This blog post is sponsored by Trademore.
When the pandemic hit and I, along with every other person at my job was told to go home indefinitely, I was kinda psyched. (Like many, I thought it might last a couple weeks. boy was I wrong.)
My job is mostly done on a computer and while I love my office and enjoy the team I work with, I had visions of waking up at 8 a.m. on the dot, rolling out of bed and working on the couch next to my dog. … which is exactly what I did for the first couple weeks.
But as time went on, I, like many people, found it increasingly hard to be productive at home and to switch work mode on and off. I got distracted by the dogs crying, the dishes in the sink, my boyfriend wanting to show me things or go places… etc. etc.
I live in a decent sized apartment, but it got cramped fast when suddenly I wasn’t allowed to leave.
My day job, by the way, is as a communications coordinator at Texas A&M University. I write articles, take photos and help run the social media for one of its colleges. I really enjoy my work, the team I’m on and how I’m treated. My hours also allow me to work on Budget Girl, my small business, in my off time. So let’s all take a sec to laugh at my hubris at me thinking that because I can get work done on BG stuff at home, I’d have an easy time doing ALL my work at home. (Stupid naive girl.)
BTW, I recognize that a huge percentage of people lost income and work due to the pandemic. I was lucky enough to be able to work from home. This was absolutely a huge privilege and I'm very grateful to work in an industry where I was able to make the shift. My heart goes out to anyone who lost their financial security or livelihood to this crisis.
I’ll be completely honest with you… working at home was an adjustment and I’ve got it nowhere close to completely figured out. But here are a couple things I did that helped and I hope they might help you too.
Tip 1: Ignore any work-from-home advice that doesn’t work for you
Yup. Even mine. I did the same thing I’m sure lots of people did at the top of this thing – I scoured articles written pre-pandemic about how to best work from home. Lots of people do it, but let’s be honest. This crisis blew most of that advice out the window.
Normal work from home advice says you should get dressed up and made up each day like you’re going to work. PHOEY.
I work better without pants on and that’s the end of it.
I rarely put on makeup for work anyway, I’m certainly not going to get all gussied up for my dogs. Especially when we can’t go see people after work! I’ve spent the entirity of this quarantine in pjs and loungewear/ activewear and I regret NONE OF IT.
I see it as the main perk to working at home! In the office I get free coffee. At home I don’t have to wear pants. DONE.
Tip 2: Figure out where you work best
I worked the first couple months of the pandemic on my couch in my pjs. I can be somewhat productive on my couch, but for zoom calls and for longer bouts of writing, I needed a desk to really be productive.
Jacob had long ago claimed the kitchen table for his at home work and he has a fun habit of trying to eviscerate the keys when he types – shaking the whole table, so sharing wasn’t an option.
I also have a small desk I film in front of for Budget Girl videos…. but its an old fashioned style desk that makes you sit to the far left and was meant for letter-writing, not computer typing. I just don’t like using it.
So though I rarely do this… I sucked it up and spent money to fix the problem.
I ended up finding a ladder-style desk on Facebook Marketplace for just $20. It fits into a small corner, has a section that folds down for me to sit my laptop on. It was for sale because the former owner mis-assembled it and couldn’t get the shelf to lay flat. I fixed it in about a minute with a screwdriver.
The desk allows me to have a place to take the billion Zoom calls without worrying about what’s going on in the background of my home, makes me sit up straight and the laptop shelf folds up and away, graciously storing my work stuff when I don’t want to/ can’t stand to look at it anymore.
It was a good use of $20 and helps me “feel” more like I’m working. And yes, a dedicated workspace is a common tip for stay at home work, and it worked for me… mostly. I still do most of my day on the couch, with the dog curled up next to me, but for meetings and interviews.. that desk has come in clutch.
Tip 3: Utilize the extra time to improve your environment
Stuck at home all the time, I also started to feel the need to do more deep cleaning and organizing. Closets, drawers, storage cabinets and other generally ignored areas of my home started to call out to me. ..
I purged my dresser drawers of paint-stained pants, shirts and tanks I don’t wear and socks that have lost their pairs. I sorted old blankets and art supplies I’d never use, filled bags with clothes for reselling/ donation, cleaned out my toolshed, and backed up my computer and phone for the first time in forever.
I also attacked my antique desk, which is filled with old tech stuff, all my paperwork, files etc.
In my top desk drawer I found three old cell phones that I kept for no apparent reason. It was a veritable phone graveyard! Everyone I know has a couple old phones stashed away. Why do we hang on to old phones like this? If ours breaks, we aren’t going to go back to one of the old ones… we’re going to buy a newer model. It’s silly!
So I ordered a couple return phone boxes from Trademore, which is wonderfully the sponsor of this blog post. I’ve worked with them before and you guys loved them! If you haven’t heard of them, Trademore provides customers with the ability to trade-in and purchase used and pre-owned cellular phones.
