How to Start Your Workday Successfully When Working From Home
The other day, I sat down to work in my home office, well-rested and enthusiastic about the workday ahead, a cup of coffee on my desk, and rays of sunlight beaming through the window shades.
The moment I laid my fingers on the keyboard, my phone beeped (I forgot to put it on silent mode), and I rushed to check the message. I ended up spending 30 minutes corresponding with a friend I hadn’t spoken to in a long while.
Back to the keyboard, and my daughter just got up and she was already asking for breakfast. Having that sorted out, I sat down again and realized I had spent an hour without making any progress on the task I was supposed to be working on.
Does this sound familiar? Whether you’ve made your career working from home, or you joined the millions forced to figure out this whole “working at home” stuff while stuck indoors, you must have had a similar episode.
It begs the question — how do you avoid kicking off your workday in this way? How do you get to the point when your productivity doesn’t depend on outside factors which sway you off balance the very instant you want to get the work done?
Your Workday Starts the Day Before
Your morning routine will depend on what you did the night before, and that includes making a list of priorities for the day ahead.
I usually define 2 primary goals/tasks for the day that will have the most impact on my personal or professional life.
A priority list has a great impact on how we manage our time, and when you work remotely, it can be of tremendous help. If you don’t make a list of what needs to be done in the period ahead, you may face a dilemma about what to do first.
Though it’s easy to think everything is equally important, there has to be something that requires your immediate attention. Deal with such tasks first, even when they are tedious and monotonous.
Now, whatever you do with the rest of your day, you’ll already feel great about what you’ve achieved.
Sleep is your best ally
The amount of sleep you get during the night will dictate how productive you are the next morning.
Time and time again, experts and scientists remind us that quality sleep is one of the pivotal contributors to a healthy brain function. In fact, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society confirmed that “sleeping less than seven hours per night is […] associated with impaired immune function, increased pain, impaired performance, increased errors, and greater risk of accidents.”
Set the Exact Time You Start Working
It doesn’t matter if you prefer to start your workday early in the morning, late in the afternoon, or even after the sun goes down — the time you set as the beginning of your workday should be the time you actually start working.
Don’t procrastinate, because every act of procrastination leads to imbalance, and your work will only pile up, causing perpetual agony.
Ideally, your workday should start around the same time every day. Although that’s not always possible, at least make an effort to get started around the same time every day.
Your “internal clock” (also called the circadian rhythm), dictates your physiological processes, including the time of day when you feel most energized or otherwise drowsy. When you have a routine, your internal clock ticks smoothly without disturbances. Conversely, when you have an erratic daily grind, chances are that your productivity will suffer along with your mood and dietary habits.
When working from home, you are your own manager, and that means you get to decide when to have breaks, too. Use this freedom to your advantage. At the start of each working day or the night before, decide when to have breaks.
Have Some Routine Activities
If you’re an early bird or your job requires that you start working in the morning, there are pitfalls you need to avoid if you want to reach full productivity right away.
First of all, do not start the day with your email. Nothing that’s in your inbox is so urgent that it can’t wait until you’re done with your most important tasks of the day.
If you sit down to work the instant you open your eyes, it will take some time for your brain and your body to properly wake up, and you can’t expect any real productivity. Make yourself a cup of coffee or tea, have breakfast, and go for a run or a walk. You should be well-energized at that point, which is a perfect time to roll up your sleeves and get to work.
Minimize the Distracting Factors
When working from home, the list of things that may divert your attention from work is rather long — the dishes, the unmade bed, your dog, your kids, your neighbors, house chores, and so on. Even your phone is a potential distraction, so make sure you put it on silent mode; otherwise, you will be picking it up every now and then to check the notifications. Better yet, place your phone in another room.
Unless you live alone, chances are that your roommates or your family will want to strike up a conversation at some point. Such instances can be highly detrimental to your productivity. For this reason, you have to make an agreement with them, highlighting the importance of your time and space allocated for work.
Make sure they treat your space as a sacred “Do Not Disturb” zone. In my house, when my door is closed, it means nobody comes in unless it’s an emergency. If the door is open, they can come in and chat.
Find some rules that work for your family and stick to them.
Take Advantage of the Situation
It’s easy to forget what a privilege it is to work from home. Perhaps the most important thing we need to do before we start working is to let that idea sink in for a few moments.
In the morning, savor the fact that you have a whole day ahead with no boss watching every move you make, no colleagues wanting to ask you stupid questions.
You are the king of your castle. Now, you can start the workday with no panic or distress.