Working from home can be a saving grace or a real challenge, it really depends on your particular situation at home and at work. This post will describe tools that you can use to help you have a focused and productive work day at home. Despite the temptations to procrastinate with web browsing and distractions from others that are home with you.
An important thing to remember when working from home is that you do not need to be on-line 24/7. Making yourself available on-line for hours on end is not an expectation of most employers. If you were in the office, you would walk away from your screen periodically to stretch your legs, probably having to walk further to the break room at work than to your kitchen at home.
Does this mean that when working from home you should be on-line more than you are at the office? No, it just means you need to find a way to take breaks that include more thought than walking to get a coffee. Even if you take a lap around the outside of your house every time you get up for a drink or a restroom break that lengthens the mental break from the screen and your work as well as gives your body a well deserved stretch.
A good way to ensure you are not on-line 24/7 when working from home and a good way to avoid getting burned out from screen time is to schedule breaks, even if they are just walking around your home or yard. Put 15-20 minutes in your morning work calendar and afternoon work calendar, and spend that time moving your body away from your work screen, maybe do some yoga or a brief walk. While taking your break at home you can even try calling a work pal that you would have typically chatted with on your coffee breaks at work. This is a terrific way to stay causally connected with work colleagues while in a virtual work environment.
Alright, now that we have that expectation aside, let’s get back to the tools to focus. Here, I will describe the first day I had to work from home, knowing it would be months working from home. In the description of my day, it includes when and how I knew I needed a tool as well as what tools I used in response to specific distractions. Here we go….
I recently had to start working from home due to the coronavirus pandemic. Since I work at a site that manufactures medicine I started working from home before public schools switched to virtual learning. I honestly had suspected that local schools would switch to virtual before my place of work took an approach of eliminating unnecessary on-site interactions.
Either way though here I am, day 1 working from home. I am someone who enjoys work and productivity, I like going into my job. Don’t get me wrong, I do appreciate working from home periodically. However, I like a balance of going into a place of work at least 3 out of the 5 work days.
This is my personal account of how I’m surviving working from home. In particular I want to share my experience with you in the hopes that what I’ve experienced and learned will help you. This particular piece of writing lists the tools I use to keep myself focused, energized, and motivated to get through the work day from home.
Day 1, my morning was super productive! Didn’t get dressed, ate my breakfast while working, really focused on the output. Attended a meeting, hosted a meeting, then it happened, I started to go a little stir crazy. Good news, I was able to start with a workout to help keep the crazy at bay. My at home workout consisted of a 5 minute core workout (plank, side planks, superman, straight leg toe touches, bicycle crunches, and leg lifts with hip raises) and then 30 minutes on a mini stepper. During my workout I was able to catch up on watching The Bachelor, and really felt relaxed afterwards.
So, onto the afternoon, a quick lunch and browsing of my email put me into a dazed sense of reality craving face to face human interaction. Having lost my focus I was sucked through the temptations of procrastinating for a bit, browsing the internet. Then an IM, and I snapped out of my daze, thinking what have I been doing, what a waste of time, I really need to focus and get back on my game.
The question was, how was I going to focus and get back on my game. I turned next to two of my go to focus tools, music and tea. Music helps energize me as well as helps me to focus, and a hot cup of scented tea also helps, it’s a delicious stimulation of my taste buds with zero calories, nothing more uplifting than that.
With my music and cup of tea I was quickly back to assessing the highest priority on my to do list. Now I just needed to prepare myself for the challenge of remaining focused after my child arrived home from school. Having meetings after my child arrived home from school helped force my focus on work, but without meetings it is very challenging.
To help keep me focused on work when my child was home I made a handwritten to do list, that I could check items off from as I addressed them. The to do list helped me be aware of the high priority items I had to choose between addressing when distracted by my family. A notebook is great to keep handy for to do lists, but if you are like me and tend to lose track of paper and notebooks then consider investing in a Rocket Book. Rocket Books are notebooks that use paper meant to be photographed. So, you can write your list and take a quick camera shot of the list to instantaneously upload a high quality image of your list to your virtual workspace for future referencing.
Another tool I use in addition to the meetings and to do list, was an after school routine already established for my child. The after school routine has been used in our home since my child started going to school, it helps my child to understand expectations and ensures that the family has an enjoyable evening not rushed or stressed. My child was distracted by me being home, but after several redirects to the usual after school routine they realized this was just another usual day and went about their routine.
We specifically use the Melissa & Doug Chore chart to help remind our child of expectations around the house every day.
Before I knew it the work day was finished. Overall I would say day 1 was a success, there were some challenging moments when I got caught up in the loneliness, but I would say relative to the time I spent being productive it was a great day. Below I provide a list for you of the tools I use to help keep me energized and focused while working from home. I also include links to several items I use in my tool box for your convenience.
Tools To Help
Tea (caffeinated or decaffeinated)
To Do List (with only high priority work deliverables)
Schedule in Breaks
If you know in advance that you will be working from home for a period of time try to be stocked up on tools to help you focus before you have to start working from home. This way you can hit the ground running. If you have been struggling to work from home for a period of time and have to continue working from home for the near future try investing in tools to help you focus as soon as possible.
Once you have tools to help you focus while working from home try to place your tools strategically around your home. For example, some tools are best kept near your at home work set-up. For example, I found it hard to step away from my workscreen to do a core workout and cardio workout so I brought my yoga mat for the core workout and my stepper for a cardio workout to my at home work location, and store them close to my work set-up. This way I can keep an eye on my screen and it reduces the anxiety that I might miss an important instant message or email. It’s also a good idea to place some tools as far from your at home work set-up as possible. This forces you to take a moment or two when you have to go get your tool and put the tool away.
Here’s to the workforce working from home, may tomorrow be a productive day.