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.

What the Coronavirus Outbreak Teaches Us About Each Other

four women smiling and hugging

In the NBC show The Good Place (if you haven’t yet, WATCH IT!), the protagonists discover that the “point system” created to determine where an individual will spend the afterlife is faulty—not because people are necessarily bad beyond reason, but because individual decisions are complex. I know: what does this have to do with the coronavirus outbreak? Hang in with me for a sec, I’m getting there!

So in this episode, they juxtapose a man who gave his mother a dozen roses back in the 1500s, with another man who did the same action in 2009. The man in the 1500s picked the roses and walked over to give them to his mother—he gained points. But the 21st century man LOST points for the same action. Why? Because he ordered the flowers using a cell phone that was made in a sweatshop, and the flowers were grown with toxic pesticides, picked by exploited migrant workers. Oh, and of course they were delivered through a process that emitted excessive greenhouse gases, and the profits went to a CEO who sexually harasses his employees.

In the show, this leads to the “Judge” of the universe rethinking the way human beings are assessed for the afterlife (seriously, if you haven’t watched this show, what are you doing?). While it makes for great entertainment, I think the application for real life is this:

We are all inevitably, inextricably linked to one another. Whether we like it or not.

Why Our Decisions During Coronavirus Matter

Every decision we make is MORE than just that one decision. It’s a pebble in the water that starts a ripple, the full effect of which we may never know. 

It’s something we may be able to gloss over in normal times. Yeah, sure, our cell phones might’ve been made in sweatshops. But which ones? Would not purchasing the cell phone really make a difference? Would the workers be better or worse off if we hadn’t made the purchase? How could we ever know? We could go on and on with those thoughts indefinitely.

But with this coronavirus outbreak, our interconnectedness is a little harder to ignore. When we look at infection rates and learn about how easily the coronavirus is spread, it becomes quite clear: Our actions, even the smallest ones, can have a significant effect on the world around us. If we refuse to follow the social distancing guidelines to limit physical contact, we could very easily contribute to the problem. And the consequences aren’t abstract here. One infected person infects another, infects another, infects another. Eventually, someone dies.

I know it’s frightening in this context. But in the grand scheme of things, I think it’s an important reminder.

We are all in this together.

Not one of us is an island. Our actions affect others. 

We NEED each other.

Too often, I think we in the western world tend toward individualism. It’s all about our way, our rights, our decisions. Each person should just pick himself up by the bootstraps and deal with whatever life has dealt him.

But, as The Good Place points out—and as the world has reminded us all in these last few weeks—it’s never just about us. It never has been, though maybe we thought so for a minute there.

It’s my deep hope that this crisis brings us back to our roots.

May it tear down the divides we’ve put up in our attempt to do everything on our own.

May it instill in us a sense of responsibility to our fellow humans—even the ones we might not know personally.

And may it remind us, long after this is over, of how interconnected we really are.

I know this is a trying time, friends. Be kind. Be wise. Take care of yourselves. Check on each other. We’re really, truly in this together.

Brand Identity Copy: The Marketing Foundation Your Business is Missing

two women sitting and talking in background with the words "brand identity copy" in foreground

As a copywriter for entrepreneurs, I’ve worked with many amazing business owners who are absolutely killing it in their industries. But as I help them create things like blog posts and newsletters and sales pages, I’ve noticed a trend:

Many of them don’t have a clear, cohesive identity that serves as the foundation for their brand. I’m talking about a brand identity.

What the Heck is Brand Identity?

In a nutshell, your brand identity is all the elements of your brand that define your business and formulate the basis of everything you communicate to your audience.

In an ideal world, these elements come together to form a cohesive foundation for all your marketing. But in reality, that doesn’t always happen—at least not from the start. While some people do invest in creating a brand identity before starting their businesses, not everyone does. Plenty of new business owners simply print a few business cards and then hit the ground running.

And that strategy may work for a while. In the long run, though, the businesses that thrive are the ones that have built up a strong brand identity that communicates their values, while consistently delivering on their promises.

two women talking with laptops open at a desk

Uncovering the heart of your brand

As I’ve recognized this prevalent need for something more fundamental, I’ve created a copywriting package for my clients who want to uncover their brand’s true identity. It’s a service I hope to see more and more creative entrepreneurs and business owners choose. Why? Because it allows us to get to the heart of what they do. That foundational copy can then be used in numerous capacities to benefit their businesses.

Here are the 7 keys to creating brand identity copy:

  1. Company tagline. This is about capturing the essence of your brand, in as few words as possible. It doesn’t need to necessarily describe everything you do, but it needs to speak to your audience and convey your company’s purpose.
  2. Mission and values. Every business, no matter how small, no matter the industry, has a mission. It’s your WHY. It’s the driving force behind your organization. It might not even be obvious to you as the business owner what that mission is—or you might know it, but not be totally confident in articulating it. That’s okay! When we start peeling back the layers, we’ll get to the heart. 
  3. Unique selling proposition. This is just marketing jargon for “what makes you different.” Again, if you haven’t worked on creating your brand identity before, you might not know right away what this is. As your copywriter, I’ll work with you to determine what aspects of your business truly set you apart in your industry. 
  4. Company and/or personal bio. One of the laments I often hear from my clients is, “I have such a hard time writing about myself!” I get it. You can be so close to something that it actually hinders your ability to articulate it well. Often what you really need is an outsider’s perspective on your business, in order to really hone in on the most important pieces. Having a bio that is part of your cohesive brand identity is crucial for running your marketing efforts efficiently. Whether you’re being featured on a podcast, you’re submitting a guest blog post, or a publication is running an article on your business, there’s a good chance you’ll be asked to provide a bio. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel each time if your bio is part of your brand identity.
  5. Company history. Everyone loves a good story. We love to hear about Steve Jobs starting Apple in his garage, and J.K. Rowling writing the first Harry Potter novel on a typewriter as a single mom. Likewise, I love chatting with business owners about how they came up with the idea for their company, and the way they hustled to make it all come together. I include company history in your brand identity because I think it’s important to remember where we started and why, and because we connect best with our audiences when we’re authentic and open about our story.
  6. Brand voice and tone. This is the fun part! How do you want your brand to sound to your audience? How do you want to make them feel? What are some of the words and phrases you catch yourself saying all the time? By fleshing this out, we create a voice for your brand that speaks to your audience and truly sounds like you.
  7. Audience analysis. If you want to really be effective in your marketing, you need to know who your audience is. Hint: it’s not everybody! Everybody can’t be your customer. As we go over the various aspects of your brand, we’ll work through who your ideal client is. Then we’ll create an audience analysis that helps you determine how to best speak to those specific people.

Having a solid brand identity is crucial to effectively communicating and connecting with your audience. Ready to get to work on your company’s brand identity copy? Get in touch with me here!