For many workers, these past few weeks we have been asked to do many things differently. We have been asked to navigate working from home (#WFH), self-isolation, online learning with our kids and grocery shortages. Working from home can be both a blessing and a challenge. Good planning and structure can help you be productive and stay sane. In this two-part article, we have outlined some proven strategies to help you get settled, decrease distractions, and reduce anxiety while you navigate this “new normal”.
- Choose a dedicated work space.
You may not have a home office but you should dedicate a space to work. Find a space that you may not use for other activities such as a counter rather than your couch or bed that will help you mentally stay on task.
- Get started early.
Believe it or not, one way to work from home productively is to dive into your to-do list as soon as you wake up. You probably have a morning routine when you work from the office that helps you get ready for the day. Maybe now you are having to help children start school work or just want to catch up on the news in the morning. Getting a project started first thing in the morning can be the key to making progress on it gradually throughout the day. Don’t let the morning sluggishness wear away your motivation.
- Pretend like you are going into the office.
The association your brain makes between work and an office can make you more productive, but you can help create that feeling at home. When you are working from home, do all the things you’d do to prepare for an office role: Set your alarm, make coffee, and wear nice clothes. Get fully ready for the day and pretend you’re actually going to work.
- Structure your day like you would in the office.
Without a schedule to define your day, it can be easy to lose focus or burn out. To stay on schedule throughout the day plan out what you’ll do and when over the course of the day. If you have an online calendar, create personal events and reminders that tell you when to shift gears and start on new tasks. Are mornings for organizing data or writing while you’re in the office? Use the same schedule at home. The structure will help keep you focused and productive.
- Make it harder to use social media.
Social media can be counter-productive. It can even stress you out. Stay on task by logging out of your social media accounts each morning and the temptation to quickly check them will be hampered by the need to log in each time. It is easy to get sucked in without intending to so eliminating the gateway to those networks can help keep you on track. You can also work in a private or an “Incognito” browser window. This ensures you stay signed out of all your accounts and it’s a guarantee that you won’t be tempted into taking too many social breaks during the day.
- Commit to doing more.
Did you ever hear the saying “shoot for the stars, you will get to the moon”? Committing to an aggressive deadline or schedule will keep projects on track, just don’t beat yourself up for falling short. Even if you come up short of your goal, you’ll still come out of that day with a solid list of tasks filed under ‘complete.’ It is OK to over-commit to your team on what you’ll deliver that week or day. It will help keep you focused, so even if you get the urge to go do something else, you know you’ve already committed a certain amount of work to the team.
- Work hard when you can.
Each day will be different. When you are scheduling your day or week allow room for your motivation to come and go. Whether you work best in the morning or afternoon, make sure you channel those times to your most important tasks. Use slower times of your day to knock out the easier tasks that are also on your plate.
Written by UF/IFAS Extension Agents: Alicia Betancourt, Linda Seals, Ramona Madhosingh-Hector and Carol Roberts