Since 2011 I’ve been self-employed and working in startups, primarily working remotely from a home office or from hotels when traveling. Here are some working from home tips that I’ve learnt along the way.
- Create an Isolated Space
- Avoid Distractions
- Create Boundaries
- KanBan > ToDo Lists
- Pack Meetings & Video Calls Together
- Stay Disciplined
- Disconnect Before Leaving
- Explore The Advantages
Create an Isolated Space
Having space to work is essential. I’m lucky enough to have a dedicated home office but if that’s not possible try to get an area of your home which you can either keep setup or create a clear working space quickly.
If your work is mainly online then having an external monitor and mouse rather than trying to type and use a touch pad on a laptop is a big productivity booster.
Good coffee is also essential for me. I find that the amount I get done is directly correlated to how much caffeine I have during the day. Not health advice.
If you are able to shut yourself off from potential distractions during “work time” then do so. This might be by closing a door and locking yourself in or by simply putting on some noise cancelling headphones and tuning out.
There tends to be more distractions at home than in a communal working environment. The fridge is always within reach, there’s chores that can be done, Netflix. Isolation helps with avoiding distractions but it comes down to discipline as well as they will always be there.
There’s nothing worse than struggling with something complex and then someone comes in and distracts you with a question about something unimportant that could of waited. It’s worth setting boundaries with anyone else that might be around when you are working and explain the need to be left alone.
I have a general rule “if I’m in the office and you are putting the kettle on then I’ll take a tea otherwise don’t come in unless someone is dying”
KanBan > ToDo Lists
Creating a list of specific goals for the day, week, month, year helps me focus attention on the most important things I want to achieve.
The layout I prefer for this is a KanBan system. Not sure where I got this from but I’ve been using it on and off for years and when you’re busy it’s really useful to schedule everything in.
This is the Google Sheets layout that I use:
Pack Meetings & Video Calls Together
I find if I have one Zoom call at 10:40am and then one at 2:30pm my whole day evolves around those meetings. Instead I like to choose a block of time and then dedicate that to any meetings.
I try and compact as much as possible into the smallest time slot available with little space between meetings unless I need to prep for something. I generally try to arrange important calls first and then less important or group calls towards the end of the session.
This way I know I have an afternoon of meetings but the morning is completely free to get stuff done.
I think that I’m quite lucky in that I tend to want to work too much rather than too little whereas some people may find that their work/life balance is skewed the other way.
If you enjoy your work then you are less likely to be distracted as you’ll want to be there. If your work seems like a chore or there’s an awful task you’ve been avoiding then discipline is going to be an uphill struggle.
The best advice I can give here is to create a good morning routine to feel your best and start the day off on the right track. Get up early and get stuff done from the outset.
Set high standards for your home office. You probably aren’t going to be at your most productive slobbing about in pajamas on the sofa with the TV on.
Disconnect Before Leaving
There’s a danger in working from home that work life spills over to home life. This can be in the form of stress after work or just constantly being in work mode and not switching off.
I find myself checking KPI stats, crypto prices and Twitter outside of work hours a lot more than I should. I’m going to try and leave my phone in the office during meals and family time more this year. It’s certainly something I can improve upon.
Explore The Advantages
There are some wonderful advantages to remote work. Perhaps being grateful for some of these might help with the discipline side of things. Here’s a quick list of some of the advantages that I’ve enjoyed over the last 10 years.
- You can work from anywhere, which brings travel opportunities
- There’s no commute, traffic jams or public transport
- The coffee is really good
- Taco Tuesdays
- No office politics and less drama
- Occasional silence
- More flexible hours and unusual time schedules
Hopefully these working from home tips will help you stay productive and appreciate the benefits of remote work.
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