19 Ways To Be A Pro At Home
In the past, not all have been successful when given the opportunity to work remotely. Working from home means that you must have discipline, plus motivation, and organize yourself. The world has shifted with the coronavirus! Your child’s schools are closed for several weeks, universities are moving to remote learning, your kids are moving home, and many of us for the first time are working remotely.
Utilize these 19 habits from our new eLearning program so you can make your transition go more smoothly and get more done. Ask for details:
Change Your Mindset
To be more productive while working away from the office, we need to change your work mindset to a work/home mindset. This involves customizing your structure from work and adding the necessary “artificial” discipline to stay on task when work and home collide. It’s training our brains to focus on work during our scheduled work time. When your day ends, its time to shift to family and your time.
Create a Productive Workspace
Create an environment that will allow you to operate in a business-like manner. This includes having a properly equipped home office and organizing your work schedule in ways that will discourage others from interrupting you and keep you motivated when you’re working at home. Have a designated space to do your work. Turn a spare room into an office. If space is limited, find a desk or table that’s specifically for your work(not your kitchen table or the couch) . One’s physical workplace has a positive or negative influence on happiness and productivity. An inspiring or interesting environment will make you feel happier; more importantly, it results in more energized, purpose-driven work. A designated workspace matters for a few reasons.
Working at your kitchen or dining room table can seem logical. But that means any time you want to use your table for other things (like eating, or a game night with friends), you have to clean up and put away your work. At the very least, figure out where you can put a dedicated desk that isn’t used for anything else. If you have a spare room to use for an office, even better. But even a closet or unused corner of a room can work great!
First, you’ll have room to spread out your work materials — such as papers, books, and reports — and leave them out the entire day. This is far better than working at the kitchen table. Then, you have to clean up your materials for lunch; get everything out to work in the afternoon; and clear everything away for dinner. Second, a dedicated workspace can help your motivation. When you go to this designated space, you know that it’s time to work.
Pretend Like You’re Not at Home
One of the most common mistakes people make when working from home is to act, well, like they’re at home. This translates into behaviors like getting up to do dishes, putting in a load of wash, or checking out Facebook. As such, it’s important to create a distinction between “home” and “work,” even when they are technically the same. You wouldn’t bring your laundry in and fold it in the office while talking to your boss, so don’t do that during work hours at home, either.
To create this separation, select spaces in your home that are designated for “work.” When I’m in my designated workspace it signals “work time.” Once you establish your rituals, it’ll be easier to settle in and focus. For me, I found a room, added walls, a door, and my home office came to life.
Dress Like You’re Going to Work
Separate work from home with the clothes you wear. Maybe you have a handful of casual “work” shirts, which are different from the shirts you wear when you’re relaxing on a Saturday afternoon or in the evenings. Having designated “work from home” clothes can get you into the right frame of mind.
Set Dedicated Office Hours
Setting explicit office hours, and keeping to them, allows you to separate home life from work life each day, and lets your team (and family) know when you’re available and when you’re not, no matter what your icon might say. This is especially important with family. It is critical to set and maintain boundaries. In addition, discuss those exact boundaries with family and colleagues and agreement to observe them is vital. Trust me, those boundaries will be tested.
Create a Master List that Includes Work and Personal
I like to “blend” my work and personal tasks when working from home. Roughly every fifty minutes I can feel I’m running out of energy. That’s when I look on my list for personal tasks that take ten minutes or less. I choose a personal task (put a load of wash in the washer, do the dishes, make Doctor’s appointment, etc., then return to my work. This blend must be disciplined with set times or you’ll lose track of time and fall behind. This is the Master List concept from Organizing for Success 2.0.
Make a Schedule
Give your day some structure and make a schedule for tomorrow at the end of each day. I make an hour-by-hour schedule for tomorrow that includes my priorities and when I’ll work on them. So, on Tuesday, I make a schedule for Wednesday. I also schedule ten-minute breaks and add time for lunch (don’t eat at your desk.).Taking short ten-minute breaks is an important part of managing your energy throughout the day. Leaving your home or apartment at lunch time and taking a walk is a great way to boost your energy levels for the afternoon ahead.
