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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3 Tips to Work Productively From Home

Working from home initially sounds like a great plan. It provides for a flexible schedule, you save on gas money, and have more space to spread out. However, working from home can quickly turn into a time management disaster without strict discipline and planning. I’ve found  three tips that have saved my productivity from a rapid downward spiral.

This summer, I’m working from home. I have multiple book projects to put together, papers to write, and workshops to design. The prospect of having all summer to do this sounded great, until I remembered how incredibly distracting and difficult it can be to work at home. Everyone from college students to business professionals can surely relate. Here are three tips to keep your time management under control.

1) Don’t forget to have a weekend

When you work from home, there is no physical separation from your workspace and your “play” space. If you don’t give yourself defined work hours, you’ll end up melding your work time into your personal life and become frustrated and burned out. Don’t forget to give yourself a “Saturday” (even if you decide to take it mid-week.)

 2) Ignore your phone sometimes

Just because your cell phone rings, that doesn’t mean you have to answer it if you’re in the middle of something. When you’re at home, and have no boss looking over your shoulder, it’s easy to let little things distract you. While working at home, you must guard against Time Killers more than ever. If you catch yourself allowing something to distract you without your permission, stop. Ask yourself, “Would I be doing this right now if I were in an office?” Just because you have the ability to chat on your cell phone, surf the web, text a friend, or even wash the dishes in the sink, doesn’t mean you should. Save those things for non-work time.

 3) Leave the house

Ultimately, we go stir crazy if we try to spend all day in the house. We can’t take for granted that time spent with our colleagues provides much-needed enjoyment and social interaction. When we work from home, we have to replicate that by getting out of the house once in a while. Go work in a library, coffee shop, park, etc…Anywhere to be around other people and get out of your home office. Seek out others in your profession to brainstorm and collaborate. It will make you more productive and save your sanity.

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