“Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four hour days.”
In other words, even Beyoncé has only 24 hours in a day. So plan your work and work your plan.
Not sure where to start?
Let’s break up your WFH plan into 3 categories:
They are all interrelated but each is important enough to take time and examine if you are optimizing your WFH plan in that area. We optimize just about everything else so why would we leave out optimizing our working from home?
And as always, we have some helpful links below for some of our favorite products that help keep us on task and working our plan.
Your physical workspace
If you haven’t already found the best place to work from home, I am sure you have found the worst place to try and work from home.
Location, location, location. Knowing the right space and the right physical surroundings to motivate you is important for your endurance working from home.
Having a standing desk (there are ones that sit on a table or desk or separate standing/sitting desks) or at least the option to change your physical position can help with bloodflow to the brain and the rest of your body, not to mention ease joint pain, foot/wrist pain, and neck and back pain. Here are some different options at different price points to help your wallet and back.
Having a cushioned mat to help as well as an ergonomic keyboard/mouse if you are spending extra time on the computer can all aid in your ability to keep working and focused for longer periods of time.
FEZIBO Wobble Balance Board $64.99
Side note, if your WFH office space is less than Zoom-tastic as a background, you can access some great ones from West Elm to disguise the mound of laundry or pile of dirty dishes. And a little hack I did before there were cool green screen options, you can get a screen to put behind you to hide your “spacious studio apartment” or “I office from my bedroom and I may or may not have made my bed.”
Lastly, make sure your workspace has some inspiring elements. Maybe that is a fresh (or faux) plant or floral arrangement (plants detox your air and are proven to help boost your mood!), a whiteboard, or fun pens and stationery. Sometimes it is the little things that get us excited to work and we should all do whatever we can to help ourselves.
Your physical body
There is no break room, stepping out to grab coffee or water cooler, so you need to make sure you are having time for physical movement (besides working out which should be something you are doing as well).
Schedule a timer to remind you to grab more water from the kitchen, stand up and stretch, do a lap around your apartment/home, or break up your work schedule with another event. For instance, prepping lunch, washing dishes, home schooling the kiddos, or walking your dog.
Scheduling those tasks into your day help to make sure you are getting things done in bite-sized pieces so at the end of the day, you’ve accomplished something.
Speaking of schedule, you should also try to keep a schedule for when you wake up, get ready for the day, workout, eat lunch, stop work, socialize with friends, and go to bed. Keeping a schedule helps your brain be on auto-pilot so it can work hard at work and not hard trying to remember what to do next.
Your physical tools
Just like a caveman, having the right tools can help you do more with less energy, effort and time. Having the right tripod can make your social media videos or photos easier to manage. Having the right lighting can help so you don’t have to spend as much time putting on makeup. Having wireless charging for your phone can eliminate the scavenger hunt for your charging cable.
But before you can have the right tools, you need to know what you need to accomplish so you can choose the tools to best help you.
Your personal peak times
Thinking clearly is crucial in accomplishing your daily task list. So why work against yourself? Are you a morning person or a night person? Or a somewhere in-between person? When do you feel most clear-headed and motivated to get things done? That is the time you should try to schedule as your uninterrupted work time.
In reality, sometimes that doesn’t always work out well for everything else in our lives but for the things we need to do on our own, scheduling those tasks for that time of the day is going to get you further faster.
And sometimes it is about being creative with those times. Maybe it isn’t every night or every morning but on Monday, Wednesday and Friday or just on Tuesday and Thursday. Scheduling time that works with your natural rhythm will accelerate how quickly you can get work done as well – and we all want to get more done in less time.
Your environmental peak times (kids, partner/spouse)
When it is just you working on your schedule vs you, your spouse, kids, pets, and perhaps other family members, working out your schedule to maximize quiet times in your house versus not-so-quiet times will be very beneficial. And creating time schedules for everyone else will also be beneficial for them to anticipate what will be happening each day.
For instance, if you wake your kids up and do breakfast duty, perhaps you switch and have your spouse do every other day with you so you can workout or take time for self-care and vice versa.
For the schedule, figuring out if your kids are more energetic in the morning or afternoon can help decide whether you have your physical activity/gym/recess time in the morning or afternoon. I would try to take advantage of those times as well for your own physical activity even if it isn’t a “regular” workout. Playing tag, racing, or having them do a physical obstacle course can be good exercise for everyone.
