Friday, April 10, 2020

Tips on Working from home

The Little Magpie Tips on Working from home
Hey fellas! I was trying to think of things that people might like to see at the moment (other than Sweet Pea the sheep, who I look at at least twice a day) and thought a post on working from home could be quite helpful? I've far from mastered the art but I've been fortunate enough to be able to do it for the last six years or so, so I thought I'd share some tips that have helped me along the way. One thing I would like to say before I get into the nitty gritty is that, although these tips are intended to help you whilst you're in the zone, please don't put too much pressure on yourself. We're currently in the midst of a very strange and surreal situation, so lean into how you're feeling each day - if you're not feeling it, then listen to your mind and body and don't force it. Yesterday I felt like a human bag of sand so I took the day off, put my phone in another room and spent it reading Marian Keyes and feel so, so much better for it. Both Matt Haig and Marian Keyes herself have summed it up perfectly on their Instagrams (the magical wordsmiths they are) but, the bottom line is, just do what feels right that day and, as easy as social media makes it for us, try not to compare yourself with what anyone else is doing or with anyone else's productivity levels.

So, without further ado, here are a few things that help me when I'm working from home: 

  • Shower and get dressed! The temptation to stay in jammies is strong, I know, but it'll work wonders for your mindset if you shower and get your little butt in some clothes. It doesn't have to be smart clothes - just something that's different to what you sleep/relax in. I tend to wear minimal to no make up if I'm working from home, but I do know that some people feel a lot more productive when they wear their usual day to day make-up and hair, so have a bit of an experiment and see what works best for you!
  • Don't force it. Look for patterns forming in when you're most productive (for me that tends to be in the evening) and schedule your bigger tasks in for then. Then schedule less demanding tasks - emails, inputting expenses, googling photos of Harry Styles - for the rest of the day. One of the biggest perks of being able to work from home is that, generally speaking, you can decide your own schedule so, if you'd rather exercise or do errands in the morning and finish work a little later, or on the flipside start at 6am and finish earlier in the day, the choice is yours! It's all about finding what works for you.
  •  However: set rough working hours and stick to them. In my first few years of blogging I had a terrible habit of starting work at 7am and working right through until 1am which, who'd-a thunk it, does not do wonders for your mental health, your social life. your sleep quality or your relationship. Or your posture, for that matter: I am now a human banana. When there's no set 'hometime' it's very, very easy to keep working through and think 'I'll just finish one more task' and, before you know it, it's 9pm and you still haven't had dinner. Set working hours - whatever times work best for you - work efficiently within those hours and make sure you finish with a good chunk of time left to unwind. Close your laptop and cook, watch tv, listen to a podcast, do a yoga class... free your evening (and hopefully your mind) from work.
  •  To do list. I honestly couldn't live without mine. Decide whether a daily or weekly one works best and group the most important, pressing tasks together at the top and then list the smaller, less urgent tasks after that. You'll find once you've ticked off a bigger task you'll feel a lot more productive and your 'I got this!' levels will spike; I'm terrible for putting tasks off until they become big looming monsters in the corner and then, when I finally have to tackle them, realise they weren't so bad at all and I'd just given myself a whole lot of mental grief for nothing. Make sure to keep domestic chores - buy washing up liquid, hoover under the bed, do the dishes - on a separate list so that you don't overwhelm yourself. I also used to write every single thing I had to do on my to do list - the special wave of joy you get from crossing something off got a bit addictive - but I found it actually had a negative effect on my productivity if there were so many things on there that it looked unmanageable, so the things I know I need to do day in day out (ie emails) I no longer put on the list and I group formerly separate tasks like 'shoot blog photos, edit photos, write text' into the simple 'write blog post'. It can be hard working from home with no appraisals, no performance reviews, no one saying 'well done' so make sure to take the time to say it to yourself when you finish a deadline or tick off a particularly large task.
  •  Get up and have a little stretch or walk around every 15 minutes. This is something I'm very, very bad at (you know when you lose yourself in a task and two hours later you've somehow assumed Golum stance over your laptop and haven't moved?) so it's worth setting an alarm to go off on your phone until you get into the habit.
  • Keep moving! Normally I like to break my day up with a walk, some PT or a pilates class. Obviously this isn't feasible at the moment but there are lots of ways around it! There are some really great Youtube channels where you can do yoga/pilates/HIIT etc at home (ie The Body Coach and Boho Beautiful) and I've also seen some people, like Psycle London, now taking classes from home via Instagram live so that you can still feel like a part of a community. It's very easy (and inviting) to fall into the trap of sitting at a laptop all day before shimmying straight over to the couch for an evening of Netflix but try to get active at least once a day, even if just for a short 20 minute period.
  •  Put your phone in another room. Boy oh boy have I learned this the hard way - it was only once it was there I realised how often my hand subconsciously reached for it. If you can't have your phone in a separate room (say you need to have it on you for work calls or texts) then at least put it over on a worktop where you can't easily reach for it. You'll realise in no time how much more productive you are without the temptation to scroll right beside you!
  • Make sure to keep contact with the outside world. There'd be times I'd go to PT at 8pm in the evening after a day of working from home, talk at a million miles an hour to Andy for him to slowly go 'have you...spoken to anyone today?' and I realised I literally hadn't said another word out-loud to someone since the previous day. So schedule in a wee call/facetime/skype with a friend, family member or colleague, choose a voice note over a text where you can, and also keep an eye on online support groups for people working at home who're going through the same thing.
  • Try not to be tempted to do chores during your working day that you wouldn't be able to do if you were out at an office. I'm really bad for thinking 'I'll just put on a wee washing, I'll just clean the bathroom..,' but it eats into your working day and will also break your concentration and make your day feel a bit in-limbo. I've found the most productive way to take advantage of working from home when it comes to housework is, if workload allows, take a half day on a Friday for an afternoon of cleaning and tidying so that you're done and ready for the weekend arriving. 
  • Try keep your workspace separate from the rest of the flat. If you're fortunate enough to have a spare room or an office that you can work in and then close the door on at the end of the day then fantastico! But I know a lot of people aren't that fortunate - I used to work wherever I felt like on the day (from bed in the morning, from the sofa in the afternoon) but found that the whole flat started to remind me of work and that stress was bleeding into places it shouldn't, so now I use the kitchen table as my 'office'. Then in the evenings we'll cook, light some candles in the living room and head though to there to eat. Everyone's different and some people find a change of scenery motivates them but I personally found our flat to be that little bit more harmonious and peaceful once I'd separated it into different areas.
  • This one you're welcome to groan at how cringey it sounds but, if you're in in a bit of a groove and struggling to motivate yourself, blast some tunes and have a dance or a sing in the kitchen (Johnny Cash and Kiss have been my go-to's this week); 9 times out of 10 it'll do the trick. 
  • My achilles heel... DON'T CHECK THE FRIDGE EVERY 10 MINUTES. I can promise you there's nothing new in there since the last time you checked. But, then again...

And that's everything I can think of at the moment! If you have any more of your own please do leave them in the comment box below for other people to read (and for me to learn from too) as I'm sure there's a lot of people in the same boat at the moment!

Take care fellas x