How to maintain a healthy work-life balance and work productively from home: A step by step guide.

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The rapidly spreading Coronavirus has moved the majority of employees, myself included, to our homes; where everyone seems to be struggling with a similar problem: how to work productively from home while respecting a healthy work-life balance.

I’m used to working from home, and in doing so I have chopped and changed, and tinkered and tailored with my approach to ensure I work the most productive and efficient I can. In the wake of this ongoing mass movement from the work office to the home office for almost every white-collar worker – I have decided to share with you my step-by-step guide to getting more done working from home.

1. Separating your work from your home life.

This is arguably the most important aspect of moving your work into home with you. The environment in which you work is one of the most important influences when it comes to your productivity and functionality. This remains the same when you work from home – except people often find it very hard to separate their work life from their home life when they share the same space. 

Creating and allocating a dedicated and exclusive space for working allows you to both physically and mentally distinguish the two and help keep one from intruding on the other. Having one room or space that mimics an office you would usually work can be beneficial. This actively engages your brain, and with a little fabricated belief in your own narrative; you can convince yourself you are in your usual office – kilometres away from your home and the abundant distractions that reside there. It’s up to you to maintain that separation and boundary.

Personally I find this is immensely powerful in allowing me to be switched on when its time to work – and when I leave the office; switch off and relax. You need to be able to relax after a long or stressful day of work in order to keep fresh and stay healthy. Enforcing that distancing and division of work from home life consistently overtime will be hugely beneficial for your productivity and to have your home remain as an essential important place of relaxation and comfort. 

What should I have in my home office to best allow me to work productively?

Your home office needs to facilitate and encourage productivity while remaining simple and uncluttered. Taking the time to design and create a balanced space that allows access to everything you need to work means you can stay focused for longer. The essence of this space is dependant on you not having to get up and get something from another room every 5-10 minutes and breaking your work environment, so it is critical that you have all your resources and necessary equipment available on you. 

Ahead of time, I will even prepare a drink and snacks before and bring them into my workspace so that I don’t have to leave and break my focus an hour or two into a productive session.

However, you don’t want this set up to come at the expense of your ability to think clearly. Studies show that clutter can deteriorate the brains’ ability to focus clearly on a task, so it’s vital that a balance can be achieved. Investing in a cabinet and necessary storage equipment can yield fantastic results to ensure this. 

2. Structuring your workday to promote productivity and balance.

Before you start your work from home, it’s important to prepare and plan what your day is going to look like and consist of. Asking a handful of simple questions at the beginning of your day can significantly help you in visualising, preparing, and executing your day effectively. Questions like:

  • What do I have to get done today? 
  • What else do I have the time to do today?
  • What project would be most beneficial should I dedicate a block of time to it?
     

Assessing the answers to these questions and allocating time reasonably while accounting for the daily tasks of work (e.g. emails, calls, meetings, etc) can position you in a greatly focused headspace before you enter your day.  It is key to prioritise and make strategic decisions on how to spend your time. I’ve always found approaching my day with it mapped out and having a productive yet achievable to-do list frames me in the best state to work effectively.

An example would look like this:

Maps help me work to my best giving me clear guidance and a rewarding system of achievement and satisfaction that keeps me driven. Being able to have all those boxes ticked at the end of the day is hugely rewarding and gives me the confidence and closure to switch off and leave work with comfort at 5 pm and enjoy my time at home. 

3. Importance of maintaining work-life balance

We can’t be all work and no play. Especially considering we are at home with our family and loved ones. One of the keys to working from home efficiently is having a balanced routine in place around your workday. Daily exercise is attributed to a boost in mood and energy which can be rewarding for you personally as well as carry into your work output. Chilling out with family and friends is also a great way to get away from work and relax.

A healthy work-life balance is very important for a multitude of reasons. An effective balance prevents work burn out; which can have drastic and noticeable implications for all aspects of your life. So it is just as important to prioritise your personal life as it is your work life. In doing so you will naturally be able to divide your attention where it is appropriately due. Many studies indicate that happier workers who are able to achieve this work-life balance often work much more efficiently and have a higher quality of performance. 

Worker’s who are happy have increased levels of output because they are positively engaged with their job. Happier people are also traditionally healthier as happiness promotes healthy habits and decisions. Also, quite critically; stress from an unhealthy work-life balance is detrimental to our immune system making us more vulnerable to illness and disease, as well as significant mental issues. 

The proof is in the pudding with this one – so make sure you take the time and energy to ensure you maintain a healthy work-life balance and spend time doing what you enjoy and with your family.

Building from before; a complete weekday of mine may look similar to this:

4. Executing daily and staying disciplined working from home.

This approach only works if you are consistent day in day out. Consistency is everything! If you are the kind of person that has trouble maintaining this routine and instead gets distracted easily – don’t worry we are all like that at times. 

I find the simplest way to overcome this is taking it one day at a time, even one work block at a time if you are really struggling. Challenging yourself to stick to your plan and push through the work and overcome distraction can be tough, but is ultimately rewarding and develop into a very effective way of staying disciplined. 

Pushing through one session of working effectively can quickly become being engaged for one whole day. Which after time becomes a habit and then you’re looking at smashing an entire week. And soon with some discipline and commitment, you’ll be unrecognisable to yourself as a productive working from home machine – and when this is all over; you might never have to go back to the office. How good is that?

5. Reflection and finding out how to achieve your ideal work-life balance.

No two people are the same, and no two people work the same. What works for one person won’t necessarily work for another. Take the time to reflect on each day and ask yourself – “what could I have done better?”, “Why did I fall short here?”, “Why did I do this really well?” etc.

Reflecting on each day and each week you will realise what did and didn’t work for you, and you can adapt and change appropriately to a system that is optimal for you and your life. Its definitely worth the effort to evaluate yourself, especially when you’re starting off working from home; to determine what your strengths and weaknesses are for working for home. Similar to anything else; practice, experiment, and analysis yield great outcomes. 

Time to get started!

These are the critical steps to get right when it comes to working from home.

My final offering to you is a free sample daily planner to help you get started on adapting to working from home. For more information; head to www.onlinercreatorinstitute.com for greater access to resources to help you thrive working from home.

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