Staying Productive

We’re living in interesting times, with those who are lucky able to perform some semblance of their work responsibilities from home. Working from home presents its own challenges, many of which I faced when working as a freelance consultant earlier in my career.

I thought I’d summarize some of the things I’d learned here:

1. Get your work space organized, even if it’s a portable space.

Having a space that’s focused on work is important when you’re trying to keep work and home separate. I violate this rule by using my home computer to access work systems via the cloud, but that’s more of an ergonomic need. If you can use a computer armoire and close it up at the end of the day, even better!

Having a space free of clutter and free of non-work distractions may help you keep focused when you’re working. I use a tried-and-true method of breaking my workspace into A space, B space, and C space.

A space is space in my vision when I’m working, and if I use an item daily, it’s in my A space.

B space is for things I use occasionally. I keep those handy, but not in my workspace. I have an armoire top behind me that I use for those things.

C space is for things that I rarely use. They’re in a cabinet or in my storage space.

2. Get the best chair you can afford.

Bruce Sterling said that you most likely spend a third of your life sitting in an office chair, and a third of your time sleeping. Spending up on your desk chair (and mattress) are some of the best investments you could make when you amortize the costs.

3. Wake up, dress for the part, shave/shower as if you’re going into an office.

I’ve always been lucky to have a partner who went into an office, so I was aligned to a “business hours” schedule. Waking up at your usual time, showering, and dressing for “your” office always helps me remain focused – having video calls helps with keeping up appearances, too.

4. Set a schedule – take set breaks for getting up, lunch, coffee, etc.

We’re all missing elements of structure that commuting, working in an office, lunching with co-workers, and leaving to go home provide. In addition to maintaining my job responsibilities, I’m also managing two kids who are remote-schooling for the rest of the year.

It’s important to me to keep the kids with some element of structure as well. They get up at the same time, shower, clean their rooms, and we all eat breakfast at the same time. That’s time to go over daily plans and spend some time as a family before going our separate ways with work and school. We get back together for lunch together at the same time, and usually eat outside to get a break from computer screens.

5. Don’t eat at your desk!

Your keyboard will love you for it.

6. When you stop working, leave work alone. Make some mental separation between home/work, even if there’s no physical space.

Work/Life balance is important, and harder to maintain when you do both in the same physical space. Some tips that have worked for me:

  • There are a multitude of ideas online for ways to hide a laptop/office workstation for people living in small spaces, ranging from screens, to repurposing closet space as a portable work area, and computer armoires. Those are great ways to make work “go away” at the end of the day.
  • Setting your out of office reminders on email and out of office statuses on chat/collaboration tools will take some of the immediacy in off-hours requests and notifications.

7. Make the most of your time.

I normally spend 3 hours a day in round-trip commute time. I accept this as the price of doing business where I live, but I used the time to listen to podcasts to make productive use of the time.

Now that I’m not commuting, I wake up at the same time, but spend that distraction-free time in the morning on an online training certification I could never make time for when commuting to work.

8. Not being OK is OK.

You’re not working from home, you’re trying to do your best while working through a global pandemic. It’s OK to be stressed, sleepless or otherwise not feeling your best.

Take time out to recharge. Take a walk. Get some sun, Talk to friends of yours over a video conference. Call your family. Meditate – there are many meditation apps that can help start you on a mission. Here is a good list to start from. I started with Headspace.com and bounce between it, Welzen and Buddhify.

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