Transcript: Simplify your work from home routine with Melissa Maker and Simplii Financial

[Melissa sitting at a table in a white room with green plants behind her. She sits here and speaks to camera for the whole video.]

Well, I've been working from home for the last 13 years. And while the pandemic has certainly brought me a lot of hardship and challenges, one of the things I did not have to figure out was how to work from home effectively, cause I've been doing it for so long and I've made a lot of mistakes. So in this video, I'm going to share my very best tips for you when it comes to working from home, including how to set up a workspace, how to end each day, the apps and the tools that I love to use for productivity and also kind of blend work and home tasks effectively. This has truly been an extraordinary time for us in the truest sense of the word, nothing like the ordinary that we're used to. We're finding ways to balance the increased amount of domestic work that we have to do at home on top of the amount of stuff that we used to be doing outside, and now we are all doing under one roof, whether that's a one bedroom apartment or a four bedroom home.

It has not been easy for any of us, myself included. I'm just grateful that I have had this experience of working from home. And I can tell you, I struggled. I floundered. I've been doing this since 2006 and I'm easily distracted. So for me really nailing the work from home piece is what has led me to be productive and functional even among all of these distractions. So, before I get into the tips, I just want to give a quick thank you to the sponsor for this event, which is Simplii Financial. And if you're not familiar with Simplii, they are a digital bank with no monthly fees so that you can bank from anywhere on your schedule, which makes a lot of sense to me. So, when I jumped in with Simplii, they handed me the results of a survey that they had commissioned, where they were sort of looking at Canadians' attitudes and how the pandemic has affected their lives.

And I always fin d surveys like this intriguing. I'm going to use the survey results, which I'll share some of them with you now and some throughout this presentation to sort of inform the tips that I've decided to pull from and share today. Ultimately it found that a lot of Canadians are using this time to simplify their lives, which I think makes a heck of a lot of sense, especially when it comes to daily routines, home decorating, and of course finances and the results concluded that Canadians are stressed about their changing routines and sort of the unexpected, which I fully relate to also as a Canadian. Yeah, it makes perfect sense. 81% of us want to continue to simplify our lives post COVID-19 and 67% has already started.

So, let's get right into the tips, shall we? The first one is to define your workspace. You need a comfortable space to sit in with minimal distractions in a defined area just for you so that you can have a clear boundary between work life and home life. Now I'm a boundaries girl, whether it's in a personal relationship or a physical space, I really believe that boundaries make my world go round, which is why I really needed to reel it in when I was setting up a home office, and the survey found that with new limits on social activity, 32% of Canadians are decluttering and organizing more, which is great because it will be the perfect foray into setting up your defined workspace.

This of course goes for kids who are distance learning, as well as parents who are working from home. The problem becomes when you let work proliferate into every area of your house. You never feel like you can fully relax because you might be relaxing beside a stack of papers for work or eating dinner beside a package that you just received for something to do with work. And for me, at least it left this feeling of low-level anxiety where I could never quite escape. And that was so uncomfortable.

So, if you haven't done it already, today is the day. That's your takeaway from this. You've got to define a workspace so that you can let go of some of that anxiety and get yourself into a safe space where you are just you at work so that the rest of your home can be there for you to live in and enjoy. I find that when I work in a defined workspace, I am much more productive and functional, and I feel less stressed when I leave my office going into the rest of my home. I just don't feel like I'm living in an office. That's ultimately what we want to get to.

The next tip is to digitize, to reduce paper and to keep things simple. Paperless is where it's at. And if you have one of these with a camera on the back and a secure cloud storage account with a really strong password, you've got a great head start. You're in good shape.

Now, obviously if you're self-employed, you can kind of set up whatever systems that you like, whereas if you're working for a company, you'll have to sort of play in their sandbox, but you can even speak to your office and find out what options are available to you to help you go more paperless and to utilize some of the apps and tools that I'm going to talk about.

