Suddenly Working from Home? Here are 8 Life Hacks I’ve Learned from 5 Years of Remote Work

woman working from home and making french press coffee

As the coronavirus outbreak shuts down more and more businesses, many people have found themselves suddenly working from home. For many, this is the first time they’ve had to manage their job remotely.

If that’s you, I want to first extend some encouragement. Remote work certainly has its advantages, but it can also be a challenge. If you’ve felt like you’ve been on the struggle bus since you started working from home, don’t worry. You’re not the only one who feels this way, and no, you’re NOT a failure. You just need to adjust to your new normal. With a little time—and some hacks from those of us who’ve been in this game for a while now—you’ll be a pro at working from home.

I’ve been working remotely for five years now, and it’s been a huge blessing and advantage for my family and me. I love being able to create my own calendar, work around my kids’ schedules and still be able to do things around the house or participate in activities outside of work during the day.

That said, working remotely is no cake walk. It’s been a huge learning experience, and it’s something I still have to work at consistently if I want to optimize my productivity.

Here are some hacks I’ve learned that have made working from home easier:

8 Tips for Successfully Working from Home

  1. SCHEDULE YOUR TIME. Just because you work from home does not mean you shouldn’t have set work hours. In fact, it might actually be more important to have your work hours clearly defined when you work remotely. If you allow the lines between work and home to blur too much, you can end up working way more than you really need to, and work can begin to seep into areas where it doesn’t belong.

    Now, I know this gets tricky when you add in kids that are home because schools are closed. But do your best to schedule work hours around their schedules. If your kids are younger, plan to work during their naps and independent play times. If they’re older, make sure they understand that you’re unavailable during your scheduled work hours. Is your spouse suddenly working from home as well? Take turns watching the kids so you can both get in some productive hours.
  2. HAVE A DESIGNATED WORK SPACE. I’m sure you’ve seen social media posts from people saying they’re #workingfromhome, accompanied by photos of a laptop on a bed. Listen, I would be asleep in approximately seven minutes if I did that. And I would get about 10% of the things on my to-do list done. It takes a lot of concentration to be productive when you’re working remotely, so it’s vital that you have a designated space for working. If you don’t have a separate office, then designate a specific area as your work space—maybe a desk in your room, or a spot at the dining room table.
  3. GUARD AGAINST DISTRACTIONS. This is definitely the hardest one for me. With nobody keeping me accountable but myself, it can be tempting to play reruns of The Office in the background, or mindlessly scroll social media throughout the day. Working remotely means taking on the responsibility of policing yourself against distractions. You might want to turn off all your notifications during work hours, or block certain apps from your phone. Do what you need to do to stay on track.
  4. GET UP AND MOVE. By now, we all know how bad it is for us to sit in front of our desks all day. Schedule breaks throughout your day. Take a walk around the neighborhood, or do a quick workout. One of my favorite workday breaks is going through a short Yoga with Adrienne video.
  5. GET YOUR CREATIVE JUICES FLOWING EARLY. Research has shown that most of us are more alert and better able to make decisions mid- to late-morning. By afternoon, we are less alert and less able to make quick connections. We’re also the most creative and prone to ideas right after waking up—which is why writing and brainstorming first thing in the morning can be a great strategy for writers and other creatives. Save more menial, low-creativity tasks for mid-afternoon, as that’s when people usually experience a decline in focus.
  6. DO ONE THING AT A TIME. I’m pretty sure multitasking is from the devil anyway—but it’s definitely a terrible idea if you’re working from home. Figure out what your most important tasks are, and tackle them one at a time. This is so crucial. Don’t try bouncing all over the place and expect to get things done.
  7. SET REALISTIC DEADLINES. Working remotely does not necessarily mean you’ll get things done faster. In fact, if you’re new to working from home, I would urge you to anticipate things taking longer for a while. Err on the side of caution when setting and agreeing to deadlines by giving yourself adequate time to complete projects.
  8. INVEST IN YOUR WORK SPACE. I moved this one to the last place because I know it’s hard to go out and get things right now. However, if you can set up your work space in a way that is appealing to you and brings you peace, you might find you’re more productive. If plants make you happy, set them up around your work space. Face the window if you prefer a view. This is your chance to create a space that makes you feel inspired and keeps you productive.

Bonus: If you can, find friends who are also working from home! I know right now you can’t go out and grab lunch together, but you can still connect remotely. Set up a Zoom co-working date, chat with them on Voxer, or just check in over the phone every once in a while. As with anything in life, it’s easier to get through this with friends.

What are Your Tips for Working Remotely?

Are you a long time work-from-homer? What are some of your tips for people who might have found themselves suddenly working from home? Let us know in the comments!

*This post was originally published on 6.10.19. It has been updated with new information.

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