I do not like working in offices. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with offices but I don't feel like I am at my most productive when surrounded by others who barely talk and make the atmosphere feel stifling. I quickly found this out when I began my MSc and was assigned a desk with the PhD students who didn't so much as look over at me. Away from the comforts of home in a new country, I just longed to be home and soon enough was spending more time writing there than in my designated space,
And though the flexibility of working from home is freaking awesome – and not having to commute like the one I have now, ahem, Sydney – working from home does have its challenges.
What I found working from home all the time meant that although I loved being in my own bubble, the chores and cooking and Netflix could be rather tempting. This was especially true in Wellington where my first apartment didn't have an office (I had a couch and a coffee table); since designating an office space, I’ve done better at making days more productive – and I’ve really noticed a difference in how much I’ve gotten done! Here are some tips...
Get dressed and make your bed.
While I love rocking a pencil skirt and heels like many other folx out there, I don't necessarily want to do it while working at home, especially if I don’t have to go anywhere for a few hours. Most of the work I do can be at odd hours (hello ConCiencia Azul podcast recordings at 3AM) and at that point I just stay in my pj's. Sometimes staying in my pj's makes me feel super lazy, however, so I throw on a nice pair of jeans and shirt (or sweater if it's cold) and wear my slippers around the house so that I'm presentable but still comfy. Basically, change out of your pajamas and feel somewhat pulled together so you are ready for the day and in work mode.
I hated making my bed when I was a kid (I didn't see a point to it and frankly, still don't) but I will admit to my mami that having it done makes my bedroom look a little bit more put-together and like I have my life in order. Funny how straightening out a few sheets can make you feel so good!
It is so easy to get off track when working at home, especially if you have no boundaries between when household chores get done and getting career-work done. To help put structure in your day, create a list of the top 5 things you want done that day that are career-related. I LOVE lists and stationary meaning I have gold-foiled planners that can schedule my day down to the minute if I wanted to (and sometimes I need it). Plan your day out for maximum productivity! For example, I try to check my email three times a day only (once at 8am, once at 12-1:00pm, once at 4:30pm) and ONLY then so I'm not constantly refreshing my accounts. I schedule x amount of time for TFUI research for blog posts, x amount of time for writing the blog posts or other content, x amount of time for... you get the point. Not every day is the same and that's what I like -- routine can get a bit boring sometimes.
My first apartment in Wellington had my bedroom and a kitchen/living room area. No room for an office, and we had no money to buy a desk at the beginning. I struggled to focus on my writing as my back ached from being hunched over my computer. When we moved to a small house about a year later, I was elated to finally have a dedicated office space where I could put a desk and store some of my ever-growing book collection. Now I have my very own space-- no sharing (sorry, J, but you know you love your own office)!
It sounds silly, but having an area dedicated to JUST working really gets you in that #hustle and #girlboss mindset. It gives me a sense of accountability when I have papers piling up on my desk and bookshelves or if I haven't gone into my office yet and it's noon. Oops! You don't need to have your own office room to get into this "get shit done" mentality -- in that small Welly apartment we got a free (very beat up) desk and stuck it in a corner with a free (even more beat up) chair and did work there.
I love escaping to my office to work because it's 100% mine. I make the space warm, cozy and inviting by adding personal touches that make it inspiring to myself. It truly is place of "zen" where I can focus on the task at hand.
Do NOT Eat In Your Office Space
The bad habit I picked up from living in small spaces that didn't allow for a dining room table (or a table in general) was that I find myself eating anywhere. From the couch to the bed (eek!) to my office desk. A good way to really differentiate your "office/work space" from your living space is to move away from your desk when it is time to eat.
Sometimes it is unavoidable; I've had deadlines where my left hand is struggling to bring food up to my mouth while my right types away furiously. But, for the most part, don't eat at your desk. Better yet, if the weather is nice go eat outside or go for a walk to get those steps in and get away from the screens, too!
Five Minute Sweeps
Feeling a bit overwhelmed with all the 'career' work you are doing? Take a break! I set my timer for 5 minutes and do a quick sweep of a room (be it my office or any other part of the house) to tidy up paper piles, straighten pillows or put away dishes. Wipe things down, take coffee mugs to the sink, refill your water bottle, etc. I do this at least three times a day when I work from home and make sure to finish my day with one of these sweeps so I can have a clutter-free morning.
Change Things Up - Go Out!
Back in Wellington, my tiny apartment had a cap on internet. Not only was it slow but that meant I could only use the internet so much in my own house- talk about frustrating when you need to be on it to do lit reviews! To change things up, I would go to my local Starbucks (hear me out-- it's the only place that had Wifi and coffee) without my laptop charger (the local Starbucks didn't have outlets) and get work done there. I was under a time constraint (about 2-3 hours depending what I was doing) and that meant I had to be FOCUSED on my work.
The change of scenery helps when you are tired of being at home!
The problem of juggling multiple hustles and working from home is that I never get to "go home" from my job. I don't have your normal 9-5 like other people where once they are out the door they can forget work until the next day... but I sure want to have that attitude! Give yourself a "go home" time and that signals when it is time to shut down the laptop and go enjoy the rest of your day. You need to recharge. Phones, too! Even I still struggle with this (although I'm being better about 'working' on weekends this year).
Make Time For Chores
I like to batch my errands, meaning taking up a whole afternoon to do whatever outside-the-house chores I need to do. While some like the "outdoor" break every day, I find it hard switching between my 'work' and 'other life stuff' brain zone so quickly. Therefore, I personally set aside a weekday (easier for doctor appointments, ya know) where the afternoon I have away from my work responsibilities and can focus on other aspects of my life - like going grocery shopping/meal prepping, going to a gym class, any doctor appointments, etc. Same for chores around the house – I designate a day for household stuff and forget about it the rest of the week! I just can't focus on my work without a clean house.
Make Time For Friends
You typically don’t have co-workers when you work from home, so it can be quite lonely being holed up in your house all day (especially if you don't live with anybody). I try to schedule meet-ups with friends at least once a week, and make a point to attend networking events so I a) don’t forget how to socialize in the professional environment and b) continue making those important connections! While not dealing with office politics or lab drama is nice, people are still a part of most jobs so make sure you socialize!
Do you work from home?
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Hi! I'm Melissa, an Australian-based Latina science educator, podcaster, and freelance writer. I spend a lot more time on Instagram and Twitter, but blogging is my first love. Thanks for stopping by — I hope you stay a while.
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