This survey found that 76% of Canadians believe that technology is key to simplifying their lives. So that's why I'm really excited to share some of my favourite tech tools and apps that I use to keep things simple. First of all, I have a shredder, which I know sounds overly simple, but if you're somebody who wants to get rid of a lot of paper, you need to have a shredder because it's the safe way to do it.

Secondly, you can speak to Canada Post and get them to stop sending you junk mail, which is such a relief. And of course, better for the environment and anything that you do receive paper-wise, you can always find out if there's a paperless version available. Now, what are you supposed to do with paperless documents? For us, I clean my space, we use an accounting software called Xero, spelled X-ER-O, and Xero links up with another piece of software called Hubdoc. So Hubdoc goes into your accounts that you've linked up with it, say a utility bill or a phone bill or bank statement, grabs your monthly statement and uploads it directly into your accounting system and takes care of categorization and all of those nerdy accounting things that I never had the patience to do. So those two pieces of software have been incredible. The other thing that I love is a program called Receipt Bank, which is something that you can log into from your computer and have set up as an app on your phone.

You can take a photo of any receipt that you have through Receipt Bank. It sends it automatically to your accounting software. So, you can tear up your receipt and throw it in the garbage. It's there. Or you can forward a digital receipt that you've received, and then just delete that digital receipt and you forward it to a Receipt Bank email, and then Receipt Bank takes care of the rest. So, a lot of this seamless stuff that you don't have to think about dealing with frustrations on the backend anymore, which I love. I also use Adobe Scan, which is a great app. It's free. Download it on your phone and your phone becomes a scanner. So, you don't need a scanner. You don't need a printer.

Now, how do you mark up your documents? The way that I do it is I use my iPad and I have an Apple Pencil. I did not think I was going to love my Apple Pencil. I use that thing all the time for editing documents, signing documents, marking them up. You don't need an iPad necessarily. You can do this with any tablet and stylus, but I've just found that those things keep me super productive. And I absolutely love using tech to make my work life much easier and more minimal. And of course, less paper leads to less clutter, which is less cleaning up, so that is all good news for me.

The third tip is to pack up at the end of each day. I know a lot of people focus on the starting your day routine. For me, I'm all about the end of the day, but the end of the day is so important because it helps to close out your day and refocus your mind from, okay, I'm done work and I can now move into home life. You know, at school you'd be really excited like five, 10 minutes before the bell rang or at work, you knew, okay, it's like 4:50. I can start packing up. You have to do the same thing. You have to bring back that excitement to work. So, the way that I do this, and honestly it really helps to avoid blurring the lines between work and home. The way that I do it is I set myself an end time. So, let's say my end time is 4 o'clock or 3:30. I will know that five to 10 minutes before that, I am using that time to wind down, finish up my work, declutter my desk. By the end of the day, I'm taking any boxes or papers that need to be shredded or moved somewhere else. I'm taking them out of my office. I'm moving my cup upstairs so that clutter doesn't build up. And that is how I close out my day.

And that to me just mentally signifies day is done. You can move back into your home life. So, remember to have an end of day routine as your little action item from that tip. Next up is something I love doing. And I'm calling it time blocking your to-do list because I'm a firm believer that what gets scheduled gets done. By now, a lot of us know that working from home, it can feel really easy to get distracted with domestic issues that are popping up during the day, you know, arranging this appointment or fixing that thing that broke. And it's so easy for the two to sort of take over your eight hours of work time. You've got your work and then you've got your domestic stuff.

So, this can lead to overwhelm and this can lead you to feel less productive with your actual work, even though you know there are certain things you have to do during business hours that are personal. So, the way that I do this is by time blocking my to-do list. I found that having a to do list just makes me anxious because I never really make time to get anything done. Whereas when I time block it or I plug it right into my calendar, I look at my calendar at the beginning of the day, I see the things I have to do, whether they're work or home related and I get them done. And when I set up an appointment, I'll title it with what it needs to be titled as, and I pick, I have two calendars. I have a family/home calendar and a work calendar. So, I assign it to the right calendar. So, I know if it's a work or a personal thing.

