How to Make Working-From-Home Work for You

4 simple ideas to be more productive while enjoying the comfort of a personalized space.

For the people who secretly (and some less covertly) wished to spend more time working from home, their fantasy unexpectedly became reality a few weeks ago. Shortening the commute from a grueling hour of bumper-to-bumper traffic, to simply hanging a right at the bathroom straight into the home office, has been a glorious change. In some of those fantasies, sleeping-in and working in pajamas ranked high on the wishlists; and while the thought of rolling out of the bed directly into the desk chair is certainly appealing, the lack of separation between home and work can lead to less-than-productive work days.

There have been studies conducted to determine if there is a link between productivity and self esteem, many concluding to suggest that perhaps PJs and ponytails may be affecting you more than you realize. While there are solid arguments on both sides, it is obvious that there is a direct and very significant correlation between the two. The theory, simply put, is that when you feel better about yourself, you do better work. 

Think about it:

How do you feel when you put on that perfectly-altered suit? Do you get a confidence boost when you slip on your favorite pair of heels? Does a new hair-do add an extra pep to your step? Or the biggest boost when your eyebrows graduate from ‘sister’ to ‘identical-twin’ status! 

You know it’s true. 

When you feel good about yourself, you stand a little taller - you own your stage, platform, presentation, opportunity… you nail the interview, the meeting. And even if you happen to miss the mark, you look good, so who cares right?! A little confidence goes a long way in giving you the extra tools you need to climb whatever mountain you are taking on that day. A power-suit is not required to rock a meeting, but feeling empowered and prepared is. 

Most have been catapulted into working-from-home without much time for preparations and adjusting; however, the expectations to produce at the same level remain. Staying focused and productive in your dedicated space for family, relaxation and disengagement from work takes skill and practice: humdrum house chores can become seductive distractions to help you procrastinate on the deadline you are already barely meeting; and if you have kids, those distractions may be cute and warranted, but nevertheless, unrelenting! 

Here are 4 things to keep in mind to help you adjust to your new work environment. These suggestions can help boost your confidence and enhance your productivity while enjoying the comfortable perks of working from your own space.


1. You are your biggest critic. Use that knowledge to your advantage.

It has become common knowledge that most people scrutinize themselves more than others do. Though it doesn’t always root in low self-esteem, ‘second-guessing’ can be a self-sabotaging trait of many. Have you ever finished a project and just before presenting it, you find yourself picking it apart? Do you start to doubt your wardrobe choices the moment you walk into the office or arrive at a party? 

That line of thought is what is being examined here, and it doesn’t vanish just because you are working from the comfort of your home now. It becomes so habitual that you find it virtually impossible not to dissect and probe your own work until you can write a dissertation of all the imperfections. Does that feel familiar? You are not alone. 

If you find yourself doing this, don’t worry, it is very normal. However, just because it is a normal response, that doesn’t mean it needs to be your norm. Accept that as something you have to work through and conquer. You are a dynamic force and can do anything you can put your mind to. You do have to start by owning the responsibility, for yourself and your job, to be accountable for your own confidence. If you find yourself with an unfavorable thought forming, focus on the idea that it is just that…. a thought. A thought is not necessarily reality and realizing that will give you control over how it affects you and how you proceed. That introspective insight will fuel a practice of mindfulness and will drive you past the self-doubt and criticisms, right into the arms of self-confidence. This first one is a substantial perception that can really affect the way you think and act. Go big or go home, amiright? 


2. Confidence and comfort look different for everyone.

While there are morale boosts that are more universal than others, it is more accurate to say that raising one’s self esteem is a much more personal matter that is unique to the individual. This is not a ‘one size fits all’ kaftan. If you have read the book, “The 5 Love Languages”, you will feel familiar with the general idea. The basic concept of that book is to explore what feels good to you regarding love and how different expressions of love feel to you. In “The 5 Love Languages”, you learn how each person receives and expresses love differently. None of the ‘languages’ are better or worse than the others, they are simply different. Learning and understanding what you and your partner respond positively to helps set yourself, and your relationship, up for success. 

