Welcome back to a new week, friends! I hope you had a fabulous weekend, and feel renewed for the days ahead. There’s no question there’s a huge learning curve for adapting to this new normal… which is a bit of an oxymoron, considering there’s nothing normal about what’s happening. I’m finding we have good days, and not-so-good days, but fortunately, we don’t all have not-so-good days at the same time!
I realized I was trying to ‘fix’ everyone else’s not-so-good days with positive affirmations, gratitude speeches, and a whole lot of ‘it could be worse!‘ But rarely does that help… quarantine or not! So now I’m learning to let others have their space and feelings, and work through them on their own. Including myself.
And for those of us fortunate enough to continue our jobs and work from home, staying connected and productive is challenging. I transitioned from office life to working from home a few years ago, and had to learn a whole new level of discipline! Here are some tips that are helpful for me.
Tips for Working From Home
Start with Quiet Time
If I hit the ground running, my day gets away from me quickly. Especially now with a house full of people. It’s essential to my mental health to start the day alone, and quietly. My quiet time consists of a daily devotional, prayer, and visualizing the day I want to have. It may sound cheesy, but there’s power in positive thinking! And of course coffee… always coffee!
You don’t have to wear work clothes, but it’s essential you change out of pajamas! Even if you’re just putting on loungewear, you’re signaling to your mind and body that sleep time is over. If exercise is hard for you, change in to workout clothes so you’re already halfway there!
I also put on just enough makeup to feel like myself. (See my 3-minute routine HERE.) I’m always more productive when I feel good… and that usually requires makeup, a little hair spruce, and even some earrings. In my early days of working from home, I’d look up at 5pm and realize I never even brushed my teeth!
You’ll also want to be ready for video calls or the occasional lunch date with your hubby (at home, of course)!
Sugarplum Tip: For the best, most-flattering Zoom calls… try to angle your face looking towards the light or window. And clean up the area behind you, too!
Create a Dedicated Work Space
It doesn’t have to be an actual office, but carve out an area dedicated just for work, preferably with a desk, chair and ideally, a door! And if at all possible… not in your bedroom! There are a lot of added distractions at home, so being able to distance yourself from them will help you stay focused. And especially if you’re used to an office environment, you won’t be productive curled up on the couch with your laptop!
This space also allows you the opportunity to walk away and keep work and home life separate. So try not to work where you eat, sleep or play! Creating that boundary will help signal to your brain when it’s time to work.
Set Daily Goals
Once dressed, I grab my large water bottle (this one HERE) and ‘commute’ to my office to start my work day. I start by making my To Do list for the day, prioritizing the top three things that must be done no matter what. As long as I accomplish those three things, the day was a win!
Communicate with Your Team
Even if everyone has a list of responsibilities, it’s essential to check in daily to make sure everyone is staying on task, answer outstanding questions, and discuss expectations. And don’t underestimate the power of kind words and gratitude! A simple ‘thank you for the great work’ goes far to lift someone’s spirits and help them feel seen and appreciated.
Just like at the office, you don’t sit in your chair for eight hours straight! I tend to work in blocks of time, and set small goals with rewards after each. For example, after finishing a blog post, I’ll break for 30 minutes to walk the dogs. Once my inbox is cleared out, I’ll sit outside with a snack for 15 minutes.
It’s important to stop for a lunch break, too… and not at your desk!
Rug (on sale!)
We know moving our bodies is key for our physical health, and now more than ever, it’s essential for our wellbeing. Schedule time in your day to workout, exercise, stretch, walk… anything to get moving. I prefer to workout first thing, so I do it between my quiet time and getting ready.
And now that the kids are home all day, we take mini-breaks throughout the day to shoot baskets, run around the block, do yoga videos, etc. I’m also hosting quick workouts on Instagram Stories with my dear friend Angi of Abercrombie & Fitness! Every Saturday at 11am CST, she’s leading us in a 30-minute full body workout (no equipment needed!), and every Tuesday and Thursday at 12pm CST, we’ll target specific areas with a quick 15-minute class! It’s free, it’s fun, and it will help you feel so much better!
Use Time Blocking to Stay on Track
I discovered this method soon after transitioning from the office to home, and it’s super helpful for me. I break my day into blocks of time, even going so far to set a timer to stay on track. I determine a task… like tackling my inbox, posting to Instagram, reviewing contracts… then set a timer for how long I think it will take. I don’t veer from that task until it’s complete or the timer rings.
This keeps me from venturing off to other tasks before one is complete. Timers are also helpful for those little breaks like hopping on social media… without a 15-minute timer to remind me to get back to work, I could look up an hour later!
Set a Stop Work Time
Working from home, especially when you’re self-employed, can sometimes lead to round-the-clock work hours. That’s not healthy for you or your marriage. Set a time to end your day, and then don’t go back until the next day.
