If you work remotely regularly, you likely know the mainstays to be effective: that it’s critical to have a dedicated workspace and to avoid distractions like Netflix (if you don’t know that already, jot those down…) But what are some other not so obvious things you should do to set yourself up to be successful and effective while working remotely? How can you organize your day and mind to perform at your best from your home?
Here are 10 tips:
1. Structure your day
The flexibility of working from home can actually work against you if you’re not careful. It’s important to keep some form of schedule so that your days don’t bleed into each other. This goes beyond your Monday – Friday meeting schedule to include when you start and stop your day, when and where you take lunch, and whether you have regular physical activity scheduled. These are all things that come more naturally when you go to and from an office daily so try to find and maintain the right structure for you.
2. Watch out for snacking
Here’s the thing: if you work remotely full-time or any regular amount you will run the risk of upping your caloric intake by constant grazing. It’s also an easy way to procrastinate on any projects you’re dreading. Either way, close proximity to your refrigerator is an unspoken downside of working remotely. Meal planning can do wonders for those who work at home. No need to get obsessive but a rough idea of what your lunches and snacks (plural!) will be is key. And speaking of that:
3. But Take lunch
When you’re in a zone, jammed with meetings and deadlines, and so close to your kitchen where you can just zap leftovers in your microwave, it’s easy to opt to work through lunch rather than take a meaningful break. But just like it’s critical to take a lunch break at an office, it’s extremely important to force yourself away from your work at home set-up. Try eating lunch out on your front steps (or at least on your kitchen table). And meeting friends for lunch once or twice a week is a great reset if your budget can handle it.
4. Accomplish three things everyday
It’s hard to know where to start and stop, so make a list of three big to-dos you want to get off your plate each day. Just three. When you finish them, you’ll have concrete proof of your progress. This is something anyone can do whether you work from home or an office, but when you’re remote, you often have to fuel your own motivation even more so. Having a clear focus for your day is very powerful.
5. Have a morning routine
Do not sleep in until 15 minutes before your first call. Repeat: do not sleep in until 15 minutes before your first call. Sure you can literally roll out of bed and log onto your computer (you can technically pop open your computer from your bed!) but this will catch up with you. Plus you never know if someone added an earlier meeting to your schedule!
6. Invest in a good headset and/or headphones
OK, this one may be a tad obvious to WFH vets but a good headset is worth its weight in gold if you’re on the phone all day and don’t want to be relegated to your desk. Your company may even cover this for you so find out your options! For those of you not on the phone (like writers), noise canceling headphones are a huge plus for those days when the lawn maintenance crew hits your yard at 9AM or when you have to work out of a crowded coffee shop.
7. Get out of the house
I once heard about a freelancer who during one especially cold winter didn’t leave her apartment for 2 weeks. While that may have been an exaggeration, I can see how it happens. It’s really easy to get caught up in a fury of work, look up, and realize it’s nearly 4 pm and you haven’t left your home. Make it a point to leave your home every day during the workday.
8. Take breaks
While you’re at it, take an actual morning and/or afternoon break. When you go into an office every day, breaks are part of your routine and it’s important to keep this up even when you’re remote. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that just because you’re at home you need to constantly prove to your manager and everyone else you work with that you are in fact at your computer, doing work. Here’s the thing: they’re going to know whether you’re working or not and unless you prove them wrong they’re going to assume you’re getting your work done. And since they’re reasonable enough to be open to your flexible work arrangement they will understand that even with a remote work set-up you need to pause for a moment every once and a while.
9. Have plans at night
It’s easy to get tired during the week and make excuses to not see friends and family or go on that date, but when you work remotely and don’t see people all day it’s even more important to get out during the week. A dinner, walk, happy hour, or a gym class with friends also becomes more meaningful when it’s the main social interaction you have all day.
10. Co-work with a friend
One of the benefits of working from home is that you are able to avoid common distractions of an office including say, chatty coworkers. But sometimes people are nice. And working around someone can be a nice break and can be a boost of motivation when you see your friend killing her day from across the room.
Working from home is one of the biggest benefits of a hyper-connected society and workforce. But making it work for—not against—you is the key to your success in doing it!
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Work from home? What are your best tips?