There’s no doubt that to contain the spread of COVID-19, the best solution is to limit physical interactions, and as a result, many people have been asked to work from home.  But as much as we love our spouse and children, getting some work done while spending 24/7 with them can be challenging.

As a professional organiser and time management coach who help people bring efficiency into their life, but also as someone who has been working from home for the last 15 years, I can tell you that, whether you like it or not, you’re going to need some structure and discipline if you want to come out of this with your sanity intact.


Select your workspace

If you don’t have the luxury of having a home office, find a quiet corner where you can work undistracted, ideally away from the rest of your family.  It can be the dining table, the couch or the bed.  It’s best if you make this spot your regular working space as familiarity helps to get into working mode faster as opposed to having to find your marks every time you change spots.

Make sure you have everything you need to do your work easily accessible without having to get up: laptop, phone, earphones, pen, notebook, diary, current projects files etc.  Put them away at the end of your working day (maybe in your workbag or a backpack) in order to mark the end of the working day and to help maintain order in your home.


Establish a daily schedule

Without physical boundaries between work and home, it’s very easy to feel compelled to call a friend, to play with your children or to attend to the household chores whenever the thought crosses your mind.  But moving back and forth between different activities will affect your productivity and you’re very likely to end the day without having achieved much work and either feeling frustrated about it or working until the wee hours of the morning to make up for it.

Instead set dedicated timeslots for all the activities you need, or want, to undertake: work, childcare, household chores, exercise, social interaction, entertainment etc.  Instead of spending time deciding what you’re going to be doing next or procrastinating on things you don’t enjoy doing, you’ll do them.  And knowing that everything that needs to get done has a place in your schedule will allow you to be more focused on the moment.

Read more about the importance of adopting a routine schedule.

When establishing your daily schedule, take into consideration your energy levels and concentration thresholds as well as other family members’ schedules.


Set some ground rules with your family, but with yourself too

Communicate your schedule to the rest of your family and ask them to be respectful of it as you commit to being respectful of theirs.  Agree that if the door of the room where you work is closed, then you shouldn’t be interrupted.  If you have young children unable to read, put a stop sign on the door they can easily recognise.

If you share the workspace with other family members, find a space where phone calls can be made in order to minimise disruptions to others.

As much as you can, stick to your existing routines.  Get up and go to bed at the same time than you usually do to maintain some normality.  Shower and get dressed instead of staying in your pyjamas to feel in a working mood.


Be realistic about your work capacity

Chances are that you’re going to be more easily distracted when working from home than at your office.  You may not have your colleagues to drop by your office for an informal chat, but it might be your children, not used to having you so much around, who find it difficult to resist the temptation of spending time with you, or the delivery man ringing the bell, or the unusual working environment, or those personal items surrounding you and suddenly vying for your attention.

Don’t hesitate to scale down your workload so that you don’t end up the day frustrated by what you haven’t been able to accomplish.  Maybe aim for 6 hours of real work where you usually put in 8.

The best way to achieve this is to end each working day by planning your next day.  List down all your tasks and estimate the time it will take you to do each of them.  If you have too much on your plate, ask yourself for each task whether you can delete it, delay it, diminish it or delegate it so you can focus on your true priorities.

You’re not being unprofessional, irresponsible, careless or lazy by making those decisions.  On the contrary, it means you’re making well-thought decisions about how you use your time.


Cut down digital distractions

The amount of information circulating right now around COVID-19 is phenomenal: government updates, media articles, TV shows, social media posts, emails, text messages from family and friends etc.  That makes it extremely difficult to resist the urge to stay informed.

But the thing is, you could easily be spending the whole day just reading and watching the news.  And when you’re not at it, feeling down trying to digest the sad and worrying news and all the negativity going around.  It’s just impossible to get work done like this.

In order to stay focused on the task at hands, turn off notifications from your all the social media accounts that you use.  If you still feel compelled to check your phone, put some physical distance between you and the device to make it more difficult for you to reach for it out of impulse.  Allocate some time during the day to go onto these various platforms and satisfy your need for information.


Don’t sacrifice self-care

Self-care is more important than ever during these unsettling times to help us keep our spirits up.  Make use of the time you used to spend commuting each day to do things that will bring you some peace and happiness.  Again, the key is to allocate this time in your schedule if you want to make it happen.

Some of you might feel isolated by spending much more time than usual at home, so it’s important to maintain some form of interaction with your relatives and friends through regular video calls for example.

On the other hand, some of you might feel suffocated by spending so many hours with the rest of your family and will need to build in some me time without feeling guilty about it, whether it’s reading a book by yourself or taking a relaxing bath.


Tell us in the comments below what you find the most challenging to stay productive and sane while working from home. 


This article was first published on Houzz.


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