ed. note: This post originally ran in September 2018, but we thought it felt particularly on-point for the coming weeks when the majority of us are shifting to lives outside the office, and working from home. Use this as your guide to make the most out of your new work environment and make your home a productive, cozy place to work.
This year I joined the growing work-from-home workforce when I traded in the daily office commute for working full time from my 400-square foot studio apartment. The transition has not been without its challenges. The lack of commute is one of the biggest advantages to working from home, and one of its biggest pitfalls. When you don’t have the physical experience of leaving your home in the morning and coming back at the end of the day, it’s harder to tell where work life ends and personal life begins.
That’s why I’ve learned to create a “commute” routine to set my home up for work every morning. Yours may look nothing like mine, but the key is to craft the best environment for you to consistently reach your own state of flow.
Here are 3 steps that have helped me be more productive at home.
1. First, observe yourself.
The beauty of working from home is that you’re not limited to the confines of a conventional desk and office chair from the hours of 9 to 5. You have the freedom to create an environment that’s most productive for your mind and body. I can’t prescribe a perfect workspace for you because everyone is different, so the first step to making your home a more productive place is to observe yourself in a state of flow. Ask yourself, what time of day do you feel most creative and free, and when are you better at being detail-oriented or analytical? What noise level helps you stay focused? For me, this has really been a process of eliminating all of the things that were distracting me from work.
2. Designate your workspace.
If you have a separate room that can be used as a home office, that’s fabulous! Remember, your workspace should be totally unique to you and what makes you most productive – a comfy beanbag, sitting on the floor at your coffee table, a well-lit corner of your favorite room.
No matter what your workspace looks like, be intentional about dedicating it to work and nothing else. That way, your mind is free to focus on your family or personal life once you leave your workspace.
This can be trickier if you live in a small space or studio like I do. I work and eat on the same small table, but I still make sure to keep those activities separate and reset the space for work. When it’s time to eat, I clear all of the work things off and make sure I focus on eating my meal device-free. When it’s time to work, I put food and personal tasks away first. Rather than working all over your home, identify the area that’s going to be your dedicated workspace and try to keep it clear when you’re working.
3. Develop a commute routine.
It can be easy for the lines to blur between your personal morning routine and the beginning of your workday when they’re happening in the same space and time. To delineate the two, create a “commute” routine to take your mind and body into work mode. Signal to your physical senses of sight, sound and even smell that it’s time to focus.
One way to do this is to turn on the ambient noise you work best in, whether that’s classical music, white noise, or a Spotify playlist. I’ve also had fellow work-from-homers tell me they light a candle when it’s time to get stuff done, and some even have a work-specific scent! Once I set the tone, I like to physically write out a schedule for my work, since the act of putting pen to paper gets me focused – and I love to cross them off during the day.
And at the end of the workday, it’s equally important to have a clear transition back to your personal life. Close the laptop and put it away, blow out the candle, turn off the white noise, close the office door. These small steps help make sure you don’t take your work with you to dinner, and definitely not to bed.
These tricks have made working from home in a studio apartment doable for me, but I’d love to hear your productivity tricks in the comments!
*Sources: Inspiration photo by Lauren Moore, design by Gordana Golubovic, pendant lights Bellacor, sofa Lulu and Georgia, table AllModern, vase Anthropologie, stool Another Country, headphones Netaporter, candle Spartan