A week or so ago (who knows what time is anymore), I was asked to speak to the Harrisburg Regional Chamber’s Chamber Business Women group to share work from home tips.
It was the first virtual version of the event, and we sold out, which was cool!
You can watch me talk semi-awkwardly to my computer screen here (my plants are not as receptive to my one-liners). I’ve also broken down my chat below, to help you power through this work-from-home life.
All of this too long too read or watch? Here’s my #1 takeaway: Pivot.
Maximizing your schedule is all about finding the little things that work best for you. That means trying some different things on for size. My schedule is different than it was before I had a baby, and it’s changing almost daily now as I try to navigate working from home while being a work-from-home-mom with a busy, working, and hungry husband on-site, too.
Ultimately, you want to try to identify your goals, and I’m finding it helps me to break those down to an overarching “goals for the week” (both personal and professional, like, hey prep for this zoom talk and also, make some more beef stock), and then identify a few daily “to dos.”
Some days, I know Paw Patrol is going to be on repeat, while other days, I’m making efforts to keep the TV off, which probably means my work product is less.
Disclaimer: Look, I also get that I am in a unique situation where I am self-employed, which has both flexibility and different demands. This is about tweaking your days and expectations to find what works best for you. Some days are just harder than others, knowing that helps me not beat myself up -too much- over it.
In a “normal” (read: pre-pandemic) world, my schedule went a little something like this:
- 6 a.m., Get up before everyone, drink coffee, go through emails.
- 8 a.m. Wake-up Bo, get him dressed, breakfast, and off to school (daycare) no later than 9 a.m.
- 9:15 a.m. Return to home office and dive into work
- May or may not shower
- Eat cheese and cashews for lunch
- Weekly yoga class
- Occasional meetings
- 5 p.m. Close-up shop, get the kiddo, start dinner
Pre-baby, I never really had a “closing time” either — I’d just work until my husband got home or I had to be somewhere or I burned out, but I definitely do now.
- I’m essentially a SAHM
- Husband working full-time from home; no daycare
- Work mornings, naps, sometimes post-bedtime, sometimes during Paw Patrol marathons
Keys to Work From Home Success
- Make some rules
- Crack the code to your best routine
- Trial & error • Pivot!
- Soak up the good stuff
- Be easy on yourself, there’s always tomorrow
Make some rules
- Do change your clothes. Even if you’re staying cozy, you gotta freshen up and get into some “good sweats.” If you know you need to shower every day or dress up to “feel” like you’re working, definitely do that.
- Don’t turn on the TV. Just do not.
- Create your space. You need enough room for your laptop, water bottle, notebook, and pen. Do a lot of zoom meetings? Make sure there’s good light. For instance, face a window, if able. Work well when you’re cozy? Go ahead and stay in bed (but DO change out of PJs). If you have room and think you’ll be doing this for the long haul, think about a more permanent working space.
Dial-in your ideal routine
What did you know about yourself before? Have you always hit snooze one too many times and rushed out the door with wet hair and mismatched socks? Were you up early slaying mini-projects before the workday? Use this to your advantage to accomplish things when it works for YOU.
- Consider your mornings. Some say to keep that morning routine as if you’re heading to the office, but I don’t think it’s necessary. Try it once. If it makes you more productive, do it. For me, I need these precious early morning hours for email, etc., I cannot be bothered to shower.
- I’d say, *perfect* your morning routine. I find little things really boost my success like prepping coffee the night before (if your coffeemaker has that timer function).
- Do you need a big breakfast? Batch some slow cooker oatmeal or egg muffins.
- Can you sneak in a quick morning workout (I have some great options here)?
- Pre-plan your water/snacks/lunch like you would at the office. This way you’re not starving OR padding into the kitchen every half hour.
- Take a walk – even around the backyard or block.
- If you feel yourself losing your mojo, change tasks or location.
- Having trouble concentrating? Try some of my 20 things to do to increase your productivity.
My morning routine includes letting out the dog, coffee, and catching up on current events via email newsletters.
I also will look at my inbox and try to sort whatever I didn’t get to the day before (usually sending off quick replies, archiving completed threads, and adding tasks to my to-do list). Finally, I’ll make a short list of goals for the day.
And for that last step, I’m finding success in the old school handwritten note. I try to keep the list to about 5 items so it’s not too overwhelming (and therefore realistic).
Enjoy the good stuff!
Hey, there ARE perks to working from home! Right? Besides the comfier clothes (which is real, don’t take my sweats from me), you’ve eliminated your commute and office distractions.
- I like a mid-afternoon hot beverage and some chocolate.
- Slow workday? Throw in a load of laundry. One more thing you don’t have to do on the weekend.
- Working from home doesn’t have to mean working INSIDE your home. Every summer I make my friends jealous when I log working hours from my patio.
- Try a new online workout
- Give yourself a mani/pedi during a conference call (audio only )
- Still, don’t turn on the TV (maybe a podcast though?)
- Make lists of house projects you want to tackle
There’s always tomorrow
I think if there’s one thing we’re all learning from experiencing this global event en masse is that it really is affecting all of us, mentally, emotionally, and likely physically to some extent. Go easy on yourself too.
The first week or so of this (read: having no childcare, as I already work from home and don’t get out often), I was incredibly frustrated that I couldn’t get *anything* done.
I worked on ways to help manage this and feel more productive. Work slowed for a time, but now it’s ramping back up, so my husband and I are communicating ways to help take some shifts with the wild toddler (who thinks he’s still on vacation).
For me, I worked on mini projects around the home. Not renovation-level stuff, but things I’ve been putting off forever. I’m trying sourdough (yes, like everyone else, though it’s been on my list for a long time — I just never thought I’d have time until Bo was older), I’m tending to my houseplants, I’m organizing and decluttering, and deep-cleaning the kitchen. I’m working on my outdoor garden, and I’m trying to read more.
Still — after a few days of feeling good, like a great mom with a clean, organized home — it hits again. Frustration, anger, sadness. But, tomorrow is another day, and I’ll give it a try again then.
Until then — reach out to your friends and family. Vent silly first-world-problem vents. Get in a workout. Give back where you can. Support local businesses if you can. Make a new cocktail. Order some wine. Take in some virtual entertainment. When in doubt, take a walk.
Wishing you all the best of luck. I hope you’re able to find some silver linings to your new work-from-home situations.
I’d love to hear from you!
DM me on Instagram or email me and let me know what’s working for you and what’s not. I don’t have all the answers — I’m pivoting right along with you — but I’d love to chat and hear about your experiences!