Working From Home: Tips from a Five Year Pro
The coronavirus has many of us troubled. Whether you feel uncertain about your health, financials, or general welfare, we are in this together. Although I can’t give you advice on how to live your life, I can, however, help you with something I have done for the last five-plus years: working from home.
Coronavirus has you Quarantined and Working from Home
We will finally get the answer to the age-old question: Should this meeting really be an email?
Many of us are fortunate enough to work remotely during this unprecedented time. Even though our focus might not be on day-to-day business, the world doesn’t stop. People still need services and supplies. We all hope that we can get back to normal as soon as possible, but we can’t stop being productive if we want the checks to keep coming.
Before 2014, I never had the opportunity to work remotely. I worked in the service industry, a call-center, and retail. I punched the clock and was told when I could take a break, eat lunch, and even leave the building. The dreams of working from home are true (wearing pajama pants and slippers), but the challenges are real. When you don’t have Karen (the boss) telling you where to be at every moment, you might find yourself binge-watching CNN or Fox News (or in my case, Disney+).
Rules for Working From Home
I’ve addressed my love for time management training in the past and luckily I found myself learning the best techniques from Lynda.com training. One of my favorite podcasters (fantasy football guru JJ Zachariason) mentioned on a podcast that he had specific ground rules for working from home. It’s funny how you can extract knowledge from anywhere if you are willing to accept it. His few statements had me willing to watch an hour training from Dave Crenshaw.
Although I suggest you watch his training, you clicked on this article for answers. I can give you suggestions and real-life scenarios of why these principles work.
The Commute – Transition to Work-time
The COVID-19 (coronavirus) has changed your commute to work. Instead of your thirty minutes drive, you have a 30-second walk from your bed to your table. You might be able to sleep in an hour later, but there is a problem here. Your brain needs time to transition.
Your commute to work might have you listening to music or a podcast. You might silently plan your day during that commute. The little commute or traffic helps gear you up for the day. In all honesty, your shower or selection of clothes are all part of this routine. Getting rid of this takes away a very crucial part of your day. In sports, you need to stretch before you play. You need to stretch before you work (not literally, even though studies show the positive effects of stretching).
My suggestion, keep your normal morning routine. Wake up, get dressed (maybe not so formal, but not PJs), and don’t get right to work. I promise, you trying to cram that extra commute time will not actually make you more productive. Replace your commute with something else that helps you transition. I drink coffee while playing a simple game on my phone. I set a time that I get to work and ‘show up’ to my desk at that time.
Don’t Work at Home Where You Play
Whether it be just for a few weeks or permanently, it’s not a great idea to work in the same location that you have your recreational activities. Besides the possible issues with a distraction from your housemates, good luck convincing your body that work is done. Granted, you might in a situation where work stops at a specific time, some of us remote workers have a never-ending to-do list. You will find yourself answering emails at all hours of the night when this should be your time off.
Much like you have to transition to work, transition back home. By having a specific location for work, you can clock out for the day by leaving that location. Even if you have a laptop, close it and take it to another location in the house.
Before I worked from home, I had a nice desk in the living room. I used this to browse online and do your normal internet ‘things’. I learned early on that I couldn’t separate work from play. When I should be enjoying myself on the computer, I was catching up on work. Since I have my own office in the basement where I only do work. When I walk upstairs, I’m done working.
Music, Podcasts, or Office Chatter While Working From Home
The transition to straight silence might drive you crazy. Opposite, you might live near a busy street or have loud neighbors. Whether you need some noise or silence, I have some answers.
I have transitioned to listening to podcasts when I’m doing repetitive tasks. Running reports, working with graphics, or doing keyword research allows me to multitask. On the other hand, I can’t write a blog or email if I have people talking to me’. This is when I listen to music (especially music I know all of the words). As you can tell, I don’t like silence.
On the other hand, if you need silence – get some AirPods and find yourself some ambient noise. YouTube has tons of options for background noise. I love putting on a POV Walt Disney World walkthrough and listening to the crowd noise and background music. Maybe you need the sounds of an office, with random phone calls or coworkers on the distance. Most of us really don’t want 100% silence.
Using Technology To Get Things Done While at Home
There is no way I can explain the importance of my calendar and how I utilize it for my success in a paragraph. I will, however, suggest you try and plan out your day as best as possible. Using your online calendar and blocking your day off with your tasks is an effective way to give yourself deadlines and rewards with breaks.
My wife found a nice to-do list app for iOS. It also utilizes your calendar but also gives you a nice location for a check-list. If you work well from lists, this can be a nice alternative to paper and pencil – especially if you want your list on multiple devices (iPhone, iPad, MacBook). This helps you truly work remotely.
Thanks to my brother, I found a fun To-Do list web and mobile application. Habitica allows you to create a character and get rewarded when you complete tasks. Although I’m not a role-playing gamer, this program doesn’t require you to care about dragons and wizards. You create habits, reoccurring tasks, and other action items. You can also create groups (with other nerd co-workers) and go on adventures while completing your tasks.
For more information, listen to this early Todcast where Todd and I go deep into this topic.
I will keep this short. There are a lot of people that like Slack. Many successful companies use Slack. I did not have a positive experience (mostly based on co-workers that did more GIPHY conversations than actual work), but this chat application is a great way to eliminate emails and keep the conversation moving in real-time.
Listen of the Week: Staying Focused
I normally post a podcast suggestion every Monday. I felt it was important to provide value in what is effecting us now instead of talking about website audits. Instead, I thought of a podcast I listened to several months ago. It is not 100% about working from home but does apply.
Stay Safe and More to Come
As I write this, late on a Sunday night, we are still very unclear about most of the coronavirus news. Ohio has shut down many of our local restaurants and many of our schools are being taught remotely. My hope is to help in any way possible, knowing that many small businesses are not focused on their website design or keyword rank. Many of my clients might feel the effects of this quarantine and I know that I will also feel the pain the longer this goes on. I hope to share my experience, knowledge, and ideas to help our community minimize any damage the coronavirus outbreak has on our economy.
In the next few days, I hope to share more tips and tricks for working at home with children, how to effectively do online training, how our household went to one income and saved money, and ways to make money from your hobbies.
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