Hi! I’m here with another fifteen minutes about work, purpose and time.
I’ve been thinking a lot about productivity, especially since I work from home and am always trying to make a greater impact with the hours I have. Ultimately, I am not judged by how long my rear is parked in my chair, but by the quality and quantity of my final deliverables.
Perception vs. reality - this might be how some people imagine working from home, but the reality (at least for me), is and must be intensely focused.
Often, when I tell people I work from home, they say, “Oh, that must be nice. Working in your PJs, setting your own schedule.” The implication is that it’s easier than working from an office.
But after five years of doing this, I conclude that’s it’s just the opposite. Although WFH creates tremendous freedom, it comes with a price: tremendous accountability.
That means if you beat your head against a brick wall for forty hours trying to produce something that really should have only taken eight, that’s what you get credit for. Eight hours. And no matter how hard you worked on that forty-hour project, everyone will assume you spent eight hours working and the other thirty-two watching soaps and eating bonbons.
It’s often a can’t-win situation. So, if you work from home sometimes or all the time, here are a few tips I’ve developed to help me make the most of my time.
- Establish a work schedule. Since I generally need to end my workday by 5:30 or 6:00 because that’s when daycare closes, I often do extra work in the evenings after the kids are in bed.
- Set limits. I am willing to answer my office and mobile phones outside of work hours, but I don’t answer during dinner, don’t obsessively check email while away, and I rarely work weekends to maintain balance.
- Jealously guard your workspace. Make it the prettiest, tidiest, most user-friendly area in your house. I painted my office terra cotta orange, bought a custom desk, got dimmer lights and more.
- Keep up appearances. My home office is in a very large bedroom—so large it accommodates a 13-foot L-shaped desk, two monitors, two printers, four filing cabinets, two book shelves, a white board and two cork boards. It looks like a real office. The problem is, the room is so large that we put an extra bed on the opposite side (we have a separate guest bedroom). Since my webcam is set up on my computer monitors, it points away from my great desk and office space, and directly toward the bed. It looks like I’m attending a meeting from a bedroom (so tacky!). So, I hung a small curtain rod in the middle of my ceiling and bought two beautiful silk drapes. Now, on videoconferences, I look like I’m in a studio.
Do NOT work from the couch. It will kill your back.
- Invest in your space. Buy a space heater, foot stool, cozy blanket, coffee warmer or whatever to keep yourself comfy and at your desk. Don’t work from your couch, it will kill your back and arms.
- Establish a hygiene routine. For me, it works to get up, immediately review and reply to e-mail, check my daily calendar, then go get ready, shower, change and eat breakfast.
- Think differently about wardrobe. Instead of a workweek/weekend division in your clothes, your closet will morph into ultra-casual (think yoga pants) for WFH, cute casual (jeans and jackets) for any reason to leave your home, and dress-up (for office visits/going out). Keep your PJs as PJs (that is, always dress for work, even if it’s just yoga pants), and always dress well when leaving the house or having people over.
- Dress nicer than necessary when visiting an office. They’ll think of you that way even when you’re at home in yoga pants.
- Open your windows, be sure you get a lot of sun and connect to the outside. Otherwise, you might start to feel like a mole underground. My desk overlooks my whole backyard and some seriously busy squirrels.
- Light a candle while you work. Let it be a centering reminder of what’s important. I also use a handwritten task list to keep me focused.
I’m out of time, but not out of tips. (Again, working from home demands I’m strict with myself about time management.) Tomorrow, I’ll be back with ten more ways you can improve your work-from-home experience and productivity.
What is your work from home experience? What tips do you have to share? Comment below!