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How to work from home without losing your mind

In STAYCATION by Isabella BiavaLeave a Comment

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This unforeseen and tragic circumstance that hit the entire world will bring a lot of changes in our society, both in our personal and working life.

Some of us have been forced to an undesired staycation and some others had to relocate their office to their own home for the imposed and, by all means necessary, quarantine.

Being flexible and open to changes is the key to a seamless shift into whatever is going to happen.

Social distance is one of the first huge changes that everybody sooner or later has be called to embrace, like it or not.

And even though it’s only temporary it will permanently affect our lives, in many different ways.

A great read is this post from Politico magazine where scientists are analyzing how this plague is going to affect the world in a permanent way.

The work scenario is abruptly changing as well in a way that we will necessarily have to think outside the box and reinvent ourselves, at least some of us.

If  it’s good or bad, it will all depend on our perspective.

Some companies are laying people off, others manage to adapt and let people work from home.

The digital nomad lifestyle, once so much distrusted, is now becoming the norm.

Many of you used to dress up every morning to go to the office and are now forced by the imposed or self-enforced quarantine to work from home.

Something that you have never signed up for and never would.

You may feel lost, lonely and realize that you have zero time management when you find yourself at the end of your day with zero work done.

And not because you are lazy or not committed to your job, but simply because you are not used to it and never even dreamed of such a drastic change in your life.

In this post, I will give you a few tips on how to stay focused and even enjoy working from home and how to avoid ending up talking to your refrigerator.

Good time management and mindfulness are the key to a perfect working day from home, which can also be a blessing for a more balanced life.

But at the same time, you need to learn not to be too hard on yourself if you cannot be 100% focused.

We are humans not robots, not yet.

I have been working from home for the past 3 years, first as an entrepreneur and freelancer and now as an employee, although I still run a business and other activities.

I don’t have a family to look after, and I live alone, so in one way it would appear easier for me.

But I also have my challenges.

I have a full-time job, my own site to manage, several courses to complete, some occasional freelance jobs and my personal self-care (yoga, exercises, healthy cooking,…). Quite a bit on my shoulder and although I love to be alone sometimes it would be easier if I had somebody to hold on to or a cat.

Here I will tell you how I manage all of it and what can be done to stay focus and stay mentally healthy.

Are you ready to dig in the-work-from-home life?

Let’s begin!

home office

I have shared here on the right my own routine. You can set up your own routine. There is no specific rule.

But having one is the first condition of mental sanity when you work from home, especially if it’s not your thing, or you believe so.

But there are two things that you must do that will have a huge impact on the outcome of your working day:

1. MAKE YOUR BED

Watch this brief youtube motivational video to understand what I am talking about.2

    2. EXERCISE

    Exercising in the morning is energizing for your body and mind.

    It’s like fresh air (even if you have to do it at home), a burst of energy that will make you face the entire day with more enthusiasm and joy.

    How? because you did it, and no matter what the result is, the thought that you made the effort to put on your gym clothes and did the work, it’s a way you showed yourself how strong you are and that you can achieve anything. Trust me it works. Just like making your bed.

    As I have mentioned above, though, it’s very important to forgive yourself when you cannot respect your schedule.

    Being too hard on yourself will only bring frustration and anxiety.

    Plans and rules are necessary to give you a sense of order and organization and goals to give you a direction but you don’t need to obsess over it otherwise it brings you down instead of lifting you up.

    I have been a digital nomad for 3 years now, and every month or sometimes week I am in a different place. Not always I can run and not always I have space or the time to exercise. It’s ok. I am not going to waste time feeling guilty and beating myself up for not doing it.

    I just keep going and working towards my goals.

    That includes also accepting myself when I just want to spend a day watching Netflix or drawing.

    Obviously, if you have a full-time job with a specific schedule you cannot watch Netflix just because you decide so. And you won’t do it.

    It’s different from those who have their own business or can work on deadlines.

    However, this post is written mainly for those with a regular job that have found themselves working from home and need some advice on how to handle the new workspace and loneliness. 

    MY RUTINE

    7 am Bathroom first, including brushing my teeth.

    7.15 Make the bed.

    7.20 Exercise – it can be 1 hour or 10 minutes – it doesn’t matter as long as I get my body moving

    8. 00 Shower

    8.15 Meditation – again 5 minutes or 1 hour – it will be beneficial anyway.

    8.30 Small breakfast and my coffee while I go through the social media feed and emails (best moment of my day)

    9.00 Work at my blog

    11.00 Start working (my full time job)

    3.00 pm Lunch break (relax)

    4.00 work again

    8.00 pm finish work – a glass of wine or tea and some veggies. Work on the blog again or one of my courses

    11.00 pm bedtime (most of the time I go much later if I am inspire to write 🙂

    Obviously, sometimes I switch things around and sometimes I just work and the rest of the time I read.. it really depends.