What is being discussed here is a similar notion. Every individual can have a distinct response to the same external stimuli, and that’s ok! A two-piece suit is not required when you are working from home, but if that is your thing, go for it! Put on those slacks, button your jacket and strut into your office like you own it… because in this case, you probably do. If you feel self-assured in your PJs and a messy bun, by all means rock that robe! What Miranda Priestly doesn't know won’t hurt her. The devil doesn’t always wear Prada. 

Sometimes, it is as simple as doing a few small things. Perfectly-aligned winged eyeliner, or a bold lip, might be all you need to feel more in-charge. The idea is to find what honestly raises your energy and do just that. There is a key word here that you need to pay attention to. “Honestly”. What truly lifts your esteem? Don’t claim you are comfortable in six inch stilettos when your feet distract you with cries begging for a reprieve. Don’t argue that you feel like a badass in last year’s fuzzy slippers if they actually contribute to you feeling sluggish and tired. This isn’t a contest. There is no right answer. Just be true to yourself, reflect on what charges you up, plug that knowledge in and watch your productivity increase. 


3. Your work-zone matters.

One of the biggest challenges in working from home is distraction. Seeing laundry in the corner, remembering that last night’s dishes are still in the sink or even getting interrupted by your adorable dachshund can cause you to lose focus. While some of you have the discipline of a buddhist monk, most people need extra practice to stay honed in on your work. One of the easiest ways to set yourself up for success is to have a space for working that is independent from your non-work activities. If you already have a home-office, you are a step ahead, but not everybody has that luxury. 

For those who do not have that kind of space allocated prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, this is where a little creative planning comes in. Narrow down your options to places in your home that you are least likely to get distracted. If at all possible, avoid places that already have a strongly dedicated purpose. For example, if you always end your evening on the couch watching a movie and you decide to try to work from the couch, you may find yourself tired or distracted by thoughts of what you will watch that night. It is mostly a mental game, but it is much easier to play when there aren’t already pieces on the board. If you are really tight on space, one trick that can work is to sit in a chair that you don’t typically occupy when you are not working. You know the one. It can be the seat your partner usually sits in, or the big one in the corner that nobody ever uses. This shakes up your brain and allows for easier habit-creation. 

Once you allocate an area to turn into your work-space, set it up with all the things you need to do your job so you aren’t getting up and down more than necessary. This will limit chances for distraction. Once you are set with the essentials, add a few things that remind you of your self-worth. A motivational quote, a power totem or even just a personal mantra written on a sticky note. 


4. Be Productive. Not Busy.

Alright, you are in your zone, donning your own version of a ‘power suit’ and feeling fabulous. Another step in solidifying confidence is having a plan. Jam-packing your schedule deludes you to believe you are operating efficiently. While having a schedule is highly recommended, this too can be customized to what you are comfortable with. You can use your phone, a desk calendar or get nostalgic for the 90’s with an embellished planner and gel pens. Use whatever floats your boat you just need to take control and man the sails. 

There is a common misconception that needs to be left at the door, however. The idea that quantity of work done equates to quality production.That is simply not true. Productivity does not mean you need to fill every hour of your day, it means you are generating quality work with the time allotted. You are grateful to have a job that you can do from home, so use that gratitude to fuel your best work. 

If you are not used to planning out a daily schedule, start by using 15 minutes at the end of each day to make a list of prioritized tasks that you want to get done the following day. Put down 2-3 high priority duties, 2-3 medium priority tasks and 2-3 low priority tasks that can easily be moved to another date if you don’t get to them. This is YOUR list! Customize it to balance the demands of your job with home-life., and just as you clock-in on time in the morning, walk away when you are done for the day and do not return until the morning!


The Takeaway

We are all in a very unique, albeit strange, situation right now. But did you notice a pattern with all the above tips? Yes, you can tailor your work from home experience to suit you, and utilize these unprecedented times as  a rare opportunity to recharge and reinvent, as needed. Stay true to yourself, operate with intention, and you will transition into this inescapable and new, but (likely) temporary, reality of our quarantined-world.

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