How To Work From Home Without Going Crazy

April 15, 2020
5 min read

A lot more of us are working from home these days. And, at first, it sounds like the dream.

Wear pajamas all day.

Eat whenever you want.

That is, until week three of social distancing comes around and you realize the day-to-day routine of getting ready and going to work was the thin thread of normalcy holding your sanity together.

  • What day is it?
  • What does it feel like to wear pants?
  • Why are all Zoom chats with your co-workers SO painful?
  • When is it okay to crack your first White Claw?
  • Did my dog just say something…

The thing is, working from home is the new normal. That means we need to find ways to adapt.

Personally speaking, working from home isn’t new for us. We’ve been doing this on-and-off for years, so we thought we might share some insider tips and tricks with you.

Because we know what its like to start feeling crazy behind the same home desk every day. But thousands of North Americans have been successfully doing this for years.

So. It is possible!

Laptop open with books beside it

How To Stay Productive While Working From Home

Have a Morning Routine

Michelle: I start my day with meditation. Once that’s done, a coffee and perhaps check on my social feeds. Work starts at 9 am and I break my day up to really help me stay engaged.

A part of learning to work from home is training the mind when to focus and when not to. This doesn’t mean that within the day, our attention won’t wander. The longer you work from home, the more of a routine you will develop.

Do what works best for you. I like to check emails and do more formal business work in the morning, and creative work in the afternoon - since that’s what I’ve learned my brain likes.

So do what feels right for you! Don’t be afraid to get this wrong - because the end goal is to be able to feel good about your work day and the amount of quality work you achieved.

Girl doing yoga pose

Kass: A routine is absolutely essential. Each day can’t look different or else you’ll be working in the Wild Wild West, not knowing which way is up. Your home office is your work space now, so treat it with respect.

Get some pants on, brew a coffee, water the plants, light a candle; get your space jazzed-up and comfortable.

Personally, I work most efficiently in the morning. So I crush out emails, and then move on to the tough stuff.

Lunch is always 1 - 2 and I DO NOT eat at my desk. I hit the patio or the kitchen table. I have separation of space in my house so my mind can distinguish when it should be engaged and effective and when it can zone out on Instagram while I’m snacking on food.

Girl with dog on lap looking at computer

(This is an example of what NOT TO DO, BTW).

Get Ready For The Day

Michelle: Get ready in the morning! Take a shower, put on nice clothes or comfortable casual clothing that you might wear out to the store. If it makes sense for you, try this out. It might help you get into that work mode.

Then, you can change your clothes at night for relaxing. Giving yourself those mental cues can give your body and mind what they need in order to separate the day.

Kass: I’m actually really bad for this and it’s something I need to work on. I will say, though. The days I comb my hair and put on fresh clothing (even if its still pretty casual) I instantly feel better about the direction the day is headed.

Don't Do Chores

Michelle: Just don’t! You didn’t do laundry when you were at work, and don’t do it now. Wait until you are done, or even use your lunch (if it’s longer) if you like having something to do (I actually like doing dishes at lunch!).

Kass: This hearkens back into the whole idea of separating space in your house: office, kitchen, bedroom, etc.  Now you need to separate home and work tasks. Essentially, you need to treat the day as you would a normal in-office day.

It’s so easy to fall into the trap where you do a little bit of house work here, and then you answer a few emails. Do the dishes, than fire off a report to your bosses.

The problem is, your day becomes much longer and you find you’ve actually been half-working all day. All of a sudden it’s 10 PM and there’s been no distinction of work. You’ll eventually burn out because it’s going to feel like you’re always working.

Stop Working At The End of Your Shift

Michelle: This sounds perhaps like the opposite right? A big part about working from home is having proper separation and balance between work and life.

Of course, if you have a creative moment at night, an aha moment, or an email you forgot to respond to, write it down! But then leave it at that and tackle it the next day. You need these breaks to recharge, and that space to HAVE those aha moments.

