Let’s be honest, the past few weeks have been hectic, to say the least. Over the past two months, the world has managed to be completely stopped completely. The economy is seriously struggling, deaths are witnessed internationally, and we are observing something we may have only seen in movies before. On top of this, something else is emerging: people are working from home for the first time and experiencing how much of a struggle it can be at times.
Don’t get me wrong, I am no expert in the working-from-home department. Over the course of the previous months, I struggled to motivate myself to work from my shoebox-studio-room in London. It is quite tough to have to work where you also happen to cook, sleep, study and, well, live! However, it also forces you to work on motivating yourself and on practising discipline when to amount of motivation is enough to get you to stop procrastinating and to start working.
I can imagine that this is quite the struggle for many people who have never had to work from home before– I feel your pain! To be quite frank, one of the things that kept me motivated when I started working from home was to get out of the house. Contradictory, I know! I would work for two hours and would tell myself that only then I was allowed to get out to get a coffee. Yes, how Millennial of me! But what can I say, that was the number one thing I knew would get me to keep working.
Working from home can be seriously tough and, honestly speaking, it takes a ton of discipline. On top of this, now in the COVID times, the old habits I used to have are some of the past. So, I’ve had to completely re-vamp my routine. After a few weeks of trial and error, I was able to find something that works for me, so I thought about sharing it with you in case it might be of help.
Create a routine
Yes, I am aware that this is something everyone has been saying– that’s because it works. Creating a routine for yourself is something that will make your mornings and days that much better. However, take advantage of the fact that you are free to set up your own timetable. For example, when I first started working online, I realized that I was finally in charge of my own schedule. I could choose when I would work and when I preferred to take time off. So, sometimes I would let myself sleep in until 10 or 11 AM as long as I was ready to work later in the evening. Similarly, if I knew that I had an event on a certain evening, I would plan accordingly on that day.
Find a timetable that works for you
When I first started working online, I realized that I am at least five times as productive when I am up early in the morning. By being up at 5 AM once in a while, I get to do the things that I would usually leave behind if I was running low on time. For example, I would skip my run because I had emails to answer. By being up earlier, it’s simple: you have more time! Depending on the work you do, you may also have these hours free of notifications– on my part, it doesn’t really work like this anymore as most of my clients are overseas, thus early mornings are prime communications time. In any case, make your routine fit around your timetable. Find the time where you are the most productive and where you are the least focused and fit your tasks accordingly. You can’t focus during that last hour before dinner? Why not use that time to work out? Or, you can’t be bothered to read your university readings or to study at night? Wake up half an hour earlier in the morning and get it done then, or do them while you are doing your cardio at the gym– I promise, that actually saved me on those numerous 9 AM’s I had last term.
I can’t stress this one enough: plan your off-time. Nowadays, we are expected to be as productive as possible, all of the time. This being said, if you start your day with that mindset, you will feel guilty if you can’t focus at 6 PM anymore and decide to go on YouTube instead. Planning time off, whether this is in the form of an hour during the day or a full day during the week, is essential to avoid burnout!
Schedule it all!
Although it is thrilling to be involved in 8 projects simultaneously, it is also quite stressful. The only way that I have found works to get everything done while keeping a social life and a healthy mindset is to schedule it all. On Sunday nights, I take an hour to plan my week by the hour. I plan my workout times, my time off, and make sure to leave some slots free in case I want to see a friend (while socially distancing– yup, it’s allowed in Germany!) or if I need an extra hour to get a project done. I have a rule: once it’s on my calendar, it needs to get done. Try it out, you may end up loving it! In the end, it dramatically lowered my stress levels and made it possible for me to actually take time off without worrying about missing emails or meetings.
Check-in with your goals once in a while
It’s easy to feel like you are not accomplishing anything when you spend all day inside with your computer. Personally, when I used to study in London, I felt accomplished when I went to the gym at 6AM, then went to class for a few hours, worked on an ebook for another few, then met friends at the pub or over dinner for an hour or so (ah, the good old days!). That, however, is not possible anymore. Whereas there was something fulfilling about knowing how much I had achieved throughout the day, it really does get to one’s mind when one is stuck at one’s office the entire day. So, I set goals both daily and over longer periods of time. Every night, I create a To-Do List for the next day. Additionally, I have a list of goals that I am working on over a few months. For example, one of these is to work on my Russian skills over the summer. By setting these up and checking in on them every so often, you get to see how much you have achieved even though you may feel like you haven’t done anything at all.
On that note, that wraps up my few tips on coping with COVID-19 times. Feel free to reach out with your comments!