Secrets to Thriving When Not In The Office
The New Normal
● Twenty years ago, only a very small percentage of people worked remotely. Now we have broadband internet, smartphones, and videoconferencing. The way we work has fundamentally changed. The result is that it’s much easier to work from home, which large numbers of people now do.
● What many people don’t realize, however, is that working remotely is very different than working in an office. Many of the rhythms and routines that help you thrive in the office don’t work as well at home. If you’re going to thrive as a remote worker, it’s important to learn a new set of skills and strategies.
● In this guide, we’re going to give you proven tips, tactics, and strategies that will help you work effectively from home. Ready? Let’s dive in.
Avoid Doing These
● Avoid: Trying to prove you’re always working. With remote work, you may feel the need to prove to your boss that you’re working by immediately answering every message that comes your way. The issue with this is that it prevents you from being able to focus for extended periods of time.
● Avoid: Always being available. You may feel like you need to be always available to your boss and coworkers. You feel obligated to respond to messages even if they come in during non-work hours. As much as possible, try to avoid responding to messages when you’re not working.
● Avoid: Being hard on yourself. If you’re new to remote work, it’s especially important to cut yourself some slack. It’s very different than working in an office, and it’s going to take you some time to get your bearings. Over time, you’ll get better at working from home. In the meantime, don’t be hard on yourself.
Stick to a Schedule
● One of the great advantages of remote work is that you have more flexibility to set your schedule. However, the absence of a defined schedule can also be a downfall. It can be tough to get motivated to get started.
● To keep yourself on track, try to maintain a schedule as much as possible.
Determine in advance:
○ When you’ll start work
○ Break times
○ Quitting time
● Maintaining a predetermined schedule will add much needed structure to your day. Communicate your schedule to all the relevant parties, like your boss, family, friends, and anyone else who needs to know. Establish clear boundaries regarding when you will and won’t be working.
● Consider creating pre-work routines that will get you in the right mindset to be productive. Think about the things you do prior to starting work at the office.
Consider how you can duplicate these routines at home.
● As tempting as it may be to spend all day working in your pajamas, take the time to actually get dressed. When you get dressed, it’s a signal to your brain and body that you’re transitioning out of relaxing and into work.
● It’s essential to take breaks while working from home. If you’re not careful, you can end up working for hours without giving your mind a rest. Schedule activities that will refresh you mentally, like going for a walk, drinking coffee on your porch, or calling a friend.
● It’s also important to establish clearly defined boundaries about when you will and won’t be working. If you don’t have a clearly defined quitting time, work will quickly take over. Your goal is to be fully present whatever you’re doing.
Create a Working Space
● A designated working space can help keep your work life and home life apart. When you enter your working space, you know that it’s time to get down to business. When you leave, you know that it’s time to relax.
● As much as possible, try to make your workspace feel separate from the rest of your living quarters. This doesn’t mean that you must have an entirely separate room to work in. It simply means that you primarily use that space for working and not leisure.
● The more you work in one area, the more your brain will associate that area with your job. As the association in your brain strengthens, entering your workspace will act as a trigger, signaling to your brain that it’s time to work.
● Ideally, your workspace should be as free from distractions as possible. If you can’t physically separate yourself from others, using noise-cancelling headphones can also reduce distractions.
● Make your space comfortable. Get a comfy chair and maybe put a few decorations around you. If you can, work in a well-lit area, preferably illuminated by natural light.
● When the day is over, “close” your working space. Shut down any work-related items on your computer (browser tabs, email) and tidy up your space so that it’s ready for tomorrow.
Use a Task List
● Consistently maintaining a task list helps you focus the lion’s share of your attention on the things that matter most. You also gain a sense of progress as you check items off your list.
● At the start of each day, take a few minutes to review the items on your list. Rank your three most important tasks and then focus on getting those things done that day. Don’t move on to your second most important task until you’ve completed your first.
● There are a number of effective ways to keep a task list. There are a number of planners that are specifically designed to help you identify and accomplish your most important tasks, including:
○ Full Focus Planner
○ Best Self Planner
○ Bullet Journal
● If you want to maintain your list on your computer and smartphone, check out these apps:
○ Microsoft To Do
○ Google Tasks
● If you simultaneously want to stay on top of your schedule and your task list, you may want to try using the Pomodoro technique. It works like this:
○ Identify your most important task.
○ Set a timer for 25 minutes.
○ Work on the task for 25 minutes (one Pomodoro session).
○ Take a 5-minute break.
○ After four Pomodoro sessions, take a 15-20-minute break.
Stay in Communication with Coworkers
● Even though you’re working from home, it’s still essential to stay in touch with your boss and coworkers. With remote work, there’s an increased risk of miscommunication and misunderstanding. To keep this from happening, work hard to keep all the channels of communication open.
● Your company may already have tools in place to keep everyone connected. If they don’t, consider using the following.
○ Chat tools. There are times when you want to fire off a quick question to a coworker without getting into a full-fledged discussion. In these moments, chat applications are incredibly useful.
○ Video conferencing tools. Video conferencing tools are essential for when you need to have a meeting but aren’t in the office. Everyone can come together in a “room” and hash things out.
○ Collaboration tools. The best collaboration tools allow you and your coworkers to easily work on projects together. Changes can be easily made and tracked, and notes can be attached to any item.
○ Project management tools. Project management tools ensure that projects keep moving and that the right people work on the right tasks at the right times. The best project management tools allow tasks to be assigned, deadlines to be set, reminders to be sent, and more.
● When you work from home, distractions are everywhere. These distractions can make it difficult to get things done. The more you can reduce distractions, the more productive you’ll be.
● Know yourself. Most distractions arise internally, like getting bored, hungry, or tired. If you know when these kinds of distractions tend to arise, you can plan accordingly. For example, if your energy starts to flag in the afternoon, schedule a brisk walk.
● Shut things down. An abundance of incoming emails, Slack messages, and texts makes it hard to focus. Sometimes the best solution is to shut all of these things down for set periods of time. Consider only checking your communication tools at designated times during the day.
● Block distracting websites. There are a million time-wasting distractions on the internet. One of the most effective solutions is simply to block all the websites that tend to suck you in. Physically prevent yourself from wasting time.
● Work during your peak times. There are certain times of the day when you’re more energized, focused, and productive. As much as possible, use your peak periods for your most important work. Avoid wasting these times on things like email, which you can do even when your brain is tired.
● When you work from home, you’re in one location much more than normal. To combat claustrophobia, try to get outside each day. Simple outdoor activities you can do include:
○ Playing a sport like basketball
● In addition to just getting outside, try to exercise several times per week. Consistent exercise helps you keep the pounds off and increases your overall sense of well-being. If you don’t have access to equipment, there are a number of apps that can provide you with guided workouts.
Connect with Others
● Isolation and loneliness can be big challenges for remote workers. After all, your office mates are a big part of your social circle. That all goes away when you work from home. It takes concerted effort to ensure that you get consistent time with others. But it can be done.
● Working at coffee shops or a coworking space can make you feel like you’re part of society, even if you’re not directly interacting with others. Taking social breaks can also be helpful. For example, you could work several hours in the morning and then grab lunch with a few friends.
● Another option is to join local organizations like the Chamber of Commerce or a softball team. You may also want to think about volunteering, which enables you to socialize with others and make a meaningful contribution to your community.
● The big takeaway is simply to find ways that you can spend time with others. Generally speaking, extended periods of isolation aren’t healthy. So, it’s important to make the effort to be around other people.