How to Stay Productive Working from Home

As someone who has been working from home for the majority of my adult life, I feel like I am in a great position to dish tips on how to work from home during this era of quarantining/social distancing. It’s hard to stay on task not in an office setting, and the self-discipline needed seems unreachable. So allow me to offer some advice on how to stay productive working from home for the coming weeks!

Keep Yourself Accountable

Aside from the social interaction that an office provides, a lot of you are going to deeply miss the social pressure that comes from an office environment. Left to your own devices, who knows how much work you’d actually get done?! You need Bill from HR slowly walking by your office every hour and Cheryl, your boss, rapidly tapping her keyboard only a few yards away. They hold your feet to the fire and ensure you’re productive! Hell, you only ever took legitimate breaks whenever office culture deemed it *socially acceptable.*

So…what happens when none of those people have any clue whether you’re actually working or not? 

On paper, productivity goes right out the window along with every other aspect about our lives that we’re used to. What a time to be alive!

But we aren’t going to let that happen. If you are lucky enough to still have your job (more on that later), we can’t afford to completely drop the ball with our careers. So instead we have to find the new normal.

So let’s go back to the whole external reward system for a bit, shall we? I know we are supposed to lean towards internal rewards for pure fulfillment in life, but desperate times call for desperate measures. And here we are.

What would you rather be doing rather than working? Netflixing, yogaing, eating, sleeping, pup playing…yeah all those sound better than your job, don’t they? So get in the habit of finishing tasks and projects and rewarding yourself with a treat or fun activity. The social pressure is all but gone (unless you count timely email responsiveness ‘social pressure’) so we need to hold ourselves accountable by staying on top of our work and trying to enjoy (some of) it along the way.

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Try to Keep a *Manageable* Schedule

Creating a “lax” schedule can help you stay on task, but not beat yourself up for trying to force an office environment from home. It goes something like this:

Wake up, spend some time with family, or if you’re quarantining solo, do whatever clears your head for the day. Take your time. Eat your breakfast. Do your thang.

Once you feel prepped for the day, log on and get some preliminary morning work done. Catch up on whatever you missed from last evening, join your Zoom meetings, focus for as long as you can. Once you feel productivity waning, take a break. Do some jumping jacks, make more coffee, spend some time with a pet or family member, listen to part of your favorite podcast. Once you feel refreshed, plug away until lunch.

Once lunch arrives, E N J O Y  I T. No eating at your desk. No shoveling food down your mouth while you’re on a conference call (gross). Just take a breather. After lunch, resume some productivity in spurts as much as you can. Take breaks. Join meetings. Reward yourself (see above). Catch up on emails.

And once you are typically done for the day (when did you usually leave work beforehand?) – call it quits.

Shut the laptop off. Put your phone on DND. Not having the clear line of demarcation between office and home is going to be incredibly toxic if you can’t create proper boundaries.

That’s it. Wash, Rinse, Repeat.

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Do What You Can to Create a Separate Workspace

As I mentioned in a previous post, not all of us are blessed with Texas style 3,000 square foot homes. Many of us in the “shelter-at-home” cities are workin’ with square footage flirting with a thousand – and that usually doesn’t bless us with a private office of our own. As a veteran WFHer, I made the decision to rip out the guest bedroom closet and literally carve out an office for myself. Because who needs to hang their clothes when they visit us?!?! Live out of your suitcases, pls.

If you have a spare bedroom or an office, great. Please leave all work duties confined to that room. If you don’t, and you’re living in a studio or a smaller one bedroom or have roomies, it’s time to get creative. In your mind, I want you to mentally divide your space into three sections: work, rest, and sleep. Ideally, those areas shouldn’t overlap – but if any of them do, I’d rather it be rest + sleep. At least they are part of the same family!

The key is to trick your brain into thinking you are in a work environment, and then when you’re done for the day, code-switching to a rest environment. For instance, if you work from your bed, can you imagine how difficult going to sleep is going to be? Have you ever slept in your office? Yes? Okay, dear lord, we need to have a separate discussion about that.

But for those of you who would never *dream* of spending the night in your office, please don’t start now! 

Create separation between your work and your life  (even if you feel like you barely have one of those right now). It’s a lot harder to create mental boundaries when you aren’t physically creating distance between the two realms. Work in the living room, sleep in your bedroom. If you don’t have a living room, set up a small corner with your laptop. a small table and a chair. Work at the kitchen bar! More than likely you have what you need to make a semi-sustainable work environment. I know it’s not ideal – most of us would prefer to be working from coffee shops (or yes, our offices), so we have to do what we can to stay sane and productive.

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No Shaming, Please!

So is the goal here to have the most productive working from home days of your entire life right now? Hate to break it to you, and I know that blog title seems a bit misleading now that I think about it….but probably not. This is a huge adjustment. Aside from the fact that we’re all exceptionally nervous about our own personal health as well as our friends’ and family’s health, we’re also stir crazy, hoping that our jobs stay steady, and being incessantly bombarded with more bad news every hour.

Not the best working conditions for productivity, if you ask me.

So what we’re not going to do is beat yourself up for not mirroring the same level of productivity working from home you’re accustomed to in an office environment. Not to point fingers here necessarily……………..but this country was woefully underprepared for what was coming, and therefore you were woefully underprepared for what came. Plenty of y’all left work on a Friday having no idea you weren’t returning on Monday.

RIP office plants!

Therefore we can’t expect ourselves to *immediately* adjust to this new normal. You are still in the transition phase, even if you got a head start on social distancing. Be kind to yourself. Be compassionate toward coworkers. Remind yourself that your team is processing this global pandemic in their own unique ways – so it’s not personal if people are acting “off” right now. Some will bury themselves in work, some will find it impossible to focus on anything other than existential doom.

Refrain from shaming others, and refrain from shaming yourself. The less judgment we pass around, the better off we’ll be.

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Practice Gratitude

We are going back to basics here. While you may not love your job, or even want your job – it’s time to feel grateful that you have a job.

So many Americans are currently unemployed, furloughed, or on the brink of being laid off. My husband is one of them! And while perhaps the government. might wake up and decide to not bailout corporations and instead help out its citizens, we have no timeline as to when things will resume to “normal”. Many people are scared and would do anything for a semblance of job security right now.

I’m not telling you this to shame you into feeling guilty. None of us benefit from everyone feeling miserable. I’m telling you this so that you can latch onto gratitude. Let it carry you through this crazy time. Wake up every day feeling thankful that you are continuing to receive a paycheck from the comfort of your own home. It’s really a miracle when you think about it.

I am sending you all of my productive/energetic/creative/organization vibes for this next phase of your life.

If you’re feeling lost, unmotivated, or beating yourself up over this – it might be time to talk to someone about it. Remember that Blush just launched an *app* and now offer unlimited chat – that way you can improve while keeping it on the low down from your quarantine buddies. Join us and let’s work on it together.

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