Hey, hope you’re doing well in this quarantine! It’s day 7,042 here in quarantined Salt Lake City. Nothing new here though, I’ve been working from home for 10+ years.
Now that many of us are working from home and struggling with the adjustment - I want to share a few tips on how I’ve adapted and thrived at working from home. It’s taken me years to figure out how to effectively work from home and not go crazy!
So if this is you, if you’re one of the many who are working from home and you hate it, you always feel like you’re working, can’t ‘disconnect’ from your work, feel like you’re getting frustrated with the distractions, any of the many reasons really – this is for you!
I’m gonna’ lay it out for ya in 3 steps.
#1 - Find Your Secret Spot
You have to have a specific dedicated part of your house that is the work zone.
Now, if you live in a really tiny New York apartment and you don’t have an at-home office or a downstairs where you can put all your books, office supplies, books, computer monitors, books. Did I mention books? I LOVE having all of my books in my office and easily accessible for reference.
My wife, Natalie, always makes fun of me because I’m one of those people that is always reading or has a book in my hand. Having my library shelf behind me makes me feel like I’m in some kind of fancy Roman library; having that type of knowledge and resource so easily accessible is such a positive benefit to myself and my business.
Find your secret spot and set it up.
Set it up however makes you feel like the best you. Mine is surrounded by books. Maybe yours is a little garden table with plants hanging on shelves, or a little lap desk that has motivational quotes printed on it.
Just find what environment and spot makes you feel encouraged, productive, focused, and uplifted – and make it yours. Your designated personal office.
My biggest suggestion with this – is to NOT make it your room if possible. Your room should be your personal non-work space where you can mentally, emotionally, physically, in-all-the-ways relax, and disconnect from work.
So even if it’s your ‘own little chair in your own little corner’ it will work. If you have a 300sq ft apartment you can still have a little chair with a little half desk in your own little corner.
And just like that, you now have an at-home office.
This is a place where you can put yourself in work mode, and as well, when you’re NOT in that place you can allow yourself to be OUT of work mode. If you’re working from all over the house every day, it can grow frustrating. You feel like you are always in work mode and then work becomes everything.
And just a friendly reminder... work is not everything. Work is just one part of what we do in our life, there is SO much to our life.
Don’t let work be your life.
Create a work office designed for your business benefit and for your own mental health, I promise it’s 100% worth investing in a tiny desk and a tiny chair. (tiny pencil optional)
#2 - Time Blocking
This one isn’t easy.
It’s really hard for most people to do it and it took me years to figure it out. I got this tip from Chet Holmes, “The Ultimate Sales Machine.”
Make a list of the three most important things that need to get done that day. Whatever those three things are, are my TOP priority. And then actively go into your calendar and block out the time.
This way you know you have set aside specific time to work on those three priorities. This helps you to knock out your own excuses of “I forgot” or “I ran out of time”. You literally set a reminder and blocked out the time. Accountability in calendaring is everything.
Now, this might sound menial to you, it sounded a little crazy to me at first, to be honest. I thought, “there’s no way I’m going to spend the time to go into my calendar and block out little hour increments when I need to really work on that all day. My whole calendar is going to be filled because I want to have the freedom to work whenever I want.”
Most tasks don’t take you all day. You will get more done by being realistic with the time you need to accomplish a task, blocking it out, and doing it.
The freedom of working whenever you want can quickly become working all of the time by having tasks looming in the background constantly. Blocking out your day for those three top priorities helps your brain to focus and relax at the tasks at hand.
The mindset of “I can do whatever I want whenever I want” really starts to wear on your mental health because you’re in a constant state of being reactive – rather than proactive and getting things done.
Here’s what this looks like for me.
I make a list of the three things I need to get done the day before so I don’t have to keep thinking about it. In the morning when I wake up, I don’t check my email. I don’t check Facebook. I don’t check the news. I don’t check anything because the morning is for me to start off right. I have the most energy, I’m pumped for work and to get things done. I tackle the biggest project right off the bat that was #1 of my top 3.
That way, when I tackle that #1 most important task – even if I end up getting nothing done for the rest of the day – I know that I have accomplished the most important thing. I’d rather have a day full of an important accomplished task rather than a busy full day where everything is half-done-still-on-the-agenda-all-the-time-forever. You know how that feels and you know what I’m talking about.
The relief and genuine high that comes from crossing off that to-do is real ya’ll.
After I accomplish #1, I look at my schedule again to keep going. I evaluate my remaining tasks and what I need to do for the rest of the day to keep the ball rolling. But remember – make sure to schedule in lunch time, break time, time to walk the dog, whatever you need to do to distance yourself from your home office and work-life to stay healthy and alert. Your mental and physical health matters. Taking care of yourself will reflect in your work I guarantee it.
Personally I schedule in time to watch Dr. Phil on Facebook haha! I freaking love Dr. Phil right now. I schedule out that time of the day to take a break and have a laugh. Take care of yourself. Work won’t rule your life when you rule your schedule.
A timer works perfectly to keep track of, well, time. I have an Apple watch; some people use a kitchen timer. Whatever you have that will beep at you will work just fine. I put a timer on for 10 minutes, 15 minutes, however long I need to be working on a certain project (whether that’s a business project or my beloved Dr. Phil episodes) and everything else goes away while I work on that until the timer goes off. And then repeat. Set the timer for the next task.
If you didn’t finish the task before the timer, evaluate whether you can devote more time to that today or if you need to block out more time for later.
My favorite thing about this method is the fact that I don’t have to think about what I’m going to do for the day.
I have this weird satisfaction of waking up, looking at my calendar, and being able to see what I’m going to do and most importantly – what I’m going to accomplish. Because I’ve spent the time to prepare myself.
Saving that mental energy of continually thinking about the next thing is a life-saver. Don’t waste your mental space – just check your calendar and turn on that timer!
Working from home without a schedule is like having a kite without a string. In order to have the freedom to work from home and actually be effective – and happy and thriving – you need to have that string of a schedule.
The schedule isn’t a restriction, it’s an anchor that helps you to stay on track and stay accountable to keep yourself and your business healthy and thriving. If you cut that kite string, the kite isn’t going to be free and keep flying up and up – it’s going to wander aimlessly and crash.
Staying anchored in our calendar string is how we can be our best kite, lol.. You can tell from my analogies that I’ve been spending extra time with my little boy Arlo, he’s into kites right now. So, to wrap it all up; schedule out your day and stick to it. Set that timer. Spending a day being proactive is the best feeling in the world.
#3 - Completely Disconnect
Delete all forms of social media/contact/apps/everything that doesn’t have to do with work from your phone..
Just delete them. I give you permission to do that.
Here’s the thing, if someone really wanted to get a hold of you - they would call you. I know the idea ‘of getting a phone call’ is now so taboo – but if it’s important it’ll warrant a phone call. If it’s not a phone call – it’s not that important and it can wait.
If you get a Facebook message or email that’s outside of work, leave it for outside of work. Don’t allow time-sucker apps and messages to steal your day. After all, you just spent all that energy and time mapping out your day – don’t let it get away from you. And if you’ve calendared your day right, you will have the time to check the fun stuff when it’s time.
What's most important is that you don't let other people run your schedule.
Your inbox can quickly become filled with other people's agendas.
Don't let other people run your agenda.
Don't start your day being reactive.
Start your day being proactive.
Aight, I’m going to go for a walk. I booked it in my calendar, and what’s in the calendar must be done.
Plus it’s an absolutely beautiful day outside! Take it easy, hang in there, we’ll make it through this crazy-corona-chaos together.