Over the past 9 months, as COVID has raged around the world, millions and millions of people have had to switch abruptly from working in an office to working from home. Even if you had previous experience occasionally working remotely, you’ve probably noticed that doing it FULL-TIME is a completely different experience.
You need a radically higher level of self-awareness, self-management, and self-efficacy. There is an entirely new set of tools and techniques needed to stay focused and productive in an environment that probably wasn’t designed for it.
What 7 years thought me…
Ever since the beginning of our digital marketing agency, we have been working remotely. Over the years, I have tried a LOT of different strategies, tools, apps, and so on. One thing that I learned is that if you are not careful, working from home will turn into living at work. Here are my cliffnotes on how I managed working from home without going insane.
1. Create Routines
When you have to go to your workplace, there are a lot of external factors that reinforce certain habits. From taking a shower to gettings dressed all the way to the first thing you do when you get to the office.
One of the biggest challenges of working from home is that all of those routines are no longer externally motivating you. Who would know if you didn’t take that shower or dressed properly?
Now that you work from home you have to create an entirely new set of habits and routines just as if there was a boss or a college there to watch you and call you on your sloppiness.
2. Master Your Task Management System
No matter what system you decide to use, make it a priority to master your task management system. Your system has to be able to capture tasks from your emails, from your chat app for your company, when you are on zoom, etc.
Your system also has to help you setup know which tasks are awaiting a response from somebody to be moved forward. I will be writing about this in the future because I’ve had my fair share of trial and error in that department and we are still trying to make it better.
3. Master Your Inbox
Email is ibiquitous yet most of us never stopped to think about how best to use this tool. Opening your inbox should never put a pit in your stomach. There are very few things as satisfying as knowing that you are on top of everything when it comes to email. I will be writing on this in the future but my biggest insights on the topic is:
- Your inbox is like a physical inbox, stuff isn’t supposed to pile up there. Every email should have a place to go to. It has to get tagged or put in a folder that is appropriate and archived for later use.
- The most important emails are those who are asking you to do something. Find an extension or a tool that allows you to automatically turn an email into a task or an event on your calendar. Gmail does a great job at this. Your two most important tags will be “Awaiting Response” and “Action Required”.
- Finally, create filters, all email has that feature. For example, whenever I see an email I do not want to receive, I simply create a filter that makes it automatically to the trash bin. When I receive my invoice from Spotify, it goes instantly under “invoice” and it skips the inbox. With time, your inbox will get easier and easier to manage.
4. Stick To A Schedule
The problem with working from home is that you are one thought away from working at all times. Have clear boundaries about when you start, take breaks, eat, go for a walk, and close your workday. Then celebrate a good day of work done and go on other things.
5. Find Ways To Stay Social
Another big thing that is difficult is that working from home can be a very lonely thing. We need interpersonal contact with other people. Being away from people can be very good for productivity but it can be pretty bad for creativity.
6. Develop Internal Motivations
Working from home is fundamentally about being internally motivated. In the workplace we are constantly motivated by external factors…but when it’s just you and your screen for hours and hours on end, motivation can go down the drain fast.
Can you foresee how your work is leading you to where you have set some of your goals in life? If not, maybe it’s time to recalibrate…maybe you need to take on a different position or find a workplace that will be the vehicle to accomplish those professional goals that you have.
Working from home is difficult and for most of us, it lost the ‘gloss’ or ‘appeal’ that a lot of people taunted over the years. Realize that no matter how overwhelmed you are, you will get better at it over time and that the skills you are developing in the process will serve you for a lifetime, wherever you go.
Photo by Tengyart on Unsplash