I’m a little weird, but also lucky because I’ve never had a real office job. I started freelancing straight out of university, worked in restaurants, and went back to school all while freelancing part-time. In 2018, I went full time in my business and with that, I only need a Wi-Fi connection, so I’ve only worked from home since making that transition. It’s nice. Quiet. I normally get a lot of work done during the day within my routine because I don’t have distractions like water cooler chat and meetings that could have been emails… but 2020 shifted some things.
At the beginning of the pandemic wave here in Canada, my husband started working from home as well—we don’t see him going back to the office anytime soon. I love having him home with me (seriously, it’s the best), but of course both of us needed to learn to adjust and develop healthy work from home habits if we wanted to be productive. At first, I wasn’t focused with him home, but now I’m able to tuck my head and get stuff done. I thought I’d share those work from home tips with you…
As we settle into the new normal, I’ve tried a few things to keep my old work from home motivation intact and get into a flow of work-life balance. My biggest challenge usually isn’t how to be productive at home (although I have my days). It’s knowing when to unplug… and not popping back into my emails after hours.
Regardless of what your challenge is, it’s possible to make lasting changes to improve your wellbeing and be more productive. Here’s my best work from home tips to help you get started! Hopefully these will inspire you to develop healthy habits and find the work-life balance that’s perfect for you.
I’m all about goal setting in every aspect of life. What habits do you want to develop? Without clear, measurable goals, we can’t keep ourselves accountable.
To set goals around your work from home routine and habits, think about your ideal schedule. What do you want your day-to-day to look like while working from home? Actually write down what the perfect day or week looks like. Have fun with this! Tap into your wildest dreams. With this vision, identify the small changes you can make today in order to live that new reality.
For myself, I know that eventually I want to have shorter work days that start earlier. I also want to be able to take Monday mornings a little slower and have flexible Friday afternoons. To achieve this, I started by time blocking everything to get a better understanding of how much time I have to work with in a week. By auditing my current schedule, I found places to increase efficiency and better manage my time.
Here’s a glimpse of my current schedule… Monday through Thursday, I wake up at 5am. Fridays I might sleep in until 7am sometimes. I read and journal with my coffee in the mornings, hit the gym at 6am, and am showered and at my desk by 8am. Knowing that I want to clock out earlier in the days eventually, I always tackle either my hardest tasks first on the days I’m working on the business, or I start with client work, so I know I’m not behind on deadlines. Typically I’m finished all the major high-focus to-dos by noon or 1pm.
In the afternoons, I answer emails, respond to DMs, post on my social channels, etc. Currently, I don’t often step away from my desk before 4pm, but it’s still a goal of mine! I’m looking at ways to become even more efficient in my afternoons. I do, however, often have the flexibility I want on Monday/Fridays—just working on the rest still!
My best work from home tip: Start with bedtime. If you go to bed too late, you will sleep in and the cycle continues. If you want to take control of your days, get to bed early. When you’re well rested, it’s easier to wake up with (or before) your alarm in the mornings. Plus who doesn’t like sleep?
Because I like to wake up at 5am, I need to be in bed by 10pm latest. Earlier if possible! I don’t sleep well, so I want to give myself the chance to get a decent chunk each night. To remind me that it’s time to wind down, I use the wellness settings on my smartphone. At 9:30pm on weeknights, my phone goes into “wind down” mode, which is silent, do not disturb, and the screen actually turns black and white. This setting automatically lifts at 7am the next day—a time I chose intentionally to defer myself from extensive phone use the moment I wake up in the mornings.
I love my home office! It’s so calm and pretty, which truly motivates me to work hard. I’m slowly filling the room with my favourite things, but even in the meantime I love to spend time here with my plants in the natural light. I often hang out here when I’m not working now that it’s even cozier.
If you’re new around here, my husband and I bought a house in September 2019, but in order to get into our favourite neighbourhood, we bought a fixer upper. Nothing is structurally wrong with it, but it hadn’t been updated since it was built in 1959. Except for to add carpet everywhere. Why was that ever a thing?! This room used to be beige with gray carpets, while all the other rooms in the house had orange or pink carpets… pretty! Err—not.
Literally the day we got the keys, we started ripping up the carpets. Luckily, we discovered beautiful hard wood through the rest of the house. However, my home office is actually an addition on the house, so it didn’t have the same original flooring hiding underneath. This room was just plywood, so when we ripped up the carpet here, we also had to replace it.
We had a lengthy list of more pressing updates to complete when we moved in, so my office waited for a few months before we had a weekend to spare to install new flooring. Finally in November, we had an entire weekend free, so I found these marbled ceramic tiles I absolutely love at Home Depot and got to work.
It’s a work in progress, but I’ve slowly added more furniture, plants, and small decor items. Next on my list, I want to get some floor length curtains in my brand colours, paint the paneling and trim, and hang artwork by female entrepreneurs on the walls. These photos are what it currently looks like in there!
As much as I love setting goals, I also stress the importance of clear boundaries if you want to grow your business. I wrote another blog post all about developing boundaries to scale your online business, but we can chat about a few of them here too. Some of these boundaries might include your work from home routine as well, like what your working hours are and how often you take breaks.
Here’s examples of boundaries that I’ve developed to be productive while working from home:
Office hours, including when clients can expect email replies from me.
Smartphone wellness settings to stay productive. Sometimes I’ll even leave my phone on the opposite side of the room (on silent), so I can focus on work for a chunk of time with no distractions.
Notifications: When and where do you get them? I turned off all notifications on all my devices except for calls and texts.
Closing the door to my office when I need to focus. This signals to my husband that I’m in the middle of something—he uses similar signals as well.
Often, setting boundaries means saying no when it feels uncomfortable, but I promise this gets easier with time and pays off in terms of your wellbeing and productivity in the long run.
With all these work from home tips, I need to stress the importance of being kind to yourself. If your days don’t go as planned when you first make the switch to work from home, that’s okay. Don’t be so hard on yourself! Like anything, it takes practice to develop new work habits if your environment has changed, especially if you’ve never experienced this before.
I mentioned this above—I’m lucky in that I’ve never had a real job, so this is really all I know. I don’t think I could be productive if I had to go to an office each day. Before going full time in my business, I worked in restaurants and was in school while freelancing part time (yes—all 3 at the same time). I know that in order to accomplish everything I want to in a day, I need to stay on track. You can get here too!
If you have work from home tips of your own, I’d love to hear them! What would you add to this list? Share your best tips in the comments below. And if you don’t have any tips of your own, that’s okay too. Be patient with yourself and start by setting those goals. Let me know if you have any questions! I’m here to help.
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