Working from home is a whole different ballgame than working in a office. And now with the stay-at-home orders, a lot of people are finding themselves in a new situation that doesn’t come naturally. Especially if you have kids and partners also at home, it can be really hard to find your groove. Or, if you’re like me and you live in a small space with no room for a home office, the lines can easily get blurred. So if you’re finding yourself struggling to be productive or maintain your focus, I’m going to share some tips with you. After all, I’ve been doing this for about five years now and live in a space that is under 800 square feet 😉.
Create a makeshift work area
First and foremost, your couch and your bed are not your workspace. It’s nearly impossible to shift your brain into “productive” mode when you are sitting in the same spot you go to for comfort at the end of the day. But if you don’t have an extra room to convert to a home office, you might have to get creative with space. There are a few ways you can do this.
If you have a dining table or kitchen island you can use for double duty, that’s a good place to start. Just try to stick to one spot so it feels like a routine and you’re actually “going” to work. Set it up at the beginning of each day and clean it off at the end of your workday to help signal to your brain that you’re in or out of work mode.
There are a lot of creative solutions out there for adding a small workspace to your home. Try a ladder shelf desk that can also serve as shelving for books and knick-knacks. Or, mount a space-saving desk to the wall. You can fold it up when you’re ready to call it a day.
If you really have nowhere to put a workspace and your couch is the last resort, get a portable laptop table that you can use during working hours and stash away.
Give your space boundaries
No matter how big or small your space is, setting boundaries is key. Even if you can’t dedicate an entire room to your home office, you need to have some area that defines when you’re “on” and at work, and when you’re “off” and not working. Other people in your home—like your partner, roommates or children—also need to be able to understand where they’re intruding on your space and where they can walk around or move without distracting you. Trust me, I have a 3-year-old. I know it’s harder than it sounds, but it’s all about repetition and consistency.
A helpful idea is to add an indicator to your space so your family knows which mode you’re in. Add a “do not disturb” sign to your space that you can flip over when you need to focus. Let others know that when you are wearing headphones that means busy, while headphones off means free. Those little communication cues are essential in a small space, especially when you’re trying to be productive when your kids are home from school or your spouse wants to talk about the news.
Create a ritual
Find something small to signify the beginning and end of your workday. Treat yourself to a new candle and light it at the start of your workday and blow it out whenever you take a break. Relight it when you’re back in work mode and then blow it out again at the end of the day. Find something that brings you a little bit of joy and also helps add a bit of “routine” into these new circumstances.