Working from home is kind of my jam. It’s not always the easiest thing to do as 3 hour coffee dates or playing hooky feels a lot easier when you have no one to report to but yourself, but setting yourself up for productive work days with goals (achievable ones!!) definitely makes you feel a lot more accomplished and a lot less anxious, especially as a small business owner.
With everything that’s happening right now, I know there’s a lot of people currently working from home and it might be a completely different speed than they’re used to. It’s an adjustment and how do you keep positive, productive, and feeling on task without going crazy?
How do you stay afloat without sliding into the realm of not wearing pants or showering, and drinking milk right out of the fridge for lunch? It’s a delicate balance to be honest, but I’ll walk you through some of the things I’ve been doing to make sure I’m still productive and moving forwards towards my goals no matter what.
Having a set routine
This is the one that has made the biggest difference for me. When I mean routine, I mean having a set nighttime and morning routine. As much as I hate admitting it (because I love staying up late), sleep hygiene is huge for setting you up for success. For me, the most successful days filled with productivity are the ones where I’m heading to sleep early, waking up early, and taking time for myself in the morning for inner work and self-development. I can write on this for a while, but the biggest takeaways are this:
- Have a set nighttime routine so you can start to ease into the process of winding down. It doesn’t have to be at a set time every night per se, but doing the same rituals does your mind a world of good.For example, mine is to wash up, add water and essential oils to our bedside diffuser, turn on only our bedside lamps, boil hot water to drink before bed, and then crawl in and catch up on my daily blogs (I can’t let go of tech before bed still, it’s a work in progress). On more restless nights, Headspace’s sleep casts have been a lifesaver for a restless mind.
- Setting your morning routine: it can be as simple as rolling out of bed at the same time every day and making your morning coffee. Committing to a ritual that will set you up for the day is huge, and you will know best what that looks like for you, though it might take some trial and error to start.Woke up too early or late? Do the routine anyways if you have the time, it will prime your head to get into the right mindset and get you on the right track.
- Set some time for inner work and self-development: As of late, I’ve been waking up earlier to get this time in, and it’s been vital for my mental health and success. As a part of my morning routine, I’ve been trying to consistently meditate between 10-20 minutes each day and then spend some time journaling and mind mapping. I find doing this at the beginning of the day when your head is still clear allows for a lot more creativity and can lead to novel breakthroughs as you work to achieve work or personal goals.
Make your bed
Make your damn bed. While I’m sure my mom is proud that her words finally stuck, I now understand how the visuals of your bedroom can be a reflection of the state of your mind. While the state of my office might look like a disaster 3 days out of 7, when across the hall and see at least my bedroom is tidy, I know there’s some aspect of my life that’s in my control. Let this be known that I don’t have children, I know that’s a whole nother ball game when it comes to clean and tidy spaces. So give yourself some grace, but make your bed anyways and pat yourself on the back.
Get dressed like you’re heading to the office
And I don’t mean put on your suit if you usually wear one. Changing out of your pyjamas and doing your normal morning routine as if you were heading out the door will help you get in the space of “stepping out” of your home bubble, and into your work bubble.Even if you’re not seeing anyone, that’s okay – you are doing this for you. Personally, I wear clothes that are soft but still have some structure, that way I can move freely but still feel grounded in my workspace.
Prioritize, schedule, and check your deadlines
There are mornings where I know exactly what I’ll be doing, and others where the brain fog is real. For the days that are foggier, I set a timer and spend 10 minutes mind mapping. What does this mean? This means I throw everything I have in my head onto my whiteboard or a piece of paper to clear it. It can be deadlines coming up, projects on the go, laundry lists, anything.
This might feel super overwhelming as your write everything down, but I promise it’ll get easier. So write every little thing you can think of, no judgement.Once I feel like I’ve emptied my mind (usually around the 10 minute mark), I write down four columns: to do this week, to do this month, ongoing, and future. From my mind map I look at everything on the paper and start to slot my thoughts into columns that are more digestible chunks.
The to do this week is then scheduled into my calendar, the to do this month is scheduled into looser timelines but deadlines are set (if need be), the ongoing gets scheduled in as need be (these are usually daily tasks) and future projects get to hang out and be revisited at a later date (a week or month later).I know this seems all very daunting, but I promise it’s not! It’ll allow you to see what needs to get done right away and keeps you from feeling lost and overwhelmed, or feeling aimless with your tasks.I try to do this at the beginning of the week to set myself up, but you can do this anytime, and I find myself reaching for this technique when I feel overwhelmed.
I am one of those people who has to schedule in lunch and breaks for myself as I find my work to sometimes be all consuming. So schedule time for yourself to get up and walk around the house, go outside with your kids, or even break to spend time on your phone catching up. Give yourself a pat on the back for the work you’ve done up to this point, but make sure your breaks have an end time too, lest you find yourself taking a 2 hour lunch or sinking into the trap of social media.
Set a weekly reward
I’ve been thinking about this one as of late and if working from home is not your norm, set a reward at the end of the week for yourself. It can be a huge adjustment, and celebrating your micro-wins at the end of the week can help you feel excited and uplifted, even if you’re stuck at home. Be it an extra glass of wine, a fancy dinner you make for yourself, or couple hours to binge on the Netflix you’ve missed this week.
End your workday
If you have set up a temporary workspace at your kitchen counter, table or anywhere else, clean it up and put it away. Just like how we need to enter our work mind space, we need to exit and come back into our homes and treat them like the cozy spaces they are. It can be hard when your work and living space reside in the same area, and I find that this tactic can help your ground yourself, turn your work brain off, and put you into the present.
I’ll be honest, I’m bad at this one as I’m known to walk by my office and sit down and start working on a whim, but I lately have been trying to set better boundaries and it’s definitely left me feeling more refreshed and ready to work the following day if I just step away from the devices.
And while I’m not perfect and do all these things 100% of the time, I know I feel better when I’m in this regular routine. It might not work for everyone and that’s okay, but it can be hard to go from the rigidity of your regular workday to absolutely nothing. I hope some of these tips can help you find the middle ground as we navigate through this uncertain time.
Other things to do
If you’re stuck at home, a couple other things you can also do is e-hang out with colleagues on google hangouts, facetime, zoom, or any other apps that allow you to digitally connect, and Netflix has just released a way for you to watch movies online with friends! Maybe that is your reward at the end of a long day or week.
But more than anything, be kind to yourself, these are weird and unsteady times we are currently living in, and writing down 5 things you’re grateful for everyday can help remind us that not all is lost, that there are still many positive things in this world that we have to look forward to.
*Photo of me by Emily Michelson