During the quieter times, breaking up those blocks of time into 1 hour slots for different school work they need to do or perhaps an art project. If your kids are younger, have them help with chores and use that to teach them matching (laundry and socks) and colors, counting, adding, subtracting, or even cooking. Baking is a great way to learn about science and math (and it is very tasty when we get it right!).
If you don’t have kids or other outside forces determining your schedule, it can sometimes seem overwhelming. Try taking blocks of time and putting it in your calendar. Schedule out everything you need to accomplish in the week and create a time for you to also create next week’s schedule and evaluate what worked and what didn’t work. Remember it is about trying and re-trying to figure out what will be best for you.
Your co-workers work times
Make sure that you are structuring your “in-office” times to be when your clients/co-workers will be most active. It will allow questions to be answered easier and faster and progress to be closer to how it was in pre-COVID life.
Also make sure you are over-communicating as much as possible whether that is for deadlines, what you are working on, how close you are to finishing, when you expect to finish, what step is next after you finish. Keeping everyone in the loop helps them know you are dedicated to completing the task as much as they are because they can’t walk by your desk like before.
Even scheduling your communication is a good idea. Having a daily 5-minute touchbase to huddle about what the objectives for that day are can be motivating and encouraging, especially for those who are struggling with loneliness and anxiety or depression during this time. Seeing faces or hearing voices can help establish security and stability in their lives as well as yours.
Your work/life schedule
We talked about this a bit before but truly, do not underestimate the power of a habit. Creating schedules that can become habitual allows your brain to work less.
Just think back to the beginning of quarantine. At first it wasn’t the worst (after everyone stopped freaking out about toilet paper), because it felt like a bit of a vacation. But just like a vacation that goes on a little too long, your brain and body start to crave the schedule.
Schedule out your life on your paper calendar or your Google calendar and schedule everything from your waking up, breakfast, working out, lunch, work, what you are working on, breaks, calls with friends/family, and relax/chill time.
It might sound weird to do that but you did it before during pre-COVID times, you just didn’t know it. Your brain was already set to the schedule. Now you just need to establish a new one.
Also make sure that your family and friends are aware of your schedule. Let them know (or invite them to your schedule block so they know NOT to call) that they shouldn’t call just to chat during those times.
Work out your schedule with your spouse so you both can have your work calls but at different times so one person is holding down the fort while the other is taking care of business.
Your workflow boundaries
Working from home can definitely trigger some to become a bit of a workaholic. Boundaries are important in your schedule so you know that there are times you are working and times you are not so you can be fully present for both.
That might mean having your computer powered down or shut off, turning off work email notifications on your phone after a certain time, or letting some calls go to voicemail.
Sometimes it can even be helpful to get dressed “for work” with “real clothes” or a nice non-PJ-I-didn’t-sleep-in-this outfit so you can clearly establish in your mind what “hat” you are wearing while being technically in the same physical space.
Having boundaries allow for full focus and being present when you are in a particular situation. It helps you work better, play better and sleep better.
Your at-home systems
Lastly, knowing how to work with the amazing world of tech can help your organization and boundaries help you more with being efficient and clear-headed. Like we said before, the less you have to think about, analyze, contemplate on a daily basis, the more you can use that brain power on your work, creativity and relationships.
If you don’t already, I highly suggest to utilize Alexa (Echo or Dot), Google Home, and/or Siri. Do your brain dumps throughout the day. Like when you are making lunch: “Alexa, turn on desk lamp.” Or “Ok, Google, add cucumbers to my grocery list.”
You can also get Kasa smart home plugs to plug your lamps and other electrical devices into and set them to a schedule so they automatically turn on and off.
Kasa Smart Plug by TP-Link $32.83 (set of 4)
Of course, you can also have Nest control your home temperature, Ring doorbell watch for the delivery person, or even use your Alexa devices to “drop-in” and talk to someone in another room like an intercom system so you don’t have to physically get up and walk to the other room.
Lazy? Maybe. Efficient? Absolutely.
The goal is to get as much done in the same amount of time while still maintaining our sanity and well-being. I don’t know about you, but I will take all the help I can get. I know CEOs don’t run a company by themselves, so why should you – especially if you are going to master WFH like a boss?
Please let us know if we can be helpful and suggest other resources or help you find answers to any other problems.
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We are in this together and we are here to help you succeed.
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