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Working From Home for Beginners

Many of us are forced to work from home over the next few weeks. While many people, thanks to corporate environment changes, may often work from home or have had occasional opportunities to do so, for many people, setting up shop at home is completely new.

As a Realtor, when I am not working with clients, contractors, or inspectors, I am often working from a home office. I've had years of experience going straight from breakfast to my daily to-dos and learning what works and what doesn't to be most effective working from home. I wanted to take this opportunity to share a little about what I've learned!

But first, let me just acknowledge that there are so many people who can't work from home. There are the people who own their own businesses and have been forced to close up shop for the next few weeks, not bringing in any income. And then there are the people still working in and for the public - the wonderful health care professionals keeping us all as healthy and comfortable as possible and working long hours, the health institutes working towards testing and even a potential vaccine, the fantastic pharmacy and grocery store workers who keep us in food and needed supplies, and the few babysitters, daycares and nannies still assisting with childcare.

For those of us lucky enough to continue running our business or day-to-day tasks from home, here are my top tips for doing so as effectively as possible:

Photo by Agnieszka Boeske on Unsplash

1) Have a Dedicated Space 
This seems obvious but if you are in a smaller home that doesn't have a dedicated home office, its easy to want to set up shop on your couch. DON'T. You will be less effective from a place you connect with relaxation. If you have no place else to go, set up shop at your kitchen table or even repurpose your coffee table in front of a pillow-chair or dresser into a desk if you are in a studio apartment.

2) Get out of your pajamas 
I'll admit, after years of working from home, I don't generally abide by this one anymore. I have learned to be efficient in my 'comfy clothes'. But if you are new to working from home, I highly suggest changing at least into jeans and a shirt so it feels like you are moving onto work. If you stay in your pjs, you'll feel relaxed all day and will likely have an underlying feeling of a day off, which is the opposite of what you need for productivity.

3) Time Block
Most of us have prescribed ways to spend the day - filling the gaps between one meeting and the next with trying to fit in our email and personal work. But with everyone working from home, its likely many meetings will get skipped (or emails will somehow do a much better job of conveying those 2 hours meetings in 3 sentences...) and you'll be left with more downtime than before.
Start your day with planning out your time in between if you don't already.
Decide to only review emails between 9-10 and 1-2, for example, instead of constantly jumping on ones throughout the day.
Dedicate a specific hour to a specific project and start that exactly at that time, etc.

4) Make time for downtime 
There are 400 distractions at home. You'll think "Oh the dog really is begging for a walk" or "While I'm here, I should start a load of laundry" or "Oh man, there's that puzzle I've been working on for 2 weeks on my dining room table..." Whatever the home-front distraction is, don't try to ignore it entirely. Just schedule it in like any other work activity.
For example, you may decide to work from 9-10:30 but take a break from 10:30-11 to go outside and walk the dog and get the mail. Its a perk of working from home. But since at a workplace you often have other small, social distractions, you will likely accomplish the same level of work. Just make space for them with mini-breaks as opposed to trying to ignore them completely.

The one caveat of the above tip is TV (or youtube) does not get touched. Only if you've been working from home for quite a while and can control yourself can you start watching 20 mins over lunch, if you are in. But for newbies, DO NOT sit in front of the tv (going back to the no-couch rule) and do not turn it on until the end of the day. Being home with the TV has to be the #1 way to stop your productivity.

If you find yourself wanting to take a few mins to watch your favorite show, stop and do another mini-break from #4 or turn on some great music and play it loud - it will feel like a bit of downtime/socializing.

6) Give yourself a stopping time 
If you get really good at working from home, the other end of the downsides is you might work too late. You are already at home so you can continue to work past 6....7....
Obviously if you have kids or a remindful spouse, this is unlikely, but if you are working relatively solo, it can be easy to do. Leave your home office just like you would leave your regular office and do something to move your mind off of that work - work out, make dinner, go for a walk, etc.

While these tips are great for the average person working from home, many people are working from home with kids. Tomorrow I will share a few tips on trying to work done when you have little ones at home!

Have any insight into working from home? Comment below! 


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