Working from home doesn’t have to be as stressful as you might think.
In the current climate of fear and anxiety over the coronavirus, you might be stuck indoors working and that does create several challenges.
How do you find peace and quiet? Should you set rules for the rest of the family? How can you possibly be productive when there’s so much racket?
Fortunately, after 18 years of working at home, I have found a few secrets to make it work. Some of them might seem a bit unusual or even weird, but trust me — they work.
1. Start your day as early as possible
My number one tip after all of these years is to start early.
Pick a time of day and then set your alarm an hour earlier than you planned. I’ve been able to stay productive in the morning because it is by far the quietest part of the day — no FedEx deliveries, no dogs barking, no kids fighting over the remote.
I’m serious when I say: Consider starting at 4am if you can. Go to bed earlier if you need to because the precious morning hours will help tremendously. I wish I had known this tip when I was younger and liked to sleep in.
The other reason early morning work at home is so precious is that your brain is firing on all cylinders — scientists say as the day progresses we tend to get more sluggish and require more rest and food.
2. Only set one simple rule
If you are new to working at home, you might be tempted to set a bunch of draconian rules. The rest of the family might not realize they are sharing the home with an ogre.
Maybe you will tell them they have to be quiet during certain periods of the day. Another rule I’ve heard people try to impose is related to areas of the home that are off-limits. The more rules you set, the less likely it will be for people to follow them. They don’t need to listen, right?
This is not a military operation. Instead, try one rule. Mine is — if the door is closed then I am working. It’s simple and easy, and everyone knows it means I’m serious about my work. It’s funny that I tend to leave the door open a lot because I’m already done with my work for the day (because I started so early). And, even if they do barge in, I’ve learned to appreciate those interruptions. Some days.
3. Music is your best friend
I became quite the music connoisseur over the last two decades. I know some unusual fringe bands like Foreign Fields and Phases because I am constantly on the prowl for new bands. (It helps that I’m also a musician.)
Music can help you focus. If you use a high-powered speaker or even floor-standing models in your office, it can help you tune out the rest of the world. I also sometimes listen to my Apple AirPods Pro at my desk even when I could listen to speakers because they are more immersive and use noise-canceling tech. Music can motivate and inspire you, and it’s a good side pursuit.
Try to find unusual albums and artists. Look for weird ambient bands and soundtracks that help you disappear into your work.
4. Find a coworker — in your own home
This is a strange tip to suggest given our current situation with the coronavirus, but realize that anyone living with you can be a good coworker.
As long as the person is not infected, you don’t need to practice social distancing in your own home. A family member or friend in the home is someone who can chat with you, brainstorm, and even look over your work.
It helps build teamwork in an environment where that is not as common. More than anything, it helps build a social connection at home — as long as you have finished most of your work.
5. Spring for the expensive coffee machine
Okay, I said some of the tips would be unusual. If you are working at home and you love coffee, go big.
Find a machine that will make it seem like you are at Starbucks. I like the Unimatic model because it has a cool design and the coffee tastes great. It’s a drip percolator model and I prefer it over the generic brands at Target.
I also like everything Jura ENA 8 has produced, including a new lower-cost model that brews a fine blend. It’s fantastic. Having fine coffee at your disposal means you can take a break as though you are in the office. It’s a nice treat to have during the day and the caffeine is a nice boost.
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