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How to Be Productive When You’re Working from Home

There are a lot of perks to working from home that, if you’ve been doing it for a while you take for granted, these include taking walk the dog/pet the dog breaks, accepting deliveries, lunching locally with work friends, a quick nap with no interruptions, an occasional beer/glass of wine when things overheat—and (a nod to Don Draper) a movie break when you need to clear your head. One of the most important benefits for me is that I have zero travel time—which adds an hour or more of productive time a day. That’s a lot!

The two major downsides to working from home are isolation and distraction. Here are some strategies for dealing with all this.

  • Get Dressed: It’s tempting to spend the day in PJs, but don’t. You don’t need to put on a suit, but dress business casual before you start working. It’s mental thing, puts you in a professional mindset. It also sends a message to the universe that you are ready for all the great things that are coming that day. If nothing else, you need to be ready for an ambush Zoom meeting.

  • Have a Dedicated Work Space: Do not work from bed (unless you’re sick). Do not work from the couch. Don’t work anywhere that lets you recline. Clearly define the part of your house where work happens. That makes it more likely that you’ll actually get things done when you’re there, and help you disconnect when you’re not.

  • Go Outside/Take a Quick Nap: This is really important to me. And where, again, the dog comes in. There isn’t any particular time of day that I like to walk, I just wait until I need a break. The way I look at it, if I was at the office, I would have at least 2 breaks—so I’m going to use one for a walk and the other for a quick nap if I need it.

  • Spend one Day a Week at a Shared Workspace: This doesn’t have to be an actual coworking space—any coffee shop or library with w/WiFi will work. It really helps to break up the isolation.

  • Make your Workspace Zoom-Friendly: If you’ve noticed, professionals are a lot less concerned about having a bank of scholarly books as a backdrop. My goal is for my workspace to look professional and neat with nothing embarrassing—like job interviews posted on the whiteboard.

  • Email, Text, Message and Call Often: Make it a point to stay in touch with colleagues throughout the day. You’ll get a clearer picture of what’s going on in the office if you make an excuse to call a couple times a day—people will tell you things they don’t want memorialized in an email.

  • No TV (or Videogames): TV will cut your productivity in half. You think you can work alongside CNN, CNBC, E News reruns, etc. but it insidiously slows you down. The only exceptions I would make here are a few minutes at lunchtime and when you are doing something incredibly rote and boring for an hour or more.

  • Plan Your Snacks: People that work from home snack—all the time. So keep snacks around that are both healthy and that you really like. You can cut up carrot sticks all you want, but when the urge to snack strikes, you’ll want something you actually enjoy.

  • Create Boundaries and Stick to Them: I have my friends and relatives trained not to call or text during the day, unless it is something important enough that they would have otherwise called me at the office. So: someone in the emergency room yes; a concert that’s about to sell out, no.

  • Incorporate a Work-Ending Activity into Your Day: End your day at 5, shut off your technology and leave your home office (if you have one). My desktop/laptop have a trancelike effect on me that make them difficult to shut down—even when I don’t have any more work to do. Then go for another walk, go to the gym, meet a friend for dinner—anything that sends the signal you are done for the day.

Much of the above is from Brian Barrett’s excellent Wired article: How to Work from Home without Losing Your Mind: Read the entire article here: https://www.wired.com/story/how-to-work-from-home-without-losing-your-mind/. And, as Brian says: Don’t forget that working from home is really a luxury!

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