They’re often uninspiring, they take way too long to get to, and more often than not, the printer’s broken. Luckily, there is an alternative, and getting to it doesn’t take a whole lot more than simply getting out of bed.
So it’s more than likely that you’ve recently found yourself working from home, not by choice, but by necessity. That being said, as someone who’s been working from home for more than a decade, I can tell you that working from home is kind of awesome.
Your commute gets eliminated, you have a lot more control over how you set up your workspace, and technically you don’t even have to wear pants. That said, it also does come with certain challenges. When there are no bosses or coworkers around, it can be a lot harder to stay on task and to avoid certain temptations, and every decision becomes yours to make, which can be a little overwhelming when you’re used to having your schedule at least partly set by someone else, so this is the start of a series of videos on this channel that will teach you how to work from home as effectively as possible, and with this first video, we are starting with your environment, with your workspace.
Now, the first thing I wanna say here is that there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to setting up your workspace. One of my friends often works from his couch, and another one writes all of his video scripts from a bean bag chair.
That being said, I think there are two main elements that you wanna consider when setting up your workspace, separation and isolation. So by separation, I’m talking about having a space that has a singular purpose.
You wanna set up a space that is only used for work, and then have another space that’s used for relaxation. The surroundings that we put ourselves in have a certain amount of influence over our psychological states, and in the choices that we make.
So you wanna make sure that your brain doesn’t have to work too hard against your environment to stay on task. Secondly, you wanna aim to be isolated from people who might interrupt you, and honestly, this is a big problem in offices as well, especially since many of them have moved to that open office concept without walls, but it’s an even bigger issue when you’re at home with family.
So at my house I’ve built a dedicated office that serves both of these purposes. I have a desk that I use for research and for writing, which is where I wrote the script for this video, and then a reading area next to that, and if I need to, I can close the doors to that office and be alone in that room.
But what if you don’t have the room for a dedicated isolated workspace? Well, when space is limited, you can either get creative, maybe putting your desk underneath a loft bed in your room like my friend Alex does, or you can turn to another resource that you have at your disposal, time.
If you can’t set up a permanent workspace, you can get into the habit of setting up a temporary one each day, and you can even make this part of your morning routine. Have your shower, make your breakfast, make your coffee, and then clear off a space on your kitchen table or get out a folding table, and in the case of the latter option, you also have the flexibility to experiment with where to put that folding table.
Now, my main tip here would be to make sure you’re not facing a TV, especially if somebody else in your family is watching that TV, and in general, don’t face anything that is going to distract you. If you have to face a blank wall, then do that.
But in any case, you can experiment and see what works best for you. Then, once you’ve finished your work for the day, or you’ve hit a pre-set stopping time, which would be a good thing to have, you can reverse the routine and put your gear away.
And this actually comes with a really great benefit, because it’s a way of really committing to the act of disengaging from work mode, and going into relaxation mode, and this, I can tell you from experience, is quite hard to do when you live and work in the exact same space.
Now, another question that I’ve been getting pretty often is how to deal with interruptions from family and other people who live in the same place that you do, and honestly, the main answer to this question is just good communication.
But there are some additional tweaks you can make to your actual workspace that can help here as well. The first, is something that you can steal from the broadcasting industry, which is the idea of an on-air sign.
Radio stations and studios often have these light-up on air signs outside of recording booths, which light up when somebody’s recording or filming, like I am right now, and this lets other people know that they should stop talking, they should creep around on tiptoes like little cat burglars, and quite honestly, that they should stop breathing as well, No, preferably, but I’m guessing your family’s probably not going to agree with that last one.
Anyway, you can set up a similar sort of system to let your family know implicitly that you’re trying to focus and that they shouldn’t interrupt you. For example, my friend Martin uses a hue light bulb plugged into a regular desk lamp, which when set to a specific color, let’s his fiancee know that he’s really focusing in on a difficult problem and shouldn’t be interrupted unless it’s a really urgent issue.
Of course you could just keep things simple and close the door to your workspace, or pop on a pair of headphones when you need to focus, but the main thing here is that you and your family should set the system up together so that they know how to respect it.
Next, let’s talk about some tools and other physical items that can make a huge improvement in your workspace. Now, naturally you’re gonna wanna have any tools that are specific to your work close at hand, easily accessible, but there are a few more general items that I would like to bring to your attention as well.
