Lately, one of the things I’ve seen a lot of my friends struggling with the most—besides mental health and the impending end of the world—is working from home. For those lucky enough to be able to keep a job during this crisis, the change in routine is just one more layer of stress. It’s already a big change under normal circumstances, it might feel nearly impossible right now.
Ever since I graduated, my dream has been to work from home. I achieved that a few years ago and, as it goes with most of the things we dream about, I found out doing home office is not as easy or great as I thought. But I’ve managed! Over the years, I’ve learned how to work with myself and get things done.
So, I thought I’d share with you some of the things that work for me and, hopefully, it will be helpful in some way.
1) Keep a deadline and/or schedule.
My work as a translator involves having a deadline to submit my translations. That means I work with volume instead of hours. I calculate how much I have to get done each day for every project, then work around that. So, that’s the first tip—break it down day by day.
If your job depends more on hours, keep a schedule. Maybe not 9-5, but if you usually work 8 hours a day, make sure you keep working those 8 hours every day. Even if now it’s from midnight to morning.
2) Do extra time, if needed.
Those first few days or weeks will be though (as you might already have noticed). There are too many distractions, too much news, too much food in the fridge. So, if by the end of the day you still haven’t done everything you planned, do extra time. Don’t stop until you reach the day’s goal/deadline. That will help you not be overwhelmed by work the next day, and also teach yourself to stick to the schedule. See what happens if you spend too much time on Twitter? Next day you’ll remember it and be less distracted.
3) Take breaks.
Every X minutes/hours, take time to get up and stretch. Walk around the house. Pet your dog. Use breaks as your reward—if you work 1 hour straight, you can have 10 minutes to despair on social media!
4) Make sure you have a longer lunch/dinner break.
Don’t work while you eat, meals are sacred! Set aside at least 1 hour for lunch/dinner, and eat it at a safe distance from your computer. It doesn’t matter how urgent the task at hand is, your body will be forever grateful that you’re taking the time to prioritize its nurturing. I know this sounds highly corny and mystic, but trust me—you’ll feel the difference.
5) Don’t leave snacks close by!
Eating is a distraction and you’ll end up not even noticing how much food you’re gulping down. Leave those cookies, chocolate bars, peanuts, carrot slices (some of us lead healthy lifestyles) out of reach. Use your breaks to go get them—and eat them while you’re away from your desk.
There’s a catch, however—chewing keeps boredom and sleepiness at bay. So, besides the tea/coffee mug you’re sure to keep full at your side at all times, you can resort to eating if you feel like passing out. But only then!
6) Drink water!
Be sure to keep a water bottle around. You can’t be fueled only by caffeine! Believe me, I’ve tried.
7) Listen to music on the background. Or blast it through speakers.
This is one that won’t work for many people, but it’s one that works really well for me, especially if what I have to do is boring and/or requires a lot of attention. Most of the time when I’m working or writing, I’m listening to music, sometimes even dancing in place. It helps me block out the world around and concentrate on what I’m doing. It’s also good for measuring time—you’ll know it’s time to take a break after listening to X amount of songs, or that entire album, etc.
8) Change the place in the house where you work from every now and then.
These days, I have an office—which consists of a built-in desk beside my wardrobe in my bedroom. I do work from there most of the time (including while writing this post), but sometimes it gets boring. Sometimes, I want to look out of the window. Sometimes, I want to stretch my legs. Sometimes, I just want to be somewhere else. So I drag my computer to the kitchen, or the couch, or my bed. Even outside—just the balcony, though, don’t worry. It’s incredible how much of a difference this simple change of environment makes. Try it out!
9) Work in your pajamas! Or in a sparkly dress! Or naked!
Now, this is probably my favorite part of working from home. I’m a fierce advocate for the normalization of the pajama use. I dream of the day it will be socially acceptable to just live in pajamas! I’m proud to confess I already do.
But you should do what works for you—whether that is pajamas, or your usual work clothes, or dressing up. Or wearing nothing at all. Try different things until you find what makes you feel the best. Maybe every day will be different, who knows.
10) Don’t be too hard on yourself!
These are difficult times and, even if they weren’t, we should all be kind to ourselves. Remember that there are more important things than your work—namely your health and well-being. Do things at your own pace. Respect your boundaries. Listen to your body’s needs. And keep in mind we are all fighting our own battles, and different people have different ways of coping.
Just give your best, even if it’s just rolling over in bed today. It’s okay. Tomorrow will be better.
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