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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.

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    Joel Falconer

    Editor, content marketer, product manager and writer with 12+ years of experience in the startup, design and tech digital media industries.

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    Last Updated on September 10, 2019

    How to Master the Art of Prioritization

    How to Master the Art of Prioritization

    Do you know that prioritization is an art? It is an art that will lead you to success in whatever area that matters to you.

    By prioritization, I’m not talking so much about assigning tasks, but deciding which will take chronological priority in your day—figuring out which tasks you’ll do first, and which you’ll leave to last.

    Effective Prioritization

    There are two approaches to “prioritizing” the tasks in your to-do list that I see fairly often:

    Approach #1 Tackling the Biggest Tasks First and Getting Them out of the Way

    The idea is that by tackling them first, you deal with the pressure and anxiety that builds up and prevents you from getting anything done—whether we’re talking about big or small tasks. Leo Babauta is a proponent of this Big Rocks method.[1]

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    Approach #2 Tackling the Tasks You Can Get Done Quickly and Easily, with Minimal Effort

    Proponents of this method believe that by tackling the small fries first, you’ll have less noise distracting you from the periphery of your consciousness.

    If you believe in getting your email read and responded to, making phone calls and getting Google Reader zeroed before you dive into the high-yield work, you’re a proponent of this method. I suppose you could say Getting Things Done (GTD) encourages this sort of method, since the methodology advises followers to tackle tasks that can be completed within two minutes, right there and then.

    Figure out Your Approach for Prioritization

    My own approach is perhaps a mixture of the two.

    I’ll write out my daily task list and draw little priority stars next to the three items I need to get done that day. They don’t need to be big tasks, but nine times out of ten, they are.

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    Smaller tasks are rarely important enough to warrant a star in the first place; I can always get away without even checking my inbox until the next day if I’m swamped, and the people who need to get in touch with me super quickly know how.

    But I’m not recommending my system of prioritization to you. I’m also not saying that mine is better than Leo’s Big Rocks method, and I’m not saying it’s better than the “if it can be done quickly, do it first” method either.

    The thing with prioritization is that knowing when to do what relies very much on you and the way you work. Some people need to get some small work done to find a sense of accomplishment and clarity that allows them to focus on and tackle bigger items. Others need to deal with the big tasks or they’ll get caught up in the busywork of the day and never move on, especially when that Google Reader count just refuses to get zeroed (personally, I recommend the Mark All As Read button—I use it most days!).

    I’m in between, because my own patterns can be all over the place. Some days I will be ready to rip into massive projects at 7AM. Other times I’ll feel the need to zero every inbox I have and clean up the papers on my desk before I can focus on anything serious. I also know that my peak, efficient working time doesn’t come at 11AM or 3PM or some specific time like it does for many people, but I have several peaks divided by a few troughs. I can feel what’s coming on when and try to keep my schedule liquid enough that I can adapt.

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    That’s why I use a starred task list system rather than a scheduled task list. It allows me to trust myself (something that I suppose takes a certain amount of discipline) and achieve peak efficiency by blowing with the winds. If I fight the peaks and troughs, I’ll get less done; but if I do certain kinds of work in each period of the day as they come, I’ll get more done than most others in a similar line of work.

    You may not be able to trust yourself to that extent without falling into the busywork trap. You may not be able to tackle big tasks first thing in the morning without feeling like you’re pushing against an invisible brick wall that won’t budge. You might not be able to deal with small tasks before the big tasks without feeling pangs of guilt and urgency.

    My point is:

    The prioritization systems themselves don’t matter. They’re all pretty good for a group of people, not least of all to the people who espouse them because they use them and find them effective.

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    What matters is that you don’t fall for one set of dogma (and I’m not saying Leo Babauta or David Allen preach these things as dogma, but sometimes their proponents do) until you’ve tried the systems extensively, and found which method of chronological prioritization works for you.

    And if the system you already use works great, then there’s no need to bother trying others—in the world of personal productivity, it’s too easy to mess with something that works and find yourself unable to get back into your former groove.

    “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

    In truth, this principle applies to all sorts of personal productivity issues, though it’s important to know which issues it applies to.

    If you thought multitasking worked well for you each day and I’d have to contend that you are wrong—multitasking is a universal myth in my books! But if you find yourself prioritizing tasks that never get done, you might need to reconsider which of the above approaches you’re using and change to a system that is more personally effective.

    More About Prioritization & Time Management

    Featured photo credit: Sabri Tuzcu via unsplash.com

    Reference

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