Whether you are working from your apartment in Beijing or a beach in Thailand, working from home can be a challenging shift. When I first began working from home part-time 3 years ago, I wasn’t always sure how to find balance. I still sometimes struggle with being productive when there are so many distractions. Every day, I continue to learn how to be my best self without physically being in a school. Below are 10 strategies that have helped me transition from a structured work environment to the flexibility of an online work environment. I’d also love to hear your strategies in the comments!
First and foremost, practice extreme patience for yourself. Some days are going to be harder than others but remember that this is a learning journey and your perception of success will probably ebb and flow daily. Your colleagues and students also deserve your extreme patience. For your students, learning independently and the daily deluge of information has the potential to be just as, if not more, overwhelming as it is for you.
How might your expectations of what you are able to accomplish in a day need to change? How might your expectations for your students need to change?
I have lots of places that I am comfortable and cozy in our apartment, but those spaces haven’t always supported my productivity. If you don’t already have one, create a space where you feel productive and inspired. While you’re working, minimize distractions by putting your phone away and turning off notifications on your laptop.
How might you create a dedicated area that allows you to focus? What might it look and feel like?
Working from home doesn’t have to be all work or all play. There have been days where I have worked way too much and other days where I have not worked nearly enough. Just because you are no longer restricted by school hours does not mean you should work all day, every day.
How might you find or create joy during your day? How might you incorporate play into your day?
Keep a Schedule
Make time each day to review your to-do list and map out what your day will look like. We’re used to a very rigid schedule, and now it is up to us to create our own schedules. I have a daily (paper) planner where I schedule my day and keep a running to-do list. Electronically, I have also used Asana to keep track and stay focused.
What will you do today? When do the tasks on your to-do list need to be accomplished? Which hours of the day are you most productive? How will you chunk your day and hold yourself accountable? How might you keep track of your various projects and tasks?
Celebrate small successes. Did you just spend 50 minutes dedicated and focused? Allow yourself 10 minutes to relax and give your brain a break. Read a good book, go for a swim, play in the snow.
How might you use ordinary moments to reward yourself?
We’re used to being in constant motion, standing 6+ hours a day. Working from home reduces the reasons to leave the house, making it easy to inside for days on end. But, our brains need us to move. Be intentional about getting up and being active. Find reasons to leave the house. Use the resources at your fingertips to get up and move:
- Two of my fav online workout channels: Pilates and strength.
- More online workout ideas: here, here, & here. And some Barre videos here.
- Not into videos? Do these 7-minute workouts on your own. Or, set yourself an alarm every 10 minutes to get up and do 10 repetitions of an exercise of your choice. Have a trampoline at your disposal? Go jump on it for a few minutes!
- Looking for more interaction? Join Victoria’s virtual Zumba classes! More info in her WeChat group.
- Hate exercising? Walk around while listening to these podcasts.
How are you making the intentional choice to move? How are you sharing your success with others?
Make Time to Collaborate
We’re used to being around people all day, popping across the hall to ask a colleague a question, meeting with team members to design authentic learning experiences. When I first started working from home, it was often lonely. Finding ways to embed collaboration in your daily schedule will allow you to share your successes, get support for your wonderings, and alleviate the stress of feeling like you have to do everything alone now.
How might you be intentional about connecting with colleagues? How might you use the tools that are available to us to support collaboration? How might collaboration benefit student learning?
Find Your Jam
Did you know that Spotify has all sorts of playlists for the workday? Get a confidence boost, find your focus, visit your favorite coffee house, get through the whole workday, or stop procrastinating. Silence more your thing? Revel in it!
How might you find your unique jam?
When I first started working from home, I had no concept for how much time I was spending actually working or what tasks were taking up my time. Keeping track of what you’re spending your time on gives you concrete data (I use Toggl) that you can later reflect on and learn from.
What data might you collect? How might you collect it? How might you use this data to support your future productivity?
Brush Your Teeth
This is might seem silly or obvious. But I have found that getting out of my PJs and brushing my teeth before I begin my workday has been beneficial for both my productivity and sanity. Do the people in my virtual meetings know that I’m dressed & have clean teeth? Nope. Do I feel better about myself? Yup.
What rituals will help you transition into and out of your workday?
What strategies have you found useful as you have undertaken the adventure of working from home? We’d love for you to share in the comments below so that our ISB community can benefit from your experience!
Professional Learning Project Coordinator