Tips for Working from Home

March 19 2020

For many people, this is their first week of working from home. Hi! Welcome to the club. We eat cookies whenever we want, because we’re always taking breaks in our kitchen.

I’ve worked from home since 2012, so I’ve socially isolated myself for my whole career. This can be a tough adjustment, so I’ve written some tips and tricks. Hopefully these are helpful for you! And if you have any other tips I should add, or any questions, hit me up on Twitter.

  1. Start the day with a standup call. If your team is used to hanging out in the office ever day, make a routine out of beginning the day with a quick 15-minute video call to catch up, say hi, and share what you’re all working on. Bonus points if you can avoid talking about the news, but since it weighs heavily on us all, don’t beat yourself up if it comes up.
  2. This might be a good time to try Slack or Microsoft Teams, if you haven’t already. But if you do use them, establish some rules. Let people log off once in a while to get real work done. We can’t be productive if we’re staring at a chat window all day.
  3. Start making lists. Small, approachable lists you can check off throughout the day will empower you and give you a sense of control and productivity. Trust me, this is helpful whether there’s a global crisis or not. We all need to feel like we’re accomplishing something.
  4. Don’t check the news or your email first thing in the morning, if you can avoid it. That includes Twitter. These things are poison to your happiness, and your productivity.
  5. You need to wear pants. Most of us are used to going to the work place and leaving work behind at the end of the day. That’s no longer the case. Now, you have to get into the work mode. So put on some pants. You can take them off when you’re done working. (I know some freelancers who wear shoes during the workday. If that helps you, don’t hesitate.)
  6. You need a routine. Workplaces thrive off routine. Your work mode needs one. I have a breakfast routine, lunch routine, daily gym routine, and even a caffeine routine. It keeps me stable (although my gym routine is definitely in flux right now, and I’m feeling it).
  7. Don’t take breaks at your laptop. You’ll stop associating your laptop with work, and then you’ll be on it all the time.
  8. Music! Try and listen to some music. Shawn Blanc wrote about this a few days ago with some recommendations for instrumental music that keeps you in the zone. I’ll add some to the list: every Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross soundtrack (especially The Social Network, The Vietnam War, and Before the Flood), 65daysofstatic, Jon Hopkins, Ludovici Einaudi, Ólafur Arnalds, Nils Frahm, and Miles Davis. I could go on for a while, but you’ll figure out what you like pretty quick. The music (or a white noise app) will help you concentrate and get in the zone. If you need them, this is a decent time to invest in a pair of noise-cancelling headphones. Here are some picks from The Wirecutter. (I bought the Anker headphones they recommend as their budget pick, and they’re okay, but not great. This is a category where you get what you pay for.)
  9. Ergonomics are important for productivity — so get comfortable! I don’t necessarily think people should buy desks or chairs or anything — they can get wildly expensive. (But if you want a new chair or desk, I have so many thoughts!) If you need a bigger screen to be more productive, get a cheap monitor. If your laptop is too low on your table, get an external keyboard and pointing device and put your laptop on a stack of books. Don’t be afraid to budget a little bit of money to save yourself a lot of pain.
  10. Don’t forget to stretch at the end of the day!

Good luck with your new workspace. If you have questions, let me know on Twitter. If I’m following my own instructions, you won’t hear back from me before the afternoon.

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