Take Advantage of Working From Home
Of course there are perks to working from home, and not having a boss watching your every move! As long as you’re getting the job done, take advantage of the freedom and bring your laptop outside to answer emails, take a walk during a phone call, or throw a load of laundry in the wash. These small perks will help to keep you energized throughout the day. Don’t forget to have fun with this new freedom!
I asked my Instagram family about working from home, and you had some incredible tips, too!
- Make your bed so you don’t get back in it!
- Have an actual work space, separate from living and sleeping
- Wear headphones
- Add a ring light for Zoom calls
- Maintain a schedule that allows for breaks and exercise
- Play soothing music while you work
- Have lunch and breaks away from phone and computer
- Don’t stay in your PJs
- The better you look, the better you feel… get ready every morning!
- Tidy your workspace each day
- Keep actual work hours
- Set alarms to remind you when to take a break, a walk, drink water, etc.
- Don’t start drinking before 4! (haha)
- Keep the TV off… news and other things will derail your productivity
- Have some sort of indicator for your kids/spouse to know when you’re in a meeting (flag, ribbon on the door, etc)
- Wake early and work before others get up
Tips for Working From Home with Your Spouse
Working from home is one thing, but working from home alongside your partner is another challenge entirely! Many of us are used to our time away, and reconnecting at the end of each day. So having him chewing gum and chatting-up his co-worker on Zoom isn’t exactly conducive to a happy marriage!
Mr. Sugarplum already worked from home a few days a week, so we’ve developed some boundaries that help us stay sane… and married.
Try Having Separate Work Spaces
Ha… clearly this isn’t a tip we followed! But half of the work Mr. SP does from home is for HSP, so it’s more efficient for us to be together. Plus, he worked from home several days a week before quarantine, so we needed a more permanent home office.
If you and your spouse have different jobs/businesses, having separate spaces will help you both better focus on your own tasks.
Communicate Weekly & Daily Calendars
Every Sunday before the work week begins, we go over our respective calendars letting the other know when we have meetings, calls, deadlines, etc… that way we each can plan accordingly. We touch base each morning, too, to make sure nothing has changed and we’re on the same page. Especially now that the kids are home, we tag-team work and parenting.
And since he’s now doing tele-therapy sessions from our joint office, communication is key so I can be sure to give him (and his patients) complete privacy.
Separate Work & Life
Working from home can easily blur the lines of professional and personal time, especially with all of us home 24/7. So make it a point to spend intentional time together, and just like on traditional date nights, don’t discuss work!
Mr. SP and I take a break to walk the dogs together most every day, and it’s always a ‘no work talk’ time! It’s important to remember being around someone all day isn’t the same as intentional time with them!
One Word: Headphones!
We all have different noise boundaries when it comes to working, and it’s important to respect that. Mr. SP obviously loves music and wants it playing all day, every day. But if I’m writing, I have to have complete silence! So headphones are a saving grace for us (unless he starts singing along and I’m forced to throw something at him!).
My job has always been mostly virtual, so I spend a lot of time on the phone… and AirPods help keep the noise down. And we both agree no TV during the day… it’s just too distracting. The important thing is to respect the other’s preferred working style and environment.
Blame Susan. Or Frank.
To keep from pointing fingers or creating resentments, we have an imaginary coworker who takes the heat for everything from forgetting to load the printer with paper to not cleaning up lunch dishes. It’s a funny way of gently pointing out behavior you don’t like, without the other person feeling attacked.
Of course sometimes there’s too much togetherness, but don’t forget this guy is your best friend! Have lunch dates on the patio and afternoon happy hours… all without the stress of traffic and long commutes.
I loved these tips y’all shared for working from home with your spouse, too!
- Be flexible on work hours if possible. My husband has set hours, so I manage the kids 9-5 while he works… and he has the kids while I work weekends.
- Have separate work areas if possible
- Review your calendars regularly for calls so they don’t overlap and, you can tag-team child care
- Have a lunch date together, away from your work spaces
- Kiss each other goodbye and hello for the workday
- We take 30 minutess at the end of each day for a mini date before the evening routine begins
- Lots of patience!
- Show appreciation for everything big or small
- Consider a WiFi booster to help with connection speed
The important thing to remember is this is likely new for both of you, and changing the way you work doesn’t happen overnight. Communicate, give each other the benefit of the doubt, and most importantly… give each other, and yourself, a bucket of grace!
How’s it going in your house? Are you navigating this work-from-home, spouse-always-around, kids-needing-everything life? Any other tips you’ve picked up along the way?! Happy new week, lovebugs!
PS – We’re pretty close to finishing the office… I’ll be sure to share a full reveal and all the sources then!