Editor’s note: Are you looking for creative ways to improve your days working from home? This post, originally published in September 2020, is filled with helpful tips that are still just as relevant today.
Work styles are a very personal thing. What works for one person can be an absolute nightmare for the next.
I’ve been working in advertising for a decade now, and if you had asked me a year ago, I would have told you that I had pretty much figured things out. I am a A-human (a half-five meeting? No thanks!). My brain can only be one place at a time (no podcasts for me, thank you!). And I work best in the office or a cafe with lots of people buzzing around.
Then COVID-19 hit. I worked from home with only my husband. My anxiety smoked in the air, and my usual alarm at 6. I was back to square one.
I have completely transformed everything I ever knew about work. I have been forced to investigate my mistakes, find new routines and learn ways to cope and grow as a professional.
Over the past six months, I have completely transformed everything I ever knew about work. I have been forced to investigate my mistakes, find new routines and learn ways to cope and grow as a professional.
One day I will look back to 2020 and remember a lot of anger, a lot of stress and a lot of grief. But I also want to see a lot of personal growth. I hope you can do the same.
Here are eight tips to improve your days when working from home.
When it comes to sleep, listen to your body.
I used to start working at a coffee shop every day at. 7. It allowed me to get things done before days of back-to-back meetings. And while my brain definitely shoots on all cylinders in the morning, in hindsight, it’s pretty silly (and frankly unhealthy) to define my productivity for when I open my laptop.
I’m still a morning person, but I’ve gotten a lot less tight with my schedule. If I have a hard morning, I let myself sleep in. Listening to what my body wants has helped reduce anxiety and keep my energy levels up throughout the afternoon.
Buy a screen already!
Monitors are something that many office workers take for granted, but I have spent the last five years in an open workspace where everyone is working from a laptop. After three months at home, my husband convinced me to buy a monitor. In addition to being a total game changer from a productivity perspective, it has improved my posture and eliminated the strain I cause my eyes by constantly squinting at my laptop.
Do not want to invest? Ask your employer if you can get a screen that has been sitting in your lonely office for the past six months.
Take a breakfast break.
When you work from home, the line between work and home can easily be blurred. And even though I have never been one who is good at taking lunch breaks when COVID-19 hit, I found myself working all the way through lunch.
Forcing myself to take some time for a thirty minute walk has totally reshaped my afternoons. I have found that I have more energy and am more creative after taking a break and getting some exercise. I listen to podcasts and keep up to date on what is happening in this wild world. And sometimes this break from my desk will even help me solve a problem or set in motion a new idea.
Reflect on your mistakes.
I always thought that my greatest ability was that I could claim to be a “generalist”. I’ve always been good enough know many things. My primary job is to manage campaigns, but I’m also good at writing and coming up with creative ideas, and I probably have an eye for the fact that design is dangerous.
If I let others do their work, I am less stressed and do not work 24/7. And guess what? The work usually gets better when you have a team of experts who do what they are best at, rather than a team of generalists who do what they are good at.
I spent years getting offended when I was not invited to do all those things. I now realize that this is ridiculous. But if this year has taught me anything, then it is that if I let others do their work, I am less stressed and do not work 24/7. And guess what? The work usually gets better when you have a team of experts who do what they are best at, rather than a team of generalists who do what they are good at. Imagine that!
Use work from home to your advantage.
If there is one good thing that can come out of being forced to stay home, it is that you can knock out your to-do list while you are at work. I no longer spend Saturday mornings washing clothes and cleaning up in my living room. Instead, after completing a task, or when I feel stuck at work, I will spend five minutes doing something at home. Do you feel frustrated? Water your plants or check in with a friend or someone else. The break helps you reset when it’s time to return to work.
Decorate your room again.
Since COVID-19 hit, I’ve probably redone the walls of our upstairs (which serves as my office) at least four times. My husband says I “care too much about how things look.” And do! But being in an aesthetically pleasing place is something that makes me more productive. If I can not sit in beautiful coffee shops every morning, I will have to create that space for myself. In addition, I find that solving creative challenges in my environment helps me become better at solving them at work.
And Repairs do not have to be expensive. Simply replacing a print or adding a new decorative piece here or there can change the feel of an entire room. Are you looking for inspiration? Visit a thrift store or check out Etsy or online retailers like Juniper printing where you can usually find pieces for under $ 50.
Find new ways to calm down.
My collection of candles and essential oils has tripled in the last six months. I’m more stressed than ever before, but being able to light a candle at my desk or put on a soothing scent (I’m obsessed with Little Barn Apothecary’s body oil) is a really good way to help keep myself calm all day.
Remind yourself a few times each day to loosen the jaw, remove the tongue from the corner of the mouth, lower the shoulders back, and take a deep breath. Maybe do five minutes of yoga. Your body and mind will thank you.
I am always amazed at how much stress I carry in my body, so it is also important to remind yourself a few times each day to loosen the jaw, remove the tongue from the corner of the mouth, release the shoulders back and take a deep breath. Maybe do five minutes of yoga. Your body and mind will thank you.
Turn off this camera.
I do not know about you, but the number of meetings I attend every day has increased in the last six months. With Zoom taking over the way we work, I have found it more and more exhausting to look at myself 5-7 hours a day. I have (admittedly) suffered a bit of an RBF and am constantly worried that people think I am angry while I just sit and listen to them. So I started taking breaks from the camera.
While customer meetings and brainstorms can definitely benefit from face-to-face conversations when I just listen along, I like to take a short break from worrying about how I look. It’s the little things that can make all the difference.