People who haven’t had to WFH long-term often think that it’s a breeze. You roll out of bed, freshen up, make some coffee, and you’re ready to work — what’s not to love, right? Well, it’s time to set the record straight. For every ounce of flexibility and freedom we gain by being self-employed/freelance/remote employees, we’re greeted with a new lifestyle challenge. While working from home can lead to greater work-life balance and career satisfaction, it can actually have the opposite effect.
With two years of working primarily from home under my belt, I’d say I’ve become a bit of an expert on the subject. In my experience, one of the most effective ways to stay motivated is to create a space that’s optimal for your productivity. Stay with me, because this is achievable whether you live in a 300 sq. foot studio, a shared apartment, or a single family home.
Carve out a dedicated nook — aka your #productivityzone. Ideally, this space is off-limits to anyone else and any other activity.
Put your creativity cap on, because it’s time to figure out which slice of your apartment can best transform into a mini-office. If your bedroom can barely fit a full sized bed, it might not lend itself to productivity. If your roommates are constantly in and out throughout the day, the entryway is likely not the best fit. And for heaven’s sake, please do not think your dining table can work as a desk (the exception is when you’re coworking and need space for others).
At this stage, you may start to conclude that this is not going to work because every cranny you can think of is either occupied or high-traffic. Perhaps this is a good opportunity to think about purging some unneeded furniture. Do you have a bookshelf filled with novels that you’ll never pick up again? I’m all for building a beloved book collection, but if a layer of dust coats the entire shelf and its contents, you should reevaluate whether it’s worth taking up that precious wall space. If you aren’t ready to let go of any furnishings, consider ways to rearrange them to squeeze out more space. Not only will you get an apartment refresh, but you’ll also be on your way to a happier work life. Two birds, one stone!
Make sure your desk maximizes the space it occupies.
What’s a home office without the perfect desk? There are a ton of affordable, small space-friendly desks on the market that can do double duty, like this cubby+desk combo, this floating wall-mounted desk, this tiny fold-out desk, and this corner desk. Despite being small, most of them can at least accommodate a laptop and notepad with extra storage for books and trinkets. If you need a surface for things like crafts or additional monitors, find a desk that is long and slender, L-shaped, or even square. Almost any size or shape option you can imagine exists — you just have to look outside of the rectangle.
Make it feel like a place where you can get stuff done.
Decorate your #productivityzone with intention. Small touches can have a big impact. Minimalism is great— you don’t want clutter and distractions — but it’s also key to make it your own. Limit yourself to one or two items, like a mousepad in your favorite color, a quirky flea market desk lamp, a photo of someone you love, or a personal mantra scrawled on a post-it note. Keep in mind that anything you choose to put in your workspace will influence your productivity. Need something to do with your hands while you think? Score those vintage Baoding balls. Are you obsessed with color coding your pens and pencils? Fine, a multi-compartment desk organizer will have to fit. Prefer to draw out your ideas? Say yes to the chalkboard wall decal!
Craft daily reminders and list them somewhere unmissable.
These to-dos shouldn’t be directly work-related — they should be self-care acts that you might forget about when you WFH. Think along the lines of “do 20 minutes of yoga,” “make a healthy lunch,” “ask a friend to happy hour,” or, you know, “shower before noon.” Small reminders like these will train your mind to register that even if the line between work and home is blurred, you can still find balance. There’s no excuse to not do this — I trust that you can take 10 minutes every Monday morning to set yourself up for the rest of the week. Jot them down in a planner or set up automated alerts on your phone.
Add a houseplant.
Houseplants are pretty much treated like pets these days — we give them adorable names and plenty of TLC, and we post photos of them all over our feeds. Our green friends are amazing for improving indoor air quality and livening up our apartments. But for those of us who work from home, they also provide something to be responsible for beyond work duties. In practically any nursery you’ll encounter a variety of low maintenance, low light, apartment-friendly options that will brighten up your workdays. Here’s a new quarterly goal from us to you: don’t kill your new desk mate.