7 Helpful habits for forced remote work
Most of us are stuck at home, and for good reason.
Most of us are stuck at home, and for good reason.
The world’s gone mad.
The grocery store looks like a doctor’s office. Many sectors of the economy have all but shut down. The overall mood is one of fear and uncertainty.
If you are fortunate enough to have your health and your job, it’s probably been moved to your house.
Remote work is often seen as a perk, which I absolutely believe it can be. But it’s far from a natural transition from our daily life at the office.
Rather than battling other drivers on your morning commute, you’re battling your own internal demons.
You have to actually do the work you said you would without the comforting (though at one time annoying) social interactions with your colleagues.
You are probably coming to find that your once dreaded commute and conversations with Jon (who only talks about football even though you’ve told him repeatedly that you do not care about the sport) are much easier to deal with than your distraction prone imperfect self.
This is normal.
We have imperfect habits, weird quirks, and internal dialogues that we usually hide in our office due to social embarrassment and a worry that the boss is watching your screen; which has somehow landed on a Pinterest board of taxidermy mice in Barbie houses.
Pinterest board I ended up on: Funny Taxidermy
But we can learn to work from home and even do it enjoyably and effectively with other potential benefits. All we have to do is put in place some helpful habits.
Habit 1: turn your morning commute into a morning workout
Acro yoga with an unwilling partner. Photo by author and Here.
The hardest thing for me to do when I started working from home was get out of bed. It is also the hardest thing I have to do when I’m not working from home…but that’s another story. This is even harder when you are your own boss.
The best way that I have found to get around this is to get up at the same time regardless of whether I have to drive to work or just go into the other room.
You’re already into the habit of getting up at 7AM and spending 30 minutes driving into the office. Get up at the same time and spend those 30 minutes on a youtube yoga, pilates, or whatever floats your boat.
I’ve got a set of gymnastics rings set up from a banister in my basement, 30 minutes on those and I feel like I’m getting a better workout than the gym that has been shut down, re opened and shut down again due to COVID.
Habit 2: Turn your home office into a home gym
Maybe your morning commute isn’t enough of a work out or maybe you don’t want to get up at the same time you normally would…no judgement here.
The best habit I have developed for keeping fit and focused throughout the day is taking mini breaks to do a set of a predetermined exercise and then logging my progress.
How many squats could you do in a day if you did 10–20 every time you got up to use the bathroom? My answer is currently 100, which is both making me more fit and causing me to question my coffee consumption.
I divide my week as follows:
In-office workout routine. infographic by author.
My favorite tool for this is a door mounted pull up bar. They’re cheap, they’re effective, they don’t get in the way, and you literally have to step over it or under it when you leave the room (which is a great motivator to do a pull up or ten). I like the kind that you can pull off the wall that doubles as a way to do dips, L-sits, and pushups.
But honestly if 5 unweighted squats will do it for you go for it. A little goes a long way.
Fitness is a habit, not a state of being.
Habit 3: Time everything
I have been writing this article for 1 hour 11 minutes and 33 seconds.
I spent 5 hours and 1 second on this article, I budgeted one hour… a good chunk of those was spent trying to find pull up icons… 🤷🏻♂️ Screenshot by author
That probably seems like miscellaneous information to you, but for me it’s great! I know how long I should expect to take the next time I sit down to write an article.
Most of us are terrible at predicting how long work will take.
We cram our days with ambitious plans of what we expect we will be able to do. Then we find ourselves at noon with half of the first task on our to-do list done and 4 more equally large tasks to go.
This is not productive, and you feel like crap at the end of the day when you think you’ve got nothing done.
Timing your tasks allows you to see how long it takes you in practice, to complete your daily tasks.
Timing is even more important when you are remote because you are being held accountable for the work you produce, not your time in the office.
I use toggl to track, but use what you’ll actually commit to. It took me about 2 weeks before I built this habit, and there were many a time when I forgot to turn it off and it looked like I had spent 17 hours wire-framing or whatever it was I was doing that day.