You simply visit trademore.com and select your model of phone and fill in a couple questions about the model and condition. Instantly, they will give you a quoted price that they’ll pay you to take the phone off your hands!
They offered me $55 for my cracked, old iPhone 8 that has been sitting in my desk for like 2 years. That’s $55 for something. I considered junk and only hadn’t thrown away because of environmental concerns/ wanting. to dispose of it properly.
Trademore sends you a box with. a prepaid shipping label on it for free and you just put the phone in and send it in. They’ll inspect the phone and pay you your money in the form of a gift card or Paypal payment!
You can also buy phones on Trademore at a great price with confidence. they’re experts and put every device they sell through a stringent 30- point inspection and are certified.
I highly recommend disposing of your old phones and devices this way. It’s a win-win – declutter your home, earn some cash.
Tip 4: Use timers
I avoided block scheduling, pomodoro timers and other oft-recommended hacks to be more productive while I worked at the office. It always seemed like the demands of other people and things that would pop up threw those hard-made plans out the window.
If someone pops in your office and needs help with something that is your job, it doesn’t matter if that’s your writing block, you gotta help em. Or a breaking news story or opportunity would pop up and its all hands on deck. I had a to do list and I worked my way down it.
But at home there weren’t people popping in (other than my boyfriend), and I found myself SO DAMN DISTRACTED by everything in my home constantly that I couldn’t get any “deep work” done. The easy stuff was fine and I got through my inbox and was able to do the urgent things that came in, but any of the stuff that required my full attention for longer stretches of time proved impossible to complete.
So I tried a modified version of the Pomodoro timer method and it surprisingly worked.
If you’re not familiar, the basics of the Pomodoro method say to work in 25 minute bursts with 5 min breaks in between. (then a longer break after so many completed.)
TBH, this sounded like torture to me when I first heard about it, especially when considering doing it all day.
But I decided to try it one day for some writing assignments, and found it pretty effective.
The official app for the method costs $5, but I’m cheap, so I downloaded “ClearMind Productivity Timer” for free from the app store.
I closed out all the tabs other than those needed for the assignment, told Jacob I needed to not be interrupted for the next 25 minutes, and started writing.
Anytime I felt the urge to check my phone, I saw the timer counting down and it gave me a sense of immediacy to work. If I thought about checking Facebook, the minimized tabs reminded me that wasn’t what I was suppossed to be doing. Because it was counting down from 25 mins, it was easier to think – just focus for 16 more minutes, 7 more minutes, oooh how much can I get done in 4 minutes.
It helped a lot. And then on my 5 min break I got up, usually straightened a couple of things around the house or played with the dog, and came back to my computer when the buzzer rang again.
I didn’t do this all day. But 2-4 Pomodoros of actually focused writing and work helped me get so much done that it felt really rewarding.
Also, I was able to tell distractions (Jacob/ dogs ) that I only needed X more minutes then I’d come chat. Usually the thing they wanted to show me/ tell me could wait and everyone got everything they wanted or needed in a short time span.
Highly recommend you try it.
Tip 5: Don’t resist the urge to clean and organize
Normally I clean my home on weekends. I do the dishes regularly and pick up, but all the big stuff: laundry, vacuuming, dusting, bathrooms, and big decluttering sessions happen on Saturday or Sunday because it takes about a week to generally mess up the house to the point where I’ll need to really go at it.
Well, that was the case pre-COVID-19, when Jacob and I spent most of our week out of the home at our jobs. It turns out when you’re home all day, things get messy A LOT FASTER.
Which meant for me, I had to pick up and clean daily to feel like I had an environment that I could work in. When you’re eating and cooking all your meals at home, the dishes pile up fast. Things that normally stay fairly clutter free are suddenly covered in junk. And you can’t escape it!
So I used breaks from work and even zoom meetings where I didn’t have to show my face to fold laundry, do dishes, etc. It helped me stay on top of things and keep the place clean, even if it was at times keeping me from being fully focused on my work.
Tip 6: Make your home more beautiful
While being home has been stressful and distracting, it has allowed for me to take on some projects that have been in my head for a long, long time. Things that would normally take a whole weekend could actually be knocked out across a week over lunch breaks and little 10 minute sprints.
For instance, this kitchen island/ coffee stand had seen such better days, but I knew it would be a huge project to redo. But a lot of the time spent on weekend projects is in waiting between coats to dry, stains to cure, etc.
I ended up using. a couple breaks to take it a part, sand it, then over several days using tiny breaks and bits of my evenings to put on a coat of paint or stain. The finished project is beautiful and was completed in tandem with me getting stuff done.
I did a few projects this way and I’m really excited about showcasing the finished products in my new home that I just bought. I don’t think I would have gotten them done without the time at home.
How have you been dealing with work at home? What tips or accomplishments do you have?
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