Many of us have found ourselves working from home. The COVID-19 pandemic caused long-lasting changes to our working lives. Whilst some people were desperate to return to the office, missing casual chats with co-workers, others have perfected their work-from-home routines, investing in standing desks, treadmills and laptop stands. However your working pattern has evolved, staying motivated and enforcing boundaries can be tricky. So take a look at these tips!
This is in no way revolutionary, but using an online calendar to divide your day into manageable chunks can prevent you from getting overwhelmed and forgetting things. In fact, I’m a big fan of a physical academic diary too – its weekly layout means that I can see what I need to prepare for, and it prevents unwelcome surprises.
If you’ve got a big task to complete, try separating it out into individual 20 minute activities, which you can tick off when you’re done. This will help you to feel satisfied and to track your progress as you work-from-home. Adding in time ‘buffers’ between blocks can prevent panicking if one task overruns – building in flexibility to your routine is really important, as is taking breaks.
A young woman working from home. Image from Jan Baborak on Unspash.
Make at least one of your time blocks movement everyday. As I’ve mentioned before, this doesn’t have to be a high intensity run, or long gym sesh. If it’s a sunny day, then going for a quick walk in between Teams calls is great, and as the nights set in, there are loads of ‘walking workouts’ on YouTube that can help you get your steps in. Top tip: pair one of these online workouts (which can get repetitive!) with a podcast, or earmark a TV series that you’ll only watch at the gym. You’ll start to look forward to exercising, particularly since it can help you to concentrate better.
Just stepping away from the work from home computer and doing a few basic stretches can help your mind to focus and improve your sleep, and being kind to yourself is vital. Prioritising movement at the end of your working day also puts a hard deadline on tasks.
Preventing ‘decision fatigue’
Decision fatigue happens when you have to make lots of small choices throughout the day, leaving you tired and irritated. You might have management responsibilities at work, or have kids, meaning that you have to make decisions for and about other people too. Waking up and having to prepare a healthy breakfast, or replying to a constant stream of emails, can tip you over the edge. So make life easier for yourself.
I lay out the things I need for breakfast the night before, to the extent that I chop up fruit and pour oats into a bowl. Laying out your outfit, creating meal plans, utilising deals on meal delivery boxes, and leaving a sign for delivery drivers telling them that you work from home can prevent distractions and help you to feel in control of your day. It also means that things such as a spontaneous dinner date or an urgent task from your boss, don’t have to derail your day.
Control your caffeine
You’re probably sick of people telling you to drink less caffeine, but this isn’t my advice. Tea and coffee are an important part of British culture, and grabbing a hot drink can provide a welcome moment of rest in your day. However, we’ve all experienced the caffeine shakes after drinking one latte too many, so planning roughly when you’ll indulge throughout the day can help.
For instance, I always start my day with a coffee at breakfast, then normally have a second mid-morning, leaving the opportunity for a third mid-afternoon. By following this schedule, and incorporating exercise and water breaks to flush out the caffeine, I generally feel alert. Caffeine can be your friend, and there’s no harm in making a coffee before you start an essay or assignment, to give you a burst of energy.
Balancing blood sugar
Again, managing to eat regular meals and snacks makes you more productive! I’ve had days when working from home where I’ve substituted coffee for food, or have been rushing from place to place and feel unable to stop for something to eat. This can be just as much of a problem at home, where colleagues may assume that you don’t need a lunch break, since you’re ‘at home anyway’.
Agreeing to meet up with fellow working from home -ers for an hour in the middle of the day, or having a desk drawer filled with fruit and cereal bars, can make sure that you’re fueling your body. Eating leftovers for lunch, adding tinned veg into an instant noodle pot, or purchasing salad kits are all good options. No one wants to create an elaborate meal when they’re on the work-from-home grind.
Packing healthy snacks, even if you work-from-home, is a great hack! Image by S’well on Unspash.
I get overwhelmed easily, particularly if my to-do list is long and feels insurmountable. Recently though, I’ve realised that I need at least 2 hours alone, to do something that isn’t work, every day. This might not be possible for you, or you may need longer, but ensuring that I have quiet times throughout the day – rather than only when I’m trying to wind-down in the evenings – means that I feel more satisfied and much calmer too.
Sometimes this means zoning out on my phone, but going for a walk and a coffee, reading a few pages of a book or an article in a magazine, or listening to a 5 minute guided breathing practice on Spotify are also personal favourites.
If you’re feeling panicked and frantic, even a few moments on the loo, where you focus on taking a few deep breaths, can change the course of your day. If you’ve never meditated before (myself included), then don’t expect to nail it first time – like I said, it’s about being kind to yourself, and instituting small habits slowly.
Reflect on your day
Before you go to sleep, take out a notebook and write a few things that went well today and a few things that you need help with, or are troubling you. Putting things in words often clears your head, and prevents intrusive thoughts from arising when you’re trying to nod off. I don’t manage to do this every night, but if I feel anxious, stressed or annoyed before bed then sometimes this is enough to help me calm down.
Control your work-from-home worries by reflecting on your day. Image by Hannah Olinger on Unsplash.
I hope that these have helped, and feel free to Tweet me (@EleanorLuxton) with your top work-from-home tips!