    But the most important things are:

    1. respecting the work deadlines
    2. don’t lose focus (even when I get distracted)

    home office with windows

    Find your genius time 

    Entrepreneur Krist Kalp suggests finding your genius time, which is the time of the day when you can focus more and be more productive.

    That’s when you are supposed to work and leave the errands and house duties for the rest of the day.

    I agree in part.

    What if you have a set schedule? Like me?

    I work remotely as a customer support agent and I have a set schedule to respect.

    I cannot just work when I feel like.

    Therefore I cannot afford to have a genius time. I need to be productive in the shift I have been given.

    But I also believe if you are a writer or a social media manager or whatever business you run, you cannot just sit and wait for the inspiration to come.

    You just have to do the work. Period.

    Obviously I am dreaming of a job where I can choose my working hours and have the freedom to take a break in the middle of the day to read a book or paint, and reschedule my task for the night.

    Working by objective and targets is to me much more motivating than working on a set schedule.

    But this is what we have now, (and  I am very grateful for) so we have to go by it and respect the rules of the game.

    If you belong to the freelancer category you will need to use more will power and learn how to manage your time.

    Two good tools I have been using are Trello and Asana

    They are both free and have a great, very user-friendly, interface where you can set up your goals and mark your achievements. You can share it with your team members so that everybody is up to date.

    Get dressed

    The idea of working from home might make you think that it’s ok to work from your bed in your pj.

    You can do it, of course.

    Nobody will see you unless you have conference calls.

    But I can tell you it’s not the right way to help you boost your motivation and productivity.

    Obviously it depends on what sort of work you do.

    I have written my best posts from my couch in my pj, but in general, you better get up and get ready for work as if you were going to your office.

    Would you go in your PJ or in your sweat pants? I am sure you wouldn’t.

    You will probably wear more comfortable clothes at home, which is one of the advantages of working from home, but, please pull yourself together.

    Wear makeup if this is what you would do if you were to go to the office and, yes, showering is a good idea too.

    Get ready in a way that when you look yourself in the mirror you feel comfortable.

    Love yourself and your own company and make sure you like the person you are going to deal with for the entire day.

    Besides, you never know who can knock at your door. 😉

    There is an outfit for everything, and what you chose must set your mind right for the task you will be going to do. The PJ for sleeping, training clothes for morning exercises, and work clothing for your work time.

    Trust me, if you haven’t done it before, try and you will see the difference.

    I am not the only one who says so of course.

    Among others, the Scientific American Magazine reports that “many studies show that the clothes you wear can affect your mental and physical performance” and again “A paper in August 2015 in Social Psychological and Personality Science asked subjects to change into formal or casual clothing before cognitive tests. Wearing formal business attire increased abstract thinking—an important aspect of creativity and long-term strategizing. The experiments suggest the effect is related to feelings of power.”

    Click here to read the entire article.

    If you are not satisfied yet, Brainfodder uses the scientific term Enclothed recognition to indicate whenthe clothes we wear affect our behavior, attitudes, personality, mood, confidence, and even the way we interact with others.”

    coffe in bed

    Set up your office space

    As much as clothing options, having a space that is specifically set up for work will help you in two ways:

    1. To set boundaries between work and personal life

    Whether you live alone or with a partner or even more with kids, it’s very important at one moment to shut off your work mindset and think about either your own personal self with, other hobbies and interests or your family and partner.

    I am a workaholic and there is a fine line that separates my personal life from my working tasks and most of the time they completely overlap.

    That’s why even more I do reckon as well the importance of switching off the working brain for a while.

    We need a balanced life for our personal development and growth, to feel good about and with our own self and the people around us.

    Not to mention that it will ultimately have a positive impact on our work as well.

    2. To stay focus when you are in your workspace

    Building your little office space in your home will help you stay focused when you step into it and start working. Your brain will memorize that that’s your workspace and it has come the time for you to work no more Facebook, Netflix or laundry. There is a time and space for everything and that’s the space for working, your brain knows that and your mind will set just right.

    Well sometimes it fails, we are human not machines, but it will certainly help.

    Set a specific time for social media

    I must confess this is a difficult one for me, especially in these difficult times when we want to stay up to date with the news or learn the last joke about the CV thing, or we want to stay in touch with friends and family.

    Although I know what I should do, it’s still hard for me to stay away from my phone.

    One technique that I have read that can be useful is to set up time blocks.

    Like for example, I try and check my Facebook feed only at 10.30 am,  15.00 and 20.00, for instance.

    ( I said I try, mind you)

    Let’s keep in touch and see if we managed to stay away from Facebook or Instagram for at least 2 hours.

    Take a real lunch break

    Actually one of the perks of working from home is being able to cook your own healthy meal.

    Not only eating a proper meal instead of snaking away is good for your body and mind but also it will help you take a real break from work and start well refreshed right after a good healthy pause.

