If you are reading this during the spring of 2020, you know what is happening in the world right now.
The whole world has suddenly changed, and we are all at the whim of a horrible virus that is sweeping the globe.
This unprecedented occurrence has forced millions of employees to work from home – and millions of children to be homeschooled. What a time to live in.
I am so fortunate to be a permanent work-at-home employee. Every day for the last 5+ years, I have worked from the comfort of my living room. In sweats. Maybe with my hair unwashed.
I am so grateful for the discipline of working at home. It’s during times like these that I realize how tricky working from home can be! I am feeling the change and pressure so much – even if I haven’t been as uprooted as many others.
Working from home can be tough. There is no boss stopping by your desk. No time clock. No friends stopping to say hi. There is an accessible fridge nearby, and plenty of distractions at your fingertips.
I am writing this to each work-at-home mom that has suddenly found herself in a very different scenario than she is used to. If you are one of these moms, I feel you. And I am right there with you!
You have to work. You have to be a mom. You have to teach your kids. And you can’t leave your house.
But, I also want to talk to every work at home person – single, married, guy girl – we are all in this together.
I want to share my favorite NEW work-at-home tips that I have perfected in the last 5 years. Some relate to being a mom. Some relate to being productive. Some relate to finding joy. I hope they all relate to the weird world that we are maneuvering.
I hope this reaches you where you are. Please, please, please leave a comment and say hi. Share your hardest struggle right now. Share how you are doing. I want to meet you and help with anything I can.
So, without further ado…my favorite work-at-home tips that you need to try today.
1. Use Toggl to clock in every day
One of the hardest things about working from home is clocking in. It is so easy to sleep late, spend extra time eating breakfast, give into every child’s crazy morning schemes. I have found that clocking in forces my hand.
It forces me to have a strict plan. It forces me to hurry my morning so I don’t lag. It forces my kids to respect my schedule – and not manipulate me.
If you just say “I’ll start work at 8”, it is so easy to let that slide. Instead, I like to use the free app Toggl to literally make me physically clock in.
Toggl‘s basic plan is always free – and it has extensions and apps to make it easy to use on any device or browser. And it makes you literally clock in with your literal hands. This really helps keep you going in the morning.
2. Ignore your personal emails and mail/bills during work hours
I do a lot in a day. I work. I watch children. I make meals. I clean my house. But two things I cannot add to my daily tasks are personal emails and mail/bills. Those are evening and Saturday chores only.
If I were to get sucked down the rabbit hole of responding to personal emails and keeping up with my to-do list, they would unintentionally become more important than my work agenda.
I mute my email notifications from Gmail and don’t check the mail until the end of the day. Of course, I still receive texts, but often leave them unopened if I know I can respond to them later.
Saturdays are my days to catch up on mail, bills, and the pile of paperwork on my desk. And, I usually can get to emails at night or on the weekends. This just keeps things simple for me.
Bonus tip – change all texts and emails that need to be read later to unread. If a text or email is unread on my phone, I know it means “come back to this later.”
3. Schedule specific times to check in with specific people
This is a tip that keeps my extroverted heart happy. By 9 am, I try to check in with my team. By 10 am, I try to check in with a friend that I work with just to see how they are doing. I also have un-official checkins around 2 pm and 4 pm.
For me, these are just natural times in the day when I need human interaction. If you are a mom of any kind – working or stay at home, I highly recommend setting a tiny reminder on your phone to remind you to check in with people. It might mean sending a morning text to a best friend, or sending a funny meme to your neighbor.
It helps SO MUCH to have frequent human interaction, especially during this very lonely time.
I also have reminders to have more meaningful phone calls and FaceTime sessions with my family and closest friends.
I have weekly notifications that alert me to “call Grandma” “call a friend” or “FaceTime someone”. I keep these vague so I can vary them up. I usually aim for 3-4 of these phone calls a week!
4. Master your passwords using 1Password
I don’t remember a time before 1Password.
I mean, I can remember those two passwords I used to rotate in college. But, once I realized that I have the worst memory – and that my digital privacy depended on my memory, I knew something had to change.
I have used 1Password for years now, and don’t know how people do it without a secure password vault!
1Password is a secure password vault that will create long-form passwords for you, save every one of your passwords for every site, and sync across all your devices.
