A home is a sacred place full of ritual, and though they all look, feel, and even smell different, we return home for salvation. We have all set up our homes to be our sanctuaries with rooms and spaces we can go to for relaxing, escaping, rejuvenating, and unloading the stresses of the outside world. Home is where we feel safest, and in the times of a global pandemic, safety is what we need. The government urges us to limit time outside and interactions with others, so our homes have taken on multiple new roles. Those of us who have spent a lot of time, thought, and resources into making our homes a sanctuary now must make it much more.
Not everyone is used to working from home, and I would venture to say that most people do not. Even writers, like myself, and self-employed individuals benefit from organizations like WeWork that create a workspace or office outside of the home. As a professional athlete, I understand the importance of a routine or schedule, self-discipline, and setting yourself up for success. As a writer, I know the importance of creating a productive, creative, and invigorating space for your best work and performance. If you struggle with working from home and creating a productive workspace, let me share with you five tips I have used to find success.
Not everyone has the luxury of having a home office, and you don’t need one to be productive working from home. Also, having a home office doesn’t mean you have taken the steps required to make the most productive workspace. The key is to pick a spot that gets you energized. Set up a place that your mind can associate with work instead of trying to make a space that has been primarily for leisure into a space for business. We are creatures of habit, so if you are trying to sit down in your Lazy Boy in front of the tv where you usually enjoy a cold alcoholic beverage and watch the game, it will be harder to trick your mind into working. Also, studies show that working from your bed negatively affects your sleep cycle, so not only will it be less productive, but it will also affect your physical health. If having a designated work area isn’t possible, then remove the clutter and distractions and be consistent with where you stop and set up to work.
Make yourself as comfortable as possible, and bring everything you need for a full workday. Make sure whatever materials you need for work, paper, pens, spreadsheets, books, etc. are neatly organized and in reach. You want everything there, so you don’t have to get up and interrupt your workflow. If you forget something you need for work in your bedroom, you might be tempted to lay down. Moving around a lot and appearing unfocused might also give your family or loved ones the impression that you are free to interact with, and that might also prevent you from being productive.
I love to bring some of my favorite healthy snacks to my workspace so that I don’t have to get up outside of my scheduled “home lunch hour” with my boyfriend. For a personal touch, I light candles from a company called Chesapeake Bay that promote peace and tranquility. I also make sure to have a leisurely book within reach as well as some water and coffee. If you’re more of a creative, I recommend playing soft classical music in the background and filling your workspace with plants and natural light. I find all these things stimulate my creativity while keeping me in touch with nature in some sense. Art is also a big part of my creative space, whether it be art from creative influence or pictures of past accomplishments. My walls are filled with art.
Create a To-Do List
For those who work in more traditional fields or jobs that are measured in some way, this might be easier for you. Writers like myself are known to make word goals. My word goal is a thousand words a day. Creating a to-do list doesn’t have to be this big daunting thing; actually, I encourage it not to be. Your list shouldn’t be all great accomplishments but also some small personal goals that you can complete and feel good about tackling in your day to day work. Your list should be one of not just goals but growth and celebration. Somethings on my list are:
- Exercise 40 minutes (since I’m a professional athlete I consider this work)
- Drink three liters of water (throughout the day)
- Check and respond to emails
- Write 1,000 words (I’ve already stated this)
- Read a poem from a less familiar poet (allowing me to learn and grow in new directions)
- Look up three publications you want to pitch and contribute (this is more of a weekly goal)
- Brainstorm or workshop a submission or pitch (also a weekly goal)
- Conceptualize, shoot, or edit a Youtube Video (Corey and I have specific days where we do each of these things, but I like to work on them from time to time individually)
The list above is a small fraction of my to-do list, but as you see, it consists of big goals, conceptual goals, and smaller, more accomplishable ones as well. Celebrate anytime you accomplish one of your goals, primarily if you’re used to a work environment where a team celebrates your success typically. If you like, set up an agreement with a friend where you celebrate each other’s accomplishments after a workday.
Routine is a little different than a to-do list because this is about managing time and not objectives. Give yourself a time to “clock in” at home. Make sure that you start working at a set time but that you also stop working at a set time. Routine is important because you don’t have a boss telling you to be at work at a particular time, and you’re not rushing home to beat the evening rush, so it’s easy to get lost in work, and that can lead to less productive workdays. Longer or later work days seldom often lead to more success but just feeling more run down. This schedule can be fresh and new if your old work schedule left something to be desired, or it can be as close to your regular schedule as possible if you feel you had a routine that you truly flourished in.
Even though I have an at-home office, I wear shoes in my office or some kind of footwear. I wouldn’t be barefoot in a corporate office, so I try to treat my at-home office with the same respect. Showering after a workout, and putting on work clothes, energizes me to get things done instead of crawling back in my pajamas and telling my mind this is time to relax. Small adjustments can do wonders for your mindset when it comes to gearing up for work at home.
All in all, working from home can be difficult, and if you’re not used to it, this is a transition that will take some time. If you’re feeling blocked sometimes, the best thing you can do is step away and reset. There are forces in life that we can’t change, you might focus on your health and mental wellness or the wellness of the world, and that’s ok. Remove yourself from the situation and recalibrate or refresh.
I found that meditation is a great way to get myself back in the present and re-center. A lot of the time, resetting is just bringing our minds back to the present. I use a great app called Headspace for guided meditation.
I enjoy some leisurely reading as an easy escape and reset. If you’re looking for a book, you can buy mine, Prison or Passion, and make it a staple of your at home workspace. Getting up and doing a quick stretch is also a great way to get back into your physical body. I use a yoga app that is giving away their full services for free amidst this pandemic, and it’s called Down Dog.
If you have some time and deadlines aren’t looming, take a walk, and just enjoy nature and the fresh air. Don’t use these things to mull over a problem in your head, just enjoy a break and be in the moment.
We don’t know what the future will bring, but worrying about the unknown only creates panic and anxiety, two things that aren’t good for being productive but, more importantly, aren’t suitable for a healthy life.
“We are often more frightened than hurt; and we suffer more from imagination than from reality” Seneca.
Do everything you can to be present and make the best out of your current situation. I know that is harder said than done, and everyone isn’t in the place where their home feels like a sanctuary, let alone a workspace, and my heart goes out to you. I hope these keys help a few of you create the perfect workspace in your home. If you want to know more about minimizing stress at these times, check out Corey and I’s Youtube video linked below.
Light and love.