By Patrick & Emily Miller
What happens when you make a pastor and an interior designer work from home together for the foreseeable future? This blog. Here’s what we’ve found helpful in order to maximize our work & workspace during home lockdown.
1. Designate a workspace.
If you’re spending the first hour of every workday deciding where to set up, plug in your charger, find your favorite highlighter… then you’re wasting time. And you’re turning your whole house or apartment into your office. Pick a space. Keep your work there.
2. Divide and conquer.
If you’re sharing your space with a roommate our spouse, pick separate places. Emily is a loud talker when she’s on conference calls (basically always now). Patrick needs quiet or he can’t function. So, she took the spare bedroom, and he moved into the storage room.
3. Use a sound machine.
If you don’t work alone, turn on a sound machine. That way you don’t have to feel guilty when your spouse is fighting with a screaming child. Or your roommate is “working” with Netflix on.
4. Don’t watch Netflix.
If you’re lucky enough to be able to work right now, don’t waste the opportunity.
5. Make it (as close as you can to) pretty and functional.
Emily likes to light a candle and keep her desk organized and the room clean. She’s even got a window to look out. Patrick is working in a brown recluse lair, so he likes to put the emphasis on functional. And wear shoes (see #19 below). But both pretty and functional are ideal.
6. Set a schedule.
We, like many people, have kids at home now. In light of this, we spent a long time working together to create a work/childcare schedule, and we do our best to honor it. If you’re an early morning person (Patrick), then wake up at 4:30 or 5:00 and start working. If you’re best in the afternoon (Emily), then protect those hours. Share the load with your spouse to set you both up for success.
7. Pick a time to shut down.
As if the lines between work and home weren’t blurred enough by email on smart phones, now your workplace is your home. Choose a time to stop working and stop. No email. No texts. No sneaking peeks at your laptop.
8. Take breaks.
We have no evidence to back this up, but we’re pretty sure screens melt our brains. They sap creativity. They kill your spirit. Refresh your mind periodically by taking a 15-minute break to walk outside. Take a real lunch break and don’t spend it staring at a screen.
9. Set your notifications to specific times.
Do you work for your notifications or do your notifications work for you? Set up your phone and desktop apps so that they only notify you when you want to be notified. Which leads into our next point.
10. Set hours for focused work.
If you lead a team, give your whole team a time block where no one communicates. If you don’t, find a time when no one communicates with you. Patrick finds that no one, for whatever reason, needs his attention between 5 and 7 a.m.
11. Clean your desk every day.
Clutter stifles effectiveness. Clutter distracts. Clutter overwhelms.
12. Write your priorities on a post-it note for the next day.
Here’s a secret: you always waste time when you don’t know what you’re doing. Don’t waste your fresh early morning hours trying to think about what to do. Make a list at the end of the day when you know what needs to get done so you can jump right in the next morning.
13. Grayscale your screens.
Engineering geniuses designed your screen to be more addictive than a slot machine. Blue light also gives you headaches. If you grayscale your phone and laptop, you’ll be clear minded and less screen addicted. (This makes Emily lose her mind, but I guess #oppositesattract).
14. Pause before you react. Handle conflict on video, not email or text.
No one calls the right plays under stress. It’s only worse when you can’t see the face of the person you’re about to offend. Bothered by an email and feeling amped to respond? Give it time. Pause. Then respond. If necessary, ask to call for clarification. And always be gracious and kind.
15. Use pen and paper when you hit mental blocks.
Screens make the brain work differently than pen and paper. If you’re stuck, go analog.
16. Don’t settle for cheap work.
Zeroing your inbox doesn’t always mean a productive day. It’s checkbox work. It makes you feel like you’ve accomplished something without doing anything mentally straining. Try to spend at least 90 minutes every day doing mentally demanding work. Fun fact: studies show that if you do this, you’ll enjoy your job way more!
17. Set a 5-minute timer or incentive.
Having a hard time getting going on hard work? Grab the kitchen timer. Set it for 5-minutes. When it goes off you can stop or keep going without shame. 95% of the time, you’ll find it easy to keep going. Emily prefers incentives: “If I finish this email response, then I can grab my afternoon LaCroix” (grapefruit, obviously).
18. Ruthlessly eliminate distraction.
Delete social media off your phone. Block it (and maybe all of your favorite online shopping sites) on your browser. The only thing easier than cheap work is Amazon.com.
19. Get dressed for the day.
I had a friend in high school who dressed up to take the ACT. We all made fun of him… until he blew our scores out of the water. It doesn’t matter if no one can see that you’re in PJ pants. Your brain sees, and you’ll work differently with real clothes and shoes on. (Shoes are also helpful if working in a brown recluse lair… just saying).
20. Create a communication flow chart.
This may only pertain to you if you’re a leader on your team. But if you’re not, maybe suggest it to your manager. Create a system for communication so that your thoughts and work aren’t constantly disorganized.
Want some ideas on how to create a more organized system for online work? Check out this blog post below on leading a digital team.