On my phone, 1Password will auto-populate the password it has saved for a site, so I don’t have to remember anything!
I TOTALLY recommend protecting your privacy and using a simple vault like 1Password!
5. Have re-occurring tasks every hour to force you to stay on track
I don’t know about you, but I often will start a project and get so engrossed in what I am doing, that I look up and 4 hours have passed. This might be “productive”, but I hate the feeling of losing track of time.
Instead, I like to plan certain re-occurring tasks throughout the day. I try to finish all my spreadsheets by 10 am. I check a certain report every morning before lunch. Keeping up with scheduled tasks allows me to not get behind and lose track of time.
Currently, I am using Asana to keep track of my reoccurring tasks and I love it! It has a simple interface and allows me to schedule reoccurring tasks every week. I totally recommend it!
6. Add a sensory experience to your afternoon
When 1 pm rolls around – and the kids are napping – I need help. All I want to do is take a nap.
So, what do I do? Make a pot of coffee. Turn on music. Light a candle. Change my location. Eat a treat (that I have been saving!). Take off my shoes and put on slippers. Take off my slippers and put on shoes.
Whatever I decide to do, I tap into my senses and add a sensory experience to jumpstart my afternoon. Sometimes it only takes a loud, fun playlist on Spotify to get my brain going.
Maybe your afternoons are totally fine, but your mornings need a little help. Get dressed and put on shoes. Drink a huge glass of water. Sit on the floor and do a few stretches. Just make sure you change it up and get those senses engaged!
7. Add a daily cleaning break that is under 15 minutes.
When I am at home working, I am very aware of how easy it is to change out the laundry or empty the dishwasher. It is so tempting – and yet so distracting.
I make sure to do about 15 minutes of cleaning or laundry either around lunchtime or at 3 pm. This gets it out of my system and lets me get ahead a little bit.
If you want to read how I clean my entire kitchen in under 10 minutes, check out my post here!
8. Know what time you are going to bed…as soon as you roll out of bed
This is a weird one, but hear me out.
My husband and I plan our weeks on Sunday. We plan what we are eating, who is watching the children – and what time we are going to bed each night. We have several options for our bedtime routines:
- Stay up later and watch a show/movie together
- Stay up later and work independently on projects
- Have a normal/early night with alone time to recharge (baths, yoga, bed early)
- Have an early night and go to bed right after dinner
We sprinkle these evening routines throughout the week. Normally, we get about two nights of staying up late – and the rest of going to bed early.
Knowing what time I am going to go to bed changes the way I live my day.
If I know my evening plans, I am able to either conserve my energy or stay busy. I can plan on an early dinner time, or a late afternoon. I can add more activities, or keep a simple day. This dramatically helps me with my daytime schedule. I totally recommend it!
9. Know what you are eating for dinner by 1pm
My least favorite hour of the day is between 5-6 pm. I finish work around 5 pm, and immediately am thrown into the dinner hour. I don’t have much time to relax outside, play with the kids, check email, do my laundry. Instead, as soon as I finish work, I practically have to start cooking dinner.
I have found that if I have a dinner plan by 1 pm, I do ok. I can plan ahead and not be shocked when everyone expects to eat at 6 pm.
If you aren’t a meal planner, I totally recommend my free “No Plan” Meal Plan that gives you 2 free weeks of simple meal plans. Each week’s plans only uses 20 ingredients or less, so it helps keep your grocery bill low! Get them for free here!
10. And lastly…treat yourself!
I am not kidding. Keep a supply of special snacks. Buy new office decoration. Listen to a new CD. Get a new comfortable office chair. Try a new kind of coffee. Eat a splurgy breakfast.
If you are constantly limiting yourself, you will definitely feel unhappy! The goal is to LOVE your surroundings – and your work situation.
This is very hard to do when we are in a quarantined state. So here are some of my favorite ways to treat yourself while we are stuck at home:
There are an endless number of ways to treat yourself from the comfort of your own home. So enjoy! And give yourself something to look forward to.
I hope you have enjoyed these work at home tips! Please make sure you share your latest idea in the comments below – because I am always looking for ways to improve my working from home.
I am praying for our world, country, and each person during this whole scary time. I hope we can find some joy in our homes while we are in the midst of this crazy time. Stay healthy and safe!