Here is a list of tips on how to manage your work from home.
Draw the work/life balance line
When you work from home, “always” is your workday. There are always more emails to process, more tasks to complete, more jobs to finish up. This exists because the dividing line between “work” and “home” is nearly non-existent. To be successful for the long-term in a WFH situation, you’ve got to actively determine your correct work/life balance. That said, you can structure that balance a bit more personally. Since the work is always in that home office, you’re more free to choose which working hours best suit your otherwise life.
Have a routine
Of all those years getting ready to head into the office, there is one routine I continue: wearing shoes to work. I might not shave or fix my hair, but putting on shoes is like Superman putting on his cape. Once I get my shoes on, watch out there is a Hadoop cluster about to get setup faster than a speeding bullet. On days I don’t put shoes on, I feel disorganized and behind all day. My advice is to find a small habit you can do every day to put yourself into the zone and stick to it.
Find the right work environment
I realized that when I was doing creative work – such as writing an outline to a new course – I needed an external “buzz.” I found a co-working space that was a 10-minute walk from home and that helped me get into the flow. Being aware of what environment suits you to work at your optimum level is essential. This is often only achieved through trial and error—not everyone works the same way or is inspired in the same work environment.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned from working from home is the importance of self-discipline. In my case, it’s the self-discipline of being able to close the laptop at the end of a working day and not re-open it after dinner. For others, it’s the challenge of avoiding procrastination and getting some work done.
While I’m able to set my own hours and am isolated from the office “drama,” I feel disconnected from the office day-to-day, which of course is unavoidable. Thus, it’s more important for me to stay in touch and maintain closer contact with teammates using available tech via Slack, Skype, email, etc. to keep apprised as to changes and new stuff.
Manage your time
I’ve used many different methods for time management from Kanban, simple checklist, Pomodoro or six top things. The real secret is they all work if you stick to it. My suggestion is to find one and be disciplined about following it.
Don’t get sucked into email
Start each day with AT MOST three major tasks to accomplish. Don’t read email until at least one of them is done. Email is always a source of minor work that may be important, but never urgent. If there is an emergency, that’s why you have a cellphone, or text alerts, etc.
Carve out time for your “everyday” tasks
It can be hard to feel part of an organization. And sometimes, household tasks get in the way when you’ve got to keep up with everything at home. So, I have four kinds of tasks that exist in my everyday: work, kids, household and me. If I can do a little for each one every day, I don’t get too far behind on any.
Build your network
Have regular face-to-face (or via Skype or other methods) check-ins with people who motivate you. This doesn’t necessarily need to be just one person. I would encourage people to build a network of people they can call on regularly—someone you can talk to about your progress, someone to bounce ideas around with (such as a friend in the industry) and a mentor to help guide you on your overall journey.
Take advantage of the benefits
Working from home is an amazing opportunity, so take advantage of it. Do things you wouldn’t be able to do if you were in an office. I’ll take calls while walking on my treadmill, or if the weather is nice, walk outside. It’s a privilege and you should enjoy it.
Be proactive about upward mobility
Upward mobility is much more difficult. Even if you are accomplishing a lot, and get recognized accordingly, there is a lack of effort on the part of employers to work on career advancement, which includes promotions, raises, and any sort of cross-training to gain new skills. Be proactive and ask about new positions, promotions and continuous learning.
Separate your work space
Keep a separate space for “work mode” and “home mode.” Ideally it would be a home office where you can close the door and keep out the distractions. If that’s not possible, pick other things to help you make the contextual switch between “work mode” and “home mode.” For example, I have t-shirts that I only wear for working, and I have a separate user account on my laptop for work/personal that have different wallpapers/OS themes.
Set weekly goals
It’s easy to be distracted by all the things that come up through the course of a busy day, but I find that making clear and ambitious goals at the start of each week can really help. There’s nothing like the promise of a significant emotional pay off that’s just a few days away to keep you focused.
Block out the noise
Noise-cancelling headphones are fabulous! When I’m writing a course or preparing for a speaking gig, I listen to Carl Franklin’s Music to Code By. Other times, I’ll have no music at all. Silence can be golden (particularly those with kids!).
Take time out
Take frequent short breaks to walk, have a quick snack, complete a short chore, etc. This helps keep you focused when you sit back down, and for me, helps my effectiveness stay at a relatively high level during the work day.