Dear Future Self,
You’ve always been drawn to the idea of working from home. Is it as green as it looks from the other side? Did you have enough discipline? Only time will tell.
Now that you’ve been at it for four weeks, you’ve learned a thing or two about working at home. An important part of being able to work from home and still be productive is to take care of yourself. So if you ever get a chance to do it again, remember these five small ways to do just that.
Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see full disclosure for more information. Thank you so much for taking the time to read my thoughts, and I hope you find some inspiration here!
1: Designate a Working Space
In the past, I never really understood why people need to have a separate room for their office at home. Last year, I learned that physically designating an office space is important for taxes. And during the past four weeks, I’ve found that mentally separating the workplace from other areas of your home is also really helpful.
The Importance of Physical and Mental Separation
My dining table is a place where I like to sit down to enjoy dinner in the evenings. But these days, it also doubles as my office desk. When I sat down for dinner after the first day of working at home, I thought to myself, it feels like I’m back at work. Why?
Because I was back in the same chair that I was sitting in throughout the work day. I was staring at the same wall in front of me. It was where my mind was focused on work.
The physical elements made me think of work. In order to keep myself from thinking about work, I also needed to create physical separation.
Limit Work to a Specific Area of Your Home
It’s extremely tempting to grab my laptop and move to the sofa where it’s soft and comfy. But home is supposed to be a place where I can relax. I didn’t want to sit on the couch and feel like I was still at work. I certainly don’t want to wake up with work being the first thing on my mind.
Since space in my small apartment is limited, I decided to designate my dining table as my working area. Yes, I also use it to enjoy a nice meal at the end of the day. But it’s where I spend the least amount of time when it comes to relaxing at home. So whether it’s taking phone calls, doing research, or making notes, I do all my work at the dining table.
I also make a conscious effort to not take my work physically with me to other parts of the apartment. This way, I am able to create physical separation between work and the rest of my home. When I’m in other parts of my apartment, I feel more relaxed and don’t feel the pressure of work and deadlines.
2: Light Up the Room with Natural Light
If I ever get to own a home, I want a room flooded in natural light! Thankfully, my current dining table is right next to a large window.
Open the Window
Perhaps it’s the vitamin D. Or perhaps the sunlight is a signal to my brain that it’s day time. But opening the blinds in the morning helps my body to begin the slow process of waking up. During the day, I keep the window open to let in fresh air. And in the afternoon, seeing the sky change colors as the sun passes over to the west makes me a little excited to know that the workday is almost over!
Use Daylight Bulbs
If you have limited natural lighting, invest in daylight bulbs. I stumbled upon daylight bulbs while searching for lighting for my Youtube channel. I have not looked back since!
Daylight bulbs are a little more pricey than fluorescent bulbs, but are worth every penny. Many of the bulbs made made to use less energy than fluorescent bulbs and are long lasting.
The bulbs mimic natural light, and I must warn you, they are very bright. In fact, you might even find them to be too bright when you first switch to them. If this is the case, start with just one bulb and slowly switch over as you become more accustomed to the light. Or perhaps one may be all that you need.
I’m currently using the 60W Refresh LED Light Bulbs by General Electric. These are the same bulbs I use for my Youtube videos and in-door photos, including the ones in this very post!
3: Take Breaks
Sometimes, we become so lost in our work that we don’t realize the amount of time we spend in one position. We could be hunched over and frowning at the screen for no reason at all. Repetitive motions even as simple as typing all day can also lead to injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome.
Take Small Breaks
Taking small breaks helps to clear my mind. The breaks are especially helpful when I’m working on a project that demands a lot of mental juice. Because I like to tackle work in chunks, the breaks act as a marker that signals the end of a project or task. That way, when the break is over, I can get a fresh start on the next task.
Leave Drinks and Snacks Out of Reach
Getting up reminds me to move my body physically. One thing I like to do is to leave drinks and snacks outside of arm’s length. Sometimes, I’ll purposely leave drinks in the fridge. Even if it’s just a few steps away, it forces me to actively get up from my chair.
Occasionally, I’ll also take a 30 second break just to stretch my arms. Whether it’s reaching high above my head, across my shoulders or behind me, I find that the stretches help to relieve tension in the shoulder area.
4: Drink Water
In addition to taking breaks, hydrate often. Not with sugary drinks, energy drinks or coffee, but with water.
Pay Attention to Your Body
I learned this the hard way while working for a pizza chain many years ago. One of the perks of working there was having access to bottomless fountain drinks. The pressure to keep up with orders mixed with grease and heat from the ovens meant I was always turning to Pepsi soda for a boost of energy. On any given shift, I could easily go through two 16 oz cups of soda or more.
It got to the point where I craved soda even at home. I legitimately became worried about my health and knew I had to stop somehow. One day while feeling the familiar urge to drink soda, I reached for water instead. I remember my body feeling so refreshed after drinking the water.
It’s a no brainer, right? But it’s not always easy to realize these “no brainer” things when you’re in the moment. That small action became a turning point for me. Most of the time, our bodies are just thirsty and simply need water.
Keep Water Within Sight
One thing I’ve noticed is that I forget to drink water when I’m at home. It could be because I’m lost in the day’s activities or I simply don’t actively think about it. Keeping a bottle within sight reminds me to hydrate often.
Monitor Your Water Intake
To ensure you’re drinking enough water, find a way to monitor how much water you’re drinking. It doesn’t have to be extreme. You can simply keep a mental tally of the number of cups or water bottles you drink throughout the day.
I use the Cactaki 32oz Water Bottle that has time markers for the recommended volume of water to drink throughout the work day. Although I don’t follow the markings by the hour, the markings are a good way to measure my water intake throughout the day. And I have to admit, it’s quite satisfying to have to refill the bottle in the middle of the day!
5: Shut Down at 5 PM
Lastly, leave work on time! When I first started working, I was always worried that I would come across as being not hard working enough. I never wanted to be the first one to leave and would purposely stay back for a few minutes. Sometimes, I would agree to take calls in the evenings or worse, take work home with me. This is especially easy to do when work is so easily accessible at home.
Plan Out Your Workload
To help with shutting down on time, I begin to pace myself during the final two hours of the work day. I make a mental note of the tasks to tackle. Of course, anything that needs to be completed before the end of the day takes priority. Knowing how much time is required for each task also helps with planning out the workload. This way, I maximize my time and can transition smoothly between the tasks as they are completed.
Avoid Starting Big Tasks at the Last Minute
Because I don’t like to leave in the middle of a task, I’ll more than likely stay behind to finish a task. So whenever possible, I try to avoid starting large tasks during the final 15 minutes of work. If I happen to have a few minutes left, I’ll use them to catch up on any remaining emails or tidy up.
Once it’s time to leave, I shut down and don’t look back. Knowing that I’ve been able to complete all tasks for the day helps me to leave on a high note. It also keeps me from worrying about things that may have been left unfinished. This way, I can start the next morning with a fresh slate.
Although I still have a long way to go with self esteem, I am learning to be more lenient on myself. Yes, there will be big projects and strict deadlines. No, some things cannot wait until tomorrow. And depending on your line of work and position, overtime may be a necessity. But do not let it become a habit if it is not necessary. Your health and well being is worth taking care of.
What about you?
What are a few small ways you like to take care of yourself while working at home?