June 21, 2021
13 Ways to Make Working From Home Easier – Tips From a Career Counselor
Written by Sara Lane
The most predictable thing about life is that, well…it’s unpredictable.
You can be in a rhythm when, suddenly, you’re thrown a curveball and sent down a brand new path. Of course, it’s not just you.
We’re all temporarily pushed out of our routines at one time or another. Change comes.
Case in point: the COVID-19 pandemic forced many of us to work from home. Add in your children distance learning from home and your partner or spouse also working from home, and the transition can be tough.
You may not understand how substantial transitioning to your home office (or kitchen table) can be. You may have been working from home for quite some time and still haven’t quite gotten the hang of it.
If any of this sounds familiar, try these tips to help ease the change and start effectively working from home.
Here are some strategies to help you stay organized and effective while working from home:
1. Recognize that working from home isn’t for everyone.
If you need more structure than the home office provides, plan your day around working at a coffee shop or library.
As the world opens back up, this is becoming more and more possible because it may have been difficult before due to necessary restrictions and regulations it may have been difficult before.
Whether you are new to working at home or have been doing this for years, everyone needs to get out of the house sometimes, and doing your work outside of the home can be a nice change.
Libraries, book shops, and cafes can be great temporary office setups. All you need is some wifi, an outlet, and you are good to go. You might just get some good food and a coffee out of it.
2. Maintain Structure, Structure, Structure
We can’t stress this one enough. Even if you aren’t a very structured person, having any sort of routine will help immensely.
Waking up at the same time every day is the foundation upon which you build your whole routine. Set your alarm and once you’re up and running, follow through on your typical morning rituals.
Eating, exercise, shave and shower, grab a coffee. When you’ve done what you always do, start working.
Additionally, you must stick to your schedule and set a definitive boundary between working and non-working times and non-working time.
It’s easy to get distracted and put a task off until later since your office is right there at home with you, but this does not work!
Your future self is just as tired as you are right now, and psychologically you need space between work and relaxation.
When you create the structure, it will keep you from burnout or procrastination by working all the time or at least “thinking” that you “should” be working all the time vs. actually having time for a break.
3. Recognize the limits of the day.
You only have so much you can do, which may be a hard pill to swallow, but it’s true. You have a finite amount of resources and energy to expend each day.
No matter how super-human you think, you are everyone has limits.
So, be honest with yourself about how much work you can expect to get done and how many hours you can work, which are two different things.
Depending on your unique set of responsibilities, you likely have a set amount of time you can delegate to every section of your life. For example, children require time; relationships require time, even pets require some amount of attention.
Even if there are times where you feel like you aren’t doing 100% at work, that’s okay. If you let it, working at home can control your life, so you need boundaries!
You can only work a certain amount of hours while also getting an adequate amount of sleep and spending enough time on the people and activities that matter most to you.
4. Do your most important task of the day first.
If you’re looking for a job, reaching out and making a few phone calls might be your priority so you can catch people before their days get busy and you accomplish the most effective job search task first. If you’re working from home, this same rule applies.
So, if you take some time at the beginning of your day to decide what is the most urgent and what can wait, it may help you feel more productive.
Another thing to consider is the difference between tasks that require you to be more creative or logical because they both need specific parts of your brain to produce.
It can be a lot of work for your brain to switch lanes throughout the day, leaving you feeling rather tired and like you got very little done.
To counter this, write your to-do list at the beginning of your day, then separate tasks by how creative or logical you need to be to complete them.
If you need to do brainstorming, any form of creation, or feel free and expressive, you mark those tasks as creative. Conversely, if you need to handle anything with structure involved, steps, or planning, you mark those tasks as logical.
After you have all of your to-do list separated into these two categories, delegate time in your day to be either creative or logical. You’ll notice how much easier of a time you have getting through these assignments.
5. Take breaks during your day.
Even people in offices get a break. If charging through your workload doesn’t work for you, you are not alone.
When you work from home, it’s important to set specific times of day for when you work and when you don’t, but some of us think that skipping those breaks is perfectly fine. It really isn’t.
While you might be getting some more work done, we promise it’s not as much as if you would just let yourself have a break.
You need to get away from the computer for exercise, meals, meetings, and any other type of break that undoes that concentrated mindset. Do what works for you.
For example, you could be a gamer that plays their favorite game during their designated lunch break. Whatever this looks like for you, do something that completely takes your mind away from your to-do list.
Have you ever heard of the 80/20 principle? Vilfredo Pareto first stated it in 1897 and it means only 20% of your work breeds 80% of the results, and 80% of your work produces only 20% of the products.
There is a point where you can tell you’re dragging work out of you and the 80/20 principle tells us that it’s just not worth it.
Take your breaks and come back feeling energized and ready to get stuff done. You’ll get a lot farther.
6. Create a morning routine that sets you up for the day.
Waking up and starting your day on the right foot can change the course of your day, usually for the better. What makes you feel better?
A good breakfast, doing some self-care, and maybe stretching or some light exercise can get you set up to have the best day possible.
