A Standford study shocked the world in 2017 when it reported employees working from home were not only 13 percent more productive, but also 50 percent less likely to resign.
Today, more people are working from home than ever before, especially considering the 2020 pandemic. But let’s be real, working from home comes with some amazing perks. Where else can you take a cuddle break with your dog or wear your PJs all day?
In all seriousness, there are infinitely more distractions around you at home. Those same perks are also part of its challenges. And even where you have it all figured out, you’re actually more likely to burn out working from home (I’m talking to you, entrepreneurs).
How to Work From Home 101
So, how do you actually do it? As someone who has embraced the home office life for a few years, I can tell you it certainly requires a good routine and a set of boundaries. It takes discipline. But if you keep to a set of guidelines, you’ll be on your way to that 13 percent (and hopefully more) in the not so distant future.
1. Make a Micro To-Do List
Following your morning routine will set you up for success. But if you don’t have your work organized, you’re already starting off on the wrong foot. But instead of jotting down things like “complete X project” take the time to write out each little step. This is a mentality I often borrow from Anne Lamott’s “Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life” where the author reminds us to celebrate the small victories (Grab a copy at Word Bookstore, they deliver). Also, here’s a great analysis of the power of short assignments.
I’ve found that writing a to-do list by hand to be much more effective than on my phone/computer. There’s no substitute for that small feeling of euphoria crossing off a task with a pen and paper. Be sure to create your to-do list the day before so that when you start a new day, all you have to do is execute.
2. Create a Dedicated Workspace
One of the great things about shaving off those commuting hours is more family time. So you might be tempted to grab your laptop and post up on the couch with the kids. The problem here is, the 200th rerun of “Frozen” is going to cut into your productivity.
Make a space for yourself to work every day, preferably a desk that is away from all the action in your home. If you live alone, it’s still a good idea to avoid your main living area (that is, of course, depending on the size of your place). If you’re not a desk person, I get it. I have friends who work on their sofa. The key here, regardless of your choice of space, is separation.
Keep it personal. Keep it organized. Having a dedicated workspace for yourself is the best way to…
3. Set Boundaries
If you’re playing the role of the attentive parent or overactive entrepreneur (or god help you, both), boundaries can be a tricky thing to stick to. Duty calls, I get it. However impossible boundaries may seem, you should at least make an effort to enforce them. Simply put, when you’re working, you’re working. When you’re not, you’re not.
Conversely, for some people home is actually a stress-free environment. This makes it easier to do more, longer. For that reason, it’s important to make a reasonable stop time for yourself. If 6 p.m. is family FaceTime, don’t skip it just to work longer. Allocate time for work life and personal life and try your best to stick to it. Doors have locks for a reason.
A sedentary lifestyle is the ultimate enemy of productivity. Going for a run first thing in the morning can jump-start your day. Add a cup of coffee, and you’re ready to get rocking with your to-do list. In addition to that, add a few short strength or yoga workouts into your week. If you do this in the afternoon, it can be a great gateway to your second wind. Make exercise one of your top priorities. Even a savoring walk is enough to put you in a more productive mindset. Plus, shocker, it’s good for you.
Meditation isn’t just for hippies. Take 15 or even just 10 minutes to meditate every day. It doesn’t have to be some transcendent experience. If you’re a newbie, just have a seat, focus on your breathing and acknowledge somethings (or people) you are grateful for.
Meditation slows things down and afterward, you may gain a new perspective on a professional situation you’re dealing with. Working from home can teach you a lot about yourself. It can also drive you a bit mad (and I’m not just talking about cabin fever). Sometimes, all we need is a moment to contemplate. I mean, hey, it works for Tony Robbins.
Here’s an easy five-minute mediation recording to follow when you wake up.
6. Have a Morning Routine
Going to the office does more than keep you accountable. It gives you structure. At home, you have to build your own structure–and stick to it. Pretend you are going to the office. Wake up/go to sleep at the same time every day. Shower. Get dressed. Have a coffee. I’m not saying you can’t work in your PJs but lets at least make them clean PJs. Work those mental muscles and prep yourself to be productive. Before I do any work from home, my morning routine looks something like this:
- Fasted Cardio (jogging)
- Black Coffee
(I practice intermittent fasting, but you can throw breakfast in there if you need it.)
7. Set Afternoon Appointments
The greatest enemy of productivity is being interrupted. If you can help it, reserve your mornings for your routine and your to-do list tasks. Do you best work in the A.M. and schedule team meetings with colleagues in the late afternoon once you’ve already knocked out a good amount of work. At The Digest, we reserve 3 to 5 p.m. for our Zoom calls. (Check out our Top Team Chat Apps.)
8. Take a Break Every Hour
Yes, I said it.
Take a break every hour, even if it’s just to stretch or fetch a glass of water.
The misconception is that, taking a break = laziness. It sounds cliche as hell, but if you don’t charge your battery, you’ll be running on empty. Similar to meditation, a short break gives you a moment to reset, get some blood flowing and check-in with yourself. A 2013 NY Times article wrote:
“A new and growing body of multidisciplinary research shows that strategic renewal — including daytime workouts, short afternoon naps, longer sleep hours, more time away from the office and longer, more frequent vacations — boosts productivity, job performance and, of course, health.”
This doesn’t mean you should run to Facebook or Instagram (especially if they part of your job). Social media can kill focus and increase stress (check out the Harvard Business Review Article “Your Brain On Facebook”).
9. Use Nature as Fuel
Many of us have heard about the vitalizing effects of being outdoors and in nature. While I’m forever lean on that first cup of coffee every morning, research tells us the combination of fresh air and the visual of trees increases energy in 90 percent of people.
This can be tricky if you’re reading this during the winter months or the coronavirus pandemic. As long as you’re abiding by the social distancing guidelines, there’s no reason not to get out there. Whether you’re walking the dog in your backyard or just sitting on your balcony, any bit helps when you’re working from home. If you’re looking for ways to bring nature inside, check out our Best Houseplants for Beginners.
Now you know how to work from home. So get to it.