For me, I always had the dream of working from home. Ever since I saw Sandra Bullock in The Net, I wanted to be that person who just worked from home, writing code, and making money. During this COVID-19 pandemic, most people are being told to work from home who have never worked from home before. This can seem pretty cool and convenient at first, but over time can really wear on some people.
I’ve been working from home for over 5 years now. It can be great, but it can also be lonely. There are good times and there are times where it’s a little tougher. But there are ways to increase the likelihood that you’ll have a happy day working from home. Here are my top 5 things you need to think about and optimize if you want to be happy working from home.
1. Where To Work
From home, duh. No, that’s not what I mean. When you work from home, you need to have a place in your home to work. Dedicate a space that is your office, your studio, or your workspace. Make it yours…a place you can put your name on. Having your own space that you can set up to optimize your work will make you more comfortable and help you get into that working mindset each day.
I have a dedicated office in my house. I designed it, bought the desks, chose my flooring, wall colors, and lighting. It’s modern, it’s cool, it’s me. I love it and it’s mine!!!
2. How To Start
Pick a time to get up each day and get started. Have a morning ritual that puts you in the zone to begin work. Perhaps that is morning coffee while reading a book. Or maybe you like to work out before you get started with work. Plan to start each and every workday the same way and you’ll find your body ready to work when it is time to start.
I get up at 5:40am each day, have a 20 minute wake up routine, followed by hopping into my biggest challenge for the day. Since I start work at 6:00am each day, I’m pretty much guaranteed 3 hours of work before anyone from the office even thinks of bothering me. This works great and I’m happy because I get quite a bit done before most people even wake up in the morning.
3. What To Do
Each day needs to be planned. My mentor Jim Rohn use to say, “When do you start the day? As soon as you get it finished.” In other words, before you start each day, you should have a plan for what you want to accomplish and how you’re going to accomplish it. This involves scheduling your day for success. It’s a pretty good feeling to start each day with a checklist and checking things off as you go through the day. Then at the end of the day, you can look at all you’ve checked off and feel accomplished.
I like to block my time off in three hour increments. That’s three hours of single-tasked, focused work. Well, not exactly three hours of work. Taking breaks throughout the day is important too. About an hour and twenty minutes in, I take a ten minute break where I use the bathroom, get something to drink, and do some light stretching. Then I knock out another hour and twenty minutes before I take a break and start my next task.
The main thing to remember here is to take breaks and schedule times to get things done. You don’t have to use time blocks, but you need a plan and a schedule so there is some kind of rhythm to your day.
4. What To Wear
I have heard different suggestions here. Some people say to dress like you’re going to the office. But I can’t imagine wearing Khakis and a button up shirt all day sitting here at home. Personally, I like to be comfortable, which means I’m wearing shorts and t-shirt in the summer or sweatpants and long-sleeve shirt in the winter. These clothes are very comfortable and help me to be comfortable all day long.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t dress up for work, especially if you are on lots of video conference calls. I’m saying you should wear what makes you feel comfortable, both physically and mentally. If I was going to be on a big office conference call, I would most likely change for the call into something business casual. But if it’s just me, chillin and working remotely, I’m wearing my sweats.
5. How To Work
I mentioned this a little bit in the What To Do section above, but I’ll be more specific here. When you work, you have to take breaks. That break could be some time where you get away from the office, or it could be simply changing the type of work you’re doing. For example, perhaps you just finished working on a project for three hours. True, you could continue working on that same project, but why not break up your day? Instead of hopping into another hour or more of the same work, switch the task up to something different. Maybe read a book for 30 minutes or watch an hour of instructional YouTube videos to help you grow professionally. This is still great work but can give your mind a break from doing the same task all day long.
The point is that there has to be breaks in your day. These breaks can be where you step away from the office to make lunch, have a conversation with someone in the family, or simply take a walk. Or they could be the type of break where you perform a different type of task for a period of time. For example, checking email and following up for 30 minutes is very different from writing software, writing a book, or working on a paper for 30 minutes. Have blocks of focused work, blocks for not-so-focused work, and blocks for breaks. Use your focused time to kick butt, your not-so-focused time to take care of the small, brainless tasks, and your breaks to step away, talk to someone, and clear your mind.
Working from home can sound awesome and can be awesome, but you have to have a plan if you want to be happy doing it. And the best way to be happy working from home is to have a dedicated place to work, start the same way each day, know what to do, know what to wear, and know how to work to have your best day every day. Planning for all of these things will help you to establish strong routines and rituals that will make working from home productive and positive. Happiness can be found in having a plan and executing on that plan. And working from home is no different. If you want to be successful and happy working from home over the long haul, have a plan!!!