Working From Home Tips and Tricks

Funny enough, this post was already on the docket for today but it seems more relevant than ever. One thing I did update was how to WFH in a shared space. Since his office has been closed, Andrew is now working from home with me. I'm not going to lie, it's been difficult. But we'll get into that below!

I started working full time on the blog in January of 2019 and now that I have a full year under my belt, I thought it was finally time to sit down a write my best tips and tricks for working from home. 

As humans, we crave schedules and routines. And while we may despise going into the office, it's what we're hardwired to do after a while. Ever since we were young we've been getting up, getting ready and going off for the day. Whether that be to school or work, it's ingrained in our system. Our whole lives revolve around the idea that we're up and out of the house and going to a designated learn/work space than coming home to relax and do minor learning/working (homework, emails, etc). 

So flipping that switch to now work from home can be jarring. I will be the first to admit it took me about a year to fully get in the right routine to be productive in working from home. For the longest time, I was working on my laptop on my couch from 9am until 2am. I didn't know when to shut off. I was working through our TV time, only really taking a break for dinner. Not only was it not smart but it wasn't productive! 

It's a lot to re-learn and re-teach yourself. You have to override your past knowledge and experience and start over. It's probably while most of these tips encourage you to do the same routine and practices as if you were in an office: getting ready, setting breaks, having a designated workspace. 

But if the past year taught me anything, it's all about finding what works for you. So while these tips are from me and other readers (like you!) it's important to remember to test, learn, listen, re-test, fix and find your best work from home tips and tricks!! So let's hop into it:

Tips for Working from Home

1. Set a routine -- Humans love routines!!! This was probably the number one tip from you guys. So try setting a schedule and routine for each day. It doesn't all have to be the same but in general, it should look somewhat similar. 

Getting up at the same time, getting dressed, logging on, setting breaks, taking time for lunch, and knowing when your workday has ended. Everyone's routine will work differently so it's best to learn what is best for you. I know someone who loves to shower mid-day because it gives them something to look forward to. Or another friend who likes to schedule all of her out-of-the-house tasks on the same day. Just find what works best for you and play around with it.

My routine is different depending on the day but it looks a little something like this: wake up around 9a, catch up on emails/DMs/texts until 9:30a, eat a small breakfast and work out from 10-11a. Then I walk the dogs from 11-11:30a, come home, and shower. I usually work until I'm hungry for lunch around 2p and make some food while giving myself about an hour break to watch YouTube (no TV/Netflix during the day). 

After that, it'll be work until 5p or 6p depending on my day and when Andrew gets home. Around 6p or so I'll break for a snack and wait until Andrew is back from the gym to shut down for the day. If needed I'll go back to finish things up after dinner (when Andrew cleans and showers) and then it's computer off for the night so we can hang and watch TV or a movie!

2. Make your mornings count -- I'll be the first to admit I am NOT a morning person. I don't like to do much of anything. I love to snooze and lay in bed on my phone until the very last second I have to get up lol. BUT this is one of the big things I'm working on, and the next big piece of advice you guys gave!

Starting off your day right can help the rest of it go by smoothly! I personally love to work out in the morning because it keeps me accountable, makes it so I get it out of the way for the day, and helps me have more energy (plus switching from PJs to leggings is much easier). Just whatever you do, don't work from bed! Wake up early and get out of bed. Make it so you don't feel tempted to get back in either! It will suck you up and you'll spend the day napping (trust me lol).

A big tip is to also change out of your PJs/sweats and get dressed for the day. Look good = feel good. I usually wait until after I walk the dogs but it's always a lot of fun dressing up for the home office haha. You have no need for shoes! It's a hard thing to adjust to but it really does help make you feel more put together. 

My last big tip in this is to get your chores out of the way in the morning. And by chores, I mean anything that can be distracting to you during the day. If you're dying to do laundry, do it! It will only linger throughout the day and pull you away from what you really should be doing. Try and make a list the night before of what you want to get done before you bunker down for work. 

3. Give yourself breaks -- Breaks throughout the day are SO IMPORTANT. Not only is it something to look forward to, but you need it for your sanity! There is no time more productive than when I sit down at 15 past the hour and commit to doing one thing for the rest of the hour to get a break. You'd be surprised at how fast time flies by!

A lot of people I know exercise a "time block" method. It's backed by research that this is one of the most effective ways to manage your time. One of the more notable approaches is called the Pomodoro Technique where you set a timer for 25 minutes and work on that task with no distractions. When the time is up take a 5-minute break and move on to the next task. After four "sprints," take a longer break (15-30 minutes) and then start again.

4. Get out of the house (and treat yourself once a week!) -- This is where sometimes I'm the worst or the absolute best haha. There will be days I don't leave the house outside of walking the dogs. Honestly, I'm grateful they get me out!! Without them, I'd be glued to my desk. Especially when the weather is meh, the last thing I want to do is go outside.

BUT it's super important for your mental health. Even if it's just a 10-minute walk around the block. It will help and make you more energized to come back to work. My issue is when I go out, sometimes I don't want to go back in lol. I try to treat myself to a once weekly outing with friends. It's usually either a workout class or lunch -- something fun and totally removed from work. Sometimes lunch will turn into something more like shopping, exploring... the works. 