First, I have a whiteboard mounted to the wall right next to my desk, and every night I look at to-do lists. I’ve a Google Calendar, and I write a list of everything that I’m gonna do the next day, preferably in the order that I’m going to do it, and I find that having this physical reminder of my priorities for the day right there in front of me and easily glanced up at is a great addition to my workspace.
I also have a second monitor, which is hugely helpful when I’m doing intensive research, when I’m editing a video, or really when I’m doing anything that benefits from extra screen real estate. Now, you could of course go out and buy an extra monitor, which I have done many, many times, but if you have an iPad or an Android tablet lying around, you can also use those.
On macOS there’s a feature called sidebar that’s built in now that lets you use an iPad as a second screen, and if you’re on Windows, there are Android apps like Spacedeck that let you do the exact same thing with an Android tablet.
You might also consider keeping some plants around, like this dragon plant that I keep next to my reading area that I think really improves my workspace, and keep some healthy snacks and drinks around as well.
For snacks, I like to keep carrots and almonds, and apples around, and then for drinks I have a fridge stocked with sparkling water, and of course, I have lots of coffee and tea above that. And finally, I recommend getting yourself a good pair of headphones.
As much as I love to blast music over my speakers while I’m working, I think every good workspace should have a quality pair of headphones in it. Not only will this allow you to listen to whatever you want without disturbing anyone else, more importantly, they can provide some isolation and help you stay focused.
Now, if you live in a particularly noisy environment, then you may want to look into active noise canceling headphones. These essentially listen to the sounds in your environment and then create opposite sound waves that basically cancel both out so that you hear, theoretically, nothing.
Now, in practice, are they completely silent? Well, not completely, but I think you’d be surprised at how much they really do help. When I tried my first pair, they were an absolute game changer, and they enabled me to work in many places that were previously way too loud.
Now, are they gonna let you finish that TPS report in the front row of a Metallica concert Probably not, but they do help quite a lot. So these are the Bose QC 35s. I’ve had these for several years now, and if they were to break, I would probably go out and buy the exact same pair once again.
I absolutely love these headphones, but that said, these and most noise canceling headphones are actually quite pricey. I think these were like 350 bucks when I bought ’em. They’re about 260 now, so they’ve come down quite a bit, but for the most part, active noise canceling is something that’s gonna cost you a bit of money, except I recently saw that Anker came out with a pair of active noise canceling headphones that go for about $60.
I haven’t tried them myself, but they do seem pretty well reviewed. Now, if you wanna go even cheaper than that, then you’re gonna want to look into a pair of normal headphones that have a closed back design.
This is different from an open back design, so these headphones, which are the Audio-Technica ATH-M50, have a closed back design, which basically means that they’re pretty well sealed up. They don’t have active noise canceling, but they do provide a good amount of isolation when you’re wearing them.
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By contrast, open back headphones, like these Sennheiser HD 650s, which are honestly my favorite headphones. They don’t have very much material at all other than this metal grate separating your ears from the outside world, which means that your poor, naked, defenseless ears are gonna hear everything going on in your environment.
Now, open back headphones do have their benefits. They have this wide open, airy sound stage. A lot of audio files really like, but a tool for isolation they are not. Anyway, if you’re looking for an inexpensive recommendation for closed back headphones, I’m gonna recommend the Audio-Technica-M20s, which are essentially the base model of these ones.
They’re still great, but they are quite a bit cheaper. Now, what specifically should you be listening to in those headphones while you work? Well, scientists working around the clock, looking at lots of spreadsheets and poring over data have definitively proven that the best source of productivity enhancing audio in the world is My SoundCloud.
It is straight productivity enhancing for Who wrote this? – [Woman] You did. – Oh, okay, barring that, other than silence, you have three main sources, white noise, ambient noise, and of course, music.
Now, for both white noise and ambient noise, I have a few recommendations that you might wanna check out. First, is a site called Ambient-Mixer where people have uploaded custom mixes that you can use to study with, including lots of common rooms for Hogwarts houses, my favorite being the Ravenclaw one, even though, as my girlfriend likes to tell me, I’m a Slytherin, and you can even open up the mixes and change the levels of the sounds, or even add in more sounds if you want.
There’s another site called Noisli, which is the one that I used for most of college, and that one also lets you mix your own ambient soundscape with white noise, pink noise, brown noise, babbling brooks, rain, all that kind of stuff, but unfortunately, after being very much free forever, they have recently went to a paid model, where now there’s a free plan that you can, I think listen to for 90 minutes a day, but after that you have to pay, kind of a bummer.
