The worldwide shutdown of offices, restaurants, and other establishments feels a bit like my everyday life. I have worked from home for several years now and typically find it self-isolating. It’s taken me a long time to find the right rhythm for working from home, but you don’t have to take the same mistake-riddled journey. Instead, use these tips to self-regulate your own work from home schedule.
I reached out to Maura Thomas, a productivity expert and author of three books, including Attention Management: How to Create Success and Gain Productivity—Every Day to give you the best advice possible as you embark on this new phase of work.
Choose A Schedule And Commit To It
Whether you’re responsible for creating your own schedule or have one assigned by your employer, set a firm boundary around your working hours.
According to Thomas, “You don’t have to be constantly available to prove you’re working. This will cause nothing but endless distraction so don’t be afraid to close your email (or work offline) and put any chat services on ‘do not disturb’ so that you can get work done in an undistracted way.”
Remember That Your Schedule Is Not The Only One
Thomas continues, “If you choose to work during non-traditional business hours, don’t impose your schedule on others. If you’re sending emails during evenings and weekends, for example, use a ‘schedule send’ feature in your email so the messages go out during work hours. This is especially important if you are the boss.
“If you have something that is time-sensitive or urgent during evenings or weekends, call or text so people don’t feel like they need to constantly monitor their email. ‘Flex time’ is great, but it can quickly turn into ‘working around the clock’ if everyone is on different hours.”
Know What You’re Working Toward
You need to understand what your tasks and goals for the week are and focus on those things only during your working hours. “Come up with weekly outcome-based objectives to offer your manager. For example, if you’re a writer, you might commit to submitting three articles at the end of the week. If you’re a salesperson, you might commit to contacting 50 clients.
“These objectives would be in addition to regular, day-to-day work. But this agreeing to these objectives with your manager ensures that there is a better way to evaluate your work-from-home productivity since ‘facetime in the office’ is no longer an option.”
Use The Pomodoro Method To Keep Your Focus During Work Hours
Choose Your At-Home Workspace Wisely
My desk overlooks a couple of ponds where ducks, geese, squirrels, and other critters play all day. This helps me have a happier workday. I can focus easier because I can glance up every now and then to the reward of watching a squirrel scurry up a tree.
Thomas adds these valuable thoughts. “If you only need a laptop to do your work, you can work wherever you are most comfortable, but if possible, not in your bedroom. It’s hard to separate work time from rest time when your work set-up is in your bedroom. Clearly delineate when work is over by closing up your laptop and putting it out of sight. This will help to keep your spaces separate.”
Be sure to include your work tools into your space and let your open laptop signal work time versus your “me time.”
“If you can’t designate a work-only space, find some other way to visually indicate that the workday is over, like perhaps throwing a blanket over your work materials,” says Thomas.
Stick With Your Normal Work Wardrobe
I know it’s tempting to stay in your pajamas all day while you work from home, but until you’ve learned to self-regulate your schedule, those super comfy clothes can be a distraction. Sticking to your normal, more formal wardrobe can help keep you in the work mindset.
I used to be a nanny, so my work clothes were casual, athletic wear. Since becoming a writer, I’ve taken to dressing as I would for an office. On the days I stay in my pajamas, I’m about 50% less productive.
Use A “Do Not Disturb” Sign
The last tip that I’ll offer that makes a huge difference in keeping focused is the use of a “do not disturb” sign for your workspace. My husband and I both work from home and have for years. On the days when we don’t use something to denote “I’m busy!” we’re both less productive. Thomas has the same problem, so she’s made available some creative signs along these lines for anyone to download for free.
You Can Be Productive At Home, We Promise
No matter what your job, no matter your workspace, you can be productive and get work done while working from home. Create firm boundaries on your work time, workspace, and who can disturb you and when, and you’ll find success.