve also been inspired by Abbey from Wayfarer Design Studio to commit to a “Creative Health Day” a week, which is a day where you focus on feeding your creativity and prioritize your own business. If you feel like you can never find the time to work on your business because of client work, then maybe it’s time to shuffle your schedule around and dedicate one whole day a week where you only focus on your business.
There are so many amazing apps out there to keep you focused and boost your productivity. Here are some of my favourite:
If you have trouble focusing on one thing at a time, you can transform it into a game where you create a reward in the end.
For example: “When I finish planning my content for the next 30 days, I’ll make myself an iced latte”. A friend of mine uses the timer on her washing machine to focus on some deep work and uses folding the laundry as a reward rather than a distraction. So instead of getting distracted by household chores, you can use it to your own advantage: load the washing machine, in the meantime focus on that big tasks you’ve been putting off and aim to finish it off by the time the laundry is done. I tried it myself and it works really well!
Just like starting the day with a routine is important, finishing off with a routine is even more important in my opinion.
One of the big struggles when working from home is that it’s sometimes really hard to disconnect from work. Make it a habit to finish off at the same time each day and set a consistent routine.
In my case, I still struggle with switching off in the evenings as I tend to focus on some personal projects after dinner, but I make an effort to disconnect and spend time with my husband. When I finish off work, I always spend 15 minutes to go through my Asana and see what I have planned the next day, and switch off my neon ONE6CREATIVE sign to indicate we’re closed for the day 🙂
I hope these tips are valuable and they will help you stay focused and productive while working from home.
Do you have some awesome tips of your own? Send me a DM on Instagram – @one6creative – to share your wisdom!