Break Your Day into Hourly Intervals
We’re far more effective when we focus on what we can accomplish one to an hour rather than “by the end of the day.” This hourly approach will help you get into a rhythm and break your day into manageable pieces. Try my 50/10 Rule: Work hard for 50-minutes, then take a 10-minute break and recharge. This will increase what you’re accomplishing each hour.
Develop a Routine
To develop a more effective routine, start by questioning the way things have always been done. This routine may or may not be the same as the one you had at work. Question your “typical” routine and habits. There is a huge difference between being busy and being productive. Excellence and productivity, then, is not an act, but a habit,” Keep track of your time for a week using the Timekeeping Journal I developed and evaluate your routine. Maybe it’s time for a new routine.
Batch Like Tasks
Batching is the second fastest way to increase both your focus and productivity. Group emails, phone calls, similar tasks or projects, trips to certain parts of town, or shopping at different stores (personal) from your Master List. Set up times each day to work on like activities you have to accomplish, and you’ll have more discipline.
Batching will help you to do things more quickly because you’ll get into the flow of the task and won’t lose time in refocusing like you do when you’re jumping from task to task all day long or being interrupted. Analyze your tasks and see which ones you can group.
Tip: Turn off your email notification and set-up times each hour to batch your responses. You will actually respond to more than if you left it open all day!
Use Breaks and Lunch to Keep Your Mind Fresh
It’s important to keep your mind fresh throughout the day. The mind can only go so long before it “hits the wall.” That’s why lunch and short breaks are important. Studies show that the concentration cycles usually last 60 minutes. After 60 minutes, take a 10-minute break and recharge. Eat a lunch that will add to your afternoon energy cycle, not put you to sleep. If you have a heavy lunch, that will defeat the purpose of using lunch to increase your productivity.
One of the benefits of working from home is escaping workplace distractions that are imposed on you. So, don’t inundate yourself with “home” distractions, like turning on TV and scrolling through newsfeeds on Facebook. Forty-eight percent of respondents to the Regus survey reported that children or family demanding attention was the number one issue when working at home. If you have a family it is important to let them know when you are working and therefore unavailable. Switching between tasks can result in as much as a 40% loss of productivity. Even consider turning off the notification sound when you get emails or electronic notifications.
Concentration killers include everything from noise from family or neighborhood activities to just observing that beautiful view of your backyard from your home office window. Block out excess noise from family or outside your house with noise-canceling headphones or earbuds. Studies show that soft, soothing music helps you concentrate, lowers your blood pressure.
Create a Group Power Hour or Use “Do Not Disturb”
When you’re remote, nobody knows the best time to reach you. Don’t be afraid to protect your time, as others won’t. Tell others the best time to reach you and when you’re typically unavailable because it’s your “veggie” time.
Do Not Disturb. If you’re using Slack, then you can set yourself away or DND for an hour. Same process for IM. This will tell the rest of your team (and others) that you aren’t around or are working on something important. Your team (and others) will quickly learn when you can be disturbed and when not, and adjust their communication accordingly.
Use Your Peak Hours Effectively
It’s important to determine your peak work cycles. Each person has three in a day; one in the morning, one in the afternoon, and one in the early evening. Do you work best first thing in the morning? Do you start to feel energized after 12 noon?
The answer to such questions can help you determine your peak work periods. I’m a morning person; I prefer working early in the morning and immediately after lunch. I prioritize my important tasks for these periods and the save less-important stuff for when I feel like I’m “out of gas.” Knowing when you work best (and not) can help you get the most out of your day. This is very strategic thinking.
