For the last seven months, I’ve had the privilege of working for an organization located several hours from me, allowing me to work from home. Due to the outbreak of COVID-19, many workplaces and universities–and other public spaces–have closed their doors and asked for their employees or students to work from home to help slow down the spread of the virus. For many individuals, going strictly online is a brand new experience, and the freedom of being alone can easily lead to distraction. But while it can be challenging to structure a whole schedule on your own, there’s no need to stress; here are a few examples of how to best manage your time when you’re working from the comfort of your home.
Stick with your usual routine
Commutes will be cut, so this is a huge opportunity to sleep in! But make sure you’re up and ready for the day to begin by the time you’re usually at the office.
Haven't had time to dedicate to yourself since you’re always on the rush? Now’s the time to work on it! Just like any other workday, pick a nice and comfortable outfit to wear–you’re more likely to be productive if you feel like you can take on the world! If you’re to be in the office by 8:30 am, then make sure you’re logged in to your laptop by then so you don’t miss an online class or a time-sensitive email. During the morning, it would also be a great time to take advantage of a home-made breakfast for a healthy start to your day.
And once the clock strikes 5:00 pm (or the time that you’re out the office door), make sure you close your laptop, tidy-up, and walk away from your workspace! Working from home makes it easy to work all night, so it’s crucial that you create that cut-off time so you don’t become overworked, and so you don’t lose evening time to re-energize.
Find a location in your home where you won’t get easily distracted (or tired of)
At the very beginning of my remote work, I used to lay in my bed with the curtains shut, working away on my laptop. I soon realized that I spent too much time being distracted by the mess in my room and all the things on my to-do list that weren’t related to work! Plus, you don’t want to bring the stresses of work into the place you most want to relax.
Try to find a well-lit room, either by exposure from sunlight or proper lighting. Sit at a desk or table, in a supportive chair that will keep you attentive to your work. Get creative if you don’t have an office–you could sit at the kitchen table to create a short-term office space or turn your console table into a mini-desk!
It isn’t fun staring at a blank wall or an empty space, as it can get lonely; to liven it up, add in personal art (especially created by you) that speaks to your soul, and if you have any house plants relocate them to your workspace! Try to make sure you keep your area clean and organized.
Unplug from distractions
You don’t need Tik Tok, Snapchat, and other app notifications interrupting your day, so take the measure to unplug from your phone! Don’t forget to turn your phone notifications off on your laptop, as well, so you don’t get interrupted. Sometimes I leave my phone on Airplane Mode so I don’t see my screen flashing every other minute, but the best way to know that you will truly not be on your phone would be setting it far away from arms reach. The faster you get through your projects and homework, the sooner you’ll be able to plug back into the world.
If you need some background noise, choose music that doesn’t take away from a productive day.
Keep a calendar near you to keep you on track [bf_image id="q80kqt-6nyzuw-9fqaur"]
Planning out what you need to be doing is useful when you’re working from home, too. The attitude of “I’ll figure it out tomorrow when I wake up” won’t work, as you can end up not doing anything at all. In your calendar, write down your meetings, classes, and projects that you have to complete–or start doing–and all of your assignment deadlines. The visual of the big picture will help you focus on what needs to get done that day.
To help you stay on track for these big picture items, create a separate list for each project. Make bullet points of what exactly needs to be done in order to complete the project or to show up prepared for your online class or meeting.
Ask a friend or co-worker to join you online
Keep yourself accountable through another friend that says they’ll be online at the same time as you, so you can chat at the same time while you do work or check-in with each other. It does get lonely when you’re home and working all day, so keep each other company!
We have to use what the internet has given us, so take advantage of online chat spaces such as Facebook Messenger, Email Chat, WhatsApp, GroupMe, or Slack. Send a friend or co-worker a calendar invite with a link to the chat space you'll be connecting on. If you have a smartphone, you also have access to Google Hangouts or Facetime for a fast face-to-face interaction. Rather than a distraction, you can find a sense of community that you lack when sitting alone.
It’s okay to take a break throughout the day
It's so easy to get distracted when you know your fridge is disposable and when the TV is feet away, and the afternoon slump can quickly happen to you if you aren’t prepared. When you’re alone, it’ll be much harder to get back into grind-mode.
Try to add a 5 to 15 minute break in every hour or so, since staring into a bright screen all day isn’t good for your eyes or your posture. And definitely don’t forget to schedule lunch-time! Use your breaks wisely; you can either use that time to scroll on your phone, check Twitter for pandemic updates, or to go outside for a pleasant, quiet stroll. These small breaks will be effective as you stay concentrated on the work you have to do throughout the day.
Be respectful of your housemates
If you don’t live alone, you’ll probably find yourself working alongside your parents or roommates. You don’t want to get in each other's way or accidentally embarrass each other on video calls, so keep each other up to date with what’s going on with your routine for the time being. Let family members, friends, or whoever is in the same space know that you’ll need them to cooperate during these times. Make sure you give them the specific times when you’ll be busy, or notify them at least half an hour before your online meeting.
Working from home does take time to adjust, but it’s manageable. Plus, all we have now is time, so we might as well take advantage of this moment to strengthen our remote skills. If you have any questions, concerns, or need more specific tips on remote work, feel free to connect with me on Twitter or Instagram at @theAndreaDuarte.