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Five Common Working-At-Home Problems- Solved!

Five Common Working-At-Home Problems- Solved!
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We’re all familiar with the advantages (sometimes idealized) of working from home. You can work in your pajamas, you have a 25-foot commute, you have increased flexibility with your personal obligations, and you get some decent tax deductions. However, there are some special considerations that may need to be addressed or accommodated to make your home office the best it can be. Here are a few things we often address with our home office clients in our work as Professional Organizers:

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Sorry, we’re closed. Because of the temptation to “always work,” the ideal workspace for better work/life balance is one where you can close the door when your working hours are over (you do have “working hours,” don’t you?). If this is not possible, another solution is to use a folding screen or room divider to create a sense of separation. We strongly discourage using your personal bedroom for your work area, as that makes the lines really blurred, and the Feng Shui people really don’t like that either, if you are into that kind of thing.

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What? I can’t hear you! Do you need to spend a lot of time on the phone with prospects or clients? You will need to make sure that unprofessional sounds (such as dogs barking and children crying) do not interfere with your ability to hear or talk on the phone. If you are discussing sensitive issues, you may not want others in your home to hear your conversations. If necessary, these noise and privacy problems can be addressed with soundproofing or white noise machines (click here for some options).

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Keep your workspace sacred. Create rules to make sure your family members respect your workspace. If possible, make sure that your family members have their own spaces to study, draw, read, and use a computer. Accidents happen—drinks can get spilled on important paperwork and other people can inadvertently infect your computer with viruses or spyware. Getting young kids an inexpensive, used, or hand-me-down computer for their games and such can be very liberating. Have duplicates of common office supplies and tools like staplers and scissors so that your workspace does not have to be disturbed, and so you won’t be left empty-handed when your family has taken them off somewhere else.

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Special delivery. Can you hear your doorbell from your office? You may need to receive visitors and accept packages during your workday. If needed, a wireless doorbell chime extender can be easily installed (available at any hardware/home center). If you need to receive packages often when you are not home, you may wish to install a large package drop mailbox, or consider renting a box at a retail mail center location that can accept packages on your behalf.

Let yourself in. For co-workers who may require entry into your home, you may find it useful to get an outdoor keypad installed for your garage door opener (if you have one). This keypad will eliminate the need for multiple people to have keys to your home (assuming that you are not locking the door on the interior of the garage into the house). If you have an alarm system, also remember that you can usually set up temporary and secondary codes to avoid giving out your master alarm code.

Lorie Marrero is a Professional Organizer and creator of The Clutter Diet, an innovative, affordable online program for home organization. Lorie’s site helps members lose “Clutter-Pounds” from their homes by providing online access to her team of organizers. Lorie writes something insanely practical every few days or so in the Clutter Diet Blog. She lives in Austin, TX, where her company has provided hands-on organizing services to clients since 2000.

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Last Updated on August 16, 2018

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system”.

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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The power of habit

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being six hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The wonderful thing about triggers (reminders)

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to make a reminder works for you

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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