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Managing the Transition from Office Job to Work-at-Home

Managing the Transition from Office Job to Work-at-Home

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    When lay-offs and redundancies are on the rise, it generally follows that people trying to make a living from home, working for themselves, or over the Internet are on the increase as well. So it stands to reason that as we speak, thousands of people are sitting in their new home office (quite possibly the living room, or the dining room table) and tearing their hair out asking: How do work-at-homers actually manage to get anything done when there’s a TV in the next room, a coffee machine in the kitchen and all sorts of fun stuff to do in the laundry?

    If that’s you, well, I feel sorry for you. Not because writing for a productivity blog means that I’ve found the secret to getting everything done before everyone else, but because it’s hard, really hard, to work from home, and there’s only so much you can do to make it easier. That’s what this article’s about.

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    Here are some tips to help you make the transition from the office job, where the environment is tailored to make sure you don’t do anything except work, to the home office, where every distraction you could’ve asked for is present.

    Use Your Newfound Mobility

    If working from the same cubicle day in and day out was frustrating and claustrophobic, do you think it’ll be any different in your home office? For your sanity, use your newfound mobility and get out. You can work from a wide variety of places these days, including cafes and fast food joints, not to mention Starbucks which is somewhere in between the two. If you live in a central location, even better – you can grab your laptop bag and get some exercise walking to your work location, which brings me to…

    Start an Exercise Plan

    This is, of course, one of those things you’re supposed to be doing regardless of where you work. The thing is, you need exercise even more when you work at home; you can go the whole day without leaving the house much of the time. You don’t even get the minuscule activity of walking to the car, and from the car to your cubicle. The sad truth about working from home: you will get fatter than if you were still working in an office, unless you take measures to stay healthy.

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    Exercise is also an important part of making the transition from the office job to working at home. If you can go for a jog or a walk in the morning before you start work, you’ll find yourself much more clear-headed and motivated to work, which is a huge help. It can become very hard to get motivated when you spend most of your life in the one building.

    Plan for Lunch, Before it Plans for You

    If you don’t plan for lunch, then you might find that lunch starts making its own plans for your day, or your weight. If you haven’t planned for a non-intrusive but relaxing lunch break you might find yourself cooking a gourmet meal that takes two or three hours to complete (for the same reason one might suddenly choose to clean that rangehood that hasn’t been touched in months: to get out of working), or you might find yourself constantly driving up to the nearest McDonalds or KFC. Eating an unhealthy diet is not something I’d recommend in any circumstances, let alone those were the sole motivator in the business is you.

    Low Information Diet

    So that particular headline contains one of those annoying buzzphrases, but here’s the thing: there are no checks and balances to keep distractions at bay when managers aren’t patrolling the cubicles and sysadmins aren’t watching your screen without your knowledge. You’ll check email, Google Reader and even the ghastly Twitter and fritter away your precious productive time if you are not careful.

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    Take a page from Tim Ferriss’s book (literally). Check email twice a day, at 12:00pm and 4:00pm. As for Google Reader? Don’t check it – maybe if you’re out of work hours, but not during them. I’m guilty of checking my work-related feeds using Google Reader amongst my personal feeds. Don’t do that, it’s stupid. As for Twitter? Unless your manager asks you to tweet during your work day (yeah right, you say, but it has happened to me!) then don’t. Even. Think. About. It.

    Create Comfort

    I read a book that said you shouldn’t spend money on your desk or office chair or what have you when you’re starting a work-at-home business. Forget it. If you’re not comfortable, the jabbing of your chair or the over- or under-elevation of your desk will gnaw at your mind and add yet another layer of distraction to your day. Get great furniture, and deck out the room with things that relax you – whether that’s posters of Cannibal Corpse or a zen garden and one of those little mini water fountains, that’s up to personal taste.

    Your office should be a place you enjoy entering, not a place that fills you with dread.

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    Read Books, Watch Movies

    Don’t forget to entertain yourself. Make sure you’re reading a good fiction book at any given time, and don’t forget to watch the odd movie, even go out to the cinema and see one. These sort of recreational activities feed your mind while relaxing it; they’re perfect for creative individuals. That said, creatives need to relax without other people’s ideas being thrown at them sometimes, or when would your own mind get a chance to tell you about the bright ideas it has had lately?

    Work Hours and Deadlines

    Set work hours: 9am to 5pm, 5am to 1pm, 6pm to 2am, it doesn’t really matter when as long as you can tweak your lifestyle and body clock to suit. The important thing is that you set work hours, both for yourself – you only work during these hours – and for others, so that clients know when they can and can’t interrupt you and so family and friends don’t break your concentration.

    Don’t Forget Your Friends & Family

    Another common problem for work-at-homers is that we become social hermits. I know it happens to me. A few times, I haven’t seen anyone at all because I started so early and finished so late – despite living with my wife, my toddler and my newborn (not the quietest of housemates). Make sure you spend a couple of hours with your family each day if you have one, and regularly schedule things with your friends – whether it is going out somewhere or just having a beer at your house. The bonus – not that this should be your primary motivation – is that you’ll make sure you get your work done in time to meet your other commitments.

    You might be seeing a pattern in all this. The thing that will make your transition the easiest is to take care of yourself and treat yourself as you would an expensive car – regularly serviced and in good shape. The irony is that taking care of oneself is usually the first thing to go in those who work where they live. Take care of your health, your mind, and your relationships.

    More by this author

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    Last Updated on March 13, 2019

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

    You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

    Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

    1. Work on the small tasks.

    When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

    Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

    2. Take a break from your work desk.

    Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

    Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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    3. Upgrade yourself

    Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

    The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

    4. Talk to a friend.

    Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

    Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

    5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

    If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

    Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

    Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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    6. Paint a vision to work towards.

    If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

    Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

    Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

    7. Read a book (or blog).

    The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

    Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

    Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

    8. Have a quick nap.

    If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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    9. Remember why you are doing this.

    Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

    What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

    10. Find some competition.

    Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

    Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

    11. Go exercise.

    Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

    Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

    As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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    Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

    12. Take a good break.

    Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

    Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

    Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

    Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

    More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

    Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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