In the face of the coronavirus impacting all of our lives for an unknown period of time, many of us will be working from home for the foreseeable future. As somebody who spent his entire time at GRC working from the comfort of his own couch, this is something I’m experienced and very comfortable with… it’s a space where I know how to manage my time, productivity, and mental health very well.
That said, some of my friends may not be used to working from home, for whatever reason. If you find yourself in that boat, don’t panic: the adjustment will be quicker than you think. There is no perfect road map to working from home and remaining productive, but these are the things that work for me:
Start your day like you’re going into the office. What’s your normal morning routine? It’s probably along the lines of get up, take a shower, get dressed, pack your bags, and go to the office, with breakfast mixed in somewhere along the way. Do not switch this routine up. Do what you’ve always been doing in the morning. It’s ok if you sleep in a little bit now and again, but your morning routine is the most important set of habits you need to keep intact, and I promise that this isn’t just for the sake of your productivity towards your employer.
Allow yourself to be flexible throughout the day… Yes, this is basically the opposite of what I just told you to do with your mornings, but there’s a reason for it. The structure that you set for yourself in your first waking hour or two allows you to get in the right headspace to roll with the punches as everything else becomes loose and flowing. No matter how structured you are, you can’t control how this situation will affect the people around you.
…but if you’ve got a schedule, keep it. I’m really jerking you around a bit, aren’t I? The truth is, everyone is getting jerked around a bit. There is only one thing you can control here, and that’s you. You may not be able to keep others from putting you in a situation where time no longer seems to mean anything, but you can keep yourself from putting others in that space. Make a point of doing the things that are under your control when you said you would, or as close to it as possible.
Do whatever it takes to manage your stress. One of the advantages to working from home is that stepping away from the computer for two minutes to collect yourself is a much easier thing to justify doing. You’ll be significantly more level headed as a result. But beyond that, take a few minutes to create your ultimate environment for productivity. Maybe you’re the kind of person who works best with music on in the background (I’m not—I love music too much, so I prefer TV for ambient noise). Maybe you’re big into aromatherapy. Whatever kind of environment puts you in a good headspace, now is your chance to create it.
Make your own lunch. Does this take time? Sure. But it’s time well spent. It’s (usually) healthier, for one, but it also forces you to focus on something other than your work. I’m no Michelin chef, but I do find an occasional zen in cooking, even if it’s something simple. I find myself a little more centered and feeling a little better after a lunch I made versus a lunch I ordered out.
During your break, take care of one thing on your “honey do” list. These lists get nuts for all of us, especially in this day and age where we’re all so inundated with things that we need to get done. The truth is that we’re going to take breaks during the work day anyway, but we’re usually not able to get anything done for ourselves during this time. Instead, we get home from the office and still have to take care of all those things, and being tired, many of us will skip them. Well… now’s your chance to spend that break doing something that helps you. Do your laundry, run your dishwasher, clean something. And at the end of your work for the day, with that list a little shorter… maybe you’ll be more energized to get more of the rest of the list done.
For the record, spitting out this word vomit for my non-WFH friends was the thing on my list for today. I made a quick lunch and got down to doing this instead.
If you’re high-strung about working from home, make a list of your daily accomplishments. The easiest trap to fall into is feeling like you’re getting nothing done while working from home. The best way to combat this is to make a list of everything you’ve gotten done over the course of the day, and don’t stop adding to it until whenever you finally sign off. Add anything else you accomplish around the house. I guarantee you’ll be surprised at how much you’ve done.
Enjoy this while you can. I’m not encouraging you to treat working from home like a vacation, because it isn’t one. But savor the opportunity to develop better habits as an individual, whether that means better habits at your job or better habits as a human being in general. And when this all ends and you go back to the office, try to carry them into your day as a calmer, more centered, and more efficient person. Think of this period as a sort of reset for us all to find our priorities and improve ourselves. If you do, you just might come out of it a better, happier, more productive, and less stressed person.