With COVID-19 blowing up our work schedules and lives right now, I felt it would be helpful to share some real tips from someone who’s very experienced at working from home. Here’s how to make working from home work for you! 

Let’s get a few things straight… 

Allow me to set the scene for you. I’m a work-from-home graphic designer, photographer and content creator who’s been doing this for about 8 years now. I have a 2.5 year old who is in daycare HALF days only – 5 days a week (not right now, but normally). My husband also works from home. I wanted to preface this post with this info so you understand our individual family situation and to give you some perspective about our lives, because I know this isn’t the “typical” situation. 

Create deadlines: 

I have a hard stop each day at 11:45am (unless I’m out at meetings out the house, which right now, isn’t happening). So I know that between 7:45 and 11:45 I have work hours, and I have to get the bulk of my work done in this time. This is super helpful for me because before having Libby, time stretched out in front of me for the whole day, and this often resulted in putting off the work until 2 or 3pm and then scrambling before my husband got home – hungry – and we both got cranky. 
 
Now, I have a constant motivator – the clock! 

 

Don’t have a specific deadline? Create one!

 
I also use obligations to outside parties as a way to motivate me. For example, a client may ask for changes on a project/file but not give me a specific deadline. I usually will reply back to their email and offer a day or time when I will get them the changes – and then stick to what I say. This is what works best for me to decrease my turn around time on projects. 
 
 

Have an office space and keep work in there as much as possible: 

 
I have worked everywhere – my bedroom, kitchen table, office, living room couch, and even outside on our patio. 
 
The best way to get in the mindset of work and not be distracted is to work in the same room every day – ideally that room is an “office space” or has an area that you can designate as the office. 
 

Here’s what makes a great office space in my opinion: 

 
  1. You can leave your computer, art supplies, files, whatever, set up in there and not have to clean it up or put it away each day. It’s easier to get back to work the next day if your equipment and tools are already set up!
  2. Ideally, this space has a door that you can close when you are ready to be done working, or at least a door that you can walk out of and leave work for a while. When I would work at the kitchen table, not only was it a mess to clean up before I could sit down to dinner but with my laptop sitting there all night it was tempting to go back and check email again or finish some tweaks on a project. This isn’t ideal, because what your mind REALLY needs at the end of a workday is a break and rest! 
  3. A space you can make inspiring, organized and uplifting. Even if it’s a space you are only working from home at temporarily, make it inspiring to you! Hang a vision board or inspiration board on the wall, some motivational quotes, or a photo of your mentor or personal hero. If you have the luxury of a room to use as a home office, consider adding a reading area with an overstuffed chair and a bookcase with work-related or inspirational books. I’ve added this to my home office now and I LOVE it.  

Keep a routine: 

You’ve probably heard this before, but it’s so important I’ll say it again – establish and keep a routine. 

Showering and getting dressed every day should be included! I am much more likely to go out for an afternoon walk if I’ve already gotten ready for the day. Otherwise, I become a stinky hermit…. not pretty. And not my most creative state, either! 

My routine is somewhat broken right now, obviously, but we still try to get up at the same time, eat lunch and give Libby a nap at the same time, and call it quits around 4:30 or 5 each day. It helps keep me on track for the day! 

 

Avoid working during “non-optimal” hours: 

 

For me this means I don’t work late at night anymore (see my blog on Working from home with Kids). It wears me out, I’m less productive, and it makes me feel sluggish the next day. I let my brain relax, get enough sleep, and do things like reading a novel or knitting, to give myself a break. I know that night time hours are “non-optimal” for me. I’m much better at work in the morning! For you, it may be different. Lean into that and recognize when you feel the most energized and productive. Work during those hours as much as possible, and honestly, do something else (housework, admin tasks, or lesser creative projects) during the other hours. If you work with employees or co-workers, communicate with them when you feel your “prime time” is. You might find those non-optimal hours are better for you to meet with other co-workers, and save your prime time for getting your work done! 

 

Do something at the end of the day that signals “I’m done.” 

This goes along with having a routine, but I feel like I need a cue that I’m shutting off work at the end of the day. For me, it’s making dinner. I enjoy it (usually!) and we have to eat dinner anyway, right? 

For you, it might be opening a beer and walking outside for a few minutes, or spending some time with your kids reading a book or talking about their day. Whatever it is, do it – it helps replace that transition time that was your commute. 

I know we’re all doing the best we can right now – those of you that are trying to figure out how to work from home are probably feeling a little lost, without direction, or disconnected from your co-workers. It’s okay! That’s normal! And you’ll figure out a new normal, too.