Everything You’ve Heard About Working From Home is Wrong

Work from home time managementOK, well maybe not everything, but after spending a substantial part of the past year working in my home office, I’ve found that a lot of the “work-from-home” time management advice out there should be refined. Here’s how I would elaborate three common work-from-home tips I hear frequently:

1. Set Regular Hours

Yes, it’s important to define your work hours, lest your work day consume your entire life, however, those hours don’t necessarily need to be the same that they’d be if you were working a “traditional” job. If you find it difficult to start work at 8, break at noon, and end at 5, try something different. I get my best work done in the morning, so I work from 7:30 until around 1, and then take a break for a few hours before starting back up again around 4. That schedule varies wildly based on the day of the week. The key is to keep “work” time separate from “play” time. When and how you choose to schedule those times is completely up to you.

2. Network

Working from home can btime management handshakee extremely isolating, but the word “networking” sounds so formal. You don’t need to go to a conference, or join a weekly networking group and wear a sticker name tag to converse with others. Just talk to people (Facebook doesn’t count). Invite a friend out for lunch and talk about your current projects. If you see the same people in line at Starbucks every day, find out what they do.

3. Define Your Work Space

Again, this advice sounds good in theory, but in reality, being forced to work in one spot all the time is one of the detriments to a traditional desk job. A change of scenery can help keep your focus sharp. It’s important to have an office as a starting point and as a place to keep all of your files, but if you get restless, move somewhere else. Sometime I’ll work on my balcony, or at the kitchen table, or in the living room. My only two rules are that I never leave work out when I’m done unless it’s in the office, and that I never ever bring work to bed. Bedtime is for relaxing.

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Making Time for Gratitude

Few things kick start our motivation quite like receiving acknowledgement of a job well done. However, it’s easy to get so caught up in our busy lives that we forget to express our gratitude to others. Try these simple strategies to make time to say “thanks” on a more regular basis.

1. Make it Simple

Saying “Thank You” doesn’t have to be an overly complex or lengthy task. It does not require a page-long note or expensive gesture of flowers. It’s too easy to let expressing gratitude sit at the bottom of our to-do list when we build it up to be a monumental act. Instead, make it short and simple with a quick email. If you prefer to use a hand-written note, keep a stack of inexpensive note cards in your desk drawer so you won’t have to buy or go searching for one.

2. Make it Immediate

How often have you thought to yourself, “Wow, I really appreciate <insert person>’s work. I should really thank her…tomorrow.” While it’s never too late to express your thanks, it’s easiest and most effective when it’s fresh on your mind. Remember the 5 Minute Rule? If it takes less than 5 minutes, do it now. This applies to taking 30 seconds out of your day to let someone know they are appreciated.

3. Make it Regular

When a task is a habit, you don’t have to think about it and you’re more likely to actually make it a part of your day. One of my bosses had “Thank You Thursday” where she made a point to express her appreciation to a different person every Thursday morning. Now, the alliteration in that concept might be more than you can bear, but you get the point. If you can make saying “thanks” just another part of the task, rather than a task on to itself, you’ll find yourself doing it much more often.

Thank you, readers, for making The Time Diet part of your weekly routine. When I first started this business two years ago, I could have never imagined how much it would grow and evolve and that is all thanks to you. You pass along the blogs that speak to you, give me feedback, and refer me to organizations that could use my workshops. I deeply appreciate all of your support!

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Which to Sacrifice? Time or Money?

Your time is your most valuable resource you have. It is your own “productivity currency” of which you only have a limited supply and must ration carefully. However, sometimes we are faced with situations in which we must quite literally put a dollar amount on what our time is worth. If we always sacrifice money to save time, we’ll end up broke. If we always sacrifice time to save money, we’ll end up not accomplishing our goals. Finding the balance is key.

 My Dilemma

This year, when I went to renew my parking pass for ASU, I was faced with two options:

1. Purchase a cheap pass for a couple hundred bucks in a remote lot and take the free tram to campus.

2. Pay an additional $600 for a pass in the lot right outside my office.

My Solution?

My gut reaction? Buy the expensive pass. I had the luxury of having that money in savings already, and I felt that my time was too valuable to spend sitting on a tram every day. I wanted the convenience of being able to waltz right from my car into the building at any time of day.

Then I stopped to weigh the value of the pass versus the convenience of the pass in terms of “dollars per hour.”

Dollars Per Hour

I actually only needed the pass about three days a week. The tram takes about 15 minutes each way. I calculated that if I didn’t buy the expensive pass, I’d be saving $12.50 for every hour I spent on the tram. Now I had a decision to make:

If someone approached me on the street and said, “Hey, I have a part time job for you. It only requires 90 minutes a week, and I’ll pay you $12.50 an hour. All you have to do is sit in an air conditioned space and do nothing” I’d have a hard time saying no.

I ended up buying the cheap pass. I now appreciate the mandatory “break” I get in my day while being shuttled from place to place. I can even use the time to check my email or flip through the newspaper.

By looking at the situation in terms of dollars per hour, I was able to weigh convenience, time, and money to come to a rational decision. How much is your time worth?

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Time Management Outside of 9 to 5

When we think about “time management,” it’s easy to associate the concept solely with work. After all, we often seek out time management advice as we’re searching for strategies to complete our work more efficiently, or achieve a more productive workday. However, looking at work in a vacuum, divorced from the rest of our lives, only paints half the picture of what it takes to achieve not only good time management skills, but life management skills as well.

Work Life and Personal Life

I’ve found that when I summon the self-discipline and planning skills to complete my work efficiently, other areas of my life benefit as well. I start eating better. I exercise more. I make more time for my friends and am more likely to dry the dishes on the counter than let them sit there for another day. It’s as though the progress I’ve made in my work life seeps into my personal life as well.

It begs the question: Does this concept work both ways?

If my work life feels scattered, but I manage to regain control of a messy house and a fast food habit, will those personal achievements translate into work achievements too?  I believe that, to a certain point, the answer is “yes.”


I believe that self-discipline is addicting and builds confidence. I believe that once you achieve a new “healthy” routine in one area of your life, it’s easier to achieve a similar routine in another area. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should expect to be a productivity fiend at work after one week of making it to the gym every morning. However, I think we too often ignore the relationship between the two.

This is what The Time Diet is all about and it’s why I never give a time management lecture or workshop without addressing the importance of a balanced life both in and outside of work.


Self-discipline is different than control. We can never control every aspect of our day. What we can do is have the self-discipline to plan in advance, stick to that plan the best we can, and utilize the resources available to us. Self-discipline is about staying on a path toward your goals, even when Time Killers viciously try to distract you.

What area of your life can you work to improve this week? The results may astound you.

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Photo Credit: Stuart Miles