10 Tips to Create Structure When Working from Home

John Clarke, LPCC on Apr 10, 2023 in Life Transition

1. Your Workspace MATTERS.

Our environments greatly influence how we operate mentally. When our area is cluttered, our brains naturally get distracted by the physical mess around us.

Creating a clean and minimalistic workspace can help you stay focused and feel like you have more mental space and energy.

Put a few items on your desk that bring you joy, but try your best to clear out everything unless it’s absolutely necessary.

In the book Willpower Doesn’t Work, Benjamin Hardy explains how your surroundings can shape how consistent you are in achieving your goals. He also explains how setting up your space to reflect your values will help you live a life of congruency instead of struggling with cognitive dissonance.

Practically, this can look like having a standing desk so you can both sit and stand at alternating points of the day to help with your posture, having water nearby to stay hydrated, turning off notifications on your phone, and limiting distracting apps.

2. Cut Out the Noise

It may be difficult to find a space that’s free of all noise (especially if you have kids at home), but doing your best to find a quiet space is key to feeling less stimulated and more focused.

Try noise-canceling headphones or putting a white noise machine in the room or outside the door to help reduce the amount of auditory distraction.

Another idea is to find a playlist that’s just instrumental to listen to. A great playlist we suggest for this is called “BrainFood” on Spotify.

3. “Tomato Timer”

This technique was developed to help you create a habit of working hard while also taking multiple breaks to keep you incentivized to stay motivated.

To use this method, set a timer for 30 minutes. Once the timer is up, take a 10-minute break, then set the timer again for 30 minutes and repeat.

This helps you get more done in less time, especially when you know that break is coming soon!

Many people start to realize when trying this method that they can actually go for quite a bit longer than 30 minutes once focused.

Try it out and see what happens!

4. Fill the Gap

Our brains are wired for “filling the gap” when it comes to completing tasks.

If you are told something is due in one month, it’s more than likely you’re going to take most of the month to actually finish it. However, if you tell yourself it’s due in one week, you’re more likely to get it done within the week.

The key here is to give yourself smaller increments of time to get things done so you waste less time procrastinating or filling the space with other things (which is very easy to do).

5. Incentives

Most of us respond to positive reinforcement rather than negative reinforcement.

Create ways to give yourself small “treats” or breaks throughout your day that you can look forward to and enjoy.

This could look like an hour break in the middle of your day to go on a walk, play with your kids, or listen to some of your favorite music.

Instead of punishing yourself for not being as productive as you may have wanted to be, reward yourself for your wins!

6. Something to Look Forward to That’s Not Work

Having a hobby outside of work is pivotal in getting your best work done and being the best version of yourself at the same time.

Do you have an interest, sport, or activity you just can’t wait to do once you’re done working?

Scheduling time for this in your week can be a smart way to incentivize getting things done and to keep work from becoming your “hobby.”

7. Social Time

We all need connection.

As the Harvard Women’s Health Watch reported, “Dozens of studies have shown that people who have satisfying relationships with family, friends, and their community are happier, have fewer health problems, and live longer.”

There are numerous studies that have proven the importance of social ties and belonging to our mental, physical, and emotional health.

Make an effort to have some sort of social connection each day. Examples could be calling a friend, saying hi to a neighbor, and/or engaging in socially distanced gatherings if comfortable.

Having this support will give you a sense of stability and meaning even when life feels out of control.

8. Exercise

I know, I know... It’s the most common piece of advice out there for healthy living. But we have to include it if we’re talking about how to create healthy boundaries for ourselves when working from home.

Exercise has been difficult for a lot of us, with many gyms being closed or having restrictions in place.

Working out from home can be a great option with a large variety of free workout videos online.

Creating time for this in your day will break up the monotony of being at home and give you a sense of a “reset” for your mind and body.

9. Calendar with Checkboxes

If you’re someone who’s more visual, creating some sort of calendar or checklist can be a great way to keep track of tasks, goals, and action steps for your week, helping you feel more structured.

Using something like a planner, bullet journal, desk calendar, or to-do list will also help you feel productive as you’re able to physically cross things off a list.

10. A Consistent Morning and Night Time Routine

Do you have a routine that helps you feel awake and refreshed in the morning or relaxed and ready to wind down at night?

If not, it may be a good idea to think about your ideal day in your head.

Does it start out with morning coffee outside? Exercise in the morning? Walking your dog? A skincare routine?

Does it end in a cup of tea? Watching the sunset? Spending some time with loved ones? Reading a good book?

What are a few things that you can look forward to that help you wake up and wind down? Make these part of your morning/nighttime routine and try and do them every day.

You may be surprised how “bookending” your days can help you feel more structured and less scattered!

John Clarke is a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor in San Francisco, CA.

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