Life isn't what it was a few weeks ago. Many people are thrown into a full-time work from home situation. If that's you, we have some tips. We (Tracy and Susanne) have both been working from home since 2004 and 2006 respectively. We've learned a thing or two during that time. We've also asked our readers to share their best tips and ideas. and will publish them here as well.
Let's take a look at what you're in for and what you can do to still be productive, no matter how long this will take.
A big challenge you'll face will be new sets of interruptions. Yes, those happen in a regular office setting as well, but you have coping mechanisms for that. You know what to do when you have a tight deadline and need to get something done. Now you're faced with different ones that include household chores that are waiting, the temptation of curling up on the couch to binge your favorite Netflix series, and no worries about anyone catching you scroll though social media endlessly.
Trust us, we know about these and a million other interruptions. Quite a few of them will be caused by other people.
Loved ones don't understand that you are actually working right now, no matter what they tell you. They will call, they will stop by. It will happen. You need to learn to deal with it.
And then there's the fact that other people in your household may be home as well. The kids will be out of school. Your spouse may be working from home as well. And it's not like you can send them out to go do something right now.
It's going to be a challenge, but we're here to tell you that you can still be productive. We've lived and worked this way for over a decade, and we'd love to share some of what we've learned.
Before we get into the actual hands-on advice, it's important to point out that we all work differently. What works for me (Susanne), doesn't work for Tracy and vice versa. It will take a little time and some trial and error for you to figure out what works for you.
Focus On The Essentials First
This is a time of adjustment and re-learning. In the long run, you may find that you get more work done and are more productive from home, but it's not likely to start out that way. That's why it's crucial that you focus on getting the most important tasks done first. What will move the needle? What does your company or your team need from you right now? Getting clear on those priorities and writing them down is one of the most important habits for you to get into. We like to do that the night before or first thing in the morning. Doing it the night before means you can sit down at your desk in the morning and get to work instead of getting sucked into email, or spending valuable time agonizing over what you should do first.
I (Susanne) find a Top 3 List most helpful. At the end of my workday – or to be perfectly honest, more often than not after dinner, or even right before bed – I sit for a moment reflecting on my day and coming up with three things I would like to get done the next day. This isn't usually a list with three big projects that will take all day to complete. Instead, it's things that have to get done and will make a difference for me and our business. It's the things that, if I don't get anything else done that day, will keep us moving into the right direction.
I work on those tasks first. Everything else comes after. I also keep a running checklist of tasks that I check off throughout the day. It keeps me accountable and helps me see at a glance what I should be doing when I get interrupted… and there are lots of interruptions, especially when everyone else is also home. Which brings us to another good point.
Ways To Isolate Yourself To Get Some Work Done
No matter how much you love your family, they will start to get on your nerves and if you have to get some work done, isolating yourself for a few hours per day is a good way to do so. And frankly, sometimes you need it for your own sanity.
If you're living by yourself, this is easy. Turn your phone off and shut down email and social media for an hour at a time. Do your work, then check in. Rinse and repeat.
If you live with people this becomes more of a challenge, especially if some of them are children. Here's the thing. You can't change the circumstances right now. It is what it is. That said, thousands of us are still incredibly productive and sometimes that's because we find a way to temporarily isolate ourselves in our homes to sit down and hammer out some work. Here are some tips for doing that:
- Get up early. Really early. Before anyone else is up. Yes, that means getting up at 4am so you can work for an hour or two before your toddler wakes up. It's hard. I've done it. Sometimes it's what you've got to do. The alternative is to work late after everyone else is asleep. That works too. Try them both. I have and I found that my brain works better early in the morning.
- If you have an office, a spare-bedroom, or even a laundry closet, consider heading in there and shutting the door. This works if you have older kids who can look after themselves for the most part, or if both you and your partner are staying home. Take turns working and taking care of the rest of the family.
- If your house is just too crazy to hear yourself think, go sit in your car. You can stay close enough to the house that wi-fi still works, or you can sit in the parking lot of your local coffee shop, get a drink through the drive-thru and use their internet service for a while. It's amazing how much you can get done with a laptop sitting in your car.
- Get some noise cancelling headphones. They have been a game-changer for me. I do a lot of writing and each interruption, even if it's someone in another room doing the dishes, calling for me, or listening to music loudly, costs time and effort. It takes a while to find my train of thought again and get back into the flow. While no headphones are perfect, they help. You can find plenty of tracks of “concentration” or “focus” music on YouTube. Even regular earbuds help if you don't have full noise cancelling headphones and don't want to invest in a pair. Try it and see if it helps.
- Get into a routine. Get your whole family on board. Set aside time to work and time to relax and have fun. You don't need a lot of hours to get the work you typically do in an eight-hour workday. You don't realize how much time you spend in useless meetings, waiting on reports, or sitting around doing nothing until you start working from home. Putting in a couple of hours per day is often all it takes to stay on top of your work. How you make your schedule depends on your personal situation and how you are working remotely. If you're taking or attending a lot of virtual meetings you have less flexibility. If you and your spouse both work remotely, you will have to work on who works when and who watches the kids. If you have older children, you may be able have everyone work in the same block of hours on office work and school assignments and then take the rest of the day to do something else. I encourage you to have a family meeting and see what you can come up with that works for everyone. Give it a try, come back after a few days and adjust as needed. We might be doing this for a while. It's worth figuring this out early.
You Need A Lot Less Than You Think – Become a Minimalist
You may be tempted to order a bunch of equipment online, or maybe even risk a trip to your local office supply store. Or maybe you think a trip to Ikea is in order to set up your new office. We get it. Maybe you're used to a nice office with all sorts of storage, the ability to scan and print anything, and a dedicated phone line. Forget about all that. If we've learned anything over the past few years, it's that a simple setup works best. Less “stuff” and equipment means there are fewer things to break and go wrong. It also makes it much easier to move around and find a quiet spot to get some work done.