Also, of course, there’s YouTube. Type in basically any kind of ambient mix you want into YouTube and you’re gonna find lots of 10-hour mixes that you can listen to, and when it comes to music, YouTube is, again, a great place to start, not least of which because for several years I have been building my own ultimate study music playlist here on YouTube, which I’ll have linked in the description down below.
And if you happen to be a Spotify or Apple Music user, I have a playlist called Sunday Study, which attempts to replicate that playlist, so I’ll link to that one as well, and if you’re a Spotify user in particular, I also want wanna mention my friend Ali Abdaal has his own excellent study music playlist, which I will also link to, and his is much longer than mine, since he tends to put entire albums on it, while I tend to curate individual songs.
So the digital environment that you build is just as important as the physical one. If your computer or your phone are constantly distracting you and pulling your attention away from the work that you need to be doing, well, then you’re really not gonna get much done.
But luckily, there are some tweaks you can make to that digital environment that are just as effective as the ones we’ve made to the physical one. So, first and foremost, I’m gonna recommend actually creating a secondary work account on your computer, and ideally, this account shouldn’t have access to Steam, to Origin, to Epic, man, there are a lot of game launchers now, or really to any other program that you find distracting.
You can also use a program like Freedom, which will actively block distracting websites and apps while you’re working. And your phone is also a potential distraction, possibly more so, which is why my main recommendation would be to keep it away from your work area while you’re working.
Oh, it did hit something, you were right. – [Woman] I told you. – Anyway, keep it away from your main work area while you’re working and when you get it for a break, you can check it then. If you absolutely must keep it near you while you’re working, at least try using an app like Forrest which encourages you not to touch your phone for a specified period of time that you set by letting you grow a virtual tree.
If you don’t leave the app during that period, you get the tree, but if you do, you kill your virtual tree and then Mr. Beast will be sad. Now, while we’re talking about your digital setup, I do want to briefly mention internet speed.
If you’re gonna be jumping on lots of zoom calls with your team, downloading lots of files and generally trying to use the internet to continue to earn a living, then you wanna make sure that your local network speeds are as good as they can be.
Personally, if I can get a hardwired connection, I will always take it. You can do a lot to improve your Wi-Fi for sure, but nothing beats an ethernet cable running straight to your router. That said, if you do need to use Wi-Fi, at least try to position your router in a central location within your house or apartment.
That way the signal will have the best chance of covering your whole living space. Now, aside from setting up your environment in the right way, you’re also going to wanna work on improving your habits and your daily routines If you wanna work effectively from home.
Optimizing these will help you get a great start to your day and help you stay more productive as they automate a lot of what would normally fall on your willpower. And again, when you’re working at home, this is incredibly important since every decision is essentially yours to make.
Now, if you wanna learn how to effectively build these habits and these routines, check out my habit building class on Skillshare. This class will help you to take your goals, which might be a bit fuzzy and loosely defined, and turn them into concrete plans that can be broken down into actionable daily habits.
Once that’s done, the rest of the class is dedicated to helping you stick to those habits longterm, and the best part is that you can take this class for free by being one of the first 500 people to sign up for Skillshare.
Using the link below. Doing that will unlock a two month free trial, which is more than enough time to take this class since it runs just over an hour. From there it will be up to you to put what you’ve learned into action.
Boy will know that there is an area where you can ask questions and get feedback from both myself and other students taking the class and since this is Skillshare, you’ll also have access to my other class, which is all about Building your Productivity System along with thousands of other classes taught by expert teachers and covering topics like video editing, public speaking, interior design, and lots, lots more.
So after taking my habits class, I highly recommend checking out something that interests you and working to broaden your skillset, which is something that I personally I’m always trying to do. Once again, be one of the first 500 people to sign up with that link down below to get a two month free trial with unloaded access to Skillshare.
And as always, thank you so much for watching this video. Also, big thanks to all my YouTube friends who contributed footage for this video. I’ll have all of their channels, linked with description down below.
So check those out. And if you enjoyed this video, definitely hit that thumbs up button so the YouTube algorithm knows to hopefully recommend my channel a little bit more often. Other than that, you can get subscribed right there if you haven’t done so already, check out a free copy of my book over here.
We don’t have to check it out. It’s like a library. You just get it and you can download it. But anyway, go right there and you can get it. Otherwise, I’ll have a couple more videos on screen that you can check out by smashing your face into your phone screen as always.
So do that. And other than that, go do whatever you want I’m not your dad.
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