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How To Stay Sane (And Productive) When Working From Home

I consider myself truly blessed. I’m one of the lucky ones who CAN work from home. I’ve been doing it for about five years now and have come to love it.

However, I know many around the world today are not able to bring their work home and are suffering from lost wages and jobs. It’s a tough time.

So if you’re one of the lucky ones, take a minute to give thanks - and then get to work on setting up a space in your home that helps you be productive and stay sane! Yes, that could be a challenge: you might be suddenly sharing your home all day every day with a partner and/or kids. Oh boy!

Even if you have your house to yourself, making the sudden switch to working full-time at home and staying focused on work can be tricky. So….

Here are my best tips to help you survive the chaos and work productively from home:

how to stay sane while working from home

Create a proper work space.

Your home might not be set up already to work from home, and that uncomfortable dining table chair isn’t gonna cut it for long. You might have to move some furniture around and re-purpose some spaces so that you and your partner and your kids can all have places to focus. I bet you didn’t know how loud both you and your spouse talk when on conference calls!

Try out different configurations until you find something that works for your family at this given time. Nobody will be coming to visit for a while so don’t worry what it looks like!

Some ideas when space is tight:

  • Take over an unused corner in the bedroom and move a small table or desk there.

  • Haul a big comfortable lounge chair with a straight back from the living room to a room where you can shut the door. Use a hard surface (a board or a long serving platter?) to balance over the arms of the chair as a spot to put your laptop on.

  • Clear out a closet that doesn’t get a lot of use and set it up as your new “office”.

  • Make room in the awkward space under the stairs.

  • Use a dresser that’s at the right height for typing as a stand-up desk (like I did here).

  • Install a shelf on brackets under a window ledge - it should be just wide enough to hold your laptop.

  • Find a space on the floor where you could throw an over-sized cushion or meditation pillow, sit with your back against the wall so you’re posture will be good, and place a crate in front of you as a makeshift desk that your laptop can sit on.

  • If you use your bed, make sure you’re sitting up straight and have a hard tray or something to put your laptop on.

Have good lighting.

There's nothing that affects our energy levels more than sunlight. Numerous studies have shown a dramatic difference in happiness, stress levels and productivity when in an environment with ample natural light.

  • Try to create your workspace in a spot with the most natural daylight as possible.

  • Keep windows clean and free from dark curtains and blinds. 

  • If you don’t have a window space available, add a table or floor lamp with a white daylight LED bulb.

Clear clutter.

When you clear away clutter, you’ll gain clarity and focus. Having toys and stacks of papers and laundry all around you as work will subtly pull your attention toward other things you think you “should” do or “need” to do. Clearing your space is extremely energizing and you’ll get an instant productivity boost.

  • Clear out the space you’ll be working in by taking all the current clutter and spreading it out on the floor.

  • Put away anything that has a home.

  • Decide to donate things you don’t love any longer or that you don’t use on a regular basis. Put them in a donation box that you can keep in a garage or basement or closet until you can get to a donation centre later on.

  • Stack away things like papers, bills, etc. that you’ll need to go through later in a basket or bag and put them away in a closet or drawer for now. Check out this post on how to eliminate paper clutter for good.

  • Examine what’s left. Do you really need it or love it? Then take 15 minutes to find a home for it where it can permanently live.

Set your working hours.

Make sure everyone knows what hours you are working and unavailable. Once this new schedule for your family is set, everyone will soon get used to it and settle in.

Setting hours works for you too - it’s all to easy to get sucked into going back to your computer at night because it’s right there. Turn it off at the end of your work day - your sanity (and your loved ones) need you!

  • Post your hours on the fridge or on an office door so everyone in the house knows when you’re unavailable.

  • For extra measure, create a “Do Not Disturb” sign to post on the door or your carved-out corner when you’ll be on a Zoom meeting or conference call or deep into a high-intensity project.

  • Make sure to account for breaks in the day. Set a time in the schedule for everyone to eat breakfast and lunch together, or to take time out for coffee and a walk.

Suit up.

Ok, you don’t have to put on a suit, but do make sure to get dressed. Stick to your normal routine of getting up at the same time, showering and getting ready for work. Fix yourself up enough so that if you have a last-minute Zoom call with a colleague you wouldn’t be embarrassed to be on camera. Also, it’s just waaay too easy to slack off when you’re in your pj’s all day.

Remove distractions.

Constant noise and distractions can create stress without us even realizing it.

  • Turn off your phone and email ringers and sound notifications so you aren't constantly distracted.

  • Remove social media apps from your phone entirely and don’t keep social media tabs open on your computer while working.

  • Drown out noise from your housemates by wearing noise-blocking headphones.

  • Set up a classical or instrumental music playlist without lyrics on Spotify or Brain.fm to use while doing tasks that don't require heavy mental concentration.

how to stay sane and productive working from home

Encourage good health.

  • Move a plant to your work space to freshen the air and connect you with nature. A plant on your desk can lower stress by as much as 12%!

  • Use essential oils to clean the air and purify it for better concentration - use a misting diffuser or DIY your own. Peppermint, lemon, cinnamon and rosemary are all good for productivity.

  • Take lots of breaks. Get up and stretch, and get outside into the sunshine as much as possible. Walk outside if you can.

  • Do some deep breathing to reduce stress. Try this instant stress-buster from Wim Hof. I love that guy!

Maybe the best piece of advice is this: do what works best for you! These are unprecedented times and we all need to give ourselves the grace we need to get through them in the best way we can. Be gentle, be patient, try to stay off social media as much as possible and get lots of sleep.

Stay sane and healthy friends!

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