The current situation in the world has become so unpredictable. Most of you are forced (or prefer) to work from home. This can be challenging on its own, but coupled with your spouse also working from home, and your kids staying home all the time, it can become quite an adventure.
In this article, I have shared a few tips that I am using to tackle the same situation for my family and I. I am a person who loves their personal space, enjoys doing deep, concentrated work. My spouse is the same. At the same time, we have a 4-year-old at home always eager for our attention.
Time to read
Time to read: 11 minutes (based on 150 words per minute).
You have a report that is due by the end of the day. You have opened all the spreadsheets on your laptop, you miss your huge monitor at the office, but, nevertheless, you are determined to make it work (because you have to). After a few minutes getting into the flow state, you start writing the report and then you hear: “Honey, can you check if my coffee is ready, please?” You interrupt your focus, you go and check the coffee machine. It is ready and you can go back to working. You spend a few more minutes getting the concentration back, and then you hear: “Dad! Can you put Frozen II on the TV”. Rinse and repeat. Before you know it, it is 4:00PM and you still have hours left to work.
Below, you will find a handful of tips for changing your mindset and approaching these challenging times from another perspective. You cannot change the situation or the environment, you cannot change the challenges and limitations of working from home, but you can change your attitude about all these things.
I am a creature of habit. I don’t know about you, but I certainly love working in my office, connecting with my colleagues, sometimes even hiding in a conference room so that I can finish whatever I am supposed to finish. It is very hard to break from this routine.
I am also used to working from home from time to time. I have established my environment at our apartment, but there I also rely on uninterrupted alone time to do what I am supposed to do.
Yes, these are challenging times. I rarely had to work with my spouse and my kid both at home. I’ve kept most of my general tips for working from home, but I have also added a few others, specific for the current situation.
Take care of yourself
Just like the flight attendants tell you to put your own mask first (in the unlikely case of emergency) and then help anybody else.
Step 01: Try to get a good night sleep
Sleep is essential for keeping your mental and physical health in order. Especially under stressful circumstances. Go to bed a bit earlier, give yourself enough sleep opportunity. Avoid staring at any screens before your bed time. If you want to read a book, read something that will calm you down.
And if you find yourself unable to sleep, don’t worry. Read a book. Listen to some guided meditation or anything else that keeps you calm. Avoid planning your next day or summarizing your previous one. Actually, try to avoid thinking altogether (sounds easy right?)
Step 02: Keep as much as you can from your daily routine
Once again, we are creatures of habit and sticking to a routine is not only beneficial, but also essential to the way we live. Of course, when you are working from home, you are already diverging from your usual routine. There is no denying that. But try to keep as much as possible of your normal routine.
For me, this means that I am keeping my gratefulness journal, my philosophy reading, my meditation, and my exercise practices. I am getting my usual breakfast.
You can use the time to experiment with your looks (e.g. growing a beard, or long hair). But I personally prefer to keep my usual look when I am working from home. I still shave and do everything just the way I would do it if I were going to the office.
Step 03: Exercise
If you are only working from home then getting your 10,000 steps each day can be easy (e.g. a 45-min brisk walk outside can get your pretty close). But if you also have to stay home, it becomes more challenging. What I do is to set aside two 30-min blocks to walk inside our apartment. It feels weird in the beginning, but once you get used to that you will be fine. You can read this article for some more tips on how to exercise at home.
Step 04: Eat healthy
Arguably, this would be even more important if you were in the office, because there we tend to eat more junk food, but still you need to eat properly in order to keep you physical and mental health.
What I do is that I start my day with a smoothie (spinach, apple, quick oats, and cranberries). I eat nuts during the day, if I get hungry (especially around 3:00 PM). Lunch and dinner is family time (more about that later in the article).
Step 05: Be flexible
Things will not go as planned throughout the day. Embrace change and uncertainty. Remember that you cannot control the circumstances, but you can control your opinion about this.
Work from home
Step 06: Setup your working place
Just like you have your desk at the office, you need to have a dedicated space at home for working. It is totally up to you, but it is important that you only associate that space with work. It can be a separate room, or even a small corner in a room. If want to learn more about organizing your desk, go to this article.
When my kid is at home with me, watching TV, I either make him wear headphones, or I wear them to isolate from the noise.
Step 07: Start with a plan
The first step is to make sure you have a plan for the day. Once again, approach this with a flexible mindset, because things will change, but at least let’s start with a plan.
Schedule the interruptions first (e.g. meetings, lunch, personal time). Then, put the Most Important Tasks (MITs). Finally, put everything else. If you want to learn more about MITs, go to this article.
Work with your spouse to find the important meetings and tasks for each other so that you make sure you give yourselves some privacy when needed.
Step 08: Dedicate the first hour to unblock others
This is a general tip and it is valid in all situations, but it is especially valid now. Most probably, the huge majority of your colleagues are also working from home. They are facing some similar and some very different challenges. Your most important task at the beginning of the day is to unblock everybody else that depends on you.
If unblocking them requires between 3 and 5 minutes of your time (e.g. a reply to an email), do it right away. If it takes more time, set a task and give it the highest priority.
Step 09: Dedicate the rest of the time to do valuable things
You know the best what this means, but make sure you emphasize on that. This is the work that nobody else in your team (organization, company) can do.
Step 10: Connect with others
In an office it is very easy to walk across the room and chat/connect with somebody. When you are working from home it can be more difficult. Schedule some regular time to connect with your team, your manager, your peers. One-on-one meetings are very important.
Step 11: Review the day and prepare a report
You don’t need to send the report to anybody, but at least spend some time reflecting on the day. List practices that worked and others that did not. Determine the things that you have to do the next day.
Connect with your family
The best part of all this is that you will be able to spend time with your family.
Step 12: Have breakfast, lunch, and dinner together
This probably sounds unavoidable, but think about it. How many times have you had lunch with your whole family during the last year? How many times did you try, but failed (because of work, other commitments, and so on)?
Well, now is your time. Book your calendar for lunch. Prepare a healthy salad and the table. Recruit your kid to help you prepare the meal (enough watching TV and playing on the tablet).
Remove all laptops, phones and other distractions. Instead, connect and talk.
Step 13: Spend some time doing family activities
No matter how demanding your job it, you should be having 1-2 hours commuting less, because you are working from home. Dedicate some of this time to yourself and some if this time to your family. Play a board game together, or watch a family movie. But most importantly, talk, communicate.
Step 14: Be there for each other
Staying home can be depressing, especially for those active people that always want to do something. If there is anything positive out of what is happening in the world is that it should bring us together.
Step 15: Stay positive
It will all make sense someday and all our efforts will pay off!
This will be an interesting year. Billions of people are working from home, countries are struggling to keep operational, the economy shrunk to 4-year-low levels.
These are interesting times. You cannot change them, but you can change your attitude towards them. Embrace the change, embrace the uncertainly, and make sure you stay safe and stay home!
What are the next steps?
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