Imagine a world where you never have to set an alarm clock, change out of pjs or sit in traffic, while still being able to hold down a job and pay your bills. Sorry to burst your bubble, but we don’t live in a utopia. To an extent, however, this lifestyle does exist for certain professionals, such as many independent meeting planners who have the luxury and flexibility to work from home daily or on occasion.
Surrounded by potential distractions such as a comfy bed calling your name, the television, dishes and laundry, how do you stay on track to get your work done without a micromanaging boss hovering over your shoulder? We curated some tips shared by people with work-from-home experience: Julie McCormick on lifehack.org, Kenneth R. Rosen in The New York Times and Fernanda Elizalde in a Nextiva.com blog post.
1. Designate a workspace, such as a desk or table.
Work is work, after all. Working from bed or the couch lends itself too easily to nodding off to sleep. Some remote workers find a change of scenery helpful by bringing their computer to a coffee shop or library, or by renting a co-working space. Wherever it is you find most conducive to concentrating, make sure you have access to reliable internet that can connect to your company’s secure Virtual Private Network (VPN). When working from home, you must be able to access servers, folders, files and software programs just as easily as if you were in the office.
2. Create a segmented checklist of tasks.
If you are expected to put in an eight-hour workday, divide the day into two blocks of three hours each and a final block of two hours. Use the breaks in between to take a walk, go to the gym, run an errand or accomplish a household chore.
One tactic some remote workers use to stay on track is implementing Francesco Cirillo’s Pomodoro Technique. Select a task you can complete in 25 minutes and set a “tomato timer” (a real one or a digital one online). When the timer rings, cross the task off your list and take a brief break. For every four “pomodoros,” treat yourself to a longer break.
3. Avoid cabin fever by putting clothes on and going outside daily.
This will also help you avoid feeling isolated from human interaction. As alluring as comfy pjs are, getting dressed helps convince yourself that it’s a workday and not a lazy Sunday. Showering and dressing are also important for impromptu video conferences with clients, bosses and colleagues. Always be ready to be seen.
4. Get in a routine.
Set an alarm each day and place it out of reach from your bed so that you’re forced to get up to turn it off. Don’t get trapped by the snooze button, even if you don’t have to report for duty at a designated time.
5. Be careful not to overuse social media, surf the web or go shopping online. Stay focused on work.
Apps and Google Chrome extensions, such as StayFocusd, let you set limits on the amount of time you spend on distracting websites. Once you’ve used up your allotted time, these sites are blocked for the remainder of the day.
6. Set boundaries.
Make sure family members who are home with you know not to disturb you. They need to pretend you are out of the house, working at an office. If spouses, kids, parents or in-laws keep asking you for this, that and the other thing, you’ll never get any work done. But, after your work hours, you need to put the boundary on work and open yourself up to familial obligations. When home is your workplace, it’s easy for work to cross over into family life. But draw a line in the sand. Be cautious not to continue checking emails late into the night.
7. Be present.
Employers must feel that employees are just as accessible from home as if they were physically present in the office. Communicate via Slack and Skype. Check-in often. Answer your phone. Respond to emails quickly.
8. Don’t over-do snacking.
Eat healthy and avoid trips to the pantry. By working from home, you are not limited to what can fit in a lunch bag and be reheated in a microwave at the office. You can make more nutritious selections from your kitchen. Also, by eliminating commute time, you gain cooking time. When your workday ends, hit the kitchen to whip up a healthy recipe for dinner and eat at a reasonable time.
9. Set S.M.A.R.T. goals.
There is dispute as to who originally authored the S.M.A.R.T. acronym for goal-setting, but here is what it spells out.
Specific: Define exactly what is being pursued.
Measurable: Is there a number to track completion?
Attainable*: Can the goal be achieved?
Realistic: Is the goal doable from a business perspective?
Timely*: Can the task be completed in a reasonable amount of time?
*Since there are multiple versions of the acronym, some use the “A” as “assignable” (who will do it?) and “T” as “tangible.”