At this point, there's not much more to be said about the current situation the world is in. More people are working from home than ever before, and it can be a real challenge for those who are new to doing so. Working from home has many benefits, but it's easy to let work fall to the wayside by all the distractions that come with it. If you're feeling overwhelmed, or can't seem to focus, occasional contributor, and industry superwoman JoJo Walker of Walker Music Services is here to help. As someone who's been working from home for the past 5 years as a creative director, artist manager, and talent buyer for clubs and festivals, it's safe to say she knows a thing or two. Below, she provides her essential tips and habits to help her conquer her workload and remain not only productive but efficient.
Words by JoJo Walker
Having been self-isolated alone at home for 11 days & seeing the entire world being asked to adjust to life at home, I figured now would be a good time to share some tips on working from home effectively. For many, this will be new unchartered territory and navigating self-motivation in your usual place of peace and relaxation is quite the shift of gear.
Unless I’m at one of my events, I either work from home, or remotely whilst traveling, and have operated this way for the past 5 years - I think that would be called a digital nomad?? I absolutely love it. The flexibility, lengthy-time at home and additional time it allows me to do other things due to not commuting are of priceless value. That being said, I work across 5+ time zones with E Komo Mai Festival in Hawaii, Halcyon club in San Francisco, Elsewhere club in New York and with my artist Crackazat, whom I manage, based in Sweden - with many industry contacts living across the globe in varying time zones and needing me to respond to them on their schedules.
So things are still extremely busy and hectic to manage. It’s important for me to stay connected to this global network and deliver my work, but also ensure I don’t feel isolated and maintain my personal life, health, nutrition, etc. I can honestly say that I am far more productive working from home than I ever was when I worked at a physical workplace - I would even go as far in saying I am now twice as productive! Here are a few key things I’ve learned and do, which should help you work effectively from home too. Most of these you may think seem like common sense, but collectively they really do stop the feeling of Groundhog Day! Enjoy:
The most essential thing to do is to get to know yourself and what you individually need, to be able to work well.
I can’t highlight this enough. Most employees are usually told what their work schedule and method must be, rather than having the freedom to step back and think about what really works well for them, so this is an important thing to take a moment to think about now that you have the freedom to play with both your workspace and your schedule. I personally work the hours where I have the most energy and focus in the day and change that up accordingly. If it’s not the working hours of my colleagues, I do things like save the emails in my drafts and send them out later in the day so it hits them at the right time. This can also work if you have kids at home right now and need to juggle work, homeschooling and being mum/dad. Basically, make it work for you!
Wash, get dressed and put your face on!
There’s a lot to be said about looking and feeling the part and having some self-discipline and consistency with this, especially on the days where you don’t feel like doing it. If you slob around in your sweats, you genuinely won’t feel as motivated as you would if you get yourself showered, dressed and sit down to your workspace. It’ll 100% clear your mind and keep you more motivated and feel ready for your work. Then you can pop your sweats on after your workday and relax so you’ve signaled to yourself that your workday is over - it really works with changing your internal tone of mood and pace.
Open the window and get fresh air.
It does wonders for the mind and body. Dr. Anthony Wong, an internist at Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California, says staying indoors where you are breathing stale or recirculated air makes our bodies have to work harder to get the oxygen they need and fresh air will help to rejuvenate our bodies and minds. “Serotonin is a neurotransmitter hormone in the brain that is vital to maintaining a healthy emotional state,” Wong tells SheKnows. “Changes in serotonin levels have been associated with anxiety and depression. Because the level of serotonin in our brain is affected by the amount of oxygen that you inhale, it makes sense that getting some fresh air can improve your sense of happiness and well-being.”
Set yourself boundaries so you know when to stop working & allocated time on a specific task.
This will ensure you stay focused. If I don’t do this I can find myself working from morning until night & kind of floating through my tasks for hours. If you set yourself either (or both) time and task deadlines, you quickly become accountable for them. I even set alarms on my phone to remind me of things throughout the day, list my tasks in the order I want to do them and then cross through them when I’ve done them, which keeps me accountable, ensures I stay focused and shows me what I’ve achieved.
Exercise, move & stimulate your physical self in a way that works for you.
Releasing endorphins is essential for mental and physical health. Regardless of your home size and how into exercise you are, make sure you move around throughout the day, getting the blood circulating with help ensure cabin fever stays away. Here are some free workout apps to check out.
Change up your physical workspace location throughout the day.
I have at least 5 different spots in my house I make use of, plus my garden in the summer months! I usually change my workspace every 2-3 hours, or between task types, which genuinely convinces me that I’m in a different location and makes me feel like I’m doing a different task than just being sat at my laptop/on the phone.
Get your dose of vitamin D.
Open the window and let some sunshine on your face, sit in the garden or on your balcony. Dr. Michael Roizen, Chief Wellness Officer at Cleveland Clinic, Ohio says “Moderate sunlight exposure helps improve your mood and focus by boosting the serotonin levels in your body. Also known as the 'happiness hormone', it makes you calm and alert.”
Close down additional tabs open, put your phone in another room, avoid social media - too much noise will mean you will be distracted and get less done. I am terrible for bouncing between too many tasks and getting distracted so this is something I’ve had to really work on to ensure I actually finish anything. Sometimes I literally switch off my phone and leave it in another room to ensure I really focus on the task at hand.
Connect with your usual work colleagues & consider joining additional groups or committees or forums surrounding your work subject.
You can still feel part of a team and have that comradery; you just have to ensure you’re communicating. Phone and video calls are essential in particular so you’re not only talking through text or email, as they bring conversations to life and add energy into your day. I have group WhatsApp with my main teams, use group working platforms and regularly video call my colleagues so we stay close and connected, which also helps our workflow and personal relationships. Zoom is great
This is so incredibly crucial, I can not tell you how much value and importance there is in laughing and smiling yourself through your day. It improves your attitude, lifts your spirits and it’s enjoyable. Whether this is from joining with colleagues, taking a moment out to watch some funny videos or talking to a friend, make sure it’s part of your day. I practice laughter yoga (yes it’s a real thing and it really works!), plus I am lucky enough to have some extremely funny friends who keep me howling with LOL's all day long. I also love stand-up comedy and comedy shows so I get my fix that way as well. Find your own funny and you’ll see your mood and work motivation increase as a direct result.
Check out JoJo’s music projects here