The COVID-19 pandemic changed the way we work forever. Zoom conferences, hybrid schedules, and fully remote employment continue to be the reality for many professionals. While some people excel when working remotely, many have trouble.
That may be a result of not being able to muster up the motivation when your office has a big, comfy bed in it. Or perhaps because a stocked fridge is constantly calling your name. Whatever the case may be, a lot of us could use some help when it comes to working from home.
Here, we have some tips from Marybeth Cale, a certified Hudson Valley life and leadership coach and co-owner of Cale Communications. As someone who works with clients to support their personal and professional development, she’s an expert on helping others get in the zone when the workday begins.
Start with your sleep routine; ideal hours to get some shut-eye are 10 p.m. – 6 a.m., and being well-rested definitely supports a positive outlook, as well as productivity, all day long. Develop a morning routine you really enjoy.
That could mean carving out some time to enjoy a cup of coffee on your porch, eating breakfast with your kids (if they’re awake!), doing a 10-minute guided meditation and taking the dog for a walk in the neighborhood. And take the time to get dressed! It makes a difference.
Carve out specific days of the week that are focused solely on completing client projects, while other days are designated for conference calls and meetings. That way, you can get into the right mindset for that day — whether it’s going to be driven by dialogue with colleagues or clients, or whether it’s going to be one that is highly focused on getting the work done.
I find that I’m most productive when I have a set routine for the workday itself, setting specific blocks of time for certain tasks. Lists are very helpful, and when I cross an item off my to-do list, the sense of joy I feel from each accomplishment tends to breed more productivity. I find that spending the morning hours on my largest, highest-priority items is helpful, and then I use afternoons for smaller tasks.
Using Google calendar to schedule everything into each day is a great way to stay on task: think of it like a high school schedule, where you’ve got blocks of time for each subject area and then breaks in between.
And those breaks in between, for me, provide opportunities for conversation with my husband and kids, getting the laundry going, taking the dog out for a short walk, or calling a loved one. Do not underestimate the importance of short breaks throughout the day — they truly replenish.
It’s important to have a start time and end time to each day, and to turn the work-related notifications off on devices so that you can fully enjoy your aprés-work hours!
If we let our work responsibilities seep into the evening, the days begin to feel like they’re melting into one another. Make your evening hours special — do things you enjoy, spend time with people you love. Read, write, listen to music, watch a movie, do some gardening, go for a walk or bike ride — whatever brings you happiness.
Build something into your evening hours that feels special, a celebration of life and a reward for a productive day.
You cannot be all things to all people. While we can all be seduced by the fantasy that we’ll paint the family room, be a fully present partner or parent, and train for a marathon while we’re working from home, you are ONE person who is still working full- or part-time.
Be reasonable about what you can accomplish each day, and communicate clearly and honestly to your family about what you need from them to feel successful and happy.
Privacy, proper lighting, a comfortable chair, and ample room for your files and technology will breed productivity. Make sure you have a full water bottle on your desk in the morning so that you can stay hydrated throughout the day. And keep things organized — in my opinion, clutter-free is the way to be!
In the absence of face-to-face human interactions that come with the traditional workplace, find ways to connect with people. Set up a virtual coffee hour or lunch break. Revive the old-fashioned art of calling someone on the phone just to check in and catch up!
The energy we get from our relationships can help generate creativity and keep us feeling nourished.
If you feel overwhelmed or burned out, you may need to take a ‘mental health’ day. Just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean you can’t take time for yourself.
When you need to do so, be sure to set up your ‘out of office’ notification, let your team know, and then figure out what will most revitalize you — whether it’s a relaxing hike to a vista, a picnic with your family, or a movie marathon from your couch — be good to yourself. You’ll be most productive when you’re feeling healthy on every level!
Marybeth Cale is a certified life and leadership coach who works with clients from all over the country to support their personal and professional development.
She is the founder of Estuary Leadership and co-owner of Cale Communications, both based in Rhinebeck, New York. Visit estuaryleadership.com to learn more about confidential coaching sessions and/or group training opportunities.