This post was originally scheduled to go live later this month however, with the current state of affairs I figured it might be more helpful this week than ever.
Over the next few weeks, your new normal might look a little different as you’re working from home. Luckily, I’ve had almost two years to refine the process and figure out what maximizes productivity. Example: Do not treat this like a vacation and yes, you should always brush your teeth.
Set a Morning Routine
This has proven to be the most difficult and most important discipline in working from home. “I’ll get up when I get up – I can work all night!” and “I’ll just catch up on one more Housewives episode” are lies and they’re not going to get you where you need to be, work output wise and mentally.
Every morning, I wake up at 6:30 and workout for an hour. During that time, I don’t check my emails – this is strictly time to get up and start moving. When I get home, I shower, make breakfast and during this time is when I check my emails. I get in a little Wendell time and then get to work. Based on things that may have come up overnight, I reorganize my day and get started. By 9am, I’ve already completed some huge tasks and that propels me forward through getting things done throughout the rest of the day.
Do. not. hit. snooze. Honestly, this is the #1 mistake I’ve made because it sets the tone for the rest of the day. It’s the first time you’re able to procrastinate in any given day and it self-consciously validates the habit. “I’ll just sleep for 5 more minutes” turns into “I’ll just sleep for 30 more minutes” and then you’ve missed your workout or had to shorten your morning routine and your entire day is thrown off. I didn’t used to think this was a big deal when I worked at State and when I look back now I see how much more effective I could have been by sticking to a morning routine.
It doesn’t matter what your morning routine looks like – it just matters that you have one.
Get Up and Get Dressed
I repeat: Do. not. hit. snooze. Get up and get dressed. If it’s easier for you to get to the gym in the morning when you wear your workout clothes to sleep, do it. I do and it helps immensely.
I’ve also learned that sweatpants are not a daytime luxury. When I would come home from my office job, I would immediately change into sweatpants, even if the sun was still shining. Not anymore, Satan. Now, if my outfit choice of the day involves leggings, they will be worn until relaxing time at night. But no work is to be done in sweatpants or in bed, for that matter.
It’s a mental thing and I promise it helps. Get up and get dressed.
Set a Schedule
My favorite piece of this puzzle: scheduling. Except for over a year it wasn’t working for me and I couldn’t figure out why. I was spending so much time scheduling in efforts to streamline and organize my business and my life but I felt more overwhelmed than ever – writing things out each day and then rewriting what I didn’t get done that day over into the next. Truth be told, it felt very chaotic which made me not want to deal with it.
So I switched to an electronic calendar (yes, me, OG queen of the paper calendar) and it changed my life. Yes, it actually changed my life. And let me tell you why: An iCal (or any other electronic calendar) gives you 24 hours in one day. It allows only so many minutes to be taken up by projects and appointments and meetings and calls. It turns into a game of Tetris – you have to figure out how to get it all in within that 24 hour period and if you can’t, well then it’s onto the next day. I found it helped me become more realistic about expecting what I could get done in a day and how long it actually takes to get things done. It’s also pushed me to knock meetings down to 30 minutes or less since that time could be spent doing so many other productive things.
I’m a very visual person so I thought writing out tasks and deadlines was most effective for me. Turns out when I wrote things out in my calendar there was no limit. I could slam everything into Wednesday and take Thursday to rewatch Season 7 of Friends. Spoiler: That’s not how this works.
Additionally, I try to set my schedule to best reflect “normal” office hours but it never works out that way. Typically, I’m working by 8am if not before and working well past 5pm. Recently, I have adopted a new nighttime routine (that I’ll get into in a minute) where I shut things down and read for an hour before bed. Highly recommend.
You might not be looking forward to those edits you know you have to get done today so why not knock them out first. This was another thing I really had to train myself to do but when the biggest or most obnoxious thing is completed by 9am, I promise you, you will feel like the queen that you are.
Set Times for Checking Email
I actually just adopted this practice this year and it’s a game changer. All too often, I lose hours of my day getting sucked into emails. Whether it’s client related or responding to PR or campaign emails, these things take time – so I set aside one hour in the morning and one hour at night to handle them. And you know what? It’s more than enough time. Truly. Of course, things come up throughout the day but it’s important to remember that you are only one person and can only take in so much at any given time. Plus, you’ve also got to do your actual job. Give it a try – set those boundaries and see how it works for a week.
Set a Nighttime Routine
Hands down, my favorite habit. I have been craving a nighttime routine for years and I finally tweaked mine to where I need it to be able to unwind from any kind of day and prepare for the next.
I used to be the kind of person who laughed at people with morning and evening routines. “I’m too busy for a routine, no day is ever the same and it won’t work for me.” And look what happened. I know that for myself, I need the time. Sometimes that includes watching tv, taking a bath or going on a long walk with Wendell but it always includes reviewing my calendar for the next day, having some tea, and reading.
I would love for your to share any tips you have about working from home, especially so other readers who are teleworking during this time can benefit! Leave them in the comments section!