Paula Azevedo, PhD
Teaching from home
The past few years I’ve spent about 80% of my time working from home. So, when the university I work at closed its campus in March I already had a work from home routine; however, I had to modify it now with the other 20% of my time teaching and training fully online. Since many educators will be working from home either full time or part time, I thought I’d share some of my routines and tips with you. Now before I go on I want to put a disclaimer that in no way am I suggesting that you need to follow my routine in order to “successfully” work from home. There is no right or wrong way to work from home, especially during a pandemic. So, what I’m about to share works for me. If you want to try some of my tips, great! If my suggestions help you, awesome! If they don’t help that’s perfectly fine too. Do what works best for you and your situation.
Start the day right
My day actually starts the night before. Yes, I know that sounds strange, but hear me out. I review my daily planner and what I have planned for the next day. I’ll add or rearrange tasks as needed so when I start the next day I don’t have to worry about planning out my day since I already did it the night before. I then begin my nightly routine to prepare myself to go to bed.
The following morning I start with a workout and depending on the day the workout routine varies. I then brew my coffee, read the news and get ready for the day. That means showering, blow drying my hair, putting on some very light makeup, and putting on clean clothes. Finally, before I grab a second cup of coffee I meditate and then officially start my work day.
This all sounds like a pretty normal morning routine for a workday, right? That’s the point. Even though I’m working from home I literally get ready as if I’m going to campus. Don’t get me wrong I’m not necessarily putting on high heels (which I stopped wearing a long time ago) and a pantsuit, but I am definitely not wearing pajamas all day. Since there isn’t a whole lot to differentiate the day when you’re working from home I make sure that what I’m wearing helps me distinguish between the various periods and activities of the day.
Dedicated work space
I’ll grab my coffee and go to my workspace. I’m very lucky to have enough space in my home to have a dedicated space where I can work that is not in the bedroom or kitchen. It’s a distinct space in the house that is almost only dedicated to my work. I also have a dedicated space where I can teach synchronous classes and record videos. I know not everyone can have one room dedicated to an office space, but create a small space in your home environment, even if it’s the corner of your living room, where you only work from. You don’t eat there, you don’t watch t.v. there, you don’t play video games there...all you do is work in this space. It’s very tempting to grab the laptop and work on the sofa or in your bed, but resist the temptation. You’ll be far more productive and get way more done in a shorter period of time if you have a dedicated space in your home to work from. Basically, you’re creating a trigger for your brain to know when it’s time to work. As a result, when you walk into that dedicated workspace your brain is triggered and knows “oh, it’s time to work.”
Multitasking is a distraction
It’s also important to minimize as many distractions as you can in your work space. So, turn off the t.v., put the smart phone on silent and away from your desk (if possible). Since you’re home it’s really tempting to multitask and do three loads of laundry, run the dishwasher, put a roast in the oven, and so on, but resist this temptation. Let me ask you something… if you were on campus would you be able to do house chores? No, that would be physically impossible. Well, it’s mentally exhausting to be doing house chores while working and you’ll screw up something along the way. Spare yourself and leave the house chores for before or after work hours or during the weekend.
Finally, when the work day is done walk away from your workspace and just stop working. It’s really easy to work nonstop at home because there’s no distinction between when you’re “at work” and when you are home. You have to make that mental distinction, which is why I suggest closing the lights, turning off the laptop, and walking away from your workspace and not returning to it until the next morning. There will always be another email to respond to, another grade to input, another lesson to write, but at some point you just need to stop. So, whatever time that is for you make sure that you make a clean and clear break from your work day and transition into your family time, relaxation, dinner, whatever you do after work.
These seem like very simple suggestions, but these simple modifications in your routine and physical space can make a huge difference in how you spend your time and the quality of work you create during the day.