Because that will be your biggest challenge. In part because you'll be at home with the rest of the family and you need to be mobile to find a place that works for you right than and there. Maybe it's working on a report while sitting on the couch with the kids while they watch Frozen II for the hundredth time. Maybe it's hiding out in the spare bedroom, or even your car while everyone else is busy doing their own thing. And maybe it's getting up early so you can enjoy your first cup of coffee and be productive while enjoying the first bit of sun on the porch. The simpler your setup, the easier it will be to move it around as you go about your day and adjust to the chaos around you.
The second part is a mindset shift. It's about getting things done, no matter what. Keep it simple. If you have kids at home, it will be almost impossible to spend all day working from a “home office”. Sure, some exceptions apply, but for the most part, you want to focus on the most important tasks, using only the equipment you need. You'd be surprised how much you can do with a single laptop or chrome book. And let's not forget about everything you can do from your phone. Explore those options and remember to keep it simple and make your time and mental energy to work on “work” stuff count.
Give Yourself Some Grace
This is new. This is different. Even if you've worked from home occasionally, or even a day or two per week, this is a very different ballgame. It will take some adjusting to this new normal that will probably stay with us for a few months or more.
Take some time to relax and unwind. This is about more than getting used to working in new circumstances. We are all under a tremendous amount of anxiety and stress from the threat we all face. Take care of yourself so you can continue to push through. We will get through this!
And don't forget to look on the bright side. Find something positive about being able to work from home each day. Maybe it's being able to join your kids for lunch. Maybe it's calculating how much you'll save on gas and parking fees. Maybe it's being more flexible with the hours you're working. There are a lot of perks that come with working from home. Reminding yourself of those will help with your mindset when you get frustrated. And you will. We all do.
Here's some advice from your fellow Piggy Peeps:
[thrive_testimonial name=”Nikki Leigh” company=”Local Business Promotion & Ready for Love Radio” image=””]1 – When you get up – brush your hair, brush your teeth and put on at least a little makeup – nothing elaborate, just so you “feel” like you're getting ready for a workday. 2 – Make the bed. It's too easy to crawl back in if it's unmade. 3 – Let your friends and family who will assume you're “off from work” because you're home, that you are working and give them your work hours. You will likely need to do this more than once for some people. Those are the same people that will think you can run errands for them and watch the kids since you're home. Set boundaries and stick to them from the beginning. [/thrive_testimonial]
[thrive_testimonial name=”Amy Smereck” company=”amysmereck.com and fruitfulfreelancing.com” image=””]When I was employed full time, I had the opportunity to work from home more than I did, yet I made the 45-minute commute in for the following reasons: Working from home/remotely sometimes left me feeling “out of the loop” and disconnected from what was going on. I missed not only the standard office gossip and water-cooler conversations, but the occasional nugget of real importance. When I found out about the little keystone pieces of information later, it was frequently accompanied by “I swore you were there when we talked about that.” Of course, that can happen even if you are in the office. You can't possibly be at every impromptu meeting or cc'd on every email. There can be an air of suspicion and guilt surrounding those working remotely and their bosses and in-office coworkers. Those in the office may assume that remote workers are slacking off, lying on the couch watching Netflix all day (or at minimum that they are less productive than in-office counterparts.) Those doing real work at home, often feeling more productive and focused because of the comparative quiet, feel this judgement, whether it is really there or not. To successfully work remotely, you need to let go of these feelings, some of which stem from the need to be in control. Yes, you will miss things. That's okay. It's the downside to counterbalance the many upsides of working from home (no commute, and the ability to pop a load of laundry into the washer or a pot roast into the oven during that 5-minute break you would normally spend catching up with a coworker's personal life.) Maintain the view that if you missed something important that it was not intentional. Move on. If you are in the office, make sure that you contribute to good communication with remote workers and keep them informed about important work-related developments as well as personal news. Don't harbor feelings of suspicion that you are being judged. If you have been given permission to work at home. then do it without shame. And when you are in the office, don't judge others or assume that they are not contributing just because you can't see them sitting at their desks. Don't take part in what may seem like innocent and humorous teasing about how “George must be lounging around or nursing a hangover at home today.” You might even actively stand up for George and mention his positive contributions to the team. [/thrive_testimonial]
[thrive_testimonial name=”Laura Olson-Oxley ” company=”nextlevelad.com” image=””]My best tip for working from home is to try and have a dedicated work space – even if it’s a card table in a spare bedroom! This will give you some separation from your personal life and will allow you to keep your work in a place that doesn’t have to be moved when it’s time for dinner with your family! [/thrive_testimonial]
[thrive_testimonial name=”Kelly McCausey” company=”https://www.lpamm.com” image=”https://piggymakesbank.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Kelly-McCausey.png”]One of the challenges I faced early on in my work at home career is recording something for my podcast or courses. I wanted my son to be able to get my attention if he needed it and really wanted to avoid having to edit recordings. We created a habit for him about entering my home office. Do so silently, gently tap my shoulder and pass me a note if it's a simple yes or no question. This accomplished two things. One, my son didn't feel like he couldn't get an answer when he needed it. Two, I felt confident about recording. My son was 11 when I started working from home full time this habit served us well all the way through til he moved out as an adult. Today, more then a decade later, I share a home with my son and his family. My four year old granddaughter has already started using the silent approach with me and I love it. [/thrive_testimonial]
Any questions about working from home? Ask away. We'll do our best to help out and make this transition easier for you.