When I decided to quit my job and work for myself, the process of working from home evolved naturally, starting with what was needed and how I could get the most work done while still spending time with my two children when they were younger. Without a doubt, I worked harder, smarter, and better than I did in an office. The best part is that it never felt like work. Here’s how you can get “in the zone” when working from home:
1. Have an office space set up. Whatever it is, the kitchen table, a desk tucked away in a corner or a whole room, the act of labeling it will help you shift into work mode. The permanence will give you a visual and help create a routine.
2. It takes incredible discipline. You are your own boss. You have to show up. There’s no calling it in or faking participation if you want to get the work done. Also, no one is monitoring your time. When you go down the rabbit hole of distraction, it’s on your watch. In addition, you are now in charge of maintenance, enrichment and training, operations, marketing, and your mental and physical health. You have to monitor these areas, take responsibility for them, and know who to reach out to if you need something.
3. It requires laser sharp organizational skills. Your time has more value when you’re working from home. You get more of it but there’s more to get distracted by. Systems need to be in place to cut back on lost time. What online tools will you use to stay organized?
4. It’s important to keep a routine. Know how you work best. Now that standard office hours don’t have to apply, you can adjust your schedule to what works for you. For me, I do my best writing early in the morning when there aren’t any distractions. I get up at 4am and write for two hours. This is sacred time and I don’t waste it on anything else. At 6am, I plan my day, meditate, work out, shower, and send my boys off to school. By 9am I answer emails and tackle my to-do list. At 11am I work with my accounts, either in person, phone, or videoconferencing. I take a break for lunch during this time. By 2pm my energy is drained and I sneak in a 20 minute nap before my kids are home at 3pm. After that, I work on more creative projects like formatting presentations. If I’m having a hard time focusing or need direction, I’ll read. By 5pm I’m ready for a walk, especially if I haven’t been outside. At the very least I go out to get the mail or go to the grocery store. Before I go to bed I plan what I’m working on the next morning. Sometimes that changes when I wake up, but that’s okay because it gets me out of bed.
5. You need über excellent communication skills. Working from home requires writing a lot of emails, making phone calls, and videoconferencing. If you want results, you need to know how to write effectively. If you’re on the phone, know how to end a conversation swiftly. Be a better texter. And get familiar with the many ways of videoconferencing: Zoom, Slack, Skype, Microsoft Teams, Facetime. You will need to master a few of them.
6. Know who to ask for help, and do it often. Asking for help is a powerful skill. It shows people that you trust their ideas, feel competent in their skills, and cherish their advice. In many ways, it can make you a hero. And it reminds you that you’re not alone.
7. Make a point of getting out of the house at least once a day. Interacting with the outside world will keep the bigger picture in perspective. It helps to change up your environment when transitioning between projects or when you’re stuck. It also wards off feelings of isolation. Especially if you’ve been writing all day or working on a deadline. Fresh air is good for everyone and everything.
8. It’s okay to take frequent breaks and even nap. You’ve probably heard that sitting is the new smoking. Move around. Get up from your seat at least every two hours and preferably every 30 minutes. Even if you’re at a standing desk you still need to move. And if you’re like me, you may need to nap. Most offices don’t encourage napping, but when you work from home it’s an amazing perk. Just ten minutes can recharge your brain.
9. Drink lots of water. This is a friendly public service announcement. You are your own water cooler. There’s a reason every office has one. It helps in concentration, energy, stress, and mood. Keep track of how much you drink and stay hydrated. I won’t mention food choices. That’s on you. But if you eat at your desk, you’ll get crumbs in your keyboard.
10. Get dressed every morning! You’ll feel better about yourself, establish a routine, and be ready if there’s a surprise Zoom meeting. And if you don’t change out of your pajamas everyday, you won’t have anything to prompt you to brush your teeth. Nothing worse than forgetting if you’ve brushed your teeth. Save the lazy look for weekends. But you can still wear slippers during the week.