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Seven Tips for Working From Home to Boost Productivity

Finishing a PR degree, interning and preparing to enter the worforce in a remote world

Author: Lauren Silverstein, Syracuse University B.S. ‘21 and Orangefiery intern

As a college senior working towards a dual degree in public relations and policy studies, a part-time intern, and an account supervisor for SU’s on-campus PR firm, Hill Communications, the transition to working remotely in March 2020 was difficult. This is particularly true because one of my favorite things about being a college student is constantly being on the go. 

After almost a year of working and studying remotely, I’ve picked up some helpful tricks and habits that have allowed me to be successful in my academic, social and professional endeavors. I hope you may find some new ideas or useful inspiration from my experiences!    

Tips for Success

Small things you can incorporate into your day to increase productivity.

1. Structure your days.

I feel the most sluggish and unmotivated on days that I leave unplanned. Setting my alarm for the same time each morning (regardless of what time I need to wake up for class), following a morning routine and making a list of specific tasks and work to accomplish that day have been the most effective ways to maximize productivity and keep my energy up working from home.

2. Set yourself up for success.

When classes first shifted online, I was elated at the thought that working from home could mean working from my bed in my pajamas. Sadly, I quickly found that this was not the proper environment for productivity to thrive. I felt a noticeable difference in productivity on days that I got fully dressed v. days that I lounged around in sweats. Establishing a workspace at my desk with all of the essentials and limiting distractions as much as possible have also allowed me to feel mentally and physically prepared to accomplish all of the items on my to-do list for the day.

3. Separate your work and personal life.

Keeping leisure and work life separate became essential for me to remain undistracted during classes and work.

4. Communicate your needs.

As a PR student hoping to pursue a career in public relations post-grad, I have learned firsthand the value that communication has on a company. The pandemic has also made me realize the importance of being an effective communicator with people in my own life. Maintaining lines of open communication with professors, co-workers, roommates and family has been integral to finding balance throughout the busiest days and weeks. Working as an intern while being a full-time student and participating in other extracurriculars has the potential to, at times, feel overwhelming. I’ve had to become more communicative than ever before, perhaps sometimes even over-communicative, which has made it possible for me to set boundaries, share updates on work and vocalize my needs with peers and co-workers.

Mindsets to Have

Ways to shift your thinking in order to better take care of yourself and those around you.

1. Set realistic expectations of yourself (and be kind to yourself we’re living and working through a global pandemic).

One of the things that I struggled with at the start of the pandemic, and continue to struggle with at times, is being realistic and flexible with self-expectations. The unprecedented events that have occurred since March have changed circumstances surrounding everything – and it is not reasonable to have the same expectations of myself that I had before. I try to give myself gentle reminders that even basic things that came naturally before have been made much harder with social distancing and working from home. I’ve learned to accept that, if I want to be successful, I shouldn’t take on more than I can handle. Realizing that this is okay has relieved a lot of stress and ultimately improved my relationship with myself and those around me.

2. Incorporate mindfulness and take care of your mental health in your everyday routine.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and the transition to working and taking classes remotely, I have felt a noticeable shift in my mental health. Over the last several months, I’ve felt increased anxiety and stress levels doing everyday tasks that I previously wouldn’t have given a second thought to. As you can imagine, this anxiety and stress manifested in my personal and professional life and often made it challenging for me to focus and do work efficiently. Finding ways to consciously incorporate mindfulness into my day has been the outlet that has allowed me to make my mental health a daily priority. One app, called Insight Timer, has thousands of meditations and music/white noise that is specifically designed to your needs – whether it be anxiety, sleep or stress. In scheduling downtime and mindfulness into my day, I can ensure that I am taking care of myself, which directly translates into my personal and professional progress.

3. Embrace the awkward on Zoom calls.

Let’s face it – virtual conference calls can be awkward. Long silences after the professor asks a question while a majority of the class has their videos off; uncomfortable pauses during forced introductions and icebreakers during team meetings… I found myself dreading entering Zoom waiting rooms. I had thrived in face-to-face dialogues and worried they were impossible to replicate on Zoom, so I often stayed quiet. However, I quickly realized that I was looking at the situation completely wrong. Virtual meetings and events, while unfamiliar, have actually provided me the opportunity to connect with people I would have otherwise likely never met. In not speaking up, I wasn’t giving virtual meetings a fair chance to meet my high expectations for them. I’ve begun to embrace the awkwardness of Zoom calls, and in the process I’ve learned that it’s possible to not only learn and engage in dialogue, but also form meaningful connections online.

So much has shifted over the last several months, but I am eager to continue applying all that I’ve learned from working remotely in, what I hope, will be a less socially distanced future. Let us know if you have other tips – we’d love to hear them!  

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