How to give yourself structure when you work from home

When you work remotely, you gain the flexibility of getting to work from the comfort of your home. But the downside of this situation is the lack of structure. When you work from your bed, it’s all too easy to let the day slip by hunched over a computer, forgetting to take breaks or eat. To make your remote work successful, you need to build yourself the set schedule and structure of an office into your home. Here’s how to do it:

1) Make your bed

Tidying up your sheets and fluffing up your pillow may not seem like much, but the simple, mundane act sends a signal to your brain that you are switching into work mode.

For William McRaven, a former U.S. Navy Admiral and the 9th Commander of USSOCO, making your bed is the foundation to having a productive day: “If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride. And it will encourage you to do another task,” he told graduates at the University of Texas, Austin. “By the end of the day, that one task will reinforce the fact that the little things in life matter…and if you can’t do the little things right, you’ll never do the big things right.”

2) Make work boundaries for yourself

Creating healthy boundaries between your personal and professional space is critical to staying focused on your work when the temptations of home surround you. Try working away from your bed that you use for sleeping. Change out of your pajamas and shower, even if no colleague can see you. Find a room with a lock away from your family members’ intrusions. All of these are ways you can delineate boundaries between where your work begins and ends.

“I have a dedicated home office. When I’m working, I can shut the door and leave the rest of the house behind,” Kira Makagon, executive vice president of innovation at RingCentral, recommends. “If you’re working from your couch in your pajamas, chances are that you’re not in work-mode and won’t accomplish what you need to that day,”

3) Get outside

When there are no set hours for how long you should be working, you can end up working too late into the day, which can lead to less sleep and higher chances of burnout. When you work from home, make a point to give yourself the reward of a break so you are not tempted to slack off during blocks of work time. You can make your break more appetizing by giving yourself the gift of fresh air and sunlight and going outside.

“Walk away from your work space for lunch,” Kimber Streams, an editor at Wirecutter, recommends. “Even better, go outside! If you’re bad at noticing that it’s lunch time, set a calendar event (or an alarm) to notify you that it’s time to step away.”

4) Add some background noise

When we work alone in our homes, we lose the comfort of office chatter that research has found actually makes us more productive than total silence. One study found that people working in 70-decibel levels of noise, a sound equivalent to the chatter in a café or your television in the background, significantly outperformed people working in total silence. They were better at generating creative ideas than the groups working in silence.

So next time you need to work remotely, try going to a coffee shop or turning on the TV when you need help brainstorming that next idea.

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