The main issue is that right now you want to limit eating out/shopping/running errands but this is where I would normally say (not in the midst of an outbreak) to treat yo self! But right now we are being safe. Go for a walk and maybe Facetime your friend or family member. Social interaction is good but we need to be safe right now. [I'll probably come back and update this after everything is over]

5. Have a dedicated workspace and invest in your space --  Having a place to work and nothing else has been possibly the biggest change in working from home. When I'm at my desk I am working and when I'm anywhere else, I'm not. It actually wasn't until recently that I was even using my desk or desktop computer. For the longest time, I've had both but rarely ever used them and as I was debating selling my desktop (seriously, barely touched) I thought about why I wasn't using it.

My first reason was I hated sitting at my desk. It was in the corner of the living room facing the wall. I felt so isolated and crowded. So I got the crazy idea of rotating it to face the living room and meet the back of the couch. It isn't the most stylish thing ever but by doing so, I've been able to face out into the room, enjoy the sunshine and natural light AND I've created a little corner office for myself. It made the world of difference.

Even with my computer itself, I hated the mouse so I went into Apple and bought a trackpad. Now I'm using it every day! ALL of this to say... if you invest in your workspace, it will pay off! Make sure it is decluttered, open, airy, has good lighting and is just for work.

6. Get rid of distractions -- These tips are all so important, but for me, THIS is the most important. My phone, Instagram, and Twitter are the biggest culprits. The best thing I can do for myself is to put my phone on Do Not Disturb until my breaks and then check up on everything.

I am DILIGENT about not watching TV but I will maybe sometimes throw on a YouTube video in the background. Think of it as my podcast! I have pretty bad ADHD and any little thing will sidetrack me. I try to keep outside noise to zero. Andrew, on the other hand, likes to have background noise but I literally cannot write with any noise -- even music!! 

So turn off the TV, put away your phone, make to-do lists to keep you focused and if all else fails, wear noise-canceling headphones! I'm a bigger fan of making someone else wear them so I can just have quiet. IF I need music, I'll throw on a classical station because it helps your mind relax without being too big of a distraction. 

7. Stay healthy -- This is definitely a forgotten tip but it is equally important as the rest!! Working from home can be disorienting to your body. I definitely snack more when I'm home so my best advice is to stock up on healthy food. Snacking on apples and PB or fruits is a great filler throughout the day. They are certainly much better than chips or candy.

You also want to make sure you are cooking/preparing meals when you can. Not only will it help save you money but it will also help you take mental and physical breaks, get you up and away from your desk and it will be healthier than ordering in. When I worked in an office, I would treat myself to order lunch on Fridays as a treat for a great week.

Also, DRINK LOTS OF WATER. I usually have a MASSIVE water bottle (open lid, like a rebel) either right in front of me or next to me to just passively remind me to continuously drink and hydrate. Having it right there will help you drink more and you will have zero excuses not to stay hydrated. 

Tips for Working from Home with a +1 (spouse, roommate, family member)

Sooo things in your household may have changed last week, this week, or are soon to come. That is the case with us! For so long I've been so lonely hahaha and I've dreamt about Andrew staying home. But fun fact, it's actually not all butterflies and blue skies. Especially living in a one-bedroom apartment. We just don't really have space for the two of us to work away from each other. 

On the weekends we will take time sharing the desk, but when Andrew brought up doing that during the week I was like ohhhh heeeellllllll nah. I didn't work this hard to get from the couch to turn back now! So I reached out to you all and asked for your best tips to manage working from home with someone else. 

Whether one of you has been doing it for years or you're both new, it will take some time and a lot of proper communication to get started on a routine together.

1. Have your own (separate) workspace -- If you have the LUXURY of it, do it! Right now Andrew works at our kitchen table, which is more of a bar top than an actual table, and it's the best we can do. If he needs to take a call, he'll either do it there or go into the bedroom and shut the door. I feel like doors would be helpful here to avoid distractions but also have some space to do your own thing. 

IF you don't have enough space to truly separate, we need to learn (talking to myself here) how to share with others. Find a schedule that works for you both on switching off at the "good desk" during the day. It would be a nice gesture that would go a long way (again, saying this to myself hahahah)

2. Communicate -- This is No. 1 for all relationships but especially now that you both are placed outside your comfort zones. You know how to live together but working together is a whole different ballgame! Communicate what you need, the boundaries you have set, what your day will look like and agree to terms. For me I'll tell Andrew that I cannot have sound (like the TV or his iPad), for him he'll let me know when he has calls and needs quiet as well.

It's best to start off your morning going through the schedule for the day and understanding what the other has coming up or what they are going through. I also like to ask Andrew when he'll be "out of work" for the day so we can get done at the same time. It's something to look forward to!

Along the same lines, if it works for you both, try and schedule your breaks together. Like meeting for lunch or taking a walk outside. I think it will give you both something happy in the middle of the day, something you can do together and it's a great way to hit some of the tips above!

3. Practice patience and respect -- The most important!! This is going to be really new to both of you and there will be some bumps along the way. Be smart, kind, respectful and patient. 

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