How to keep things organised – tips for working from home

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused significant disruptions to every aspect of everyone’s lives, and working from home has become a neccesity. However, without the professional setting of the office it may become hard to keep track of things and stay organised from the comfort of your home. With this in mind, here are some tips to help you keep a clear head and work from home effectively and efficiently.  

Separate work and home

Perhaps the biggest danger when working from home is your working life and your home life blurring together- this could result in you not being in a professional mindset while at work, or could make your relaxation spaces feel like work spaces, even after hours. Either way, if you’re not careful while working at home, you run the risk of compromising your work and your home, both of which are essential parts of your personal and professional life.

To avoid this, make sure you keep a clear divide between your “work space” and your “home space”- as tempting as it may be to work in your pyjamas from your bed, it’s important that you establish a space in your house where you only do work, to set it apart from parts of your home where you can decompress from work. Pick a spot where you can work in peace, and avoid areas with high foot traffic from housemates- you’ll want a location that can be yours exclusively and indefinitely.

Having a space exclusively dedicated to work will help you eliminate distractions, and will help you maintain your professional persona, even though you’re surrounded by creature comforts.

In a similar vein, make sure you change in the morning, even if you won’t be seeing anyone through Zoom- changing from your night clothes into “work clothes,” even if they aren’t what you would wear at work, will help you maintain a healthy separation between work and relaxation. You don’t want to associate your comfy jammies with work, after all!  

Organise your work space

Now you’ve got your work space established, it’s also important that you keep it organised- a decluttered space means a decluttered mind, and will help you keep track of things while working from home. Make sure you only keep things that you definitely need for work near your work space- desk toys and decorations are fine if they help you feel comfortable in the space, but anything that could distract you should be moved away from your work space to avoid temptation.

Keep all the equipment you need for your work close by, and make sure you have places for everything to go so you don’t misplace anything at a critical junction. Similarly, establish whatever system works best to keep your paperwork organised to make sure you know where your critical documents and important details are at any given time. Working at home will make communication and organisation between you and members of your team harder, so you’ll want to make things as efficient as possible on your end.  

Make checklists

Since you’re working at home your colleagues won’t be as accessible as they usually are, and it might become easy to lose track of what you have to do and when you have to do it. With this in mind, it’s more important than ever that you keep a personal checklist to keep your duties straight- before you start your work, make sure you have the things you need to accomplish written down, be it physically or digitally. Keeping this list will help you establish a routine while working from home, and put you in a professional mindset from the moment you start working.

You can also use online resources to make sure you don’t miss anything on your work calendar- entering deadlines and important dates on an online calendar as well as a physical journal can help make your organisation foolproof. Depending on how your memory works, it might also be useful to set yourself multiple reminders to help keep your mind focused.  

Establish a routine

Routine has been a consistent part of these tips so far, and it’s a good idea to put some of that into writing so you know what you should be doing at any given time. If you don’t have specific hours laid out in your contract, you should set yourself feasible and practical start and finish hours and stick to those consistently, to help get yourself into (and out of, when your work is over) a professional mindset quickly and easily.

It might be difficult, but it’s also important to make sure your sleeping schedule is consistent too- your mind works on the same internal clock as your body, and a well-rested body makes for a well-rested mind, ready to take on whatever professional challenges await you while working from home.  

Take breaks, and take them completely

With routine in mind, breaks are an essential part of your work schedule- you need time to decompress from your work to help you get back at it with more energy as the day goes on. You should try and keep your breaks as organised as your start and finish times, especially since you’re working from home- it will be very tempting to extend your break since you’re in the comfort of your own home, but it’s important that you avoid that temptation. If you make your break longer than you’ve scheduled it to be while working from home, you run the risk of blurring the lines between home and work in a way that makes regular relaxation feel like work!

However, it’s also important to remember that when you take a break, you should take it completely- breaks are designed to help you take a breather from your job, so when you’re having a break, don’t look at or even think about work until you sit back down at your desk. It can be useful to take your break away from your work space to help drive that barrier between work and home, and if it is safe and easy to do so it might be worth getting some fresh air.  

Set ground rules with housemates

The tips in this article so far have been mostly focused on things you can do, but if you’re not the only person at home, you should have conversations with your housemates, be they friends or family, about your work from home.

Make sure everyone in the house knows your working hours, and set ground rules for interacting with you during those hours- obviously if a situation is critical at home you might need to know, but you should minimise interactions with other people when you’re working. Again, it’s about the separation between work and home- if your housemates keep distracting you, it’ll disrupt the schedules you’ve laid out and affect your efficiency at work.

Pets are another thing to consider while working from home- you should try your best to keep your pets away from where you work, but ultimately if a cat wants to sit on your laptop there isn’t a thing you or God can do to stop it from trying.  

Keep constant communication

The people with you at home are important to consider when you’re working from home, but also important to remember are the people you would normally be working with at the office- remember that they’re in the same situation as you, and try and do your best to help them with their jobs so they can help you with yours.

One good way you can keep things organised, even if you’re working at home, is keeping constant communication with your coworkers- be it through email, text or Zoom, make sure you update the members of your team as often as possible with your progress on the day’s tasks as well as any problems or questions you might have.

You might be concerned about being annoying, but in these unusual circumstances being annoying is better than missing something important or making a critical mistake because you didn’t clarify with the right person. It’s good to keep everyone you are working with in the loop- use your own judgement to assess when that’s appropriate, but don’t be afraid about overdoing it!