It’s been more than a year since the pandemic started and at this point, we should have a routine that we stick to. But this is not everyone’s reality. I myself am still struggling to get my bearings sometimes. There are days that I still find it difficult to do all the things that I need to do as a single mom and a remote worker.
Most people think that working remotely has more advantages and disadvantages. This could be why according to the Latest Workplace Survey, the number of people working from home is steadily increasing to up to 173% since 2005. That’s a lot!
The truth is, it's more difficult. Being side-tracked and distracted by the piles of laundry, notifications that ping even while you’re asleep, and kids that are too rowdy for their own good seems to be the norm now. If you are a single mom like me, you know the struggle.
That is why after folding all the clean sheets that I’ve been ignoring for three days, I finally decided to do something about controlling the distractions, both in my house and in my mind. And where else to go but to Google?
So I did the research and looked for some effective tips. I test drove a few of them until I found a few ones that stuck. Maybe it will work for you too!
Create and stick to a schedule
After years of working in the corporate world, most of us have developed a routine, whether consciously or unconsciously. We wake up, take a shower, grab breakfast, and do the commute (or drive to work if you have a car). Work-at-home setups threw all of that out the window. Working remotely doesn’t mean an excuse not to create a routine. For one, it helps get you in the groove to work. So if you already have one when you were still working in the office, stick to it and do it even though you’re working at home.
Seasoned telecommuters swear by it too. Research showed that having a set of things to do as soon as you wake up makes them feel refreshed and ready to start the day.
It’s easy to think that remote work includes working on your sweatpants while lounging on the couch or on the bed with a coffee in hand. But in reality, it only signals your brain to relax. A couch or a bed sends a message to your brain that you are in a place of relaxation, not working.
So go and shower, get dressed, put on makeup, and get to work! Working from home actually gives you the opportunity to try on makeup looks you would like to try out (although make sure that you won’t have a video call within the day to do this or you might distract your colleagues or boss!) and outfits you want to test drive. Nobody will look at you for long, anyway!
Make a schedule for the day
As a quote in Spiderman says: ”With great power comes great responsibility.” Same thing with remote work. It gives you more freedom to plan things out for yourself, like taking the time to decide for breakfast, tackling a household chore you’ve been putting off yesterday, or spending a small morning chit-chat with your kids. If your boss allows, you can even set the time you want to work.
But with this level of freedom comes a great deal of responsibility. With so many distractions, your to-do list can pile up real quick. That’s why you need to plan your work on the chunks of your day where you are enthusiastic to do them. Studies show that a shorter, high-intensity workday is the best time to work on your tasks that require tons of your brainpower.
If you can, send it to your colleagues so that they would know when NOT to distract you. Of course, you must inform your boss about this, as he or she should be able to contact you from time to time. Decide on a working time that would overlap yours with his or hers. Schedule meetings and phone calls during that time frame.
Now that you have a routine and a schedule, it’s time to refine it. When there are so many tasks to tackle, it can be difficult to list which one should hold the most of your
attention and which ones can be put on the back burner, at least for the time being. You must learn which task you must prioritize.
Learn to say “No.”
One way to set boundaries between your work and at home (even if they share the same space) is to have the discipline to say No. I know it’s hard, especially if you easily get bothered with the envelope icon in your notifications tab. But you have to if you want to keep your sanity intact.
It’s relatively easy to bring work with you especially if you just work ten steps away from the bed. That is why you have to learn to stop and take a rain check. Once you are done with the 8-hour workday required of you, turn off the computer, mute the email notifications, and wish your colleagues and boss a good night AND firmly ask them not to disturb you until the next workday.
Why is it important to set boundaries for yourself? Not only does it help you separate work and personal life even within the confined spaces of your home. It also decreases your risk of burnout. You know that feeling, right? I am very certain no one wants to feel that ever again.
Keep distractions at a minimum
Unlike in the office, your home is filled with distractions. Instead of colleagues whispering to your ear about the latest gossip (which is easier to tune out now), you have kids that need attention and care sometimes. And now that we are in a pandemic, they are doing school remotely, too.
To keep me from getting absorbed fully by a distraction, I started to recognize the signs of when I’m starting to. It usually starts with me zoning out as I stare at a web page or document, then clicking to a different tab for “a change of scenery.” That's when I know I am out of my flow.
What I do is I keep a notepad nearby. When a random, non-work-related thought or idea pops into my head, I write it down to deal with later. It’s usually filled with household-related tasks such as doing a quick run at the grocery store, thawing the chicken for dinner, and so on. Once I take a break, I tackle the list immediately.
Take “Me!” time.
Last but not the least, allot some time where your only focus is yourself. People today call it “self-care.” I shared some of the products and things I do to pamper myself, but today, I’ll focus on the benefits of having one or all of them scheduled in your day.
Squeeze in some exercise.
I am not too shy to admit that I don’t really like exercising or breaking a sweat in general. However, I do know how important it is for my physical and mental health, so I still do it regardless.
Take a nap. Sometimes, though, there are days where I feel extra sluggish, especially on a Monday. During these moments, I listen to my body and take short naps during lunch. Studies show that a 20 minute power nap can make a difference to your brain and get you off your afternoon slump, so I do just that. I just make sure that my alarm is blaring loud so that I’m forced to wake up and return to my activities.
Go outside. With over a year of staying indoors, it’s normal to feel claustrophobic in your own home. Sometimes, when I’m extra stressed, I usually feel like I want to go outside and scream my lungs out until my frustrations are all out in the open. Yes, I do this--minus the screaming part, of course.
I learned eventually that going outside during stressful moments is actually good. Breathing in fresh hair can instantly do wonders on your mood and overall health. And if there’s a park or garden nearby, it’s extra helpful! If you find yourself too scared to go outside due to the virus though (which is fine! Don’t torture yourself), you may opt for alternatives like keeping a plant near your desk instead. Or place your workstation near a window. One study shows sometimes, a little change of scenery is all you need to get yourself out of your slump.
With so many tips within the tips I’ve mentioned, there’s no way that you didn’t pick up at least one that you want to try out. My advice is to pick one or two out of many and try it out for a month to see if it works. You don’t have to do it all at once! If you do, they might just end up as another task on your to-do list. We don’t want that around here.
Now that I’ve shared mine, it’s about time you share yours! What are some productivity tips that you have tried and worked for you? Have you tried any of the things I mentioned above? Tell me more about it!