With so many more of us working from home during 2020, learning how to prioritise your time to get the most out of your day is more important than ever.
Since moving to working from home back in March, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to adapt to this new way of work life. Below are some of the things I have learnt, through trail and error, on how to set yourself up for success. And you have my permission to do all of these while wearing your sweatpants, because lets be real – no one has time for a suit when working from home!
KEEP A ROUTINE
I’m a firm believer in finding a routine that works for you, and sticking with it. If you are used to going into the office, your routine might be different now, but its still invaluable to stick to some sort of schedule.
It might be the case that your day or week usually consists of a set schedule of meetings, and incorporating these into your weekly calendar can help keep the structure to your week. For example, a weekly catch up with your boss. A monthly one-to-one with a key stakeholder: its all too easy to let these things fall by the way side, but making the effort to still have these meetings is definitely worth your time.
With working from home, it can be all too easy to fall into setting your alarm a little later, snoozing in bed for 30 minutes (you are saving commuting time, right?!), but getting up at your usual time and using this time to do something for you – maybe a walk, maybe some yoga, or maybe even just tidying up the house – is such a great way to start the day. And this helps you feel like you have something else to break up the time between lying in bed and sitting at a desk!
TRY TO MOVE
I didn’t realise how much you actually move around when at the office until I started working from home every day and my body would be aching by 6pm from sitting for 10 hours! So, instead of my walking to the station in the morning, I try and go for a walk around the block, even if just for 20 minutes.
For the first few weeks of our new work from home arrangement, I was stuck in a mentality that I had to be constantly chained to my laptop, in case someone called/emailed/chat messaged me (to the point where I would even rush to use the bathroom!). A few months on, I can gladly say that I have got over this, and now appreciate that a 5 or 10 minute break away from my screen is the best thing I can do for my well being and productivity.
Final piece of advice here is to try and choose a few meetings each week which you can take via phone (maybe something where you just have to dial in to listen), and use these as walking meetings. Its a way to get some fresh air, give your eyes a break from the long hours staring at screens, and get some movement into your day. The hardest part is going to be sticking to this in the winter months.
For me this is about knowing when to log off at the end of the day – it can be all too easy to just answer one more email, or take one more call. This can be exasperated when you work for an international company, with some office locations just getting started on their day and you should be finishing up yours.
While I’ll admit, even with the best of intentions, I don’t stick to this every day, I try to set some general principles for my work calendar:
- I don’t set up any meetings after 6pm – by then I find that I’m mentally fatigued, so I’m more productive if I do it the next day
- I take a break to cook dinner and have some down time. For me I usually log off around 6:30 pm, even if there are still a few emails in my inbox (by this time I’m hungry, and ready for a break!). If really necessary I can check my emails again later that evening to see if anything urgent has come in.
INVEST IN EQUIPMENT
When I started working from home I was sat on a hard wooden dining room chair. This was totally fine, at least I thought it was until my back started complaining.
For some reason I kept putting off buying a proper office chair – partly because I didn’t think it was necessary, and partly because I thought it would look ugly in my flat! But eventually I had to listen to my body and order a desk chair with back support. It was so worth it – looking back now I have no idea why it took me so long.
The moral of this story is, you will spend a lot of time working from home, so make sure you have the right equipment and set up in order to do your job easily and comfortably. This also applies to buying a proper mouse (those laptop mouse pad things are a nightmare!), getting a separate monitor if you need one, and even buying a proper set of headphones.
So if you find yourself still adjusting to a new working routine, hopefully the above tips can help you have a productive day, and if you have any other thoughts on things to make working from home easier do share in the comments below.