And then when I'm creating the appointment, I'll copy and paste any pertinent details into the notes of that appointment, whether it's an email address, phone number, a link or any info about a project that I have to do so that it's right there and I don't have to go searching for it. Then I can just get to work. So, whether it's 15 minutes or 45 minutes, it's in my calendar. And I actually find most days I can finish with less than eight hours of work because I'm not getting distracted and trying to pick through my to do list. It's actually a great way to work. And I found that it has reduced a lot of anxiety and it's allowed me to be so much more productive.

So, I absolutely love time blocking my to-do calendar. Next up, don't get distracted during your workday with a home time project. Now let me be clear. This doesn't mean that you can't time block in a home time project during your day, because it might actually feel good for you to time block 10 minutes in for tidying because tidying makes you feel good. I wouldn't personally do that because I don't love tidying but if you find that that's a stress reliever and you need to clear your head, go ahead, time block it. What I'm talking about is this example. You wouldn't stop a project at work in the middle of the day to go and unload the communal dishwasher in the office kitchen, would you? No, so when you're at work and you hear the washing machine go, the bell go off or you hear your dishwasher ding or some other shiny cleaning project comes across your eyes as you're walking to the bathroom, you have to reel yourself in, not allow yourself to get distracted and refocus on your work day at hand.

There's no real hard and fast rule here aside from just reminding yourself and catching yourself when it comes up, "Hey, I'm on the clock. I'm at work. I've got to leave that for another time." And like I said, if it is something that you feel is important to time block, go ahead and do that, but don't get distracted during the day because that is how you drop your productivity big time.

Next up, it's important to stay minimal and ergonomic with your furniture. A lot of us were used to having these big, long peninsula length multilevel desk and shelves at our offices. But we're realizing now because we work with a phone, a laptop, maybe a pen, some paper and a cup, we need a lot less space. So, when I set up my office and just to be clear, we moved into this house a couple of years ago and specifically looked for a house that had office space for both Chad and I. But prior to that, the house that we were in was small and didn't have great workspace. So, I often worked at the dining room table on a really uncomfortable dining room chair and it sucked. It was very hard to be productive.

So, when you think about setting up your workspace, you want to think about getting furniture that you really need. So, you don't need a ton of furniture, a big L-shaped desk I find. I find less is more because I'm not cluttering up my table with as much as I used to think I needed. When it comes to purchasing office equipment, you might want to talk to your employer and see if they're offering any stipends for work from home setups.

We have offered that to our office employees because I want them to be comfortable and functional and productive at home. And when it comes to thinking about what you're going to pick up, oh yeah and if you have a birthday coming up, you can also use some birthday cash toward that should you choose to do so. And when it comes to setting up your office space, you might even want to look and see what's on sale or if there are any used pieces of equipment or furniture that you can get with a lot of offices closing down, you might be able to find some great stuff online. I would recommend, so for me, I have a sit to stand desk and I didn't think I would like it, but I actually love it. It's very ergonomic and very comfortable. And having that has actually eliminated the need for big clunky office chair.

I just have a stool that I only sit on maybe half the time. And then the other half of the time I'm standing. So, you might want to rethink what office furniture that you need. And then I would also say to really err on the side of being in the ergonomic and comfort space, don't get necessarily what looks gorgeous and photo worthy as much as you want something that is going to make your body feel good because when you feel good, you can focus and you can be productive. When this all started in March and we were working on our couches or in our kitchen tables, a lot of us probably felt that was okay for a couple of days. I know I can do that for a couple of sick days, but when it comes to working long term, I need a good solution that's going to keep me productive and focused.

So those are my tips. And I hope that you take them with you and find a way to be more productive as you work from home. Of course, now you know how to set up a workspace, how to end each day, the apps and tools that I use to be more productive and how to blend those work and home tasks effectively. Again, I want to think Simplii for sponsoring this and for allowing you to bring this info to all of you. I'd love to hear your work from home tips or questions in the comments down below. Thanks, everyone. I hope you're well and safe and I'll see you soon.