Work from home tips are found in abundance these days. So I thought I will throw in my two cents here as well.
I have been working from home as a freelancer since 2008. More than 12 years now. So working from home during this global lockdown to fight the COVID-19 epidemic shouldn’t be too much trouble. That’s what I thought when I heard the announcement for lockdown in India.
Oh boy! I was so wrong..
Working from Home in Times of Coronavirus
What I clearly missed in my line of thinking was a complete lockdown meant my daughter and my husband will also be trapped in the house with me. Moreover, my staff will not be there to support me either.
So suddenly I am thrust into infinite number of roles of wife, mother, cleaner, cook, gardener, plumber, carpenter, and most recently, substitute teacher, since my daughter’s school started online classes.
While I am trying to take this in stride and not complain too much, my working hours have become erratic. Which affects my productivity. And I don’t even want to get started on the number of distractions I face, just because there are 2 extra humans in the house while I am working in this Coronavirus lockdown.
It took a few days to get back to my “normal” work from home routine – this week is going much smoother than compared to my work week two weeks back! I’m doing much better at handling my projects while managing my time efficiently. Plus I am not feeling that much guilty of ignoring the rest of my family anymore.
So, if you are facing difficulties working from home in a productive manner, here are my top 11 work from home tips that have helped me stay focused, retain my sanity, while still finding the time to spend with the family.
1. Planning my Day by the Hour
I had this habit of planning every day for the next day. But I don’t do that anymore. In such uncertain times, it’s best to think of your schedule as more of a guide, rather than a map that you have to strictly follow to reach your destination.
So every Saturday of the week, I plan out my week ahead. Tasks are set up using this simple formula:
- 2 tasks I am currently working on.
- 2 tasks I have to do next.
- 1 item from my backlog that I have to do next.
So a total of 5 tasks each day.
I am quite meticulous in organising my tasks using Trello. So it’s just a matter of drag-and-drop to set up my work schedule.
Because of the Coronavirus lockdown, I also plan time aside for household chores, family time, and me-time. But not necessarily on Trello. I do most of my cleaning and cooking chores in between my dedicated work hours. And the rest is planned within the first hour after I wake up.
2. Dedicated Work Hours
I work 4 hours in the morning and 4 hours in the afternoon, with 5-min breaks every hour. The actual timings do not matter. As long as the tasks of the day are completed for any particular day, I can move on.
Everyone in my little family has household and other chores assigned to them. With my husband’s and daughter’s support, I can plan and stick to these dedicated working hours.
Most days I don’t even see my husband during my working hours because he won’t disturb me by coming in or looking over my shoulder while I am working.
My daughter, on the other hand, is different. She and I share the same room – half is my work area and the other half her play area. As long as I acknowledge her from time to time, and have her kinda music blasting in the room for her to groove to, she is okay with me not spending every waking moment with her.
Now that her online classes have started, she does her lessons while I work. So that helps me a lot too.
3. Dedicated and Optimised Workspace
Back in 2008 when I was starting my career as a freelancer, I used to work with my laptop on my lap. Then I slowly progressed to a tiny table, which now serves as an accent table. And now I have a great workspace with a huge table, built-in cupboards, whiteboard, shelves and what not.
With a great ergonomic chair (that I probably have to replace in another year or so!), printer, and Bose speakers, I got the optimised workspace I have always wanted. My body is relaxed while I am working, and that helps me switch off from work mode when I finally wrap up work.
I also keep a carafe of water on my desk, so I am well hydrated while I am working.
And I also keep my cervical collar handy for neck support. Spending long hours at the desk can weaken neck muscles that causes dizziness, and stiffness of the neck and shoulders. I discovered that back in 2017. I do neck-strengthening exercises every day now, and keep myself fit, but sometimes working too long triggers my dizziness.
And I never forget those eye drops!
4. Closed Door Policy
When I am working, no one can disturb me unless it’s an emergency. This is one of the most essential work from home tips. My daughter took some time to get used to this policy. But after sharing with her that most of the money I earn goes into getting her stuff, she’s now most amenable to this.
