13 tips for a smooth transition to working remotely

As the rest of the world goes into quarantine, they're shifting into daily patterns that look a lot like mine. These are some of the things I've learned as a remote work professional who has been holding down the show — from home — for two years and counting.


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Sinead

Mar 26, 2020

Sinead Mulhern is a Canadian travel and lifestyle writer who lives in Ecuador. In 2018, she quit her editorial job to pursue a career as a full-tim...

making the transition to remote work

Last week's global shut-down happened to fall a smidge past my two-year work-from-home-anniversary. 

For the past two years, I've earned 100% of my income working as a freelance writer from my home offices in South America. For the past two years, I've been without a traditional office and coworkers. 

I've had to set my own schedule, manage my own projects and client relationships, self-motivate, limit my unproductive habits (or try!) and keep some sort of routine going

It has been... a lot of trial and error. 

Overall though, I honestly prefer working in solitude. It suits my personality better and I feel that I can get more done without the distraction of office chatter and meetings that should have been an email (I'm willing to bet that no one in self-isolation is missing those time-wasters right now... ).

Before the spread of Coronavirus had us closing our borders, shutting our public spaces and retreating indoors, I was already practicing self-isolation in the mornings and afternoons. (With the exception of the odd coffee or lunch date, run meet-ups and errands — but those certainly weren't daily staples). For me, having my mornings and afternoons completely to myself means that I have full control over distractions and can therefore be a more productive writer.

But as the rest of the world goes into quarantine, they're shifting into daily patterns that look a lot like mine. Understandably making that transition isn't always easy. Add a massive dose of anxiety and even more uncertainty to that equation, and working from home can be extremely difficult for some these days. 

For those trying to navigate this change during these disconcerting times, I'm giving a guide on some of the things I've learned as a professional who has been holding down the show — from home — for two years and counting.

13 helpful tips for the transition to remote work

1. Don't ghost your alarm clock

2. Start your work in the a.m. 

3. There will be unproductive days, be kind to yourself when those happen

4. Set a timer and power work while eliminating all distractions

5. Actually set up a designated home office

6. Wear your normal clothes

7. Keep expectations realistic during this transition

8. If you need a break, take one

9. Get familiar with the apps that will make your life easier

10. Find a work-from-home flow that works for you

11. Learn to call yourself on your procrastination habits

12. Set boundaries with work during the off hours 

13. Network with freelancers, entrepreneurs and remote workers

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1. Don't ghost your alarm clock

As tempting as it may be, don't sleep in every day just because you can. Starting your day hours behind schedule will just make you feel like you've lost the day before even starting. 

Set your alarm clock, get up, eat a healthy breakfast and make use of the early hours of the day. Do this and you'll feel motivated because you set yourself up for success first thing.

2. Start your work in the a.m. 

Don't just get up on time but actually start working in the morning just as you would in your normal office day. Okay, I'm not saying you have to start at 9:00 a.m. on the dot (I often don't) but as a general rule, don't sway *too* much from the schedule and routine you've already put in place. 

Sure, there are days when I need that extra 20 minutes of sleep and the rigid 9-5 role wouldn't afford me that. So I take it! That's one of the perks of the work-from-home life. I'm just saying don't start your day at noon.

3. There will be unproductive days, be kind to yourself when those happen

There are always days when your productivity or motivation is just... off. Be kind to yourself when that happens. 

The early days of transitioning into a home office setting can be especially shaky with the absence of the managers, meetings, check-ins and coworkers that keep you on-task and honest. 

That's fine. It's a period of adjustment. Some days will be less productive than others, that's just how it is. Accept that.

4. Set a timer and power work while eliminating all distractions

My timer is my secret weapon and the best manager I've ever had. I've heard a lot of very romanticized views of what it must be like to be a writer. I'll be honest: oftentimes, it's just about sitting down at the desk and focusing. 

Sometimes, inspiration doesn't strike but people, I have to pay my rent, buy groceries and pay for my life. On days when I'm not motivated or feel like I can't string two sentences together, I put a timer on and force myself to work until it beeps. 

