The Coronavirus pandemic has thrust millions of Americans into unexpectedly working from home. Uncertainty is in the air. Companies are shutting their offices until further notice and expecting employees to work remotely instead.
If you’re new to working from home, don’t panic. Working remotely may be a change, but it also presents an opportunity to create more satisfaction in your work, which will be music to a Sensitive Striver’s ears.
You have a unique advantage in this new reality because as a Sensitive Striver:
- You’re probably comfortable being alone.
- You function best when you have time and space for deep, focused thought and concentration.
- You like to control your environment and the level of stimulation (and interruptions) you expose yourself to.
- You’re naturally responsible and conscientious, which means you follow through on getting your work done and meeting commitments without oversight.
- Your exceptional empathy means you can sense and understand what your team needs, even from afar
Nevertheless, you might be wondering, “How can I stay productive now that I have to work from home?” Many of my executive coaching clients are asking the same question and because I’ve worked from home my entire career, I have a lot of advice to share. While I’m publishing this now in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, my hope is that these tips will be useful for you long after this crisis is over.
Work-From-Home Productivity Tips
1- Create a dedicated space
This can be anywhere you have access to a flat surface and adequate lighting that allows you to concentrate—a desk, your kitchen table––just not your bed! Having a dedicated workspace helps your mind and body understand when you’re in working mode and allows you to more effectively transition to “home” mode when you’re done.
Sensitive people are very sensory, so create a workspace that inspires you if you can. Mine is white, bright, with lots of natural sunlight and plants. Make sure your workspace is clean and tidy every day before you start working. Outer order equals inner calm.
2- Stick to a schedule
Structure is a saving grace when you work-from-home, especially for Sensitive Strivers who thrive on predictability. That starts by setting an alarm and waking up at a reasonable hour, preferably the same time you’d get up if you were going into work to maintain normalcy.
Likewise, make sure to get dressed in “real” clothes, not pajamas, and wear shoes. This is “enclothed cognition” in action. That is, the way you dress and what you wear affects your self-perception for the better.
3- Establish clear working hours
Sensitive Strivers are endlessly committed and when working from home that can mean they sacrifice balance in the name of getting things done. It’s very, very easy to let work sneak into your personal time if you let it, especially because there is no artificial separation via leaving the office at the end of the day.
So set clear working hours, say 8:00 am to 6:00 pm, and stick to them. Don’t make exceptions to run errands in between if you wouldn’t during a normal workday.
4- Follow your calendar
Overthinking can quickly take hold if you don’t have your day planned out. Each evening, map out your appointments and projects and plug them into your calendar. Assign tasks to certain time blocks It’s an easy way to stay accountable to yourself, your team, and your goals when you’re working on your own.
5- Limit task switching
Sensitive Strivers are eager to accomplish it ALL and accomplish it NOW, but that can lead to constant task switching.
Don’t try to squeeze in laundry and chores between calls. Close all non-work related tabs on your computer. Google Chrome even allows you to set up multiple accounts with different toolbars on the top — for example, a toolbar for home and a separate toolbar for work.
Try pomodoros –– doing 15 minute sprints on certain projects –– or binaural beats for an extra boost of concentration. Get a whiteboard so you have somewhere to easily dump miscellaneous tasks and ideas.
6- Let go of the pressure
Sensitive Strivers tend to be vigilant and many of my coaching clients worry that others are judging them for not being online enough or productive enough while they are working from home. Recognize that this is an unrealistic (and sometimes imaginary) expectation you’re holding yourself to. You’re likely doing more than enough, especially if you’re following the tips above and making an effort to keep your manager and team in the loop with regular updates.
7- Take a proper lunch
Give yourself a mental break and eat meals away from your workstation. Plan what you’ll eat in advance (even if you have to cook it) to reduce decision fatigue and keep things efficient.
8- Move your body
I have a height-adjustable desk and stand up for a good part of my workday. You can make an effort to walk or pace while on conference calls, get up and do five push ups, or even take a fifteen minute break to do some stretching or light yoga.
9- Set boundaries with family and co-workers
Just as you and the people you live with have discussed logistics like who’s in charge of taking out the garbage, it’s crucial to sort out your needs for working from home as well. After all, not only do you want to get your work done, you also want to be sure you’re keeping your home a happy place. Discuss expectations like:
- Under what conditions can you be interrupted?
- How will you handle home deliveries and other favors people ask of you during the day?
- If you have kids, how will you manage parenting duties?
Similarly, over-communicate with your team. They should know your hours, what projects you’re working on, and when and how to reach you. Ideally you have regular remote touch bases in place and team messaging like Slack or Microsoft Teams.
10- Switch off with an evening transition ritual
At the office, you have the visual cue of co-workers leaving to signal the day is winding down. In absence of that, set an alarm to indicate when you should be wrapping up for the day. You don’t have to call it quits exactly then, but start the process.
At the end of each day, have a practice that helps you “close up shop” and transition out of work mode. For example, that could be:
- Taking a shower
- Changing your outfit
- Meditating for five minute
- Making a list of the top three things to be done the next day
- Zeroing your inbox
- Straightening up your workspace
- Turning off your computer (so you’re not tempted to answer emails)
Even though most Sensitive Strivers are introverted, don’t forget that social interaction is important. Get virtual face time with your team, set up networking coffee chats with colleagues, or just get outside with a pet.
Will every day of working from home be bliss? Absolutely not. So ditch the perfectionism. Realize it will be an adjustment, and be patient with yourself knowing you’re doing the best you can. It takes time to hit your stride and find the habits that are going to work best for you.