Working from home sounds like a dream at first. You can wear comfy clothes, sleep in a little more than usual and always stay surrounded by the people and things you love the most. You quickly realize, though, that a WFH schedule comes with a custom set of drawbacks, too.
You can feel constantly steeped in work, as though you can never make a break. There’s nothing to naturally split up your days, and work will start blending with life. And when you don’t have a boss eyeing you as you walk into the office every morning or checking how long you’ve been away for lunch, it’s incredibly difficult to stay motivated and get your work done.
Luckily, there are ways to combat all of these issues. With time, you’ll adapt to working from home and maybe even thrive because of it.
Build a New Preparatory Routine
When you worked in an office, you probably had a routine that was down-pat and unchanging. You woke up, showered, got dressed in professional attire, poured coffee into your to-go cup on your way out the door, and maybe stopped during your commute for a bagel.
Working from home is different, though. You can sleep later because there’s no commute. You can work in pajamas (unless you have a video meeting). You can have breakfast whenever you want and drink coffee from your favorite mug as you step out on your porch.
That sounds lovely, but sometimes it feels like – since work is always right there – you should get to work right away. Not true – you still need a buffer before you sit down at your computer. Now, though, you’ll have to build a new morning routine to get you ready. Think of it as your metaphorical speed bag, helping you gear up for the day ahead.
Since you’ll be staying at home, your routine has flexibility. You may want to read in bed for half an hour before your feet hit the ground or walk down the block to that great coffee shop where they make killer lattes. Maybe you need to make your bed to feel together enough to work or you want to go for a quick jog around the neighborhood to clear your head.
Whatever you decide, this is the perfect time to create a new pre-work routine, one that suits you better than the one you had before.
Create a Work-Only Area (Even If It’s Just a Corner of a Room)
The hardest thing about working from home is that work is always there. Even if you have an office, your computer, unanswered emails, and to-do list are just waiting there behind the door. That’s why having a work-only space that you can close off when the day is over is imperative. If you can create physical distance between you and your job and shut down that space until tomorrow, you’ll eventually start to mentally disengage at the end of the workday, too.
Let’s say you’re not lucky enough to have a dedicated room to turn into an office, one with lights that can go off for the rest of the evening and a door that will stay firmly closed. You can still create a “this is just for work” space in part of a room. There are two things you must do, though.
First, make sure the only thing you’re doing in this space is work. If you’re going to call your sister, open mail or shop for gifts online, do it somewhere else. Second, you have to find a way to shut the space down when work is over. You can’t close the door, but you may be able to put your laptop in a drawer, shut the desk lamp, and push the chair in tight against the desk. You need a mental signal that the space is either open for business or unavailable until it’s time to work again.
Make Sure You Have Everything You Need Within Reach
When it comes to creating a distraction-free zone where you can get your work done, staying off Facebook and ignoring iPhone notifications aren’t the biggest hurdles, believe it or not. What most people won’t tell you is that the biggest distractions come from the items you need but don’t have – and therefore have to get up to find.
You want to have everything you could need within arm’s reach or within your workspace. If you have to get up from your desk and leave your office area over and over again, you’ll continually disconnect from work. Each time you do this, it’ll take you a few minutes to get back into work mode again. This is terrible for your energy and your productivity, and it can extend the workday unnecessarily, adding minutes or even hours to your desk time.
Over time, you’ll learn what you always need at hand to get into work mode and stay in the zone. For example, you may need cold water, hot coffee, and a snack within reach; a small fan for warmer days and a noise machine for when your home or neighborhood is noisy; and pens, scrap paper and sticky notes for when you have to jot something down.
In the beginning, you’ll be getting up and down a lot to grab something you forgot. Keep a running list of these items and make sure that they’re nearby the next time you sit down to work. That way, you won’t disengage from the work at hand so much, and you also won’t be tempted to throw in a load of laundry the next time you need a sip of water.
When you’re new to working from home, it’s easy to fall back into traditional ways of doing things. This isn’t a traditional way to work, though. You have permission to do it differently and to find new ways to get your work done. It could even help you to work smarter instead of harder.
Brian Meert is the CEO of AdvertiseMint, a Hollywood based digital advertising agency that specializes in helping successful companies advertise on Facebook. Advertisemint has managed millions of dollars in digital ad spends in entertainment, fashion, finance, and software industries. Brian is also the author of the best selling, The Complete Guide to Facebook Advertising, and the innovative The Complete Guide to Digital Advertising Policies infographic. He is a 15-year digital advertising executive and a member of the Forbes Agency Council. Prior to founding Advertisemint, Brian built and sold Gofobo.com, an online ticketing system that revolutionized the entertainment industry and is now utilized by Warner Bros. and Disney.