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Before I joined CNBC, I worked at home for the better part of a decade.
If you’re starting to put plans in place for working remotely as the coronavirus continues to spread, I have a few tips that helped me stay productive.
I hope you find them useful if you find yourself spending weeks or months at home.
Stick to your regular morning routine
Stick to your normal morning routine.
Getting adjusted to working from home can be tough, but the best tip I can pass on is this: Get up at the same time you’d normally get up for the office, and continue your normal morning routine. Take a shower and put on the same clothes (OK, maybe skip the suit) that you normally wear to the office. This helped me start my day, and it’s much better than lounging around in sweat pants until you can take a break for a shower later.
Make a home office
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Create a dedicated work space if you can. When I lived in a one-bedroom apartment, I set up a dedicated work desk in the corner of my living room that I’d sit at in the morning. When I bought a house, I created a home office where I put that desk, and that’s where I go during normal working hours. A dedicated workspace is important for productivity. You don’t want to be working from the couch where you’ll be tempted to nod off, turn on the TV, or just feel lazy. Trust me, over a few weeks you start to feel a little sloppy. This division allows me to “leave work” too. At the end of the day, I walk out of the office and don’t go back unless I really need to.
Coffee shops aren’t as great as they seem
Coffee shops are a nice break. Consider finding one you like, but I don’t recommend sitting in one all day. I remember spending hours and hours in a specific coffee shop and, before long, I couldn’t stand the smells of coffee, the loud talkers on cell phones, the crowds and, often, the lack of an outlet when I needed it most.
Get a good internet connection
Make sure you have a good internet connection. You want fast enough speeds so that you can upload and download files that you might need for work. I pay for a 1Gbps connection which is, admittedly, a bit of overkill. But as long as you have a constant 100Mbps or so you should be good.
Make sure you have a speedy laptop
Get a good fast laptop. Remember: you want to be productive, and you’re not going to have an IT team to come help you out if things start to feel sluggish when you’re opening and closing programs. If I was shopping for a new laptop right now, I’d probably go with the HP Specter X360 2-in-1. It has the latest 10th gen Intel core processors and has been praised by reviewers. If you’re getting a Mac, check out Apple’s new 16-inch MacBook Pro. It’s expensive but offers plenty of power and a keyboard that works.
Don’t binge TV shows
Don’t turn on the TV: You’re trying to avoid distraction, so don’t turn on the TV and try to catch up on the latest Netflix episode you might have missed last night. Before long, you’ll be binging TV instead of paying attention to work. (If you must, just make sure you’re tuned in to CNBC.)
Don’t run errands
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Don’t use working from home as an excuse to get some errands done, unless they’re the kind of things you’d do during your workday anyway. If you go out for a haircut or for an oil change, you’ll start to get in the habit of thinking you can spend a chunk of your day doing things besides work. Plus, I found that mixing my personal to-do list with my work to-do list just made life more stressful. It’s best to keep the two separated: work during the day and save the errands for the evening or the weekends. Remember: it’s key to continue working just like you would be at the office, otherwise your productivity is going to slip.
Stay out of the kitchen!
I seriously packed on the pounds when I worked from home, largely because I couldn’t keep myself from walking to the kitchen for a snack…and then another snack. Before long, I was eating sandwiches, bowls of pretzels and more, all while spending most of the day indoors and without much exercise. This is really tough to do, so again, stick to your regular work routine: eat breakfast before the work day, fit in a lunch, and then eat dinner when the day is done.
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I wish I had done more of this when I worked at home. But, largely, I found myself stuck indoors most of the time and feeling a bit stir-crazy. I remember I used to beg my wife to go out for dinner almost every night — often when she was tired and returning from the office — just for some human interaction. Consider spending time at the gym instead, around other people, and taking some walks during the day so that you’re still getting regular exercise. If you’re not careful, you may be like me and end up waking up, walking to your desk, and then going to bed. It’s a bad routine to get into.