5 Keys to Unlock Your Ideal Work-From-Home Fairytale After over a decade of working from home, I've learned the secrets to a successful work-from-home routine. Here are some tips to sprinkle the fairy dust throughout your day.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
The sudden shift to work from home was a defining moment in the pandemic. You might have thought it would be the one and only easy part of the lockdown. Well, by now that delusion is over.
When you first started working from home, you likely had visions of more time to workout, eating a gourmet lunch, getting laundry done and more. As these big plans failed to come to fruition, you started to unravel what it's really like to be a work-at-home professional.
Sharing home life with work life is not easy. When I first started working from home over a decade ago, I envisioned myself as Cinderella blissfully singing as I worked with little birds circling around to help me. Well, that fairy tale quickly came to an end. Even though you are not fulfilling these dreamy expectations, you keep on trying, setting yourself up for disappointment each and every day. And then the awakening comes — it's time to be your own fairy godmother and set up a new approach to successfully work from home.
How do you turn your plot around? Be honest with your ability to focus while in the midst of home distractions. Instead of setting yourself up for disappointment with lofty goals, set up your work-from-home schedule for the real you versus the fantasy you.
After years of working from home, I have learned that being honest with yourself and being able to adapt are the keys to the work-from-home lifestyle. Here are some tips on how to sprinkle that fairy dust throughout your day.
Pay attention to how your day actually unfolds
How many times have you planned to have lunch in between mid-day calls, or go out for a run after you get a few emails answered? But, the lunch and the run simply don't materialize. How do you feel when your plans get derailed due to incoming emails or calls? Probably not so great. You're behind. You're playing catch up. Not to mention, you're stressed and you're hungry.
Well, it's time to be mindful of how your day actually unfolds and make a new plan that you can actually incorporate. When you have a busy day of calls, why not prepare an easy-to-grab meal or protein smoothie to sip while in your meetings? If that workout and shower never happen when planned, accept the fact that you may need to do them first thing in the morning, before work casts its spell. Closely examine your actual workflow and devise solutions that allow you to have the day you want to have. You'll feel more in control, and you might just get to feel like the princess of your kingdom after all.
Use tech tools
Once you have figured out a realistic game plan for your day, use tools to help you stick with your schedule. There are many apps and calendars to help you organize your time. Whether it's using a digital calendar to block off time for your projects, or using the Google Calendar Task feature to create a daily to-do list, figure out what works best for you to create your magic each day.
I set the alarm on my phone to go off five minutes prior to a meeting. I quickly learned if I don't want to get stuck with a pumpkin carriage, I need an alarm to pull me out of what I am doing and make sure I am on time for the next task. If you need to really focus on a big project, and your incoming emails are distracting you, put your out-of-office notification on. Tech tools are your helpful storybook birds chirping in your ears. Set yourself up for success.
Related: The Art of Working From Home
It's okay to ask for help
The home environment provides many distractions. From barking dogs and piles of laundry to kids; they all take your mind away from work. If you have the means, hire support. If it's your dog always interrupting your Zooms, hire a dog walker. If the household chores impede your focus, hire a cleaning service. If you don't want to pull from your budget for outside help, and your fairy godmother is nowhere to be found, look to your family for assistance. Talk to your partner about how to best divide household responsibilities, and make a chore chart for your kids. Ask for help — even Cinderella can't do it all. Do whatever it takes to remove the household distractions so you can be productive at work. And, when you do, you'll find your home life will be more blissful, too.
The pandemic turned our schedules upside down. It's time to bring back what grounds you. Do you like to get out of your same old four walls and go to a favorite lunch spot on Wednesdays? Or, perhaps, you do better working at a coffee shop one day a week to focus on a creative project. Or, you're the most productive brainstorming on a walk around the "palace grounds?"
If it's safe to do so, bring those pre-pandemic rituals back. Be sure to adapt your schedule. When the kids are home in the summer, you'll need to re-work your schedule. If you have house guests, create a schedule where you can tuck yourself away somewhere when they are occupied. On a day-to-day basis, things quite often don't go as planned. Don't be too rigid; you need to be flexible to be successful. When a sudden client call derails your schedule, simply look at your remaining to-dos and meetings for the day, and move things around. Sometimes, you may even need to move things to the next day. Be mindful and roll with the change.
Be kind to yourself
Don't be hard on yourself, even Cinderella drops a shoe sometimes. The number one thing I have learned is the importance of living authentically and letting your reality be your fantasy. Still in your morning workout clothes at noon? It's okay, you are getting your work done and will, eventually, get to that shower. Not accepting that you can be productive even in sweatpants, can make you distracted and stressed. You'll feel behind on your day, maybe even tired and playing catch up. Instead, acknowledge all the good work you just got done while in your workout clothes and move on. Again, let go of rigidness. You're getting it all done royally. Give yourself a round of applause, you found a shoe that fits and you're getting it all done.Working from home may not be a fairytale, but if you tap into these five tactics you'll set yourself up for success!! Separate home and work by setting boundaries and devising routines that really function for you. It's a new world and it truly can provide a better work-life balance IF you honestly approach it with your true self. Just like Cinderella, she didn't change who she was — she simply asked for help to get what she wanted.