At the beginning of COVID/quarantine, I did a podcast to discuss working from home tips. The shift from working in a traditional office to working from home is a very new and scary situation for many working professionals, who had to learn to make this pivot with very little to no notice. It’s a transition that feels overwhelming.
There’s certainly no shortage of content and advice sharing tips for successful working from home. However, I’ve noticed that the tips are pretty much the same — get dressed, stay hydrated, keep normal working hours. Are these necessarily helpful, or are they simply common sense things?
So by now, I’m sure you’re getting dressed every day, you’re drinking half your body weight in ounces of water, and you’ve got the hang of keeping a regular working schedule (mostly anyway!). But things might still feel a little chaotic, it might feel difficult to keep a clear separation between work and home.
That’s exactly why I’m sharing my top three tips for successful working from home that you haven’t heard of yet! These are some things that helped with my work/life balance and it’s even more important now with everyone at home.
If you’re finding this whole experience difficult, it’s OK! Give yourself a little break, because it’s a transition that was thrown at you. It took me YEARS for this transition to feel natural to me. Plus, not only do YOU have to work from home, you need to manage all these other people at home, too!
Take a deep breath. Welcome a little love for yourself as you read on.
Tip #1: Recognize the new collections in your home for what they are, and create storage space for them.
Working from home requires creating a whole new collection of materials at home. One common thing I see is mixing what you need for your job with your home office materials. Home office materials are relevant to household management such as paying the bills, managing family schedules, and RSVPs. This is a different collection than what’s required to do your job.
In addition, your kids are bringing home their school items. If you’re providing them with educational materials that are not school-related, that’s a separate collection! Again, another common thing I’m seeing is mixing our home craft and educational supplies with school supplies.
First, get a mental handle on what these different collections are in your house. Understand how collections grow and change, and try to figure out storage for each individual collection.
Otherwise, we end up with the dreaded commingled collection!!! A commingled collection is any pile of stuff that has a lot of different things in it that don’t belong together. It might look like materials from work mixed with bills and electronics for kids and crafting supplies. If you’re exhausted just reading that, there’s a valid reason — it looks like a big jumble to our brain which makes our brain overwhelmed.
Then, create a clear, simple system to identify and label things by collection. The goal is to create a dedicated space for each collection. This is where simplicity will help you, as there’s no need to buy a fancy storage solution. Why not reuse a box instead? Clearly label it, and everything you need from that collection goes into that box. If you’re using flex spaces in your home, you know how important it is to pick up and declutter the space at the end of each day. Having a designated collection box will help make this process easier.
Tip #2 Protect yourself from distractions.
A distraction pulls your attention away from what you’re doing. The number of distractions while working from home are many, especially with more people in your house. There’s a huge temptation to watch the news, scroll social media, and trying to connect with people because we’re not seeing them on a regular basis. Using social media to connect with people isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but admit it… how many times has one minute of mindlessly scrolling our feed turned into an hour or more of wasted time?
Remove the ability for distraction to creep in by creating focused time blocks for work. A time block doesn’t have to be super lengthy. In fact, 30 uninterrupted minutes is usually the perfect amount of time to complete one task. When it’s time for a 30-minute focus, put your phone in airplane mode. Close every single tab on the computer that isn’t relevant to the task that needs to be completed. Close your door. Communicate with your family: “I need 30 minutes of uninterrupted time.” Set a kitchen timer so that you’re not tempted to look at your phone. Protect yourself from distractions.
You can even get your kids on board with respecting your uninterrupted time! Create a system for kids to share their thoughts and info with you without distracting you. For example, what I do with my daughters is I leave a sheet of paper outside my office door. When I’m in my office with the door closed, I ask them to write what they need to say to me on the sheet of paper. This way, my daughter feels like she has communicated, and I see what they need. Of course, exceptions are made for emergencies. If it’s a true emergency, then my kids know it’s OK to come into my office. But 99% of the time, it’s not a true emergency so our note system works well.
If clutter is the distraction, cover it with a blanket or a towel. The key is to physically, mentally, verbally, and emotionally remove distractions!
And remember, studies have shown that just 30 minutes of uninterrupted work is equivalent to two hours of interrupted work. You can do this!
Tip #3: Show your face.
It’s so important, especially during this time of social distancing, to show your face on camera. Whether you’re telecommuting with coworkers or chatting with friends, showing your face makes us all feel connected. Connecting with each other visually is extremely important to mental health. It’s the next best thing to seeing people in person. I know that Zoom might feel uncomfortable in the beginning, but the more you use it, the better it will feel.
Putting these tips to use will help you feel a little more organized and in control of your environment that now has to function as a home, an office, and possibly a school. Having a little bit of control in a time that feels out of control is so important to our sanity and well-being.
If you’re struggling with creating a system to successfully work from home, please join Clutter Bootcamp and get access to our incredible support Facebook group (Prioritize Your Sanity). You will find a ton of non-judgmental support to guide you through this process. Prioritize Your Sanity is an incredible and vibrant community that has been truly life-changing for most of its members. No matter if you’re working from home, or learning from home, your home should continue to be a refuge for support and a place of security for you and your family.