During that time, my phone, social media, email and all websites are banned. One hour of focused work in this way can easily be the equivalent of three in an office.

Sometimes the only way to get out of a creative rut and into your flow is to force yourself into it. That's the honest truth.

5. Actually set up a designated home office

You've heard it before: your bed is not your desk. When figuring out the whole working from home routine, understand that you absolutely must have a designated work space. 

It doesn't matter if you live in a small space, there's always a spot where you can set up. I work at a desk beside my patio door in my living room and that's the only use I have for this space. When I sit down, I know it's go time. 

If you think you're able to do your best work from your bed or while lounging on the couch, you're kidding yourself. 

And by the way, most digital nomads do not work from hammocks or beaches — that's a myth.

6. Wear your normal clothes

I've seen so many jokes on Instagram about working from home in your PJs. I always thought that was another freelancer myth.

I do think that getting up, getting ready, putting some effort into your appearance and wearing real clothes is a good way to program your mind to be ready for the day. And do wear pants!

7. Keep expectations realistic during this transition

Changing your routine or your lifestyle is never easy. Focus on that overhaul, settling in and getting used to working from your space. 

Now isn't the time to set lofty, out-of-reach goals.

8. If you need a break, take one 

Breaks are so much better when you have your couch, a fridge full of food and your own space to blast whatever music you please. If this isn't the selling point of working from home, I don't know what is. 

Man, don't deny yourself that perk. 

9. Get familiar with the apps that will make your life easier

While working from home, there are so many amazing apps available to make your life organized, stress-free and just... easier! 

I use Offtime which is an app that forces you to set your phone down for a set period of time. When you don't, an awful-sounding alarm goes off. If you're not aware of Zoom by now, download it. This app is one of the best conference calling apps out there for when you need to connect with bosses, coworkers or just people who inspire you. 

Finally, I think exercise is important in order to keep spirits up and productivity high. For that, Adidas has some great quarantine workouts.

10. Find a work-from-home flow that works for you

(Hint: It doesn't have to be 9-5.) 

While working from home, you have to figure out what works for you and that will probably involve a lot of trial and error. Not everyone works efficiently in an eight-hour block. (Myself included.) 

Figure out a schedule that works for you. It might be three solid hours in the morning, four in the afternoon and one at night. Personally, I get simple tasks out of the way first thing in the morning and then I work on harder tasks late-morning and afternoon.

11. Learn to call yourself on your procrastination habits

They say that the biggest distractions for freelancers are the fridge, the couch, and the TV. As the world settles into the remote work lifestyle, many people will succumb to those productivity zappers. 

My advice: figure out which habits you fall into when procrastinating. Learn to call yourself when you recognize that you're doing it. Of course, be gentle as life has been shaken up quite a bit these days.

12. Set boundaries with work during the off hours 

The thing with working from home is that there is no physical separation from your work life in the way that there is if you work from an office. Working at a traditional 9-5, you pack up your stuff and leave the office at the end of the day. 

For freelancers, entrepreneurs and remote workers, that physical separation doesn't exist. It can be tempting to stay at the desk longer than your set hours or, when you're supposed to be relaxing, there's often a guilty feeling that you should be working. 

I think it's important to set boundaries with work and non-work hours. During this time, many are learning how to slow down and prioritize things like family, friendships, eating nutritious home-cooked meals and keeping an exercise routine. 

Take that opportunity.

13. Network with freelancers, entrepreneurs and remote workers

There are people who have been working the DIY schedule at home offices around the world for long since the coronavirus hit. *Hint, hint.* 

Get in touch with the bloggers, writers, app developers, podcast hosts, YouTubers, small business owners and influencers who you admire. They will have tips and tricks on how to work effectively from home. Use this time to network. 


Tips for working remotely

Have questions about working remotely? Drop them in the comments below or send me a message! 


9767b74cc9c82206658a283e432cfad4

Sinead

Mar 26, 2020

Sinead Mulhern is a Canadian travel and lifestyle writer who lives in Ecuador. In 2018, she quit her editorial job to pursue a career as a full-tim...


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