    And that goes to the next point.

    Close your laptop during the lunch break.

    Honestly, I want you to tell me how much you have ever accomplished working while eating at your laptop.

    Did you change the world?

    If the answer is yes, hat off, please continue to do so.

    If the answer is no, listen up.

    If you are working from home but with a regular job you might be given a specific hour off for your lunch, some company even offers 2 hours, depending on where your company is based.

    Use it wisely.

    Shut off the computer (even if, like me, you have other side hustles to take care of, just leave them for early morning or night).

    Your lunch break needs to be used as a brake, to destress from work, free your mind and rest your eyes from the computer.

    So after having cooked and eaten your light lunch, you will probably have another 30 minutes left when you can do the following:

    • meditate
    • read a book
    • do some exercise
    • take a nap
    • skype with some friends or family
    • draw
    • cook for the night
    • Do you have more suggestions? write them in the comments! Don’t be shy! com’on!

    flower in a field of weedInteract with colleagues

    When I started my new job from remote, I was given all the tools I needed among which Skype which we use to check-in (better-said clock in), exchange ideas, ask questions and so forth. I was shy and never commented at the beginning because I wasn’t sure how to use it.

    It took very little time for me to realize that Skype was my office environment.

    In our group chat we exchange important work information but also jokes and kind words.

    We check on each other on how we are doing and spend a few extra words to comfort and laugh together.

    Skype, Zoom, or WhatsApp are the first I can think of.

    I find it an amazing tool to keep me in the loop with what’s going on in the company and also keep me grounded and remind me that, I am home, but I am working.

    Especially if you live alone, like me, this is a great way to feel part of a family.

    In your free time, also make sure you schedule virtual hang-outs with your close friends or family member one or 2 times a week to catch up, laugh and spend some time.

    We need to speak to our like-minded people to share thoughts and ideas and, especially in these difficult times of self-isolation, feel that we are not alone in this.

    Snack wisely

    Working from home gives us a chance to eat in a healthier way because we save time from commuting and we can use it to cook our food.

    BUT it also gives us full-time access to our refrigerator and pantry which can be too tempting to get up every 5 minutes and grab something to snack on while typing away.

    A good way of making sure you are not indulging too much in unhealthy food is simply by avoiding buying them.

    Just as simple.

    It’s actually a great idea for your free time activities to make your own snacks with healthy and natural ingredients, or if you are lazy in the kitchen, just buy lots of fruits and veggies, dry fruits and raw nuts or natural granola bars for a treat.

    However, as in all the above recommendations,  it’s not necessary to be super strict.

    Allow yourself to indulge in something super delicious and unhealthy but, most importantly, don’t feel guilty about it.

    It’s part of loving yourself.

    None of all the above

    We are going through a very difficult time, that we didn’t sign up for and we were not ready at all.

    It’s ok to feel lost, frustrated and lonely.

    You are not, we are all in this together.

    If you cannot focus, it’s ok.

    If you cannot eat healthily, it’s ok.

    If you want to work in your PJ, it’s ok too. Just make sure you don’t have any zoom meeting scheduled! 🙂

    Be kind to yourself, but don’t loose track of your life goals.

    When this is over, we will be resuming our lives.

    How and where we will be, it will depend on how we are living the here and now!

    That’s how I see it.

    FINAL THOUGHTS: Is working from home really the innovative work revolution?

    Working from home has always been my dream (one of them), and I have finally achieved it.

    I am now super happy with it and I wouldn’t go back to office life for the world.

    However, there are others that think differently, just because they find interacting with colleagues inspiring and necessary for their creativity.

    Kevin Roose writes in the New York Times that although he’s diligently following the government rules to stay home, he can’t wait to go back to the office.

    He is of the idea that although working from home makes you more productive, “like a 2014 study led by Stanford professor Nicholas Bloom” demonstrates, it is also certain that it’s a killer for creativity.

    And he goes on quoting Steve Jobs:

    “Creativity comes from spontaneous meetings, from random discussions. You run into someone, you ask what they’re doing, you say ‘Wow,’ and soon you’re cooking up all sorts of ideas.”

    I still believe, as I have mentioned earlier, that it all depends on your occupation and on how your virtual office is organized in terms of communication among colleagues.

    And also where you get your creativity spike from.

    I am connected with my colleagues and my boss all through my shift and I feel very supported by the people and the tools we are using.

    But I am not a creator and I don’t need to come up with any new ideas so, it’s a totally different scenario.

    In any case, like it or not, all of us who were lucky enough to keep our job and can be productive at home, we have to stay put and make it work.

    So why don’t we just make the most of our time and be grateful for what we have?

    Only that thought can be enough to motivate us and do the work, instead of wasting time on negative thoughts.

    If you struggle, shot me an email, a FB message, a comment here below, just reach out and I will be happy to discuss it further.

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