We've experienced a major shift in our work lives in recent days, including the absence of a daily commute to the office as more and more of us are asked to work from home. Instead of scrambling out the door to make the morning train, we're scrambling eggs in the kitchen, adjusting to a different tempo, rhythm, and dynamic.
As a longtime freelance writer and editor, I've worked primarily from home for years, and have had plenty of practice trying to juggle work with parenting and everyday responsibilities. I've learned to integrate these seven simple tips into my daily life so I don't find myself realizing it's already dinnertime and I haven't gotten enough accomplished.
1. Get Dressed
I remember hearing author Isabel Allende talk about her morning routine. She described dressing like she was getting ready to go out—makeup, heels, the whole nine yards—then strolling to her backyard casita and getting to work. While dressing up isn't necessary, getting dressed is. Changing out of your pajamas and into clothes gets you into the mindset that you're preparing for the day. Plus, if you have a Zoom meeting, you need to be presentable (at least from the waist up).
2. Find a Consistent Work Spot
If you have a home office or even a desk, then you're already ahead of the game. If not, find a spot where you can focus, and make that your go-to work zone. Avoid beds or cozy couches or anywhere you might be tempted to snooze. Returning to the same spot each day conditions the mind to associate that place with working, and you'll soon find yourself getting into work mode almost instantly.
3. Create a Routine
The sooner you establish a routine that works for you, the more quickly you'll adjust to your home-based work life. Just as you exercise, walk the dog, or have breakfast with the kids before leaving for the office, you can now do these things before beginning your workday at home. Likewise, when you finish work, switch gears back to home life just as you would when you return from work for the day. Creating a routine helps separate work from home life, even when both happen to be located in the same place.
4. Minimize Household Chores
Need to fold clothes? Vacuum? Change the sheets? Even if pressing shirts seems less stressful than pressing deadlines, we need to keep our minds on our jobs while working from home. A clean, organized working environment does feel more peaceful, so do the dishes, make the bed, put away extraneous items if that helps you feel more centered. Just try to take care of these tasks before your workday begins.
5. Give Yourself a Break
Sitting down for hours on end without moving isn't good for the body or the soul. Get up and brew some tea, stretch, call a friend, or take a brief walk. Intermittent breaks are restorative, even if all you do is stand up and get some fresh air. However, beware of the kitchen beckoning whenever you're tired, stressed, or bored. Sitting down for a quick meal (ideally away from your computer) is healthier, both mentally and physically, than absentmindedly snacking throughout the day.
6. Turn Off Distractions
If possible, disable your social media and whatever other time-sucking sites you usually pour over at home. If your kids are home from school, keep them on a schedule too, so they can work (or play) in tandem with you. Turn off podcasts, the TV, and distracting music. If you need background noise, switch to something that helps you focus, like instrumental music or nature sounds.
7. Establish Boundaries
Since most of us are at home right now—from both school and work—we're all adjusting to drastic changes to our everyday lives. Establishing clear, consistent boundaries and expectations while working at home is essential in order to stay productive. Just remember to maintain a sense of humor and practice kindness and patience as much as possible. After all, we need to support one another during this uncertain time, and will hopefully grow closer knowing we're here for one another.