You are a vessel, and you require maintenance. By doing a few things in the morning that makes you feel energized and fulfilled, you fill up the same cup that will be poured into all of the things in your life that take effort.
Take care of yourself first. Protect this time, so you have the energy to get things done when you need to.
7. Video Chat Whenever Possible
Working from home puts a lot of aspects of office life in a completely different light. For example, meetings can happen in places you may have never thought possible.
As you adjust to being away from co-workers, use video chat whenever possible. Texts, email, and a variety of online work platforms are helpful and necessary.
But to feel adequately engaged and enthused, it’s important to sometimes see the person you’re talking with.
You can isolate yourself easily when your home is both your home and your office, so even if it’s for work, seeing another person’s face can be a nice social event.
8. Stay Active Even When Working From Home
We cannot stress this one enough. The lack of separation means you are “on the go” a lot less. A consequence of that can be you become more stagnant than ever before.
Did you use to walk to the office or hit the gym on your way home? Cutting your commute can mean you lose a lot more than just podcast time.
At the office, you expend more energy and burn more calories than you’d think during your normal workdays.
But at home, it’s easy to grow increasingly inactive. So get up, stretch, move around your home. If possible, do some exercise.
Take several breaks and a lunch period to maintain good circulation and health. Your mind and your body will thank you.
9. Don’t Work Longer Hours Than Necessary
This is an incredibly common habit people develop when they suddenly work from home.
You have a lot of work to do and that takes a lot of time, so you just spend a bunch of time on the computer. Right? Well, stop.
Thinking back to the 80/20 Principle, you are likely wasting a lot of time on that measly 20%.
Have a strict cut-off time, you need it more than you know. Your work is nothing without your mental health and working from home can be really great, but it can also be really hard.
Boundaries are crucial. Without a commute or an office, work hours tend to blur. Do not let this happen routinely.
Except when required by your job responsibilities, stick to only your specified work hours.
10. Separate Your Work Space from Your Relaxing Place
As attractive as it may seem to work from bed, it can turn out to be a real bummer real quick. Your mind has locational muscle memory.
When you get into bed, normally, your mind will register this space as a place of rest and beginning the process of shutting down for the night.
At the office, you have a cubicle or some kind of special place where you would sit down and get to work. You may have decorated it and set it up to make you feel most productive.
From photos to plants to aromatherapy and beyond — turn your home workspace into a dedicated and personalized spot for you.
Also, if you can help it, don’t work in your bedroom, unless it’s in a separate area from where you sleep as this may also contribute to difficulty going to sleep at night.
11. Do your email when your concentration levels are lower.
What this translates to is doing mundane tasks when you aren’t feeling your most focused or driven.
Don’t waste your best energy on the minor stuff.
12. Revel in the Joy of Multi-Tasking (Within Reason)
Toss in a load of wash while you work. It’s okay. If you have children home with you, be sure to schedule time periods to interact with them.
Refer to tip #3 and get active during your break! This is where the whole work-from-home thing really pays off.
When your workday is done, you may have already done chores and worked out. That means more free time for you in the evening!
But don’t stress yourself out trying to do two things at once.
Sometimes trying to multitask can take up more time than if you were to just split the tasks and handle them separately. So, do what works for you.
13. Make time for socialization and getting out of the house.
This may just be the most important tip we have for you because, so often, when people start working from home they forget how important it is to step away.
Getting out can boost your creativity and motivation, but more significantly, keep you feeling connected.
Working From Home, Living that Remote Life
Believe it or not, you may like your workplace and co-workers more than you realize. There is a sense of community and collective effort in many job situations.
When this familiar pace of interaction is altered without much notice, you can feel out of sorts. Working from home has many perks but don’t underestimate the realities of losing that sense of belonging.
For example, working from home can feel isolating if you don’t make an effort to daily or weekly check-in with coworkers, team members, and supervisors.
This helps shape your work experience and schedule, fostering more of a context for your workday and helps maintain a separation between work and home.
Just be sure to pace yourself and be realistic. Strike a balance between the things you can do well simultaneously and the boundaries you must set to do your job well. Give yourself time to figure this out. It’s okay to talk this through with your boss, partner, and children over time. Learning to manage time, delegate, and let some things go is part of the work-at-home journey.
You Can Get Help From Home, Too
A dramatic change in our life’s routines can be more jolting than you ever imagined. On top of that, the cause of such change can be even more stress-inducing. This makes for a tricky blend of factors to manage.
However, just as you can work from home, you can also get some much-needed help at home. Our Houston therapists offer virtual sessions that are secure and easy to access.
Whether it’s by phone or video therapy online, you can attain the guidance you need to make new adjustments. This process has a dual benefit.
Of course, it can be very healing and offer you some important insights and perspectives. In addition, working on your mental health from home contributes to your resilience and comfort in this brave new world of digital communication.
Need more help with your career?
Take a career assessment test online and get your results immediately. Book an appointment with a career counselor in Houston who is available to meet with you via phone, Zoom, or in-person to discuss any career-related questions you might have.
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