Stay Connected and Communicate with Colleagues
You will work in large chunks of uninterrupted time. Add time each day to communicate with colleagues. This is important to do when you’re working remotely. When creating your daily schedule, make sure you schedule a time to call a colleague, check your social channels. When you’re in an office, most conversation involves talking about nothing. Sports, TV, movies, anything but work. This is just a natural part of human behavior. But when you’re remote, it can feel like you shouldn’t bother with any communication that isn’t work-related and vital. Create a channel on Slack for non-work related, social talk to fill this void.
I find it helpful to check digital communication tools at designated times during my day. When I create my daily schedule, I note when I’ll check email and Slack, for example. Use the “Out of Office” feature on Outlook to alert colleagues when they should expect a response. If you’re a leader, tell team members in advance when you’re available to talk or respond to emails.
Create Communication Channels for Different Needs
Since you can’t ask the person who used be sitting next to you for an answer or help, you need to choose an effective communication channel or channels if you need something or are stuck. Slack offers the ability to set up different channels for different teams, add integrations to make life easier, and keep everyone in the loop at all times, so you can communicate anything that the team needs to know. Consider a five-minute chat over video when a discussion is needed instead of going back and forth on Slack trying to answer questions. Batch everything that you want to talk about into a single video call and reduce time.
Staying connected by using a combination of different communication options helps assure the success of a remote worker. It is important to feel like you’re part of a team, to be engaged, and not feel like you’re on an island all be yourself. In addition to email, texts, IM, and the phone, there is Skype and other cutting-edge video collaboration tools. Discuss the various options with your fellow collaborators and manger. Other suggestions would be Facebook and Twitter.
Determine the End of Your Workday
A common challenge is working too much when you’re working remotely. You see your computer nearby, and you have a nagging urge to check your email constantly throughout the evening. That’s why it’s important to determine in advance when your workday will end. Include this in your daily plan discussed above. Then, close your laptop and place it in your bookbag or close your office door so your computer is out of sight. (I close my office door and turn off my phone.)
Add Closure to the End of Each Day
Update your Master List at the end of each day. Approximately 15-30 minutes before you plan to leave work, stop responding to e-mails, phone calls, requests from others, and your work. With your calendar open and your Master List in front of you, let your mind wander. Brainstorm: write down whatever pops into your head in no particular order. This will create an ending point for each day or closure, so you develop a mental separation between work and home.
You don’t want to come back to your home office the next day and feel like you never left! This process will allow you to relax and focus on your family. Have you ever thought about work while watching TV, talking to family, or in bed (when you should be sleeping?) You must also avoid the temptation to seek back to your office when others are looking. It is important to make a commitment to your personal/work balance. The evening is your time to recharge and spend time with family or just yourself.
Finally, each Friday, repeat this process. Each Friday, from 3-5 pm I start to “wind-down” and organize for next week. I empty my head of work thoughts, evaluate what I did (and didn’t) get done this week, and plan next week. This process will allow your mind to relax so you can focus on and enjoy your weekend!
Trust building is relationship building. If you don’t build trust, you don’t build relationships and this is key when you’re working remotely. How do you provide evidence that you want your leaders, peers, or stakeholders to give you their trust? You must first demonstrate that the relationship matters.
• Show willingness to learn new methods, procedures, and take on new tasks
• Show initiative & self-reliance.
• Look for new ways of doing things and to achieve objectives.
• Make suggestions for increasing the effectiveness of changes.
• Be resourceful with a positive, ‘can do’ attitude to change.
• Respond with energy to new challenges, the unfamiliar and the unexpected.
• Adjust your methods to deal with a changing situation or emergency.
• Shift your priorities in response to the demands of a situation.
• Not be frightened to improvise.
• Be tolerant of time pressure, working well close to deadlines.
• Keep an open mind and see the bigger picture.
Integrity is also essential for trust and credibility. You need to be known as someone who does the right things for the right reasons (especially when you’re working remotely! A clear understanding of what matters most to your leader and team members is essential for building trust and credibility.
• What are your expectations for replying to any communication you send me?
• What hours to you expect me to be at my desk? Breaks? Lunch?
• What are your expectations regarding daily accomplishments?