Unless you’ve somehow managed to craft yourself the perfect house under a rock, you probably are starting this article painfully aware of how omnipresent the phrase “work from home” has become, yet still grappling with the challenges it poses for all of us. There’s no shortage of wfh advice articles out there pushing the same (but good!) advice-- create a routine, set personal boundaries, take breaks, have a designated work from home chair, etc.-- so here are some more specific tips to work from home effectively that might help take you to the next level.

Master your to-do list

Who doesn’t love a little positive reinforcement? There are few things more satisfying than checking off a box for completing a task, so why not make it easy for yourself? 

One of the best things you can do for your productivity is put in a little effort at the beginning of the week to plan out your tasks. For each item you list, take a second to make sure it is immediately actionable. If you wanted to, could you do it right now? Or is there something you are waiting on? Is it actually a grouping of tasks? Break it down into the smallest actionable items. After you have this done, spread the tasks out across each day of the week. For the related tasks that add up to something bigger, you may want to split them up across each day to help your brain keep the momentum going and not feel too overwhelmed. 

After you’ve done this, take a look at your daily workload. Does it seem manageable to you? This may take a few weeks of practice to get right, but eventually you want to get to the point where you know yourself well enough to judge what a reasonable, balanced day should look like. 

When the tasks are small enough and listed out like this, you may find yourself having fun checking them off throughout the day! 

Here’s an example of a fully planned weekly To-Do list:

    And, now that you have this, you can start breaking out the items you want to tackle each day like this:

    If you’re interested in some tools and planners that may help you do this, here are some simple suggestions:

    Own your schedule

    We’ll keep this one short and sweet-- own your schedule to own your life. This is not to say that you have to be a time management robot--your creativity will still flow through unstructured time. But it does mean that if you have things to do, you should schedule when to actually do them. Not only will this allow your brain to lighten its task management load, but you may also find yourself with more time than you ever thought you had for the other important things in your life. 

    Our tip for scheduling? After mastering your to-do list, take 5 minutes at the end of each day to schedule out the tasks for the next day. When will you get some exercise? When will you call that friend? When will you write the first paragraph of that report? Don’t try to fill every minute-- everyone needs their unstructured time as well. Perhaps you start with just scheduling out your mornings and seeing how it goes. Even if that schedule completely gets thrown out the window the next day, your brain will get in the habit of being deliberate with your time--this practice can become truly transformative over time. After all, “it takes 20 years to make an overnight success”. 

    Find joy in your workspace

    We all have our own special place-- a childhood treehouse, a grandmother’s couch, a dimly lit corner of the library, a fresh trail in the woods--that conjures up a sense of clarity, security, and calm. These places have imprinted us with their scents, sounds, and overall feels--they are safe from the anxious undertones of our daily lives. It’s true, places make a profound indentation on our psyches and mindsets. You don’t need a scientist to tell you why so many people choose to study in libraries--which elicit a sense of focus and communal mental energy--or write in the woods--where a mind can detach from distractions and unleash its creativity. That is, it’s not so much the place itself that matters; rather, it’s the emotions that it evokes. Even if you cannot get yourself to a treasured place every day, you can do some things to trick yourself into thinking you have. First, do a little self-reflection. What inspires you? What motivates you to keep going when you’re struggling? In what environments have you worked best in the past? Set aside some time with yourself to jot down what comes to mind. From here, are there 2-3 things that you can pull from your inspirational or motivational sources that will be a good reminder for your brain? This could be a photo of your family, a saying you write on a post-it, or a plant that reminds you of a certain place. Put some real thought, care, and effort into picking a few items to personalize your workspace and consider purchasing a high quality ergonomic office chair and perhaps a sit-stand desk to keep yourself comfortable and healthy. Not only will the effort you put in make you more excited to be in that space moving forward, but you may also be surprised by how often you draw on these simple mementos for a mood boost throughout the day. 

    Finally, and perhaps most importantly, if you are not feeling it at any point throughout the day, leave your workspace. We all need breaks--they are essential to our creativity--and you don’t want to start pounding your head against a wall in a place that is supposed to evoke your most focused, productive self. If you’re not feeling that person, just get up and leave. It’s not easy--this takes discipline and is harder than just fighting thought it. But the more you brain becomes accustomed to negative feelings or squandering time in your workspace, the less likely it will work for you and your brain over time. Go when you are ready to work, and leave when you are not.  

    August 20, 2021