Maintain a schedule and designate working time and life time.
During office hours, you work; during break time, you live. When you do this, it helps you from being distracted by regular life matters when you’re supposed to be working. For instance, you might be frustrated by a work issue and get up to take a quick break, then you think it would be a good time to do a quick load of laundry, maybe wash some dishes, call a friend — and suddenly you’ve missed a deadline. If you designate work and life times, you can better maintain focus. This is more challenging for parents who have school-age children, but you can try.
Maintain work hours.
Unless your work requires that you start early, resist the temptation to do so. Just because you’re already at your home office — and your commute is 20 feet instead of 20 miles — doesn’t mean you need to check your email before you’ve had your cup of coffee. If your job at the office was a 9-to-5 one, try to maintain those hours. Or look into adjusting them earlier or later, if that better suits you. The key is to try to make sure you honor your personal life time.
Make good use of the commute-free time.
Bonus: you can use what would have been your commute time for personal life time. Try to use the time for something good, whether that’s more R&R time to manage stress, school-free activities with your kids, or a fun project you’ve been wanting to start.
Have a regular and comfortable work station.
Even if you don’t have an actual office in your home, you can carve out a space or two for working. Resist the temptation to work in your bedroom (unless that is your only option). Keeping certain areas as work-free, comfortable living spaces helps you set boundaries. If you can, make sure your working station is ergonomic.
Beware the lure of the couch.
If one of your breaks involves watching TV, go for it. But you can be more productive when you work at a table or desk and keep the couch for personal time. Plus, slouching on the couch for long periods with a laptop could result in back and neck pain.
Take a proper lunch break.
This means putting the phone down and stepping away from your computer. Resist the temptation to multitask during lunch. Make your lunch hour simply about enjoying your lunch — and free time from work. If you can, get outside.
Make time for morning and afternoon breaks.
Again, this means putting the phone down and stepping away from your computer. Put your breaks on your calendar as blocked-out busy times, and set alerts to remind you to step away and unwind for 10 minutes or so. Consider making one break a quiet, mindful one. You could read, play nature sounds on your phone or computer, or meditate (if you’re new to meditation, you can try a meditation app, such as Calm or InsightTimer).
Create ways to stay connected.
When you can, make phone calls into video calls. We need face-to-face connection more than we realize. If you live alone, make sure you talk to at least two people per day. That means using your voice; texting is convenient, but talking can make you feel more connected. Consider making virtual lunch dates with friends or walk-and-talk catch-up calls.
Find ways to fight neighborhood or household distractions.
Distracted by the sounds of the gardener outside, a neighbor playing loud music, or a member of your household on a conference call? Play nature sounds or white noise on your computer and consider using headphones.
Use your break time to get some fresh air and exposure to nature (it’s good for your mental health!). Walk around the block, stretch in your backyard, work in your garden, or just sit.
Set clear boundaries with other members of your household.
Working at home with a partner, roommate or children? Have clear boundaries. Share your work/life schedule with them so you can be respectful of time. Ask, “Are you available to talk now?” before entering their space and launching into a conversation. This is more challenging for parents who have school-age children, but you can try.
Drink plenty of water and healthy beverages.
Drinking water, herbal teas or other healthy beverages throughout the day helps keep you hydrated and also necessitates trips to the restroom often, which allows you to stretch.
Get ready for work, as though you were going into an office.
Wear what you want, but showering and getting dressed for work can help you feel ready to get started. You might be tempted to work in your pajamas, but then you might also feel tempted to curl up on the couch and watch the next episode of the Netflix show you’re binge-watching. Of course, you want to be comfortable and we know the Zoom uniform of work attire on top and athleisure on the bottom is just that.
Be kind to yourself.
What we are experiencing is challenging for all of us. Do the best you can, knowing that we are in this together and there is help for those who are feeling stressed having trouble coping. (Check out our tips on maintaining mental health.)