Work From Home Guide


I’ve worked from home or remotely off and on for about 15 years or so for three different companies, in two different industries, and in that time, I’ve learned a LOT. I’ve learned what works for me and what doesn’t, how to make myself more productive and the holes where I always lose time. Since a lot of you are now doing it for the first time, I thought I’d share some of what I’ve picked up along the way and what works for me. 


Don't end up like this :)



1. Working from home is a highly individualized experience.

What works for me might not work for you and personality plays a huge role here. My best advice overall is to experiment. If something is not working, don’t try to stubbornly make it work, try something else even if it is a small tweak. Working from home is a lot about habits and a small tweak with behavior can help to create a new habit. Don’t overthink or over complicate if you can, sometimes the simplest answer is the best. Experiment, test, use new variables, assess and make changes as necessary. What works one month and for one project might not work for the next. 

2. Create a routine.

I know not everyone wants to hear this one, especially those who are routine averse, but it is a time and efficiency saver. Set some hours for yourself if possible. Otherwise you will find yourself doing less over the course of more hours and working into the wee evening hours. No one wants to be doing email at 11:00 pm if it can be helped. When I was travel blogging a lot and on the road more regularly, I initially thought it was the most liberating thing ever. But then I couldn’t get anything done. I still have blog posts that are five years old in my drafts because of this. I learned really fast that I need a container. It doesn’t have to be a strict one, but I need to make parameters for myself even if I let them be porous. I’m a Virgo rising (schedule and detail happy) and the Virgo helps keep my meandering Pisces daydreaming sun at bay. If I didn’t set a schedule for myself with blocks of time, I would find myself creative writing all day long or dreaming about creative writing in a cottage in the middle of the Scottish Highlands on my latest book idea (not that I speak from experience or anything). Some might think that not being in a structured work environment like an office should be about doing whatever you want, whenever you want and for some of you that will work. For the vast majority, it won’t. Most people need a container. The good thing is that when you don’t commute you have a little more time, choice and control over that (within the confines of what is possible for your job and life of course).

A subset of this is, take a shower and get dressed every morning. This might sound silly, but for me it makes a huge difference. Working in my pajamas or even my yoga pants (and I’m a yoga teacher part of the time) doesn’t work for me. Not only is this part of my routine from number 2, I just think better when I’m dressed and not wearing what I wore to bed. It’s like you used to have school clothes and home clothes, and you would have to change after school before you could play. (This wasn’t something we did, but I hear people did.) Basically the same concept.  This is work time, this is not work time. A theme you’ll see through a lot of these. 

3. Food and Snacks.

This is where a lot of people fall down. I mitigate this by always having water at my desk or wherever I am working. If I stay hydrated enough, I am less likely to snack. Especially stress snack. This is highly individualized based on your metabolism and eating style, but give this some thought and set a plan into place so it’s not willy nilly and you can stay healthy in your new working environment. 

4. Boundaries.

This is by far the hardest one for me. When you work from home, it’s possible to work ALL of the time. Number two above will help with this, but a part of this is also knowing what your jobs expectations are of you. Are you expected and required to be on all the time, or is that something you are putting on it yourself? When you find out the new expectations, it makes it easier to set boundaries on your side and not allow work-leak into the rest of your life. Boundaries also include things you normally do and have in the physical office. Some of this might need to be adjusted, but be aware when you start to feel overly drained because a boundary has crumbled. This is sneaky in life and in work, especially when you are doing both from the same place. 

5. Have a dedicated space (if possible).

This will help you keep number 1 and 4 on track. Even if you don’t have a dedicated office or room in your dwelling, try to use the same desk, or same table or whatever it is. It sets a boundary for you. 

6. Don’t forget to take breaks.

Another one I struggle with. I can get hyper focused (hello Virgo), and lose all sense of time when I am working hard on something. It is not uncommon for me to go an entire day without getting up from my seat if I have a project that needs to get done. I won't notice that I haven’t eaten. This is likely not the case for most people, but if you are someone who tends to overwork, has experienced burnout or is a perfectionist, this is my flag for you. Get up and stretch your legs, or even better take a walk outside. (Walk and talk calls are my favorite.)

7. Create new habits by changing something in your physical environment.

If you find yourself struggling with a very specific part of your work from home life, change something in your physical environment to trigger your brain to create a new habit or pattern. For example, I found that I was slouching because I couldn’t reach the floor with my feet (this was the case with all chairs I tried) This was creating tension and stress when I was doing actual work and my productivity dropped. I created a new habit by placing a yoga block at my work space, so my feet would always have a place to land. Not only did this improve my posture overall, it also improved my focus because my physical body wasn’t nagging my attention due to discomfort.
8. Create a start the day and end the day ritual for yourself.

This can be really simple. A dedicated inhale and exhale, lighting a candle and then blowing it out, playing a specific song at the beginning and end of the day or really anything you choose. This is helpful for the brain to delineate work time and not work time. 

9.Don’t bring your work laptop or work device into the bedroom if you can at all help it.

It signals to your brain that is time to work instead of sleep. It signals that that space is also for work. Keeping it out of the room helps the brain separate work and sleep time, and will help in the long run with your sleep habits. (My phone has a bedtime too, but that is another discussion.) 

10. Get tech conscious.

At various times through these many years, I would feel so busy, but my billable hours were actually low. When this happens, I self-study. I look at all my habits, see how I was really spending my time. The results and information have often shocked me. When I see the data, I make changes. Moment, the app was helpful for me when I first delved into conscious tech about 4 years ago. What’s worked for me is deleting apps specifically social media, keeping my desktop clean, closing browser windows I’m not actively using, scheduling blocks of work and keeping the distractions as limited as I can. I’m one of these people that had to clean their room before they could focus on their homework as a kid, so take that for what it's worth. Your physical space also makes a difference in how you work and that can include your tech. 



Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist, says that there are two types of workers, those who integrate their life and work completely, and those that keep them in very separate compartments. Knowing which you are will help with the above process and knowing what is right for you. One is not better than the other, but it is a tool to help you create your own methodology for work from home. I’m the former (someone who integrates), but I keep trying to be the latter, some of the above helps me keep a better balance of the two. 


Everyone will have different situations, small children, elderly relatives, pets, an empty house, the gamut, but little adjustments can be found in every situation to make things be more easeful for you. Take the time to ask the right questions of yourself and be a little mindful. And, as I always say in my yoga classes, do what works for you, and experiment a lot.




Note - If you all are interested, I'd be happy to delve into conscious tech more in a different post. Let me know at sawrah@ihavethewanders.com 

Sawrah

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