All of a sudden a sizeable chunk of us are now hunkered down at home, whether voluntarily or by force, trying to get some work done. And for those who just aren’t used to the WFH (work from home) life, it can be… strange. Regardless of all the bad news and negativity out there, we shouldn’t just be mailing it in while wearing sweatpants and drinking whiskey all day (as awesome as that sounds). It’s better for our productivity and mental health to get up, get dressed, and get some work done. Here’s a handful of tips for setting up your home office and being more productive than you think.
#1. Create and/or stick to a “normal” morning routine.
Sure, you might not have the same hour-long commute through traffic, but don’t waste that time sleeping in. Sticking as close to your normal morning routine is the best course of action. Yes really. Keep that alarm set for a reasonable hour (protip: the SAME hour will = mega results) and get your day started early. If you have some newly free (ie commute-free) time in the morning, use it for something fun to get your brain moving – eat a better breakfast, do some yoga, Facetime your parents, play some video games, or hit the backyard gym to get your swole on. Have you joined the Dappered Threads Weight Loss Club yet?
#2. Keep your work-day-wardrobe sharp
- Black Lapel Custom Charcoal Wool Sportcoat – $379
- Ledbury Gingham Shirt – (sold out, got it on mega clearance)
- Christopher Ward Manual Wind C65 Trident – $905 (less during nearly new, open-box sales)
- Banana Republic Rapid Movement Jeans – $49.99 ($118)
- Sanders Suede Chukkas – $246.98 ($290)
Take that morning shower, style your hair for that impending Zoom meeting, and get dressed in something that’s not pajamas. Look, I’m not going to try to convince you to throw on a suit or sport coat or sharp shirt & sweater combo every dang day. However, you should put on something that’s comfortable and put together enough that you won’t look like Eddie Murphy’s BEFORE in Trading Places for that 8:00AM conference call. That ritual of putting on normal clothes kicks your brain into a different gear. If you need some recommendations, check out the Dappered What I Wore Today: Working From Home series for some inspiration. Remember: look good, feel good!
#3. Create your “best” work space
- Target Threshold Conway Cast Iron Desk – $150
- The Container Store Dark Blue Flat Bungee Office Chair – $159.99 ($199)
- NERF Ultra One Motorized Blaster – $49.99
You need a designated work space. Ideally, find a spare room or corner of a room where you can “commute” to work. You’ll want to have everything you need to be productive in this space – a desk or table with a comfortable chair, your computer, extra monitors if that’s your thing, phone and phone charger, pens and pencils, note pads, planner/organizer, etc. The less time you spend running around trying to find something when you need it, the more work you can actually get done. Open the blinds, turn on some lights, crank up some tunes, and maybe even light up a candle if that won’t bother anyone else. Keep this working space clean, organized, well lit, and as energetic as possible during the day.
#4. Do Not Disturb
- Bose QuietComfort 35 Wireless Over-Ear Headphones – $349
- Mindbeast Super Bass 90%-Noise Isolating Earbuds – $19
Know and communicate your working hours with those you live or normally work with. I’m sure they’re already aware that this is not a vacation, but kids and pets don’t always understand right off the bat. Make sure they’re also aware of what it takes for you to be productive, especially if you need some space or quiet time to get things done. Just set clear boundaries and let them know you’ll check in to say hello at break times. If all else fails, closing a door and good noise cancelling headphones are worth every penny.
#5. Digitally Disconnect
In today’s social sphere, it can be very difficult to digitally disconnect when there’s so much going on out there. Don’t constantly monitor the news. Do set limits for yourself on when and how often you do. Log out of social media. Put your phone on airplane mode if you can. Finding a way to focus is a big part of the battle. But when you find the way, notice how much more productive you are, and how much less frustrating working from home can be. It’s night and day.
#6. Use a daily planner or calendar to schedule your day
Being late is bad for business, and you’re the widget that’ll get discontinued if you keep it up. In order to plan out your schedule, you need to know what projects or important tasks you have going on with accurate deadlines whenever possible. Put those on your digital calendar as soon as possible so you can plan around them. If you’re a fan of pen and paper, get a good planner and your favorite pen. I particularly like this Moleskin 2020 Daily Planner, especially in the Sapphire blue aka “Menswear Navy” shade, and this Lamy Safari fountain pen.
Next, you’ll want to maintain a highly detailed to-do list for each day, breaking down those larger projects into daily bite size chunks. For example, I’m currently updating some PowerPoint technical presentations, some of which are 50+ slides per. I’ll break those files up into 10 slides per day and jot down any changes each slide needs as a smaller goal. As I finish and check off each of those smaller steps throughout the day, I get a sense of accomplishment seeing the finished project come together as I’m making progress. Otherwise, from the outside looking in, it would look like I didn’t accomplish anything until the whole project was finished. For those who prefer electronics, you can use your phone’s Notes app. If you believe the pen is mightier, Field Notes memo books or a simple pad of paper works great.
#7. Work hard, play hard
Throughout the day, make sure you’re taking a few mental and physical breaks. Physically step away from your workspace – get up and walk around the room for a minute, take a phone call, or pop outside for a quick trip to the mailbox. If you have some laundry that could be started, get that going! When you come back, you’ll feel re-energized and ready to tackle that next goal. If you’re hitting the afternoon slump, it’s OK to grab a fresh pot of coffee or even take a 15-minute power nap if that’ll help you get back on track. Don’t forget about lunch, too!
For me, one of the best parts of working from home is that when I’m finished with the big project and don’t have a new one yet, I can be done working for that day. If your work doesn’t require you to check in frequently or sit in a call queue all day, imagine being more productive and getting the same amount of work done in less time. You’ve just “earned” a few extra chill hours by putting in the proper amount of work to get the job done. Alternatively, if you’re working Tech Support or you’re required to be active the entire 9-5 time slot, make sure to check out when it’s time to go home. Beware the temptation of working when you shouldn’t.
#8. Practice some Gratitude. Enjoy the Small Things.
Y’know what makes something unfamiliar and slightly weird feel a LOT better? Recognizing how good you have it, within that sphere of weird. Working from home is a privilege – millions upon millions of our friends and family are now furloughed, unemployed, working in sickness, or worse. Also, those of us lucky few have got to remember that one of our jobs now is to do our part in keeping others who don’t have that privilege as safe as possible. The less time we spend out in public, the lower the chance we have of spreading this crap. That’s the math. Stay at home whenever you possibly can. Wash your damn hands!
About the Author: Adam Terry is Dappered’s resident shoe and denim nerd. He’s a thirtysomething Technical Trainer in the heating and manufacturing industry. He enjoys bourbon, boots, sneakers, raw denim, and being a dad!