Whether telecommuting or just starting a new home business venture, you’ll find orking from home takes both physical and mental steps to be productive. Factor in kids, spouses or roommates around; limited workspace available; and housework distractions that take you off course. The time is ripe to make changes – or more changes — in your office environment.
- Be practical about where you’re working.
It’s not always easy to focus at home or in settings that aren’t business-like. If you don’t have a designated office, re-think a bedroom, garage, attic, basement, even a storage room or large closet. Look online for transformation examples.
I turned our often-unused, ignored living room into a den/library. We sold the traditional furniture replacing it with book shelves, loveseat, lounge chair, and a used computer armoire, which conveniently hides my laptop and files behind its closed doors when we’re entertaining guests.
- Make a decision and act.
When you find a spot to work, but storage or clutter is in the way, don’t halt progress sorting through it first before clearing the space; that could take days or weeks. Pack it all into boxes and move them out of way, going back through when time allows. Remember, this doesn’t have to be permanent. Once I realized all six in our family would be working and taking online classes simultaneously under COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, we immediately moved my husband’s desk and computer into our bedroom to free up his basement office. That gave the kids freedom from having to tip-toe around their dad and created another place for them to escape for fun.
- Prioritize needs for your workspace.
No funds for new office furniture? Repurpose items around the house – just get set up. Find deals on used pieces online or at thrift stores. You won’t want to skimp on a good chair, though. Invest in one that protects your back and neck – maybe try an adjustable standing desk converter. For work in a common area, set boundaries and get noise cancelling headphones.
Have proper lighting on your desktop and also on your face for virtual meetings. Pick a space with natural light if possible – it’s best for eyesight, plus boosts energy and mood levels. Speaking of, mood is tied to procrastination. While working on a couch, bed or the patio outside may not be a good daily habit, if it suits your mood occasionally and yields results, go for it!
- Put yourself in work mode.
Get into a professional mindset each day. Dress out of pajamas. Don’t sleep in. Replace your former morning drive by taking a walk around the block before “punching in.” Do one easy, habitual task each morning for a sense of accomplishment – it sparks a fire within to tackle another job (a prime example: search for retired U.S. Navy Admiral William McRaven’s viral video “Make Your Bed” speech).
- Keep focused.
Know what diverts your attention and make an honest effort to avoid or eliminate temptations. Set hours to block favorite websites. Limit phone, email and texting – don’t answer every ring and ping. It’s said, “Doing the more immediate before the more important is counterproductive.” That includes tackling dishes or laundry “really quickly.” If it’s more efficient for you, see if your boss or spouse is okay with you operating during red-eye shifts.
- Utilize visual and mental
Employ time and task management aides. Many smartphone and computer apps are designed for this, down to simple calendar reminders. Or go old school – but still very effective – with the Eisenhower Decision Matrix, www.eisenhower.me/eisenhower-matrix/. Deadlines are good motivators, so ask a client or employer to hold you to them. On a to-do list, it’s visually encouraging to use check boxes or cross out completed assignments. Comedian Jerry Seinfeld marks a red X on his calendar each day he writes; seeing the chain of Xs encourages him not to break it.
- Set ground rules with family, manage expectations.
Apparently, “work-life harmony” is in and “work-life balance” is out. One week may be work-heavy but the next leaning more toward personal life. The two aren’t always equal – and that’s okay. Keep that in mind, as teleworking or a home business can be trying on families. Are you sacrificing time you should be spending with kids or a spouse during evenings and
weekends? Make a pact agreeing when to “punch out.” For parents with kids stuck at home away from friends and usual summer fun, give them a little more attention; listen. Those work minutes lost can be found later in the day.
Don’t beat yourself up if you’re finding it frustrating or too lax working from home. Your eating, sleeping and exercise habits may be out of whack as well, with or without coronavirus social distancing at play. Know your trigger points. Ask for help. Take breaks. Go for a walk. Say mantras. Meditate. Pray. Be flexible. Remind yourself you have your health and that you’re still working at all.
You may love your new work life from home, or you may be anxious about a return to “normal.” Yet especially during a pandemic and national crisis like this crazy 2020, don’t sweat the small stuff. Time will surely show: This season will pass, this year will roll.
Ann Wilkins Jefferson is a 1992 graduate of The Ohio State University with a bachelor of arts in Communication – Rhetoric track. She held fulltime jobs as an assistant press secretary for a U.S. Senate campaign and as a communications / marketing director for a non-profit before starting freelance writing, primarily for two major clients. Aside from her civilian work, Ann is a lieutenant commander and Public Affairs Officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve, a career that has taken her around the world. She’s a veteran of Air Force Reserve Public Affairs and graduate of U.S.M.C. Officer Candidate Course. Ann and her husband, C. Calvin Jefferson, III, ’92, ’95, live in a Cleveland suburb with their four kids (including their oldest, Scarlett Grace, who graduated from Ohio State in May!). Cal is president of UnionHistories.com, where Ann assists with operations, editing and events