Today’s tips are about setting up your Workspace, taking breaks from that workspace, and being productive!
You may have already set up a space that is working for you. If so, read these tips and see if any of them can help you make your workspace even better. If you’re struggling, I hope these tips will help you figure out a small space that will work for you.
First, as always, take a deep breath. We can make this work.
1 – Try to choose a space where there will be as few distractions as possible, where you have good lighting, a decent internet connection, and where you can be comfortable. This can be super difficult if you live with other people and everyone is crammed into a small space. Currently, I am using a comfortable chair in the corner of my bedroom. I pulled a lamp nearby, made a stack of books and materials I need, and I’m making it work. It’s not ideal, but it will do for now. Nothing is perfect and we’re all just doing the best we can.
Of course, if you’re lucky enough to have a spare bedroom or a room in your home that is not being used as much, that might be an ideal space to use as your workspace.
2 – Every 20 minutes, take a break from the computer by looking away from your screen. Try looking at something that is 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
3 – Every 30 minutes, take a stretch or movement break.
4 – Every hour, take a break to use the restroom (and wash your hands!), get some water (or more coffee), check social media.
5 – Eat your meals and snacks away from the computer. Take a break for yourself.
6 – Along with those tips, keep your workspace dedicated to working. When you are taking those breaks mentioned above, leave your workspace. Then your brain knows that when you sit down at the workspace, you shift into work mode only.
7 – Create a schedule for yourself, even if you don’t follow it to the letter. List the things you want or need to do daily and an approximate time for when you will do them.
Examples: check email, grade or provide feedback, plan lessons for the day/week, create resources, make videos, “office hours”.
I am trying to follow a routine of 60 minutes of work, then take a 15-minute break schedule. I’m not perfect with it, but I’ll keep trying.
You might also include self-care activities for yourself such as when you will take breaks, when you will work out, when you will take a break for some sunshine and fresh air, and when you will break for meals.
A very important part of setting a schedule for yourself: choose a “quitting time.” I don’t know about you, but I am finding myself working WAY MORE at home than I did when I was in school. Even though I usually took work home at night, it was still a task with a definite endpoint (grading math tests, for example). Now it feels like I am responding to emails or looking for one more thing online, right up until bedtime.
So now I’m trying to set a definite “end of the workday” time for myself.
8 – Even though I don’t have to be at school, showered and dressed, at 7 a.m., I still try to have a set time to shower and get dressed for the day. I admit that the time for that is much later than 6 a.m., but it still helps to have a set time!
9 – If you are using Google Meet or Zoom or making videos, pay attention to what is in the camera view. You don’t have to rearrange/redecorate your house or make the background look “school-like”, but you might want to remove anything that is distracting.
THIS is a funny video from Mary Ehrenworth about what to include and what NOT to include!
10 -You may need to set your boundaries with your own family. And this is a hard one.
If your own Children are at home with you, set up “work time” for both of you and structure activities so that your children can be (mostly) independent. Here are some ideas:
~find resources or activities that your children can do independently (or with limited assistance);
~create a (flexible) schedule for your children that aligns with your own work schedule;
~have designated workspaces for yourself and for your children. If you have younger children, they might need to be nearby. If they’re teenagers, you might want them far away from you!
Sometimes it helps if your children know they will get a set time with you later. Try to make this time of working from home time for you and your children to do things you might not ordinarily have time to do (cooking or baking together, crafts, outside time, board games, puzzles, coloring books, reading, yoga, meditation, watching movies, cleaning out closets, etc.). This will ease your own stress as well!
Katie Workman at The Mom 100 has a great website with recipes you can make with your kids.
11 – If you need to make a video, let everyone know so that you won’t be interrupted.
12 – Internet access or speed is an issue for many of us, with so many people online at the exact same time. You might need to set up times for different people in your family to do their work, stream Netflix, or use social media.
13 – Try to work on your most essential tasks in the Morning. Or — if you are not so much of a morning person — work on your most essential tasks at your most productive time of day.
14 – Plan your day the night before. Make a list of what you need to do so that you can jump right into it in the morning. This has really been helping me. I used to do this when I was teaching at school (remember those days?!), but stopped doing that once work shifted to home. I just thought, “oh, I can make my list in the morning before I get started.” But I noticed a big difference in my own productivity when I made my list the night before instead of in the morning. Try it and see which works best for you.
15 – Consider using some kind of background noise, white noise, or calming instrumental music while you are working. Or if there is a lot of noise in your home, consider using headphones or earbuds.
I hope you found something useful here. The next post will be about planning for instruction!
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