Tales from the home office

Get your ass out of bed, stagger tiredly to the kitchen, grab a cup of ‘pick me up’, grab your internet machine, slouch down into your comfiest chair and now you’re ready to get to work! Sound inspiring? Oh and the episode doesn’t end there. Your house will never be cleaner, your dishes will never be washed so many times, clothes and closets will be organized and reorganized, pets will get a whole lot of attention (even if they are your neighbours pets) for anyone that ever finds themselves working from home this might be a more familiar story than you think. You are not alone, many people all across Canada and the globe are choosing (forced) to work from home, some more productive than others. Some of these home workers are graduate students doing research, entrepreneurs, or telecommuters.

For all those working at home who are suffering from ‘anythingotherthanworkitis’ I have some tips. Some tips that have helped me, and tips that have helped those I work with.

  1. Wake up and GET out of the house. Go for a walk, grab a newspaper, meet people. Yes, even in the winter if you live where it is cold, get the hell out of your house. I have found this to be the thing that wakes me up in the morning, gets my brain moving, and allows me to get out of my pajamas and into some clothes that may be more conducive to looking like you might do some work today.
  2. Trick time. One thing that I have found to be super helpful while learning how to work from home (or period) has been to break things down into the smallest amounts of time as possible. For instance instead of completing a WHOLE chapter in one day, challenge yourself to finish just 2 sentences. You will find that as you sit down to just finish 2 sentences you will get into the ‘groove’ and you will work longer. The hardest part to most tasks is getting them started.
  3. Write it down. Yes, simple but effective. If you can’t see it glaring at you in the face then it is just that much easier to avoid.
  4. Share it. Even better than writing it down share it with someone. This helps to make yourself accountable. I have done this with several of the athletes I work with. If  they have papers to write and they want to make the deadline a week earlier than when it is due they will arrange to send it to me. Otherwise, they will just not be able to trick themselves into completing the paper before the real deadline.
  5. Rewards! I use a Smarties/M&M/Skittles system. Incredibly sophisticated as it is this system allows me to reward myself in little jolts of excitement. Pretty much weekly there are 2 bowls on my desk, 1 bowl is filled with some form of sugar rewarding rush while the other is empty. Every time I deem something that I have done as productive I take one candy and place it in the other bowl. When the bowl that was empty is full I know I have done lots of productive things, I get to eat the candy, and I take a day off. So how will your reward system work? Will it be as sophisticated as mine?
  6. Rest. When you work from home it can be all encompassing. There is no such thing as taking work home-it’s all around you all the time. Just because it is readily available doesn’t mean you have to work ALL the time.
  7. Take notes. My home office is filled with books, has a wall that is painted in white board paint, and has hundreds of sticky notes in it. There are a million things you could be doing and should be doing. You will get phones calls and emails galore, people will decide that since you work at home they can connect with you at any time. For those people they get nothing more than a courteous ‘I will take a note of that and get back to you tomorrow’. Not only will other people barge in on your time but your frigging brain will always be bombarded by messages from everywhere. Now that you are at home you can turn on the TV, the radio, people are walking outside, you can freely surf the internet. All of these things can lead to hundreds of hours of time flying by. When I’m watching TV show X at 6pm I might have a brilliant world changing idea. Do I jump up and get working on it? I write a note ‘start working on world changing idea tomorrow.’
  8. Find your time to work. All of the above stated, you work at home so your hours don’t have to be 9 to 5 (most of the time). I love this about my work. I am an early riser and I love working in the hours when every one else is not. I get a whole lot of work done with almost no interruptions. I mean facebook statuses are rarely being updated at 5:30am at the feverish pace that they are at say 10am (less distraction). Find the hours you work well in and make those your core hours.

Now for all you folk who actually go to a place of work that is not your home do not think for a second that we home office workers are fooled by what your schedule can look like as well.

So what are some of your tips? How do you work from your home office? I would love to hear some ideas and suggestions.

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One thought on “Tales from the home office

  1. Awesome article Shawn! One thing that I have found to be crucial (though perhaps very obvious) is making my office strictly about work (in my case, my thesis). Sometimes it’s tempting to bring ‘other’ work into my office (such as laundry to fold, newspapers to read, or eardrops to administer to my ear-infected dog). But I have found that using my office as my place of work, my living room as my place of play/eat/procrastinate, and my bedroom as my place of sleep, I can divide my home into stations of work and play. The fact that the seat of the chair in my living room is a whole lot ‘sunker’ and warmer than the seat of my chair in the office is sometimes a wake-up call that I’ve been spening too much time in other parts of the apartment, and avoiding my office. Granted, this is a bit of a luxury in terms of space, but it does allow me to treat parts of my home as ‘escape’ from work, if that makes sense. Thanks again for the tips!

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