A few days ago, I mentioned in my weekly report at work that I was burned out.
My schedule was all over the place, and all I wanted was to stay in bed all day long. At times, I even signed out a few hours earlier just to get an extra hour of sleep.
While it’s true that I’ve had several tasks to juggle, the fault is mine. With so much on my plate already, I’ve failed to stick to my usual routine and have allowed my personal problems to affect my work and productivity.
The truth is my job isn’t the issue, nor are my personal problems. Failing to maintain balance and keep myself efficient is what’s truly problematic. To readjust my life-work balance, I’ve decided to reclaim my effectivity by sticking to my regular schedule.
This healthy and balanced schedule of mine is the result of working from home for the last six years. The last office job I had was back in 2016. Jumping from one office to another and taking the bus every day from my town to the city for more than seven years had eventually taken its toll on my mental health.
Without a second thought, I quit my job and traveled with only one backpack for five months. After that life-changing trip, I decided that my life was never going to be the same ever again.
I’ve made a promise to myself, and I have proudly kept it: one, never go back to an office job, two, travel every year for a few months, and three, remember number one if I ever run out of money.
The good news is that I have never run out of money. I worked as a freelancer until I landed a full-time job at Elephant Journal more than two years ago.
While I have always dreamt of working remotely, I must admit that I have never expected it to be this challenging. Working from home is undoubtedly filled with comfort and autonomy; however, we might find it hard to maintain balance and stick to a set schedule. Because we are not going to an actual office, we obviously don’t have a fixed time to respect.
That said, while this freedom is exactly what our bodies and minds need, it is exactly why our schedule suffers.
If you work from home as well, I can already tell that you’ve been trying to find methods to stay productive. Yes, I sometimes fail to stick to my own methods, but when I do, they transform my day from mediocre to please-I-want-this-every-day.
Trust me, it’s all about building habits and sticking to them. Even if you think some of these tips are unnecessary or time-consuming, I promise they will change your life for the better.
How can we make working from home a success? Follow these 11 tips:
1. Get dressed. Ah, I know how good it feels to snuggle on the couch in your pajamas and turn on your laptop. What you might not know, though, is the negative effects that this habit has in store for us. For me, it’s purely psychological. Staying in our pajamas might seriously tell our brains that we’re lazy, sleepy, and not in the mood. However, getting dressed sets the tone for our day. We’re tricking our minds into believing that we’re going out. Wearing proper clothes kind of gives us a sense of time, which we tend to lose at home.
2. Don’t starve yourself. Most times, I tend to lose track of the time and keep working while I should be eating, really. Consequently, I lose my focus and even lose all my energy to actually cook for myself. Dedicate a break for food just like you would if you were in an office. Personally, I have all kind of snacks ready at hand whenever I feel hungry. My own snacks include walnuts, almond butter, rice cakes, fruits, dried fruits, almond or coconut milk, and dark chocolate.
3. Wake up earlier. Which also means sleeping earlier. Which (thank goodness) also means getting more time to do personal things. Waking up and instantly opening my laptop is literally the worst thing I could ever do to myself—mentally and physically. Rising early gives me time to walk the dogs and play with them, tend to my garden, read a book, wash the dishes, and have my lemon water or coffee slowly. On the other hand, when I stay up late, I wake up late; as a result, I spend my day regretful and try hard not to fall asleep on the couch.
4. Try to stick to a regular schedule. I don’t like office jobs, but what I do respect about them is the fixed time they offer. The best time for me is starting work at 8 a.m. It’s the time when I feel the most productive. And, to be honest, having scattered hours sometimes messes up my day. That said, if you wish to have a successful work-from-home experience, I highly recommend creating a regular schedule—and sticking to it.
5. Take frequent breaks. Well, I suck at that. I tend to work for longer hours than normal without ever getting up. However, when I step away from the laptop for a few minutes, I can feel (and remember) how beneficial a mental break is. I just feel overworked and burned out whenever I forget or fail to take frequent, short breaks.
6. Don’t work where you sleep. Aka don’t work from bed. I read this somewhere a few years ago, and I can’t but completely agree. Whenever I work from bed, I remember why this is such a bad idea. Even if I get my eight hours of sleep and feel absolutely energetic, working from bed will make me sleepy—again. Our minds know that this place is for resting and sleeping. Even if we have a laptop on our laps, our minds can’t tell the difference. Create a workspace—a place that’s solely dedicated for work.
7. Stay in touch with your team. We have to maintain the “office vibes” at home, or else it can get extremely boring. Send a message or two to one or more of your teammates. Keeping the connection alive will surely alter our mood for the better.
8. Learn to say no. When I first started remote working, it felt hard saying no to friends who’d come or call for a visit. One- or two-hour visits tend to distract me, and I end up losing my focus. In the past, I had no idea how to create boundaries between my personal life and work. With time, I’ve learned that if I want to stay productive, I need to set ground rules with family and friends.
9. Stay away from distractions. Aka your phone. Enough said.
10. Plan meals the day before. Thinking about what to eat five minutes before taking our break can be extremely time-consuming. I’ve lost it so many times in the kitchen, not knowing what to prepare or what to do about my “hanger.” To avoid losing it, overextending your break, or ordering take-out food, plan your meals the day before.
11. Listen to your body. It’s almost impossible to listen to our bodies when we’re working in an office. Because whatever we feel or crave right now, we can’t possibly have it. What I particularly love about remote work is the ability to provide my body with what it needs. Are you feeling tired? Take a 15-minute nap. Are you craving coffee? Make one. To stay productive all day long, we must listen to our bodies’ basic requirements.