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Bringing More Efficiency When You Work from Home

Bringing More Efficiency When You Work from Home
Work from Home

    There are a fair number of people who work from home. Though it can be very convenient to work from home, the choice can bring its own set of problems. One major problem arises from the very nature of the work involved you to be at home while you earn a living. Mothers have to tend to children and fathers are also expected to probably lend in a hand for household chores. There is also a desire to spend time with the children during their working hours.

    Home environment is not always conducive to work and requires organizing not only your time but also your workspace in a way that a balance is struck between the two. You naturally want to do justice to both your family and work.

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    It is not all that difficult to manage your work and family / children when you are working from home. If you get down thinking about it, the only difference is that instead of getting up in the morning to dress and leave for office you are working at home. It is this variation in situation that you have to manage first.

    Having a separate room that you can call your office is an advantage but if you do not have a spare room, you can designate any area within a room or kitchen that can serve the purpose. This will go a long way to indicate to the family and kids that when you are sitting there; you are working and are not be disturbed.

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    In the event that you have a spare room from where you work from, ensure that it gives an appearance of an office and that everything you need is nearby. Going out of your home office to fetch things in the family rooms can distract you from your assigned work. If the room you call your office is doubling up as something else too then it will be a good idea to place your files and folders in a manner that they are easily accessible.

    Having managed your work place you then have to attend to your time schedule. As you are working from home you can expect to be disturbed by social and familial duties during your working hours and the other way round.

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    Time management while working from home is as important as your having an earmarked office space. It requires scheduling your hours of work in a manner that you can attend to your work without being disturbed.

    Just because your working hours are not rigid when you are working from home they need not be so flexible that you loose the distinction between work and home life. It feels nice to have a break and spend time with family and kids but that can harm your work. The best way out is to have fixed office hours even if you are at home. The art of the game is to make the flexible working hours to work to your advantage rather than letting them hamper your work.

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    You can achieve this by scheduling your work well in advance. You have chosen to be your own master by working from home. It is just a change in the environment and not in the circumstances. There are certain things that come naturally when you are working in an office away from home. It is simply a matter of bringing the office discipline home. You have to adhere to that discipline during hours that you have earmarked for work. Some of those disciplines can be made to apply to your work at home situation by:

    • Conveying your office hours to family members, friends and relatives.
    • Switching on the answering machine during office hours.
    • Resisting temptations of working late simply because you are working from home.
    • Understanding the fact that just because you are working from home, you do not have to be always available for work.

    In the end, no matter how organized and disciplined you are, the very nature of working at home is that you are bound to get distracted. You have to make this to work to your advantage. If you are distracted, instead of getting agitated, take a break and consolidate your thoughts. This in a way can help you to come back to your work with renewed vigor.

    Being self-employed is a tough job. Working from home is even tougher. But this does not necessitate that you put your family life at stake. The art of balancing your work and family life, even when working from home, is a simple task and easily learned if you are inclined to.

    Vishal P. Rao runs the Work at Home Forum, an online community of those who work from home.

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    Last Updated on January 21, 2020

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

    This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

    The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard.

    The Keys to Learning Anything Easily

    Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

    Curiosity

    Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

    People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

    Patience

    Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

    When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

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    Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

    A Feeling for Connectedness

    This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

    A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

    The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

    How to Self-Taught Effectively

    With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

    1. Research

    Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

    Learning the Basics

    Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

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    Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

    What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

    Hitting the Books

    Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

    Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

    Long-Term Reference

    While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

    My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

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    2. Practice

    Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

    A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

    Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

    Check out this guide for useful techniques to help you practice efficiently: The Beginner’s Guide to Deliberate Practice

    3. Network

    One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

    These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

    Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

    Here find out How to Network So You’ll Get Way Ahead in Your Professional Life.

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    4. Schedule

    For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

    Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

    Final Thoughts

    In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

    If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

    At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

    More About Self-Learning

    Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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