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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 April 8, 2019

22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

Unless you’re infinitely rich or prepared to rack up major debt, you need to budget your income. Setting limits on how much you are willing to spend helps control expenses. But what about your time? Do you budget your time or spend it carelessly?

Deadlines are the chronological equivalent of a budget. By setting aside a portion of time to complete a task, goal or project in advance you avoid over-spending. Deadlines can be helpful but they can also be a source of frustration if set improperly. Here are some tips for making deadlines work:

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  1. Use Parkinson’s Law – Parkinson’s Law states that tasks expand to fill the time given to them. By setting a strict deadline in advance you can cut off this expansion and focus on what is most important.
  2. Timebox – Set small deadlines of 60-90 minutes to work on a specific task. After the time is up you finish. This cuts procrastinating and forces you to use your time wisely.
  3. 80/20 – The Pareto Principle suggests that 80% of the value is contained in 20% of the input. Apply this rule to projects to focus on that critical 20% first and fill out the other 80% if you still have time.
  4. Project VS Deadline – The more flexible your project, the stricter your deadline. If a task has relatively little flexibility in completion a softer deadline will keep you sane. If the task can grow easily, keep a tight deadline to prevent waste.
  5. Break it Down – Any deadline over one day should be broken down into smaller units. Long deadlines fail to motivate if they aren’t applied to manageable units.
  6. Hofstadter’s Law – Basically this law states that it always takes longer than you think. A rule I’ve heard in software development is to double the time you think you need. Then add six months. Be patient and give yourself ample time for complex projects.
  7. Backwards Planning – Set the deadline first and then decide how you will achieve it. This approach is great when choices are abundant and projects could go on indefinitely.
  8. Prototype – If you are attempting something new, test out smaller versions of a project to help you decide on a final deadline. Write a 10 page e-book before your 300 page novel or try to increase your income by 10% before aiming to double it.
  9. Find the Weak Link – Figure out what could ruin your plans and accomplish it first. Knowing the unknown can help you format your deadlines.
  10. No Robot Deadlines – Robots can work without sleep, relaxation or distractions. You aren’t a robot. Don’t schedule your deadline with the expectation you can work sixteen hour days to complete it. Deathmarches aren’t healthy.
  11. Get Feedback – Get a realistic picture from people working with you. Giving impossible deadlines to contractors or employees will only build resentment.
  12. Continuous Planning – If you use a backwards planning model, you need to constantly be updating plans to fit your deadline. This means making cuts, additions or refinements so the project will fit into the expected timeframe.
  13. Mark Excess Baggage – Identify areas of a task or project that will be ignored if time grows short. What e-mails will you have to delete if it takes too long to empty your inbox? What features will your product lack if you need a rapid finish?
  14. Review – For deadlines over a month long take a weekly review to track your progress. This will help you identify methods you can use to speed up work and help you plan more efficiently for the future.
  15. Find Shortcuts – Almost any task or project has shortcuts you can use to save time. Is there a premade library you can use instead of building your own functions? An autoresponder to answer similar e-mails? An expert you can call to help solve a problem?
  16. Churn then Polish – Set a strict deadline for basic completion and then set a more comfortable deadline to enhance and polish afterwards. Often churning out the basics of a task quickly will require no more polishing afterwards than doing it slowly.
  17. Reminders – Post reminders of your deadlines everywhere. Creating a sense of urgency with your deadlines is necessary to keep them from getting pushed aside by distractions.
  18. Forward Planning – Not mutually exclusive with backwards planning, this involves planning the details of a project out before setting a deadline. Great for achieving clarity about what you are trying to accomplish before making arbitrary time limits.
  19. Set a Timer – Get one that beeps. Somehow the countdown of a timer appears more realistic for a ninety minute timebox than just glancing at your clock.
  20. Write them Down – Any deadline over a few hours needs to be written down. Otherwise it is an inclination not a goal. Having written deadlines makes them more tangible than internal decisions alone.
  21. Cheap/Fast/Good – Ben Casnocha in My Start Up Life mentions that you can have only have two of the three. Pick two of the cheap/fast/good dimensions before starting a project to help you prioritize.
  22. Be Patient – Using a deadline may seem to be the complete opposite of patience. But being patient with inflexible tasks is necessary to focus on their completion. The paradox is that the more patient you are, the more you can focus. The more you can focus the quicker the results will come!

Featured photo credit: Estée Janssens via unsplash.com

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