Kass: I actually don’t have a problem with this one. I might roll over a bit past 5 PM but I like to have my evenings to recharge. It’s what keeps me sane.

Take Breaks

Michelle: It’s easy to forget to take a break. If you have to, plan them. Go for a healthy walk outside, meditate, do some crunches, eat a snack!

Whatever helps give you a quick refresh so that you don’t get too drained later in the day.

Person drinking a cup of coffee

Kass: I would even go beyond this and say take multiple breaks. And don’t fill up those breaks with chores. I cruise Instagram for 20 minutes, or I’ll make a snack. Sometimes I’ll go for a 30-minute run just to shake the cobwebs off.

In the office, I’m always taking mini-breaks to talk to my co-workers. I don’t have the pleasure of doing that at home, so sometimes I even call up a friend for a quick chat when I’m working from home.

Be Kind With Yourself

Michelle: Perhaps you always dreamed about working from home, so here you are, living the dream! But for some reason the day is dragging.

Why is the day dragging?

You’re at home, comfortable, sleeping later, snacks a plenty, no commute, pant-less Fridays, some casual animal visits - isn’t this everything you ever wanted?

Just remember that working from home is still work!

Everyone will always have those moments that are harder to get through, those parts of the jobs that feel less than ideal. And some days the temptations and distractions of home are yelling at you louder (and closer) than ever.

That is totally normal, and OK.

Be nice to yourself. Acknowledge the emotions, give them space, and then give yourself a simple task. Monitor yourself.

Perhaps even set a timer - I use the Pomodoro method when I need to focus on something that is challenging. Whatever works for you, do it. Experiment.

Neon sign that says Wake Up. Kick Ass. Repeat.

Kass: The simple truth is — working from home can be totally isolating. You’re going to feel lonely at times.

Some things that help me?

Having a group chat going with my co-workers or talking with other freelancers that also regularly work from home.

I start my day off by pulling up my Slack and saying good morning to anyone else who’s locked in to work for the day. Having those casual conversations throughout the day about what we’re working on or sharing memes keeps me feeling normal.

Anyone who has worked from home for long periods of time will tell you — it’s perfectly normal to feel a little crazy some days. Accept that today is one of those days and give yourself a pat on the back.

You got up, you made it to your desk, and you’re going to push through.  

Girl drinking coffee looking at camera

Make A List

Michelle: Similar to when you are at work, keep using whatever tactics you used there and bring them into your home. I like to make lists and schedule my day into smaller, doable tasks. The reward of crossing something off the list can be motivational for all of us. I know it’s not for everyone, but try it out!

Kass: I was never a list maker until I started working from home. It’s the first thing I do before I dig in to the days work. Crossing those things off can make you feel like a real boss by the time 5 PM rolls around.

Create Healthy Boundaries

Michelle: You might be sharing your space with roommates, significant others, children - and this can be hard to juggle. Make sure you have some communication with these people as best you can. Perhaps having ear plugs in means it’s focus time for you - so let them know.

Maybe it’s as simple as having times put aside for questions or catch ups!

Girl writing in notebook

Kass: Communication will be key, here. Whomever it is that you share a space with, make it clear when you are working, and when you’re not.

When you’re taking a lunch break, feel free to engage. Otherwise, it’s OK to be straight-up: “I’m working right now, but I'll catch you in an hour.”

Person on laptop

Working From Home Is Easy and Hard

You weren’t wrong.

Working from home is still AWESOME.

You can sleep-in more, you don’t have to deal with traffic, make-up isn’t a necessity and screw those annoying blazers. All the benefits you wanted from working from home are still there.

But there are also some slippery pitfalls that you need to be on the look-out for in order to maximize your productivity and… let’s face it, stay sane.

We’re in this for the long-haul. Be patient with yourself. Be kind. Be forgiving.

You’re working from home in the midst of a life-changing pandemic. That’s stressful in itself.

Give yourself props for continuing to plug-in and get stuff done.

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