In relation to everything that is going on in the World right now, and our need to ‘self isolate’, I thought no better time than to share my tips on working from home. It’s something I’ve become accustomed to, and have had to master, as I have learned to navigate the whole ‘working Mum’ title.
Our current living situation isn’t exactly ideal for ‘working from home’. We live in a small 3 bedroom house, with limited storage and no designated ‘home office’ or room to ’spread out’. We did manage to find a bit of space under some stairs to put in a floating desk and a couple of chairs, where Danny spends most of his time on his computer, but it feels like a bit of a cold dungeon to me (it’s yet to be renovated!) so I choose to perch myself at the dining table with my laptop to enjoy more natural light and a room with a view! But this is definitely not ideal, but I don’t really have a choice, so I need to make it work - which is the position we’re all in at the moment - let’s face it! Not ideal, but let’s make it work! Hence my reason to let you know how I stay sane in these conditions!
In order to make this work, these are the rules I like to follow…
1. Tidy up. After the madness of making school lunches, cleaning up after breakfast and getting the kids off to school and preschool, I always return home to give the house a quick tidy up before I start my day. I can’t function or think clearly with a lot of mess around me. If my goal is to conquer the world today, my head isn’t in the right place if I’m surrounded by crumbs or clothes on the floor. So I quickly run around picking up odds and ends the kids have pulled out that morning, I make sure their rooms are tidy (even if I don’t see them while I’m working, the idea that they are a mess just does my head in!), I ‘re-plump’ the cushions on the lounge and I always make sure the kitchen is clean, tidy and all surfaces have been wiped down. This only ever takes me a maximum of half an hour… definitely worth it for a day of clarity.
2. Your productivity will depend on your environment. After my ‘half an hour’ once over, I like the house to smell fresh and clean, so I open the sliding doors for some fresh air and light a candle or fill a mist diffuser with an essential oil to fill the air with a calming fragrance… I love our ceramic mist diffuser with a few drops of Calm Essential Oil, or the IKOU De-Stress candle (definitely lives up to it's name!)... but I try to alternate each day... I like to match the fragrance to my mood.
3. If you can, always aim to start work at the same time each day. I always like to start at 9am - If I can get home in time after dropping Jonah off at school, and have the house tidied before then, then I’m off tp a great start and I feel like I am going to have a productive day. My hours are generally very limited, so I need to make sure I’m sticking to these rules as best I can!
4. Create the right environment. Pick a spot you feel comfortable working in. This could be in your home office, a corner of your bedroom or a designated study nook. As I said, it’s not ideal, but I usually have to work at the dining table. I would normally advise against this, as my workflow is ‘interrupted’ through having to set up and pack up each day. But I don’t really have a choice, so I make sure the table is tidy before and after my work is complete (but I can be guilty of leaving a pile of documents or books every now and then! Sorry Danny!). If it’s your home office and you are fortunate enough to have a space dedicated to ‘just work’, make it an inspiring place to visit each day! Add artwork to the walls or inspiring quotes, fill your shelves with beautiful books, decorative objects and plants, make sure you have a comfortable chair and your desk is clutter free! There’s no reason everything in here can’t be beautiful!
5. Use a diary or a digital calendar. Danny and I are big diary users. I’m a list maker and I feel a great sense of accomplishment when I can cross things off that I have achieved for the day. Each morning before I even open my laptop, I make a list of things I need to get done that day or things I need to plan for… I then add to this list after going through my emails. To keep things positive, a good idea is to write a time down next to each item to ensure you are being realistic in terms of what you’re setting out to achieve, but it also helps in structuring your day. There’s nothing wore than never being able to achieve the things you’ve written on your list. This feeling of overwhelm is not going to contribute to a feeling of being productive, so be conscious of the tasks you set and the timelines you allocate. Anything you don’t cross off you can transfer to the next day or whenever that task needs to be completed by.
6. Schedule breaks. The hardest part about working from home is avoiding the temptation to linger by the fridge! Make sure you schedule meal or snack breaks, and try not to have them until you have completed a task. It’s hard getting your head back into something if you leave it unfinished. Some days I know I am not going to get time to have a proper ‘break’ because I am on such limited time and have my head down trying to finish everything on my list before having to pack up and pick up the kids. Those days are usually spent eating a banana in the car on the way, because I haven’t eaten all day… But when I do have time for a break, I love to take it outside with the sun in my face and a gentle breeze giving me an extra burst of energy to get through the next part of the day. These breaks are so important - especially if this is going to be your everyday. You need to make sure you spend some time outside to re-energise and to rejuvenate. If you have time, a short walk is always a good idea to clear your head. I feel a lot more motivated after I’ve gotten home form a walk or a run.
7. Try to tackle the biggest, most challenging tasks in the morning. Use the sluggish end of day ‘hump’ to get through easy, quick tasks.
8. Tidy up... again. At the end of the day, make sure your workspace is clean and free of clutter, ready to start a new day. If I’ve been able to accomplish a productive, full day of work, there’s nothing I enjoy more than being able to put my laptop away so I can spend the rest of the afternoon or the evening with my family and focus on quality time with them. This is so important. Avoid the temptation of ‘just checking’ emails, as it’s amazing how quickly you can get caught up in another few hours of work… Quality time with your family or loved ones is more important than ever right now, so it’s really important to find that balance and to create personal boundaries and ‘cut off’ times.
So there you have it! These are my rules for maintaining sanity… although I’ll be honest… my ‘work from home’ days are quite limited. Sari is home with me 2 days a week (except for weekends), which is amazing (last year it was 4!), but the hardest part is balancing the opportunities I can work with making sure I’m spending enough ‘quality’ time with her. This is always the hardest battle, and one that will always remain a personal battle for all of the working Mums out there! Fortunately, Danny and I both spend the majority of our time working form home, which means that we can juggle this time (there are definitely pros and cons to this!), but we usually find a way to get through it… even if it involves having to work into the night after the kids have gone to bed… This is something I’m working on eliminating! But hey, our business is growing, and it’s a big hungry monster at the moment, so this is just the stage we are at…
So to all of you out there that will now be working from home, take this as an opportunity to enjoy your surroundings and to make the most of time with your family. Be sure to break up your work with family activities and conversation. Breathe in the fresh outside air and get plenty of sunshine when you can. And if you need a little help re-decorating your home office or ‘temporary’ office space, please feel free to get in touch! We’re now offering an e-decorating service - completely online, no personal contact required…
Happy ‘self isolation’! Let's hope it's not for too long!