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I’ve been super lucky to have been working remotely for almost five years now, and I think I’ve gotten it down to a pretty productive science. There’s definitely a lot to be said about creating a workspace that is comfortable for you, but not getting too comfortable. Through a lot of trial and error (and too many days working from my bed,) I thought I’d share some of my most-used products and setups for getting the job done!
I really like ambient background noise, which is funny, because usually that kind of noise pollution while I’m at a coffee shop or something will make me crazy. Ambient-mixer is one of my favorites, but when I’m really struggling to focus, I bring out the big guns: Brain.fm. It’s an AI composer with music and sounds that help you focus, relax, or even sleep. The Beach Focus station is constantly on repeat for me, and I always feel hypermotivated when I have it playing.
In your home office, it can be really easy to think of something in the house that needs to be done, then doing it. Instead, I keep my bullet journal next to me wherever I’m working. This has been more effective for me than any other planning method – even my much-beloved Passion Planner – because it is so customizable. In addition to pages of to-do lists, I also keep my weekly schedule here, including meetings, scheduled breaks, and my weekly work outline. (If I don’t schedule breaks, I don’t take them, and not only does my productivity tank, my burnout hits me like a ton of bricks.)
Not sold on scheduling breaks into your day? Watch this video from Marisa Mohi on how scheduling breaks and sticking to them is an important part of self-care.
Create a dedicated workspace that you enjoy being in. I’m guiltier than anyone for working in bed more often than I should (i.e., at all.) Sometimes it just happens – it’s 1pm and I’ve been typing away since 7 without relocating or moving more than once. It’s important to have a place that isn’t your bed in order to work – trying to condition your brain to be more work-oriented will not only increase your focus, but it will also help you sleep better and improve your posture. Eventually, if you work in bed long enough, your brain and body will be conditioned to work when you’re laying down to sleep, and that’s no good for anybody. (My office is a work in progress, but by the time I’m done, it will feel like you’re on the beach in California – sand in your toes and all.)
Honestly, a dedicated workspace doesn’t even need to be fancy – it can be your kitchen table or a desk in your bedroom. Being in that space is a good physical symbol for your brain that now it’s time to work.
Find a desk that you love (or pop on craigslist to find a cheap one and do a DIY revamp so it becomes a desk you love,) and outfit it with things you want to be surrounded by. A vision board of inspirational quotes or your dream vacation, a candle of your favorite scent, and easy access to your favorite pens – whatever it takes to make it a space you like to spend time. I like a really simple, empty desk – otherwise, I won’t want to sit there. The file organizer that sits on my desk was $1 at Target, as was the wall calendar I have tacked up. I’ll rotate candles out with the season (I’m currently loving Bath & Body Works’ Salt Flower, thanks Dani.) Other than that, there’s not a lot of clutter on my desk.
Another thing that can help you get out of bed or off the couch and over to your desk is a mug you love that’s for work only. I have a giant one from my old arena that I love, and I only use it when I’m working at my desk. It’s important to keep a water bottle nearby too – when I moved from an office to a home office, I was constantly dehydrated because I wasn’t drinking water at all. My favorite is this Contigo one, which keeps drinks cold for hours.
Get dressed. I hate this as much as the next person, but to be honest, my work uniform isn’t even that fancy. I get up, put on a sports bra and workout shirt along with workout capris, and call it a day. The act of changing out of my pajamas is all I need to get the creative juices flowing. You could even change out of sleep clothes into sweats – as long as it works for you. This could also be the start of a morning routine – another way to slide into your workday. Get up, maybe do some yoga, start the coffee machine, make breakfast, take your vitamins, say some daily mantras – it’s a good and gentle way to transition from sleep to work.
Lastly, it’s important to have a place to escape to. Luckily I have the option to enjoy my outdoor patio office (since I live in Chicago, I get to do this for about two weeks a year, but still) but sometimes being home at all is too much of a distraction and it’s time to get out of the house. Or maybe the internet has gone out for the tenth time in a day and you can’t deal with one more router reset. Knowing what coffee shops nearby helps because some days you just can’t focus on the work at hand with all those distractions – or the power will go out, the internet goes down, or your neighbors decide that 9am on a Tuesday is the appropriate time to have band practice. Escape to the coffee shop for unlimited caffeine, camaraderie (there’s always someone else working in a coffee shop,) and internet connection.