Handy Working From Home Tips
Even though I have already written about how to work from home successfully, I’m putting another list of handy tips for working from home. In between then and now, I have gained three more years of work from home experience, and, hence, this piece.
Also, the first article on working from home productively was more about the importance of maintaining a routine and keystone habits. Having a great routine helps in running our lives irrespective of what we are doing, but there are innumerable small (keystone and other) things that we can do to be more efficient, have more fun, and not burn out while we are at home. This article is a collection of quick ideas that we can follow to cruise through a work-from-home life smoothly.
Now let me get straight into this list of practical work from home tips and tricks.
Trigger Warning: Humor ahead.
1. Shower up
Now don’t tell me that shower is a non-negotiable part of your work from home schedule.
It is easy to just start working with a cup of coffee and ignore showering as we use the saved up time in watching cat memes or read forwarded Whatsapp messages. But I have realized that a hot shower refreshes me and transforms me into a new person who wants to lift herself from the soft bed into the arms of the tenacious chair. Even if I have had a late night or I am sore with exercise or I’m bored due to staying in my head all the time, I stand under a shower until the leftover soup of boredom washes away with a questionable amount of sweat.
Try to shower before you start your work. A hot shower can freshen you up and transport you into a tropical Brazilian evening from your cold and gloomy afternoon.
2. Breaking the pajama myth
Don’t expect that work from home routine would allow you to lounge away all day long in your pajamas. If you feel laidback and vacation-y in pajamas, get into a pair of trousers, or wear something else a little bit formal. I put on outdoor clothes after the shower and change into home clothes in the evening before or after dinner. Thus I tell my body clock to differentiate between my skirt-self and my pajama-self.
Wearing good, outdoor clothes even while working from home doesn’t mean that you cannot change into shorts if you are melting like butter, but a little bit of dressing up makes sure that your pajama doesn’t lead to Netflix to popcorn and then to slowly shifting to bed and finally passing out on it while Slack sings lullabies.
3. Dry cleaning doesn’t come over dry running the code ( Not one of your usual tips on working from home.)
Since the beginning of my working-from-home era, I made sure not to do laundry in the middle of the day no matter how much my yoga clothes stank. Sometimes I couldn’t avoid throwing expired products (It was a 3 bedroom apartment with other flatmates piling up stuff since World War 2.), but I practiced discipline.
You can do laundry if you consider running the laundromat as a tiny break and get back to your more important task with renewed energy and more focus. But chances are you would get distracted. So even though you can do whatever you like when you are at home, don’t fall into the trap of oh-this-will-only-take-two-minutes. Keep the routine things for the evening.
Why do I want to be so focused? Because otherwise we would drag work the whole day and that wouldn’t help anyone.
But I understand things differ for every human being. Sometimes taking a little cooking break in between sends me back to writing with more vigor. See what suits you.
4. The house help or other visitors should be invisible to you.
I don’t mean to say that you become the most obnoxious person ever born on earth. I want to emphasize that you have to keep the people you hired to help you at home or office in the background.
Even though I don’t live in one place permanently, my partner does, and we do have a kind lady who helps us run our lives. On most days (when I am not traveling) I tell her what we need to get done that day, and she obliges. But I am a culprit of certain distracted days when I overindulge in household cleaning and other stuff. Most probably your help or intern or whosoever you hired will come in the morning — which is maybe your prime focus time, like mine. If you pay too much attention, your one hour would be gone without you noticing it.
Let those cobwebs hang on the windowsill and get back to work. Limit yourself to focusing on the important stuff. As soon as you let all the redundant control slip from your hand, you would be in better command of the more crucial things.
5. I wouldn’t beat the drums of exercising but it is quite effective. (Part of a good work from home schedule)
During the pandemic lockdown, I put on a mask and ran 5 km(a circle of 500m*10 times) four times a week in the residential lane outside our house. When I wasn’t running, I was climbing up and down the stairs of my house or doing yoga(with an outside view), much to my neighbor’s dismay.
One of my secrets to a successful work-from-home regime is that I get a bit of the outside world right in the morning. Working out puts me in touch with humans and nature at the start of the day, and I don’t feel locked up while writing alone on my computer in the afternoon. And the best part is that I couple this outside view with physical movement which recharges me for the day. Now I can eat whatever I like, I feel better about myself, my confidence rises, I set my day on the right tone, and I then keep the momentum on. And if I still feel like doing nothing or get caught up in trivialities, I read my own article to tackle that bad day.
Another good reason for exercising in the morning is that I have my after-work evenings free to play with my cat or take a walk or listen to music or read.
But again, I wouldn’t beat the drums of working out for you know this already. (I have written in this tiny habits guide about how you can start small if putting in an hour of exercise is a bit too much for now.)
Okay shower, cleaning, help, exercise, pajamas, all covered. Oh, I remember.
6. Damn those Phone Calls.
It is easy to pick up the phone and dial an unknown number or call your mother at 12 to ask her how the tailor bird’s chicks have hatched or ring a friend to make sure he finally broke up. Don’t do it.
