Work from Home Tips from our Executive Assistant

Note from Biara Webster, EP and Content Manager:

Working from home is a new environment for a lot of people.

We are a mobile business so most of my report writing, emails and fiddly computer things were always done at home (or a café or library).  Now that I am Content Manager I have a bit more time in front of the screen than usual but, still, I wouldn’t consider sitting at my computer at home to be one of my strong suits.

So, I spoke to someone who could help.

Who best to ask than someone who’s been imperative to the functioning of Specialised Health behind the scenes, has 3 kids and has been working from home for the last 5 years?

Crystal Stavris, Executive Assistant, let me steal some time from her so we could find out her secrets.

Here are Crystal’s top tips…

Crystal Stavris, Executive Assistant

Prepare for the day

Breakfast
I always have a big and healthy breakfast. A decent breakfast, other than just providing energy throughout the day so I can function like a normal human, it is a part of the wakeup/start the day routine plus helps me avoid unnecessary snacking.

Tidy House
Before I start work I try to make sure the house and kitchen is clean and tidy so that I’m not thinking about it or tempted to clean during the day. My husband does his best to maintain it during the day for when “I get home.”

Meal Prep
I also am a big believer in meal prep, just helps us stay organised and makes snack and meal times less stressful, and again, something that I won’t be tempted to think about during work.

Kids
I have activities, snacks and meals prepared for the kids, so I don’t have to take too much time sorting them out while I’m at work (if my husband isn’t home).

Prepare for work

Set Up the Space
I always set up my workspace first.

I bring only work things to the desk – laptop, notebook, coffee, water, pens, and clear desk of any unrelated things.

Kids
When my husband is not around I set up in a space where they can see me, with activities ready to go.

Organise the workday

To-Do Lists
I can’t emphasise the importance of To-Do lists. Spend the necessary time on To-Do lists!

At the moment I use Mind Meister on my computer, which I’ve categorised tasks into: Currently working on, Waiting on, To Complete, Completed.

It’s interactive and you can drag and drop items to relevant categories as they change.

Yes, if I complete a task that wasn’t on the list, I will add it so that it can be crossed off (feelings of accomplishment are important!)

Planning
When applying the To-Do List for the day, tasks are prioritised based on urgency.

Understanding
It’s essential for me to understand the actual goal of the task. If I don’t understand what I am doing or the purpose I will always clarify.

I really don’t like wasting my time on guessing what is expected of me, I would rather have a full understanding from the word go so I can complete what I need to efficiently and have less work to re-do.

That extra 2-minute re-hash can save me hours sometimes!

Break Up Tasks
Many jobs are required to be broken down into smaller tasks.

If my husband isn’t around, I can expect that this time will be a lot less productive, so I take some time to break down the jobs into even smaller tasks and structure my day around them. Small tasks feel just as good to tick off the To-Do list!

Organising thoughts
I take lots of notes, old school with a note book, pen and coloured tabs.

The notes are attached to a task, and provide more detail compared to the To-Do list. It helps me break down the tasks and create structure to my day.

If it’s a large job and feels bigger than me, I always take a break from the desk, walk outside, get some fresh air, clear my mind and process it.  I come back calmer and can break it down into smaller, achievable sections.

 

Dealing with Distractions

Pause First
Before I stop work, I always quickly jot down where my thoughts last were and what I was about to do or need to do. This helps me recollect my thoughts when I come back to it.

Social Media
I personally think that social media is a time-waster.

I still use minimal social media but I have a time limit set on my phone of 1 hour per day. I’ve deleted groups and pages that I noticed took most of my time and prioritise what I actually enjoy.

When the 1-hour notification comes up, that’s it for the day.

I never have social media on at my workspace, and I don’t use it in front of my kids.

Family
With the Covid-19 situation, most of the time I work from home, my husband cares for my children.  We have a house rule “try not to come to mum when she’s at work.” Key word is ‘try’. Sometimes they will sneak in for a quick kiss or cuddle, or I will sneak out! But, in general, they’re pretty good with this rule.

I think it helps that when I am with my family I do my best to give them my full attention. I don’t have my phone on me and I try not to work outside of my dedicated workspace and I let them know when I’m going to work.

I’m learning to let go of any rowdy noises I hear and trust my husband. Background music always helps with this.

Snacks
I generally try not to snack unless I am legitimately hungry. Having a decent breakfast helps with this. So does water and coffee at hand.

Staying Focused and Motivated


Time-bound

Because I only work a few days per week, I have a sense of urgency for some tasks, which gives me the perfect amount of pressure to get things done.

Autonomy
I think having an autonomous work environment helps me. I have tasks to do which I can focus on instead of having to regularly record or report to anyone, so have the breathing space I need.

Lunch Break
I’ll always have a lunch break, and switch off from work even if it’s just for 10 or 15mins.

Micro-Breaks
I don’t always have breaks throughout the day, but when I do it will usually be quick household activities like hanging the washing or preparing dinner

Pressure Breaks
As I mentioned before, I will take a break outside, not from work per se, but from the desk to collect and organise my thoughts. I find that this prevents any overwhelm and helps continue “the flow.”

Tired
If I’m feeling tired, I’ll drink lots of coffee (lol) and listen to upbeat music which helps me get my bounce back!
I have heard that music can be quite distracting for some however for me it keeps me on track.

Time Tracking
I use an app called Admin Tracker, which is a task categorised app with a ‘tap on tap off’ system. It also helps me see where a lot of my time is spent.

Kids activities

My husband and I try to tag team with our children, when he needs to work I care for them and vice versa. This isn’t the case for everyone, but when he isn’t around and I have to get something done I try to pre-plan my time with them that will be spent working.

My kids have an attention span of about 20 minutes. I prefer to find things the kids can do together, things like school work (yes I give them homework during the holidays), play dough, craft, colouring-in or playing in the backyard (trampoline, looking for bugs, drawing with chalk, washing off chalk, bubbles, monkey bars, swings, gardening, scooting etc).

I generally have boundaries around screen times, I try to stick to 1 movie per day and because they don’t often get the iPad they love the games, even if they’re educational! There are some days that TV is their babysitter and I have to just give in, I try to pick my battles!

Massive Thanks to Crystal for sharing her amazing tips. Some of them seem so obvious, why aren’t I doing that already!?
Following our conversation I did a quick search for some apps:

Useful apps

And you can check out the checklists here to set up your space Ergonomically…

Ergonomic Desks

P.S You don’t necessarily need to buy any special equipment, it might be possible to set up the heights with extra books or boxes!

Hoping this helps! If you have any of your own tips feel free to share!

Biara Webster, Exercise Physiologist & Content Manager 

 


 

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