Home office: tips for working from home
Although some shops have been open again since last week, for many of us the current situation has not changed much. The corona pandemic is omnipresent and the time in quarantine is slowly putting more and more strain on our nerves. While the time at home initially felt like a vacation, it is now becoming more strenuous and energy-consuming day by day. Of course, this also affects our motivation and therefore the effectiveness of our work in the home office.
I've been working from home (and from my favorite cafés - but that's not an option at the moment) for over a year now and have therefore dealt with the topic several times. Today I would like to share with you the tips and tricks that always help me stay motivated to work from home. Hopefully some of these suggestions will help you!
Home office tips for productive working from home
1. Enough sleep & limited cell phone time in the morning
Productive work begins with our sleep. Because if we can't sleep long or peacefully enough, it can sometimes affect our energy levels. Then it can quickly happen that we press “snooze” several times, turn around again or pull out our cell phone “to wake up”... There may perhaps be something in this excuse (I also admit guilt, by the way). that the bright light of our screens and the notifications that bombard us really help us wake up. But that certainly doesn't make sense.
That's why I got into the habit of turning on airplane mode in the evening and only turning it off after my morning ritual (see tip number 2). Alternatively, you can set in your phone's settings when you are “allowed” to use which apps. For example, I have also set YouTube and Instagram to be “blocked” for me before nine in the morning. Of course, it would be even better to leave your cell phone in another room overnight and use a standard alarm clock.
2. Your own little morning ritual
Taking a little time just for ourselves in the morning can have an incredibly motivating and energetic effect. That might be 5, 10 or 30 minutes – whatever works. Whether you make yourself a coffee in peace, go for a short morning walk, prepare a delicious breakfast, read a chapter in a book, take the dog out for some fresh air, write a diary, meditate, do some exercise... - it stays natural left to you. It's best to choose two to three activities that you can manage in time and that aren't too time-consuming. Of course, it's also important that you enjoy these activities and don't do them because you feel like you "have to" do them.
For me, my morning ritual includes letting some fresh air into my bedroom, making my bed, drinking a large glass of water, and then meditating for about ten to fifteen minutes.
Knowing when I go to bed what the start of the day will be like tomorrow gives me a good feeling and I look forward to the time for myself and the day that follows. I had to experiment a bit until I found the routine that felt best for me. But since I gave myself half an hour in the morning, I feel much more motivated and balanced!
3. Get ready!
Of course I mean that in the sense of “getting ready”. In my head it makes a big difference whether I sit at the desk in my pajamas or a baggy look or put on a “real” outfit. Since I spend most of the day sitting down, the outfit in question still has to be comfortable (the paigh pants work great, for example), but it shouldn't be one of my “I'm-chilling-out-with-sweatpants-on” outfits “Couch” combinations. If you like wearing makeup, this can also help you feel “ready” for work. Just like you would do if you didn't work from home.
4. The workplace
A suitable workplace can make a huge difference. Unfortunately, this is also one of the points that can be the most difficult to implement. Not everyone has the space for their own study or an undisturbed working atmosphere. Nevertheless, working from home can be made more pleasant with a few tricks.
- The most important rule is to create a permanent job. In the best case scenario, this is far away from the bed or couch. Because a spatial separation of sleeping/relaxing/working helps our brain to internalize a mental separation of these activities.
- If you can position your desk so that it is away from piles of clothes, dirty dishes, or other clutter, this will also contribute to your productivity. If we are surrounded by chaos and disorder, we cannot concentrate so well on one thing and, for example, we are already mentally planning when the next laundry needs to be put out. Personally, I like it best when my desk is in front of my window because it gives me the opportunity to catch a few rays of sunshine.
- It is also important to keep the workplace itself as clean as possible. Regularly put away papers, pens and folders that you don't need. Even if you set up your workspace in a place that is otherwise used for something else (dining table / bedside table / coffee table), it makes sense to clear this space as much as possible so that you can concentrate fully on working.
- Not only your own desk should be tidy, but also the desktop. After all, it’s part of our workplace. My brain feels more relaxed and empty when I have as few windows and tabs open as possible and when I have reduced or neatly arranged the icons on my desktop. It sounds unnecessarily fussy, but it makes a difference!
5. The power of lists
Anyone who knows me knows that I am a big fan of to-do lists. These also help to clear your head and give you a little dopamine kick every time you check something off.
It helps to prioritize the items on the list. It's best to first write down everything that comes to your mind. Then you can mark the two or three most important points on your list.
It's also good if you break down complex list items (e.g. “finish project”) into many small steps (e.g. “research” / “make bullet points” / “write an email x” / “convert bullet points into text” / “text “finalize” / “select images” / “create presentation” / “create PDF” …). This gives you the opportunity to check off several things throughout the day and visualize what you have accomplished at the end of the day.
Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash
6. Minimize distractions
Distractions caused by children, your partner or other roommates cannot always be avoided. However, you can still minimize possible other distractions. This can be done by turning off notifications (not just on your cell phone, but also email notifications on your laptop, for example), putting your cell phone as far away as possible or setting rules for yourself. For example, one of my rules is: “No WhatsApp messages are checked at the desk”. In doing so, I create a mental association that desk (= work) and WhatsApp (= pleasure) do not belong together. If this rule is not feasible for you because you need to communicate with colleagues etc. via WhatsApp, then you may find another rule that serves the same purpose.
7. Breaks are just as important as periods of work
Taking breaks is probably one of the most important points of all. Our brain cannot work with maximum concentration for three hours at a time and we shouldn't ask for it. So take time regularly for small breaks in which you consciously do NOT deal with work-related content. A restorative effect can only occur if our head can switch off properly. For example, you can allow yourself to check your social media during breaks, watch an entertaining video, snack, or walk around the block.
Physical activities help me especially during the well-known afternoon low in motivation. After lunch, I like to collapse on the couch with my smartphone in my hand and the planned half-hour break quickly turns into a whole hour. So when I notice the afternoon slump setting in, I try to do something physical. In this way, the low can be converted into a productive break. For example, I tidy up, vacuum, wash the dishes or take a short walk. I also regularly manage to overcome low motivation with the help of stretching exercises or a little dance performance to my favorite song.
8. Make plans
In times when you are at home a lot and the days are rather monotonous, it is important to consciously make time for nice things. Even if we can't do as much as usual due to the current situation, there are still a few things that can give us a nice end to the day. For example, you can arrange facetime dates with friends, pursue your favorite hobby, take time to read a book, cook something nice or spend time with your loved ones (if they live in your household 😅). This gives you something to look forward to.
You can also set a time when you want to stop working. In my case this sometimes works better and sometimes worse, but it helps me to mentally draw a line and end the working day.
Last but not least, I want to emphasize that it is important not to be too hard on yourself. There will always be days when things go better than other days. And since the current situation is stressful enough, it's totally understandable if you're having trouble staying motivated at the moment. You are not alone in this. All we can do is try to do our best and trust and hope that better times will come.
Take care! ❤️
If you would like to find out more about the topics of mindfulness, healthy eating or sustainability, take a look here .