Earn Work-Life Balance

HerMoney Healthline: How To Stay Productive And Organized While Working from Home

Rebecca Cohen  |  April 16, 2020

Professional organizer and best-selling author Julie Morgenstern offers her best tips on staying productive while working from home.
This article is part of a new HerMoney Healthline series where we ask pros in a wide range of fields for their top tips on making it through the social and economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Browse past HerMoney Healthlines here. 

Are you having trouble remembering what day it is? What time it is? When you have meetings coming up? Honestly, who isn’t? This week, we reached out to Julie Morgenstern, one of the world’s leading experts on organization, productivity and time management, to chart a path to streamlining our lives amidst the chaos. She’s a New York Times best-selling author of several books, including “Organizing From The Inside Out,” “Time Management From The Inside Out,” and “Never Check Email In The Morning.” Her books have been turned into a popular executive training program that empowers individuals to ramp up their productivity and get the absolute most out of their hours in the day.

And getting the most of our hours in the day is something millions of us are struggling with right now. Many of us have children at home to entertain and educate, we’re also working 40-hour (or more) weeks, and we may also be taking care of aging parents or a family member who is sick with the virus. Julie says if you’ve been feeling like you’re treading water, you’re not alone, and she so kindly agreed to share with us her best tips for staying productive — and sane — while working from home. Here’s what she had to say. 

Designate Clear Work Spaces

Your work day will go much more smoothly, and you’ll be able to be more productive if you can establish a separate and specific workspace for each adult working from home. Ideally each space will have a door, so that you can control your own work environment and limit distractions and interruptions. (i.e. children popping into the room to ask what’s for lunch, or a fighting dog and cat.) If you have children who are home from school, see if you can designate a clear room or space that will serve as the “classroom” as well. Your children will know that once they’re in that space, it’s time to buckle down on schoolwork. If your space is more limited, that’s okay, too! Just establish one shared space for quiet work, and use a different space for phone calls. These are unprecedented times, and we’re all doing the best we can. The important thing is that you find something that works for your family and you stick with it. 

Structure Your Day

Just because you can work anytime, doesn’t mean you should… In other words, just because you’re willing to respond to those emails after dinner because you’d rather watch Netflix now, doesn’t mean that’s a good idea. You must create a clear structure for your day with a set start time, lunchtime and end time to put edges on your workday. And to the degree that you and your partner and children can eat lunch and/or end your day at the same time, go for it. That’s one of the nice things about working from home! As a general rule for ensuring your own productivity, consider subdividing and balancing your day between three distinct types of activity: quiet time to work on deep-thinking projects, meetings, and response time to colleagues/clients. Try to avoiding getting caught up in a false sense of urgency with all of the day’s email notifications, IMs, text messages, and Slack pings. Try to adhere as closely as you can to your to-do list so that you have a roadmap of where you’re going on any given day. (And try to keep your to-do list in one central place — ideally your calendar. When Julie joined us on the HerMoney podcast, she shared that those of us who have our to-dos scattered amongst many systems can spend 30% of our day trying to figure out what we might be missing. )

Separate Work From Home

Our brains are funny, and sometimes it can be beneficial to “trick” ourselves into things like saving money, for example, by “hiding” money from ourselves in an untouchable savings account. Along those same lines, one way to make the mental shift in and out of your daily workday is to simulate a daily commute. So you’d get dressed, take a walk around the block, and arrive at “work.” When your workday is over, you’d change into your loungewear, take a walk around the block and arrive back home. Not only will it give you an opportunity for some much-needed fresh air and exercise, it can help your brain process the the beginning and end of the work day, and help ensure that you’re as productive as you can be during your hours at the “office.” 

Find places to relax & Create Work-Life Balance 

When life dictates that you live and work in the same place, it can be difficult to find a place to relax. If possible, designate two or three areas that purely “home” spaces, where you create a calm oasis for rest and relaxation; and as a general rule, don’t work in those spots. (You’ve heard the philosophy about not having a TV in your bedroom so that your bedroom can be a place for pure relaxation, right? This is the same general thought process.) It’s best if everyday family areas, such as the kitchen, living room or bedroom can remain dedicated to relaxation during your time-off. Also, when it comes to taking the time for yourself to relax, try to reinvest the time you’re saving from your typical commute into work-life balance activities you don’t usually have time for: health, wellness, and family time.

If you or a loved one are struggling to make it through these economic times, we’ve got you covered at HerMoney, with a complete list of coronavirus resources, including a breakdown of 401(k) FAQ, details on the stimulus checks and who qualifies, a look at how to file for unemployment, and who’s hiring now.

To hear Morgenstern’s original HerMoney podcast about productivity, listen in here

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