With the effects of coronavirus and the subsequent countermeasures being taken having a profound and long lasting impact on the way we live and work, there have already been countless blogs and articles covering the topic of working from home. I'm generally not one to blow my own trumpet. But as someone who has worked at least three days a week (or more) from home for the past six years, I've both developed and learnt a few tactics to help get the most out of my day. Some of these are directly work-relevant, others are more lifestyle related. All of them play a part in enabling me to actually get shit done.
1. Start the day with a win
This is in many ways the most important tip I have to give. It helps set my day up with a positive perspective, even well I'm feeling less-than-sparkling. It doesn't have to be anything major, either. In the past this might have been going for a quick 5K run. Nowadays, it's more like making a pot of fresh coffee.
It may sound small, but taking the time out of the hectic morning routine to do something deliberately encourages you to take control of your time from the outset. It doesn't always last throughout the day, but getting a win under your belt nice and early means you've already achieved something (no matter how small) before you've even sat down to start work.
2. Create a safe space
Something that's not often spoken about is the way in which going to work can actually be a form of escapism for many. Not that we don't love being at home with our nearest and dearest / flatmates / friends, but it's all about balance - something that seems to be increasingly hard to come by at the moment.
With working from home becoming so commonplace, especially for those who haven't done it before it's easy for the line between work and home life to become blurred and one begin to bleed into the other. Preserve both sides of your life by creating a safe space for work.
While we don't all have the physical space for a dedicated office, I would recommend at least look into purchasing a small desk. Better yet, if you normally use a laptop go one step further and buy a monitor, mouse and keyboard. It will make working more comfortable and is better for your posture than working on a laptop all the time. Plus it just makes you feel more like you're at work, rather than just doing a bit of work at home, if you know what I mean.
3. Go with the flow
I've heard numerous times about tactics for to-do lists; keep them short, write things you've already done, aim only to do three out of the list each day. But we're not robots actioning and completing one task after another, so we shouldn't expect ourselves to work like one. It's obviously good to have some sort of idea of what you're supposed to be doing on any given day, but I've often found a strict to-do list approach quite stressful. If you're unable to complete the tasks you set out to do, it inevitably leaves you feeling defeated - and you might not always be in the right mood to complete certain tasks either.
Instead, take ownership of how you work and go with the flow. I definitely work in bursts of activity and productivity where I might write a few articles or fire off those dozen emails I've been putting off. But these active periods are followed by quieter, more introspective ones where I mull over ideas. I've learnt not to try and force the work and trust in my own working rhythm. It's far more comfortable way of working as a result.
4. Manage your interruptions
You've created a 'safe space' for working and are embracing your natural workflow. Perhaps you're on a roll with a particular piece of work which has proven a hard nut to crack. Then comes a knock at the door and with it, you're no longer in the zone. This is literally the worst. Of course, you can't control everything going on around you, but there are ways to limit interruptions when you really just need to get your head down and work.
I'd advise purchasing some decent headphones to block out random background noise. If you have a door to your workspace, close it! And there's one other particular trick which has stood me in good stead over the years, and which relates to loved ones who are in the house at the same time (something particularly timely given we're all at home these days): If they want to speak to you, get them to text you!
This may seem absurd when you're under the same roof, but it will allow you to see they need something without totally breaking your concentration and enable you to respond in your own time. Sometimes the little things make all the difference and this one definitely reduces my stress levels.
5. Mark the end of the day
When you reach the end of the day, save your documents, exit your programs and turn off your computer. If you have a work phone, put it on flight mode.
There may be times when you're required to work later than usual, but make these the exception to the rule.
Most of the time, there's rarely anything so important that it can't wait until tomorrow.
Work to live, not the other way round!
Ramblings on a freelance mindset from yours truly.