As most of us are locked inside our homes and many people are forced to work from home, I've decided to share 9 tips I've learnt from my own experience as a digital nomad since 2015. Yes, you read that right, it's been five years since I've started living this gipsy lifestyle. In fact, when I decided to leave my career and my job in London (back in the days, I used to be a Sr. Project Manager Europe at Amazon), the only thing I was 100% sure was that I wasn't going to spend my life in an office and that I would create a job around my life, not the other way round. And so it was decided. Here I am today, to share my top tips to work from home.
1. Wake Up Early
I will never stop talking about how important is to make the most of the early hours of the day and to build a routine that works for us. Building a morning routine has probably been the most important thing I have done for my life as a remote worker. My morning routine right now is something like this:
- wake up at 7
- meditation: 10 mins
- yoga: 30 mins
- walk: 1 hr
- coffee + book: 1 hour
- shower + get ready for work: 30 mins
2. Get Ready and Dressed
Yes, exactly as you were going to the office, you need to prepare yourself for a day at work. If you feel like, you can wear more comfortable outfits, but still, prepare yourself. This little act can really help to get you in the mood of being productive. Working in your pyjamas is never a good idea as the temptation to feel relaxed will be too strong.
3. Create a dedicated area
I know that some of us live in very tiny houses and thinking of creating a home-office is ridiculous. However, it is necessary. In fact, when your space has to double as home and office, a dedicated workspace is essential.
Ideally, this should be a separate room where you can close the door from outside distractions. The door also has the magic power of informing your partner, kids and flatmates that you are working. If a room isn't an option for you, then make some space in your dining area or bedroom, wherever you can create some sort of peace for yourself and stick to it.
4. Set and stick to "office hours"
At the beginning, as I was travelling the world, it was really hard to actually find some time to work too with all the exploration's temptations out there. In fact, I remember I was hitting some sights first thing in the morning, being out all day and fitting a couple of hours at night. But by then I was exhausted and I had very little energy or concentration to dedicate to my business. This is why I decided to turn my schedule around and get shit done first thing and then have the rest of the day for myself. This is my usual routine as I normally work until 3 or 4 pm and then I have time to enjoy other things like reading, go out or exploring if I'm travelling.
Especially now that some of you are working from home, it's crucial that you stick to some specific "home-office hours". The best way to make sure you stay on track is to work in blocks. Keep reading to learn about it.
5. Work by tasks/blocks
As mentioned in many studies, the secret to productivity is to work in blocks. For example, you could schedule your day to have calls only between 3 and 5 pm and emails between 5 and 6pm. Use your daily tracker on your Bullet and Paper Book to prepare your daily schedule and make sure to stick to it. On your list, cross off your tasks as you complete them for that "I got it" boost.
If this is your first time working from home, you might be living a professional shock as suddenly you are valued on what you get done and not for politics, who you are friends with etc. In a way, I love working remotely because all the business bullshit is out of the algorithm and it's much more meritocratic as it gives great professionals the opportunity to shine.
7. No emails
Your inbox can feel like a whole other world when you sit down at your computer. If you are like me, you're subscribed to more newsletter you could possibly read in a lifetime and you receive dozens of all sorts of business emails every day. Well, there is a trick to deal with busy inboxes. Do not open it. No, I am not saying ever, but try to create a block of time in your daily schedule in your Bullet and Paper Book to do that. I normally read and reply to my emails between 5 and 6pm. Why? They are normally a low-energy task, they are after I've done most of my daily tasks and ultimately I can focus on that one task and reply to many emails in a block instead of being constantly interrupted by them.
What if I miss something urgent? Well, if it's really urgent, someone will reach you via phone. In a super-connected world, (unfortunately) you can never really hide and if an emergency comes up, people will still be able to track you down.
8. And no distractions.
If you are focusing on something, a piece of a project, a calculation or something intense, close all your internet tabs, turn off your phone notifications and focus on that one task. If you don't need the internet, you can even take a further step and turn off the wifi. As a web writer, for example, all sorts of distractions make me lose my inspiration or thoughts, so I switch off the wifi on my laptop and work on my researched material offline for the time I've set for that task.
9. Work with the time you have, not against it: the Pomodoro technique
It's been 4 years since I have been using this technique and I can say that it's the best one around. You basically use a timer (a browser extension, on your phone, laptop or the actual tomato-shaped kitchen timer which gave the name to the techique) to break down your work into intervals. Traditionally it uses 25 minutes intervals, but for what I do, I prefer to do 45mins intervals, you can adapt that to your own needs. Each interval is known as a pomodoro (tomato in Italian), followed by a short 5-minute break where you can stretch your legs, drink some water or go to the loo. After 4 pomodoros in a row, you can take a 15-30 mins break and maybe go for a walk.
And as I mentioned in my last love letter to you (if you aren't a subscriber, you're missing out!), I really hope this forced change will awaken companies to the potential of remote working. Imagine a world where mothers and fathers can work from home on alternated days, imagine the streets emptied of thousands of cars everyday, imagine public transports running on time. The impact of such a change could be incredible for our society.
And as you learn to work from home and balance your family with your studies/work, I'm sure your Bullet and Paper Book will quickly become your best friend as you learn to work through priorities and volume.