How To Deal With Working From Home – How To Stay Productive, Efficient and Sane


Hey everybody, welcome back. At the time of the taping of this blog post, the COVID virus is really running rampant throughout the world. A lot of people have lost their jobs. A lot of people have been furloughed. Most of the world is working from home and for a lot of the world, this is a very new thing. I’ve been working from home for five years and I’ve learned a lot in that period of time and I thought I would share with you how to deal with working from home.

You have to think about this problem in kind of a larger context. Your work world and your homeworld have historically been very separate from each other. You have a workplace that is physically distant from your home and it’s psychologically distant from your home. You have your home, which is physically distant from your workplace and in commuting between those two things, you have time to process and to move into a different psychological state from your work head to your home head and vice versa. And when we suddenly have to work at home and that workplace is suddenly in the same place as our home, it’s a Venn diagram which is very difficult to navigate.

It’s hard to separate and transition from your work head to your home head and sometimes at exactly the same moment. It’s not easy. There’s no physical distance anymore. There’s no psychological distance anymore between the workplace and the home place. It’s very easy to lose focus. There are all sorts of things that are competing for your attention. As I said, I’ve been working at home for over five years and after coming out of big corporate and big agency world, working at home was a real shock to my system and it was not a smooth transition.

I’m an introvert and I’m very comfortable with being alone, but after being in my home office for a number of months, I started to go really stir crazy and moved into a coworking environment. But in that period of time where I was working from home, I learned a lot of things and I thought I would share some of those things with you. It’s very easy to feel isolated when you’re working from home if you are living alone. But if you’re living with your family, with kids, with possibly elderly parents, it can be a very kind of active and busy environment to be in to try to get work done.

The first thing that you want to do is you want to try to carve out a physical space to work. Now, hopefully, you have an office or a bedroom that you could go into and work in and close the door. You want to have some physical distance between you and the rest of the house or the household. The other thing you want to do is you want to create some auditory distance between you and the rest of the house. And this is where headphones are your best friend. Closed ear headphones are your best friend.

If you’ve worked in an agency or a corporate marketing environment, you know that a lot of creative professionals wear headphones because they’re distracted by the open office environment, which has become very prevalent these days. And so, people have a tendency to go into their own world with some closed-ear headphones in order to concentrate and get work done. You can use that method at home and I would highly recommend you doing that.

The next thing you want to do is you want to make sure that you’re carving out time. Now when you’re in the work environment, you may have a nine to five, nine to six, nine to eight, whatever the intensity of your work is. But when you’re home it’s a lot harder to kind of carve out those specific and constant hours in order to get your work done. You may find, and some of my friends and colleagues I’ve been talking to recently are having to homeschool kids in the middle of this virus outbreak and they’re having to put in four or five hours schooling their children and that is breaking up their usual work times pretty significantly.

Lots of them are getting up very early in the morning to get a number of hours in and then working into the evening. So, you have to figure out how you’re going to carve out time to accommodate what you need to get done for work, but also how to deal with that confluence of work and home and your responsibilities there. So you want to be very conscious about how you are carving out time.

The next thing that you want to do, and this is a really important one, are you want to make sure that you’re over-communicating with the other people in your household. This was not a planned transition. This happened for most people over a period of just days where they went from working in a workplace to working at home, and it was a shock to the system, to them and to their family and their children and their parents who might be living with them. So you want to make sure that you’re over-communicating your needs as a worker in the home that you’re going to need to carve out space. You’re going to need to carve out time.

You’re going to need to adjust your schedule and you’re going to work as hard as you can to try to meet your family’s needs. But by the same token, they have to support you to help you meet your work needs. So you want to make sure that those communication lines are open and you’re being very direct and caring, but also serious about what it is that you’re going to need to accomplish your work.

Now, as you are carving out that space, you also want to make sure that you’re setting up the space. You want to make sure that you’re moving away all of the home things and home distractions and trying to make it as much of a clean workspace as you can so you don’t have visual distractions that are going to keep you from concentrating on your work. You want to make sure that you’re simplifying that space so you’re getting and putting around you exactly what it is that you need. You also want to try to limit distractions, and as I said before, closed-ear headphones are your best friend. But there’s other things you can do too. You can also turn off desktop notifications so you’re not getting a lot of things popping up on your screen and distracting you from your work.

You also might want to plan on checking email maybe two or three times a day. I check email in the morning, noon, and the afternoon and I let most of my business partners know that that’s what I do so they’re not expecting a two-second response from me. It enables me to stay focused on my work and be the most productive that I can be. You also might want to make yourself a promise that you’re not going to check the news every five seconds. I know that it’s really hard to do in this COVID-19 environment, but it’s going to be better for your mental health and it’s also going to help you keep focused on your work.

The next thing I want to talk about is tracking time. I was just talking to another colleague about this and they were saying that they get very distracted during the day and the time of the day just seems to disappear and they don’t even know at the end of the day what it was that they did. And so, there are a couple of ways that you can approach this. One is that you can schedule out your day on Google Calendar, whatever calendar program you use. An hour or half-hour kind of segments, plan out everything that you’re going to do and try to follow that schedule to the best of your ability.

The other thing you can do, instead of trying to schedule out your day, you can track your day. So, no matter what it is that you’re doing, and you may be moving from one thing to another depending on the type of work that you do, you may not be able to be so planful about your schedule. But the thing you can do is track the time that you spend. So at the end of every hour, you might want to use a tool like Toggle or some other free time tracking tool where you could actually kind of just capture what it is that you did in that period of time so at the end of the day you have a better idea of how you spent your day and you don’t feel as out of control in this new kind of working dynamic.

Another thing I suggest working at home is that you take breaks. You want to get up from your desk and you want to take a 10-minute break every hour. It sounds counterintuitive, but when you do this, you actually stay more productive because you’re giving your mind breaks from that flow that you’re in and it helps you refocus with greater intensity when you go back to work. It’s also good for yourself physically to get up and move around for your circulation of the air in your brain. Get out, walk around the block a couple of times. Just stand up, do a little stretch, little calisthenics.

You might want to get a standing desk. You could use milk crates or cardboard boxes as a standing desk. There’s a great standing desk platform that I actually use to hold my laptop and my speaking notes when I do videos made by Samson, which is super cheap, super strong, and it’s amazing. It goes high enough to use actually as a standing desk. I’ll put a link for it in the description of this video.

And finally, you want to make sure that you’re being kind to yourself. This was not a planned transition. COVID-19 upset everybody’s life. Making the transition from having a separate, physical, psychological work world and homeworld and the convergence of those two things is a very difficult transition to make. It’s difficult for you as the worker, it’s difficult for your family and your children and possibly your parents in having you in the house all the time. It’s going to take patience and it’s going to take practice. So be kind to yourself and you’ll be able to make the transition over time.

I hope you like this blog post on how you can work better at home. And if you did, please hit subscribe below so you can see my videos when they come out and visit me at philipvandusen.com. If you need help with your personal brand, your brand strategy, your brand design, reach out to me and let’s see what we can do to take you to the next level. And with that, thanks again for watching and bye for now.