This closed-door policy had been true even before the lockdown. Even my staff members are aware of this, and they only speak to me when I come out of the office on my breaks.
5. Limiting Social Media Activity
Hootsuite has this incredible article on how to manage social media for business in only 18 minutes a day. I follow this, but I still take half an hour a day to work through my 4 social media channels.
And I bet it’s going to take longer when I start videos on my YouTube channel. But that’s something I have to deal with some time in the future.
Set yourself on a timer. Stop whatever you are doing on social media when that timer goes off. It will take a few days, but starting from Day 4 or 5, you will get a better hang of what to do and what to avoid on social media. Beyond that, you won’t even need that timer anymore.
6. Finding the Productivity Zone
I work best when there’s 90s Bollywood music bursting through my speakers and the climate is cool. Everything else I can compromise on, but these 2 factors are my bare necessities.
You have to figure out what you need to be productive while working from home. My work from home tips can only help when you find this answer within yourself. Because everyone has their own unique productivity zone.
While I need blasting music and cool air around me, my husband can’t work unless it’s super quiet. Not even the AC cannot hum!
7. Saying No! to Binge Watching During Work Hours
In this lockdown, I have binge watched Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Duck Tales, Bahubali, and what not. But I keep my binge watching hours outside my work hours.
It’s been a real struggle to say No now that Disney+ has debuted in India. But so far I have been successful. I haven’t downloaded Netflix, Amazon or HotStar on my phone, so I just pretend I don’t have the corresponding subscriptions during work hours.
What happens after work hours is shameless struggle to dominate the remote control, and of course, super binge watching!
8. Automated Processes
I have to manage my time efficiently, no matter what. To do so, I use Buffer, MobileMonkey, Facebook Messenger, and IFTTT to automate most of my work processes. Like social media scheduling with Buffer, automated messaging using MobileMonkey and Facebook Messenger for both my website and Facebook page, and numerous other tasks with IFTTT.
If there is a service that can automate my processes, I will do it. This saves me time to do other precious tasks.
9. Avoiding Impromptu Meetings
No calls from new leads or prospects. And definitely no calls from family and friends during work hours.
As for existing clients, I make it abundantly clear that I will respond better to messages, rather than calls, unless of course there is something urgent. And most of my clients comply.
Regarding new leads, I try to set up calls right before I start working hours in the morning. That way, I can deal with the outcome of such calls into my work day. It’s sometimes difficult to enforce this particular work from home tip, but as long as you are polite and explain properly, you can do it too.
10. Rewarding Yourself by Milestones
Lockdown or not, rewarding yourself for milestones achieved is the only way to overcome struggles and motivate yourself to work better, while working as a freelancer.
I usually reward myself with extra time playing with my daughter, watching an extra episode on Netflix, shopping online, or just a bowl of icecream.
Get creative on what you can award yourself for every milestone you achieve while working from home. Sky’s the limit!
11. Accepting Changes
All the planning in the world can not save you if something has to go wrong. No matter how much you plan, be ready to accept changes.
Maybe your client had an emergency and you spent almost all day with her troubleshooting. Or maybe the dishwasher broke down and you end up washing a tall mountain of dirty utensils for most of the day. And by the time you are finally done, you are too exhausted to even move a muscle.
You can’t control every aspect of your life. Change is inevitable.
So accept changes and make minor adjustments to your schedule to still be productive while working from home.
I used to get upset with such changes, but not anymore. Getting upset and indulging in pity parties is NOT the solution. It’s better to get tough when the going gets tough.
Over to you..
These are scary times. There are doubts if this lockdown will continue for another couple of weeks. The world is facing recession. Projections show even more fierce recession in the coming months. Feeling guilty that you are not being productive enough while working from home doesn’t have to be another item in your list of woes.
You can overcome time management and productivity issues by following my work from home tips listed above. As a work from home freelancer with over 12 years of experience, I can guarantee you can work from home efficiently without any guilt about losing out on family time.
So, how are you working from home during this Coronavirus lockdown?
Try my work from home tips and share your experience with me.
Read my other posts for Women Entrepreneurs.
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