How to Make Working From Home Work For Your Career

Person stilling at desk with computer

Are you part of the millions of Americans working from home?

Many of us in New York state have been asked to work remotely as the need for social distancing and self-quarantining rises by the day. For many, this is the first time they’ve had to adapt their in-the-office work life to their home, where distractions come in triplets and temptations never cease. Even for seasoned work-at-homers, motivation and persistence wains the longer we’re asked to tune in at home and tune out the rest of the world.

What many don’t realize is that working from home is the opportunity their careers crave! You’re no longer in the office where coworkers, bosses, and the office gossip stalk the halls to interrupt your workday. Sure, the home has its own crew of distractions, but none are as demanding as a real, live person asking you to switch gears or take on more work or lure you into the latest office scandal.

You’ve been given remote isolation—- space away from the office to powerhouse through the goals you’ve been slowly chipping away and finally tackle them!

Now it is your chance! Follow these nine techniques to turn your work from home mandate into the career boost you’ve been craving.

Keep your wake up routine

If a morning shower is part of your normal routine, keep it. If working out is part of your pre-workday, set your alarm at the same wake-up hour. If a hot meal is what you need every morning to get going, make it. All of the routine things we do to get ourselves ready for work help our bodies and minds prepare for the workday. Working from home shouldn’t change that. If you want to start your workday with conviction, then you need to give yourself what you need in the morning to prepare for it. Keep to the norm, your body and mind won’t have to go through an adjustment period and will be well equipped to take on the day.

Dress the part

Keeping in tune with tactic number one, dress like you’re going to work. The clichés “dress to impress” and “dress for the job you want” are grounded in truth. You will feel more motivated and empowered to take on your work for the day if you dress for it.

Define your workspace

Keeping to a singular workspace will create structure in your work-from-home environment. Defining where we work helps us to focus on work-related tasks while we are in that space. It also sends a message to everyone else we live with that we are working and must be allowed to do so without interruption. Keeping to the same workspace actually helps our brains remember things. For instance, if we are trying to remember a task to complete today that came up yesterday, we are more likely to remember it if we are in the same environment as we were yesterday. This is because there are visual cues in our space that will help trigger the memory.

Bonus Tip: Music has been shown to induce the same memory-boosting response in our brains. Want to remember something? Play music when you put it to memory, then play the same music when you’re trying to remember, it will come to you more quickly!

Set expectations

If you’re working in a home that you share with other people, perhaps family or a roommate, set time aside to talk to them about what you need while you work from home. Have this conversation before you begin working from home, if possible. When the people around you respect your time to work, you will be exponentially more productive.

Create daily to-do lists

Often we amass to-do lists that evolve into pages worth of items because there really is that much for us to do. The problem is, a list of that size or even a list of 10 things is often too much for any one person to complete in a day. When we don’t complete it, this leads to feelings of discouragement, stress, and anxiety that, in turn, make us less productive. You can keep your growing list, but set time each day either at the beginning or at the end of the previous day to create a manageable to-do list for the day. Breaking down tasks into manageable items that can be completed in a single workday will make you feel more accomplished, give you focus and clarity, and encourage you to keep working rather than making you feel panicked that you’ll never get it all done.

Block out time for project boosts

For items on your ever-growing list that are larger and require more than a day to complete, it’s not feasible to add these items to a daily to-do list. Instead, define a portion of the project that is accomplishable in a 1 or 2-hour window otherwise known as a project boost session. Mark the time you’re going to devote to your boost on your calendar. This will make you more likely to stick to it and also will let your virtual coworkers know you’re occupied during that time. Schedule enough project boosts, and you will have completed your project sooner than you thought.

Take breaks

Breaks, plural. When we work from home, there is a higher likelihood for us to feel lonely, isolated, and become run down. This is because there is no variety. Variety is key to avoiding complacency and burnout. Give your brain the 10 or 15 minutes it needs to wander and reboot. Take a walk, make a snack, listen to music, rest, do anything that doesn’t involve your computer. The mistake to avoid: ignoring the clock. Breaks are great for our minds, but they are also temptations. Don’t give in to the, oh a few more minutes won’t hurt justification. This reframes our perception of work, from something to conquer, to the consequence of ending our breaks. Don’t let your mind go there. You are conquering your goals today! Stick to strict break times.

Get out of the house

If you followed the steps and defined your workspace, then visiting another room does count as “leaving the office,” but it’s not as refreshing as physically leaving your home. Being cooped up doesn’t allow your mind to wander, be creative, and enjoy experiencing other things than what’s around you in your home. So when your workday ends, go for a walk if you can or just sit outside. Walking away will make you more apt to want to come back the next day to crush the work ahead of you!