Habit 4: Plan and review your day and break down your tasks
EVO Planner, photo by author
I always planned my day, usually poorly, but I tried. But I never reviewed the day.
This is hilariously inefficient.
How would I know if I learned anything? How would I prevent myself from making the same mistakes? How would I improve in my career or whatever my goal was?
Lord knows I don’t remember what happened yesterday, for me it has to be written down or it didn’t happen.
Planning is even more important when you are remote because it’s so much easier to get side tracked, but as I mentioned above, most of us plan poorly.
This is because we overestimate our efficiency and we do not break our tasks down as much as we should.
When you break down your tasks into very clear and manageable chunks you get the satisfaction of checking things off your to-do list more quickly and you solidify a path for completing bigger tasks.
This increases your motivation to keep going and allows you to complete a task more quickly because you know exactly what you need to do to check the next box.
Here’s an example:
Last week I was working on my portfolio for a couple of projects I just finished. As I am sometimes terrible at taking my own advice, my to-do list on Monday was the following:
- Update portfolio
Needless to say, I did not get that done.
Tuesday was a little better:
- Update project one
- Start project 2
I also did not get either of those done.
Wednesday, I was complaining to my mom about how I didn’t feel like I was making any progress. My mom told me to break down my tasks further, and because I’ve accepted that my mother is always right, I did.
Here were Wednesday’s tasks:
- Create a template for project brief
- Pull together research for project 1 (P1)
- Create sections for P1
- Write P1
- Screenshot pictures P1
- Create icons P1
- Create mockups P1
My to-do list went from 1 to 7 items, but I completed all 7 in addition to a webinar, a bartending class, and a nap. Which brings me to my next point.
Habit 5: Nap
Not much to this one, but it will increase your productivity in the afternoon like you wouldn’t believe. Try searching bio neural beats on youtube if you struggle falling asleep. Do it for 20 minutes or so, wake up with some tea ready to hit the ground running.
Habit 6: Go outside
I do not have the link for the eggs in the photo. I am sorry. Photo by author.
If you can. Take your laptop. You’re working from anywhere, you might as well take advantage of it.
Habit 7: Take a shower
Seriously, your roommates… or cat will thank you.
This will be the most contested item on the list so consider yourself warned.
We have this idea that working from home means I get to sleep in late and work in my pajamas.
This works great for the first week.
Then you notice your energy level going down. You feel low. The days start running together and your clothes are itchy because you’ve been wearing the same baggy sweatshirt for the last 3 days.
I’m not saying that you have to wear a suit to go into the other room, but keep your morning routine just as you would if you were commuting to work.
We like routines, we like habits, they provide us with structure and guidance.
Your work is still just as important, it’s just happening in a different setting. Treat it as such by showing up as you would anywhere else, comfortable but refreshed and ready.
In all honesty….
Expect down days.
I love working remotely because of the freedom it has given me in where I can live. I spent a year in South America, learned two languages and made great friends all because I worked a remote position.
Now, I like that I don’t have to spend two hours commuting every day. I have more energy to spend with my wife and family that’s not wasted in traffic.
The highs are higher and the lows are lower. On some days, I am hugely productive. On others, I struggle to get out of bed.
These lows are muted for me when I’m in an office setting with my physical team around me. When I’m not feeling up to par I’ll grab a coworker and go play some ping pong or go out to lunch.
So, some days being remote is hard. For me, it usually falls on a Thursday… I don’t know why.
Now I expect it, and plan for it.
I’m easy on myself. I do the things on my to-do list that make me happy in the beginning of the day so I can have early wins and get into the flow of things. I also schedule meetings with people I like to lift my spirits.
Habit tips for me?
Hopefully one of these habit tips makes working from home easier. Maybe you have other ideas, I’d love to hear them. Leave them in the comments. Thanks for reading!
Learner 🎓 Experimenter 🥽 UX designer 👨🎨 / learning designer🦉 Discovering lifehacks while 😆 at and sharing my 🤦🏻♂️🤷🏻♂️