Working From Home

Adjusting to working at home takes a little bit of time and planning.  I’ve been working from home on and off since 2008.  At first I found it easier to grab my laptop and head to my local coffeeshop.  The main reasons that I found it easier to go somewhere else were; first, I wasn’t distracted by things at home like that comfortable couch and TV or even doing the laundry, yes I have serious procrastination issues, and second I packed only what I was planning to work on that day and nothing else.  It later became more obvious that I needed to set boundaries and habits to foster a ‘Work Time’ Mindset.  Here are a few tips to get into that Work Time Mindset at home.

Schedule

Set a start and stop time for your work day, are you used to work a 9am-5pm schedule, then set a 9-5 schedule, put it on your calendar then you have a set block where you are prepared to get work tasks accomplished.

Clearly Defined Goals and Associated Tasks

To be more efficient with your time if you have a known set of tasks, milestones and schedule then this task is 90% done.  If not then you will need to break it down.  Start with the end result or Big Goal that must be accomplished.  Break it down into manageable tasks, preferably in small tasks that can be broken down into 1-4 hour blocks.  Establish what tasks can be summed together and evaluated for a Milestone.  From here you will have a rough idea of your tasks, milestones and schedule.  Now let’s block out your day based on how many tasks you think you can accomplish in your allotted schedule.  If possible try to add one more than you think you can accomplish, you will be surprised that you will work towards the goal of finishing all your tasks in the allotted time.

Breaks and Meal Time

Schedule time for Breaks and Meals.  Since you break your tasks into manageable blocks you can schedule times to get a drink of water, tea or coffee or take a walk, stand and stretch, etc.  Always make time to eat and refuel your brain.

Defined Workspace and Environment

Create a space for work.  Be it a desk or clear off a table so the only thing in that space is the tools you need to get your work done with minimal distractions.  At the end of the day take 5-10 minutes to clean or clear the space so it is ready for the next day.  Just having a space is not enough, but also the lighting and background noise.  Try not to be around anywhere in your house where you could be facing a TV, the temptation will be too great to have it on in the background.  You may  want to also play music that you would associate with getting work done.  In fact create a Work Playlist.  For example I have a playlist that is geared towards purely quiet instrumental music while I write and another playlist with a faster tempo when I am performing engineering work.  I personally prefer non-vocal music when I’m writing or reading as it distracts me from concentrating on the verbal task at hand.  Also change the lighting, say for example you are working on your breakfast or dining room table, when working turn up the light so you can read things more easily and turn the lights off or dim them when you are not working.  By setting your environment with minimal distractions and establishing the visual and audio mood of your space will help your mind associate with these stimulus to be in a Work Mindset and after some time you will find it easier to get into that Flow for Work Tasks.

Communication

We all have a customer, if you are a contractor or consultant you may have several customers, if not you have your boss as your customer, make a point to communicate with your customer(s) periodically.  Give a status and work expectations, nothing motivates people more than seeing that they have accomplished something and having a deadline on what is to be completed next.

If you are working in a team or running a team suggest or setup a virtual morning meeting, this will help reinforce your start schedule and make sure that everyone is on the same page for the day and their individual responsibilities without micromanaging, try to keep the meeting short no more than 15 minutes a day.

Do Not Disturb: If you have tasks that require 100% of your undivided attention then block that out in your calendar and notify your team that you can’t be disturbed during that time.

Instant Messaging: Communicate with your team with your preferred messaging and 

collaboration applications, also communicate with your team when you step away and can’t be disturbed.

E-mail: Also to reduce your time being wasted and controlled by your e-mail inbox, schedule 2-3 times a day where you respond to e-mail and close your e-mail inbox outside of those times, I have found that if I don’t do that I will continually be distracted by my e-mail notifications.

Create a Work Routine

Begin each day as if you were going to a physical workplace.  This means you’re not working in you pajamas or sweats.  Set a routine, for example: wakeup, make your bed (so you are less likely to jump back into it), meditate, mentally visualize what you need to accomplish for work that day, exercise, shower, eat breakfast, grab a cup of coffee and go to your defined workspace.  By doing a daily routine will help set your mind to know that you are preparing to get some work done.

Accountability

We all need to be held accountable for what we are responsible for.  At the end of the day write a paragraph or a quick list of your day’s accomplishments, any issues that arose and what you intend to finish the next day.  This will help keep you focused on the next day and also help you delineate the end of your day.

Try implementing a few or all of these tips into your workday.  Try to minimize the distractions, this can be difficult especially at home, but if you setup the proper delineations between work and home life and establish habits you will have an easier time accomplishing more at home.  The best part of working at home is your commute is a breeze!

Working From Home
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