With COVID-19’s grand entrance in our lives, almost everything around us are in pause mode. Schools are suspended; mass gatherings are prohibited; citizens are panic buying; public transport stopped running, there’s barely any traffic lately; stores are temporarily closed; most businesses are moving whatever they can virtually; many employees have no choice but to work for home. All of that is happening because this virus is leaving us with no other option but to be locked down in our homes.
Unlike students who can just catch up on their lessons and exams later on, businesses can’t simply do that. Stopping every aspect of their operations would only make things worse for them. This is why many have instructed their employees to work-from-home instead. But for those who now have to work at home, is work-from-home actually working for you?
The Reality of Work-from-Home
Work-from-home (WFH) sounds simple and easy but only when you’re not the one who has to do it. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to be productive when the TV is only inches away and the bed is seducing you to sleep? Even WFH veterans still say that it’s difficult because there’s way too many distractions around the house. Come on, let’s be honest, you have unproductive moments in office because you’re distracted. Now, what more when you’re at the comfort of your home?
Here are examples of unproductive days at home. One, the temptation to wake-up late; start your day later; end up saying “bukas na lang”. Two, watching an episode of a drama you like and say “just one more episode” one after the other until you’re too sleepy to get anything done. Three, bonding with your family all day long until you’re too tired to work by the time it crosses your mind. Those are absolutely distracting temptations we often succumb to making it difficult for us to WFH. But then, unlike the deadly COVID-19, this WFH dilemma is definitely curable.
I personally check a lot off of my list when I’m “in the zone”. However, my problem is getting myself to concentrate and be in that productive state. You see, focus doesn’t come easily for me and I think a lot of people would be able to relate. So, from the perspective of someone who finds WFH challenging, I’m going to share with you some tips that I swear by.
9 Work-from-Home Tips
# 1 The importance of space
Just like the WFH veterans, I put space as an important factor in being productive. Pick a place or a space that you feel is most conducive and comfortable for working. Probably, somewhere that makes you feel at peace and not one that lulls you to sleep. Set up an ergonomic work area, especially if you are going to use a laptop or a computer. Trust me, being in the right sitting position when using such gadgets for hours is one sure way to get you to focus plus, your back will thank you later. Those are the basics. But, if you’re an artistic person like me, you might prefer spaces with more than just a chair and a table; spaces with good (better if it’s natural) lighting; colourful and motivating artworks surrounding you; your go-to music playing in the background, etc.
#2 Establishing some “space between us” (me vs everything distracting at home)
I live with my family. So, when everybody’s at home the difficulty of being able to concentrate becomes ten times harder for me. They barge in right when I’m almost in “in the zone” and my concentration then goes down the drain. I get frustrated when it keeps on happening until I have no will power left to try again. So, I ended up placing a note on my door that says “I NEED TO CONCENTRATE. IF YOU NEED ANYTHING, HELP YOURSELF WITH IT”. That way, it’s not just them helping me focus on work but me also teaching them respect my privacy. Yes, having people around can be distracting. But then, all we have to do is ask for their cooperation and I’m pretty sure they will give you peace.
#3 Having and following a morning routine
If you have one, go ahead and keep it up. If you don’t, then maybe it’s time for you to try making one up. Psyching yourself through a routine not only gives you a better mood but also makes you want to be productive. For example, I usually drink hot water after getting out of bed. Then, I sweep and mop the floor (OCD problems, but really, having a clean space makes a big difference). After that, I drink coffee as I watch an episode of whatever drama I’m currently into. Then, I do some house chores and from there my mood, disposition and will power becomes a lot better.
#4 Get up and dress up
My high school adviser used to say, “if you look good, you feel good”. I used to make fun of him every time he says that. But as I got older, I realised how true and effective that really is. So, when I’m about to do some serious business I make sure that I look put together and polished. Dressing up doesn’t mean that you have to wear a suit at home. It only means that you should wear something decent even when you’re not headed elsewhere. Remember, you are WFH and not on a sick leave, so please, do not be in your pyjamas.
Oh! Another unusual will power booster from one of my best friends will bring out the “iron lady” in you, girls! Pick-up your favourite lipstick and dab some of that on your lips. It might not work, but it just might too. Give it a try!
#5 Set goals and daily targets
This is where colourful post its and notepads play an important role. To-do lists help keep you on track; focused on what you should prioritise; keep you grounded on the ultimate purpose as to why you’re WFH. If you’re working on a big project, try breaking it down into smaller tasks and write those on your list. That way, it won’t appear too overwhelming and stressful. And, it also helps you track your progress easily.
#6 Take breaks
Like the WFH veterans, I also think that taking breaks is more effective than working for 8 hours straight. That’s just torture! A good way to practice this is by using productivity apps. I highly suggest those that use the “Pomodoro Technique” (25 mins work, 5 mins break).
An important thing to remember when taking a break is to immerse yourself completely in that “break time”. Listen to something you like, walk around a bit, exercise, eat, etc. Basically, don’t think about work for while.
For me, this is the most important factor to make WFH work for you. Self-control is mostly discipline and will power. Difficult, yes, but not impossible. It’s not something you acquire overnight, which is why setting a routine helps a lot in establishing and practicing self-control. You may not have a perfect self control today and that’s okay. You can always try again until you get the hang of it. I, myself, haven’t reached 100% just yet. I still have a long way to go and the only way to get there is to practice everyday.
#8 Don’t be too hard on yourself
You need to learn how not to be too hard on yourself for you to establish some solid self-control. Don’t beat yourself up too much over the fact that you were only able to do one thing today. Yes, that may only be one task off your list but hey, one is still better than nothing, right? So, give yourself a pat on the back and tell yourself the world isn’t gonna be over just because you didn’t finish everything all at once.
#9 What matters the most: Getting Things Done
Sometimes, working for longer hours is not equal to getting more things done. It can stress you out to a point where you get so drained and listless do even the things you love, afterwards. I think what truly matters is getting the job done in the shortest time possible. Stop counting how many hours you spend working in a day and start crossing tasks off of your list.
Give it a try and see if it helps
Give those tips a try and see if WFH will work better for you now. It is when you try something out that you actually get to discover your own personal work style. Tips from WFH veterans and my personal example may not exactly be a perfect fit for you. But, the only way to find out is by giving it a shot. You can easily customise your style once you figure out what works and what doesn’t.
What we should thank this ECQ time for
This work-from-home season teaches us a lot of things and we might not even be aware of it. Some skills we seldom get the chance to practice fully when we are in the office are self-control; learning how to focus; knowing how be productive at home; discovering our own personal work style. Offices have rules and strict limitations; while homes are more welcoming to our own pace and style of working yet offer a wide variety of temptations.
For now, let’s use this time to enjoy that kind of freedom. Believe me, you’re gonna miss it when this is all over. Be happy and productive everyone! 🙂