Waking up to a blanket of dazzling snow when you were a kid meant extra sleep, fun adventures outside and of course, all of the movies and junk food you could handle. As an adult, not being able to commute into the office isn’t quite as rosy since hey, deadlines still matter. And your manager expects you to be ever-online and available. Drat.
Though some people thrive in the work-in-your-pajamas setting, others battle to remain productive when there are distractions lurking in every corner. From your partner or roommate who seeks your company to the allure of Netflix and hot chocolate, completing a full workday from home isn’t easy, but it can be done with these helpful strategies from career experts.
Use video — and put some pants on
Sure, technically you don’t need to be fully dressed to complete your tasks if no one sees you. But if your team is experiencing a might blizzard that takes you away from the office for many days, you might be more motivated to keep your timelines intact if you act as if you’re in person, according to career expert Michael Dermer.
This means getting dressed (yes, sorry, put on pants) and setting up video meetings instead of phone calls, WiFi willing, of course. “One way to hold yourself accountable to this is to use video for your conference calls throughout the day. This will require you to be on your game — no different than if you were in your office,” he explains.
Even when you’re at work, you don’t look at your computer every second of every day. So why would you expect to stay glued at home? Though you do need to stay on some sort of schedule, it’s also important to give yourself breaks as you would with any other workday, according to career expert Jill Tipograph.
“Plan in actual breaks to eat and stretch. If you are not accustomed to working solo, it’s easy to get caught up in what you are doing and forget to eat; no colleagues nearby means no one signaling the lunch hour,” she explains. “Your work at home day should never make you feel that you had a setback, it should, if you plan it out, make you feel super-efficient.”
Finish the hardest thing first
Though it seems counterproductive when your brain feels foggy in the early A.M., Dermer shares the most successful of professionals knows the values of checking off the hard stuff, stat.
“Too many times we take the tasks that require the most gray matter and we leave them to the end of the day. Imagine writing the strategic plan after a full day or work, and an evening full of family,” he explains. “Tackle the hardest task first thing in the morning. Not only will you bring your best, but it will set you up for a productive rest of the day.”
Turn off your devices and email
When you really need to focus on completing a project, sending out a report or completing another task that requires your attention, you need to let go of the one item you give all of your attention to. It’s essential but your iPhone or Android can take your attention away with every last ping, buzz, and ring. Same goes with email if your company tends to shoot off more than they frankly need.
“Turn off your smartphone and put it on the other side of the room. When you are immersed in a project, turn off your email. Remember, when we are at home we often crave distractions, and while leaving our email open may satisfy this craving, it saps our productivity,” he continues. “Phones off. Email closed. Then tackle the task at hand.”
Set some boundaries
And not just by closing the door so your pup doesn’t attempt to sit on your lap all day. Dermer explains you need to create the discipline for yourself to stay focused, and that means setting — and abiding by — clear boundaries. Firstly, you need to stake out where you’ll set up camp for the day, whether your home office, a portion of your bedroom or the kitchen, or even the living room.
Gather everything you’ll need so you won’t have the excuse of getting up to fetch a charger or a notebook. And likely the most difficult, you’ll need to put up some “Do not cross” rules with those you share a home with. Let them know when they can connect with you — and when they should let you be. Basically, Dermer explains it’s important to stick to doing what you would at your desk, and nothing more.
“Do not dive in and out of your personal life. Answering the door. Dealing with deliveries. Checking the news. These are not things you do in the office. So, don’t do them at home. If you need some time to deal with personal issues, put that time in your calendar and knock them out,” he suggests.