Pushing the phone calls to the end of the day would let you focus on your work, especially if some particular phone conversations distress you, and when you see a big chunk of the day’s work is already under your belt by 4, you would be happy about switching off your phone. Our instant gratification system would feel hurt, but it is for our own happiness.
7. About switching off that phone
If you work in an office and aren’t a self-obsessed freelancer as I am, you wouldn’t be able to switch off your phone as you may have meetings. (I push my meetings towards the latter half of the day so that I have the first undistracted half to write.) But if you can switch off the phone, try doing it for the first couple of hours of the day at least. You can now stop procrastinating your tasks and get to them straight.
But what if you can’t turn off the phone? Maybe you don’t have your family or a cat lover on Whatsapp or aren’t crazy about Facebook. But no matter how pure you are, social media applications are psychologically designed to enslave us. Five minutes of phone time could turn into an hour and then an incessant raga of self-loathing and jealousy fits. You don’t have to go through this pain. Attend your meetings, avoid social apps or use the AppBlock application to block social media or switch off the internet of your phone or move the distracting apps from your home screen.
The ways are many, but the will is one.
8. The phone isn’t the only medium to bring you social media soup. Take care of those Desktop notifications, too.
If you are refreshing your emails every ten seconds or you know about every trending hashtag on Twitter, you need to stop the frenzy. If your work doesn’t need constant internet, like sometimes mine doesn’t, switch off the wifi of the computer. Or activate do not disturb applications such as Self Control(for Mac) that block the phony Facebook and the twitchy Twitter.
Use social media intelligently.
9. Take breaks or stretch – Hammer away on different work techniques
I sit to write and work at about 10 in the morning after completing my morning routine and some added cat and husband nitpicking. Then I work continuously until 1:30 when I break for lunch. After half an hour or an hour later, I am back with a cup of coffee at my desk to write or do admin work. After a few hours, I get up at sunset and soon enough dinner.
Long stretches work for me well. When I travel, which is for about 6 months a year overall, I explore or have similar intermittent workdays.
But you can also just start work at 10, give a two-hour sitting, break, and then work and lunch and one hour work and break. Maybe try the Pomodoro technique — half an hour of intense work and then break. Repeat.
Try different ways to see what works for you the best.
The best part of work from home is that you can create your own routine, except when you have to attend those long zoom meetings, and sit up and lay down when you like. Nobody says that you should work all day long, and if five hours of work is good enough for you, then take that afternoon nap and watch that sunset. Remember hustling is not the aim, getting stuff done is the aim.
10. Schedule calls or interact with people in between deep stretches of work
We all need to feel we belong. Communicating with other human beings can give us the right amount of rejuvenation and comfort.
11. Afternoon naps aren’t a curse. (tips for working from home effectively could involve some sleeping first)
Who said that if you take a nap you would keep sleeping and miss that presentation at 4? When I haven’t slept well for the night, I somehow manage until lunch, I eat and then switch off the light, turn the fan to a sweet spot, and then cover up myself under a soft duvet with an alarm that promises to wake me up 30 or 40 minutes later. I don’t even get to sleep all these minutes for I am a light sleeper, but even a 15-minute nap energizes me more than five cups of the coffee can.
Don’t be guilty about naps. Try them.
12. Design your breaks as you like. Remember that no one is watching your screen nor do you have to behave well?
I don’t take long breaks in between work. I may read something but if I suggest you to read in your work breaks, you might kill me. So let us avoid that bloodbath. My husband plays video games on his phone or watches tech or comedy videos at 1.5x speed while working or in his breaks.
As you don’t have to hide away your window while watching the last episode of Silicon Valley, design your breaks as you like. Either they could be 5-minute breaks after the Pomodoro run or one-hour breaks between two long four-hour sessions. You could either watch something or play or run around or dance or nap or read. Or if you are like me you would roam around to see if the coffee machine or the cat needs fixing.
Breaks are as important as work time. Create your own schedule, choose your breaks freely, and fire on.
13. Don’t stretch your day into the moonlight, unless it brings you joy – One of the best working at home tips that lets you sustain your lifestyle on a long-term
If you are not an office employee or even if you are one or if you are an entrepreneur or a creative person, you might spend the first few hours just getting started because you know you can work later into the day. If you are a night owl, I appreciate your choices. But if you are not, you would only get frustrated when your task lists glower at you from the side window while you are still finishing that one last game of online Poker.
On many days I start my day with reading and postpone my important tasks until later. Reading is only secondary than writing in importance, but I can even read when I am tired so my best time to read is the evenings. But I have to write or finish other work during the day. Even if I have read continuously for six hours with undeterred attention, I feel I haven’t done much; You guessed it right – the task list glowers at me. Soon it is dinner time, and the day’s deliverables are as raw as the Kingfish.
If you get used to stretching your workdays into the evening every day, you would soon be frustrated with this whole working from home extravaganza. Get started early so that the task list sets with the sun.
14. Update your partner and your pets (and anyone else around you) about your working hours.
While working at home with our partners or families, it is hard to create a quiet environment.
When I want to write, my partner wants to watch Snatch. When my cat Cheeku wants to sleep, I want to cuddle her. A friend said a tiny incident turns into a half an hour discussion with his parents at home.
