Ah, COVID-19. How you have changed our lives with a snap of your gnarled little fingers. More and more companies are choosing to forego potentially exposing their employees to the virus (at least while on the clock) and allowing the option to work from home. Whether you usually find yourself behind a desk in a corporate setting or are a full-time entrepreneur with the luxury of making your own schedule, working away from your norm can be a big challenge. How do you maintain focus? Stay productive? Continue to be successful, if not more successful, because, let’s be honest, businesses are really feeling this economy sink we’ve got goin’ on?
Moreover, how do you keep your private life (spouse, kids, pets, side-hustle, etc.) separate from the professional, work you?
- Set your intentions. I use a Brush Dance planner and cool tabs I found on Etsy, but anything will do. At the end of each day, write your intentions for the following day. Set REALISTIC goals–the kind you can check off, once they’re accomplished. I also use Google calendar, which I’ve integrated with my work Outlook calendar. You can find out how to do that here. Lists keep you on track and nothing beats the feeling of accomplishment when you’re able to cross something off.
- Maintain your work schedule. Yeah, sure, Zoom is great, but being left (relatively) unsupervised, where no one can really put eyes on you, gives even the most ethical of us too much room to slack off. Keeping your schedule as if you were still going into the office is a great way to hold yourself accountable and stay motivated. Get up, shower, get your coffee and bagel, get dressed, and Show. Up. On. Time. Nailing down a solid rhythm may take some time, but that’s why setting your intentions and making a list of reasonable, daily expectations is super important. As for that time you would’ve spent on your daily commute? Author Kristen Martin suggests spending those minutes on you. Read, journal, meditate, write a few words into the first chapter of that book you’ve been meaning to write. Don’t use that time to sleep. And, for sanity’s sake, give yourself permission to play. My first week at home, I went, as we Southerners say, balls-to-the-wall. Three days in and I was experiencing SERIOUS burnout. What I found is working diligently and to task for 30 or so minutes, then taking a quick 5 minute break, makes for a much more productive day. Check out the Pomodoro Technique for more details on balancing your focus.
- Set boundaries. Admittedly, this one is easy for me. Since I’ve been writing and publishing books, my family understand that when I’m writing, I am not to be disturbed. A good place to start in setting those boundaries is to designate a clear spot for your work. Office, bedroom, preferably a place with less traffic than the kitchen, but if the kitchen’s all you’ve got, that’ll work. During your scheduled work hours, you are off limits. Again, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take breaks. Please, please do. If you’re a parent with kids, you’re probably homeschooling and working a full time job. If your kid needs help with his math homework on Google classroom, set aside a time to tackle that with him. Trust me, this is hard for him, too.
- Stay connected. Email your colleagues. When you’re on a break, text your BFF. Folks, isolation is hard for all of us. And right now? The entire world is isolated. As human beings, we want connection. We long for human interaction, regardless of how many times you tell everyone you’re a hermit. Staying locked up is not what we’re used to, which can be psychologically trying, to say the least. Schedule a Skype or Zoom meeting with your coworkers. Schedule a nighttime Skype or Zoom meeting with your friends. Ask people what they’re doing, how they’re coping, and reciprocate with how you’re doing. Keeping that human connection is vital to your mental well-being.
- Remember to have fun. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been losing sleep. Staying informed with what our state is doing, what laws the government’s enforcing, etc., is important, yes, but, man, the consumption is really beginning to weigh heavy. Set aside time at night to put the phone away. That’s right; I said it. Put the phone away. In a drawer, face down in the bathroom, whatever, and spend quality time with yourself and, if you have a significant other or kids, with your family. I can’t help but keep thinking this time in our history is happening for us, not to us. And if that’s so, what are we supposed to learn? Journal your thoughts and feelings. Read more, laugh more, whip up a recipe you’ve been meaning to try. Take the dogs out for an evening walk. Pull out that stack of board games you haven’t played in ages, microwave some popcorn, grab a cuppa, and get back to your childhood. Start the Netflix series you haven’t had time for, until now. Life is precious, and it’s the only one we’ve got. Make it count.
xoxo – Alyssia