Like so many others, our family is preparing to “hunker down” for the next few weeks. For me, I’ll actually be more productive because I won’t have to leave my home office to drive the kids around to activities since everything is likely canceled. But for those who are going to be working from home either as a mandate by their company, or because they need to be home with their younger kids, I thought you might need some tips from someone who’s been juggling work-life and home-life since 2002.
Keep in mind I have two things helping me out here, and I realize not everyone is in this situation:
- I have two teenagers who are capable of staying home alone and don’t need my undivided attention like they did when they were toddlers and
- Our school is instituting an online learning system so my kids will actually be pretty occupied between 8 and 3 everyday as they are expected to be “in class.”
But in general, here are some top tips for working from home and being productive:
- Stick to your schedule. Take a look at next week’s calendar now and work to move in-person meetings to conference calls or videos chats. I use Zoom for video conference calls. There’s a free version which will allow a meeting up to 40 minutes with up to 100 participants. If you need to increase to a paid plan, they are reasonably priced and you can do it month-to-month.
- Set a to-do list and make sure you have top tasks on there that must be done by the end of each week and then a running list of things you’d like to get to if time permits.
- Take breaks. You can’t just sit at your desk all day… unless you do that at the office (which I don’t recommend). I get up about once an hour and take a lap around my house just to get the blood flowing (yes, I actually do do this).
- Make sure that while you’re stocking your fridge right now for dinners for your family and food for your kids to eat while they are home all day, that you also have some healthy options for you to eat for lunch. Some of my favorite lunches to eat when I’m home all day:
- A rotisserie chicken chopped up on a salad (bagged salad is fine, or I try to make a big, fresh salad every Sunday so I have it for the week);
- Smoothies – try Greek Yogurt with mango, ginger and frozen spinach or go with one filled with berries;
- A sandwich made with Ezekiel bread – I do a lot with Boar’s Head Oven Gold Turkey, or Blazing Buffalo Chicken or even a grilled cheese (I use one slice of Ezekiel bread and 1 slice of Boar’s Head American);
- Vegetables and hummus.
- My TOP tip here is to eat healthy lunches. You aren’t walking in and out of a building or going out to lunch. You need to keep your brain sharp. Don’t eat foods that will make you tired and lethargic. Stick to small meals/snacks throughout the day and you’ll feel more even. If you’re having trouble with this, I have a whole other side business and can help you with that too.
- Drink water. First, a minimum of 64 oz of plain, clear water is good for your body. Secondly, it guarantees you’re going to get up and walk around because you’re going to have to go to the bathroom. It’s true.
- Don’t try to work in complete silence. This is really a big one for me. When you work in an office, there are sounds of people moving around, dropping off files on your desk, elevators dinging, phones ringing, people talking. The BEST tip I have is to try and replicate this. I use a great tool called Coffitivity. This is a free app/website that provides some common background noise. I like the “morning murmer” option because it makes me feel like I’m working in a coffee shop – which I have done a lot throughout the years. Even music doesn’t make me as productive as Coffitivity does. It’s really a great tool and I highly recommend it.
- Get dressed. Yes, you might want to crank out work in your pjs, but believe me when I tell you how much more productive I am when I actually put on some clothes and start my day like everyone else.
- Dog bones. I can’t stress this enough. I have two yellow labs. One likes to punch me with her paw while I’m on the phone, which I can tolerate. The other likes to whine at me. She literally speaks the entire time I’m on the phone. I’ve actually done a test with a friend where we said good bye and pretended to hang up and go quiet, and the dog laid down to rest. And as soon as she heard my friend talk again, she started whining again. So believe me, if you have a dog, have a plentiful supply of things to keep them busy.
- Keep your exercise regimen going. I realize if you typically go to a gym that may not be an option right now, but the weather is warming so go for a walk. If you have any gym equipment at home, use it. Yes, I love my Pelotons, but realize that is not an option for everyone. Getting your body moving isn’t just good for your figure, it’s important for getting your brain going too.
- Don’t try to be the queen of working at home. First of all, that’s really hard to do if you aren’t used to it, and secondly, I think I already own that title. Yes, I can change a load of laundry or empty a dishwasher and still focus on a conference call. But not everyone can do that. So focus through your day and do those household chores later, as you normally would.
- Start with a clean work space. If you have a home office, or you plan to commandeer the dining room table, get it set up before you go to bed Sunday night. When my desk is messy, I tend to walk by it and avoid work. When I start with a clean space, I find it’s easier to find things, I can keep everything organized, and I just feel better about my work space. So get everything set at whatever you’re going to use as your desk next week before you start using it as a desk.
- Finally, let yourself off the hook just a little bit. Know that people all over the US and around the world are in this with you. You aren’t the only one being inconvenienced, and that makes people a little more empathetic to your plight, because they are going through it too. If you don’t get as much accomplished during the week because you took an hour-long lunch and spent it with your child, just call that a silver lining of this whole mess and enjoy that moment. You can’t get it back. Before we know it, we’ll all be back to the rat-race and on schedules and not as worried.
We will get through this. It’s just going to be a little weird for a little bit. I hope these tips help you just a little to know that you can make these changes in your work-life for a period of time, and you will get through it. We’re in it together. Here’s to everyone in your community staying healthy and safe until we get to the other side of all of this.by