Everyone needs to set their priorities right and communicate them clearly. Now I don’t mean to say be mean, I only suggest to create clear work hours else you will suffer, and when your work suffers, you mill make others suffer, too.
Tell them you are writing on Instagram and are not ready to bicker, yet. If you are staying with parents, take out time to talk to them. Though usually on weekends or on at least one day of the week we flow more freely, creating boundaries on other days helps us focus and get our work done productively, and then we can get back to our loved ones in the evening or during lunch.
If you are an owl, hang out with your family for the first few hours, then when your family is busy cooking or watching television, you can work. Everyone’s situation is different and the best we can do is to know what we want, communicate it well to set the right expectations, and continue without letting the occasional interruptions disturb our peace of mind.
15. Lunch breaks aren’t Friday buffets.
I mostly eat yesterday’s curry for lunch or just fry a dal. No elaborate cooking else I lose my ideas or get tired by cooking, and my energy diminishes, and my work drags. I compensate for lunch by making an elaborate dinner.
Breaks are important but don’t stretch them too long.
16. Treat yourself every now and then – Replenish your will power else it won’t support you. (My best work from home tips)
I have talked enough about willpower before in my articles on personal growth, too. Ever wonder why eating a pizza after a long day at work seems so easy rather than preparing that feta salad you had promised yourself? The more you use the muscle of willpower, the more you tire it out. You have no will power left to fight the craving for a thin crust pizza at the end of the day.
I refill my willpower frequently by getting up from my desk to drink coconut water or chamomile tea in between. I also take out a box of watermelon or mangoes from the fridge in the latter half of the day to keep myself high on energy. If I am working from a hotel, I go out to eat an early dinner and prepare some tulsi tea in the room.
Take quick breaks to indulge your willpower. Promise yourself a spicy curry at the end of the day, put a movie date on the calendar, binge-watch BBC documentaries, or pop in that tiny Toblerone when you feel like.
17. Get out of your house every once in a while.
Right at the beginning of my work from home era, I would fix meetings with friends or other acquaintances on Friday and Saturday evenings, and Sundays. I used to spend all weekend evenings with friends and Sunday in the sun. Watching plays and classical dance performances, going to bars, hanging out with yoga buddies, getting sushi or getting together to cook or play monopoly or scrabble or barbeque, and so on.
Doing social activities kept me excited throughout the week. Even on weekdays, I made sure I met a friend who lived nearby or went on a walk with my partner who didn’t use to live with me then. Now I have a more balanced Find your social circles and keep them going.
18. Work with a view – If possible (Another one of my best tips for working from home)
Possibly my best working from home advice is to choose a work setting with a view. I always opt for a hotel room that has a window in the world. My city dwellings always have a big open area from where I can get an outside view while working, and thus I never feel I am stuck inside four walls alone.
Get a view.
19. Keep daily and monthly targets and deliverables
I always work better with deadlines. If we are our own boss and are solely driven by our creative energy and not external targets, deadlines can push us to the finish line much before we thought we could.
Now some quick ways to work from home better.
20. Wash your face every now and then to freshen up. Coldwater does wonders for monotony.
21. Do the most important or the heaviest task the first: Rather than procrastinating the main work of the day by finishing smaller tasks see how much more relaxed and in control you feel if you start with the most important deliverable straight on. Just try.
22. Stroll in the balcony or rooftop to change your environment. Maybe take that call in the open. Fresh breeze and a change of view also do wonders.
23. Sit in different parts of the house on different days. You are at home, be innovative.
24. Stay hydrated. Water is almost like a magician working in your favor. Oh, you would also have to pee frequently, and these pee breaks would keep your body awake.
25. Don’t spend the sunset locked inside. Go get a glimpse of those golden rays. You are bound to feel better.
26. If you have had a really immersive few hours and need to work longer, catch up on a hobby in between.
27. Stretch a few times. Or dance.
28. Finalize a few important tasks for the day as you can’t do it all or pick one long important one and focus on it. Else no matter how much you do, you would feel unaccomplished. You might even think that your unproductivity is due to working from home.
29. Have the things you need for your day ready at your desk before you start working — I have a water bottle, books, a diary, a pen, my Mac plugged in, a cup of tea, and water. When I don’t have my essentials with me, I flow around the house like a ghost until I have them, and sometimes I just forget to get back to my desk and instead start playing hide and seek with my kitty.
30. Fix the essentials of the day before — Your surroundings should be on autopilot when you want to produce great results. Finish or postpone those house chores.
31. If you are still bored and don’t want to do anything, shut it. Relax.
32. Even if you still don’t want to do anything, evaluate if you even like your work by reading these guides:
- Work Shouldn’t be Boring– Find What You Love (Part 1)
- How I Quit My Job, Shelved My IIT CS Degree, and Started Writing
- When You Don’t Find Passion, Follow Curiosity
33. Break the routine once every week.
Whatever I said above, doesn’t hold true for all days of the week. Take out one day or half a day when no rules apply.
Follow Up Read: Keystone Habits to Develop to Work from Home Effectively
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How did you like my tips for working at home? Which one of these is your favorite? Tell me in the comments.
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