Advertising
Advertising

Your Telecommuter’s Toolbox

Your Telecommuter’s Toolbox
Working anywhere

    Telecommuting has been suggested as a cure-all from everything from the stress of your morning commute to that high carbon footprint you want to reduce. And odds are you have a whole list of what you need to make the switchover: software packages, computer specs, technical equipment for your profession. Every productivity website has lists of the best web apps and other options for making your telecommuting easier.

    But even if you’ve started shifting to working outside your employer’s office — or you’re thinking about striking out on your own — there are other things that you can have in your telecommuter’s toolbox that can make your work a little bit easier. These aren’t necessary the most obvious of tools, but they’ve made my home office run smoothly.

    The Meal Plan:
    One of the great things about working from home is the fact that you don’t have to spend money on eating out. You don’t even need to spend the time to brown bag your lunch: you’ve got a fully functional kitchen just down the hall. But many of us forget to stock that refrigerator with anything we’d want to eat for lunch and wind out going out anyhow. Planning ahead of time what we want to eat, from lunches to snacks makes it easier to shop and can help prevent a telecommuter from getting off track by having to focus on what to eat. I keep my meal planning simple: I have an extra calendar on Google Calendar where I put down what I want to eat for the next week. I make my shopping list directly from that calendar.

    Advertising

    The Insurance Policy: Even if you aren’t paying for your computer and other equipment, you may want to up your insurance policy. Just having more electronic equipment in your home can make you a bit of a target for theft. Having an insurance policy can make sure that you can get back to work as soon as possible. And even on the off chance that your employer covers your computer under their policy, you’ll need an insurance policy to cover your other stuff at risk for theft (television, etc.). Depending on your living situation, renter’s insurance or home owner’s insurance maybe all the protection you need.

    The Outside Office: The idea of a telecommuter heading off to Starbucks to work has become almost stereotypical. The fact is, though, we’re social critters and we like working with other people around us. Coffee shops serve this purpose, as do libraries, bookshops and co-working locations. As a telecommuter, you need to find some place to work outside of your home. It doesn’t need to be a regular occurrence, but it is necessary. I can go an entire week without going outside except to get my mail — and I know some telecommuters who are much worse.

    Advertising

    The Alarm Clock: I thought I’d managed to get rid of my alarm clock when I didn’t need to make it in to an office every morning. But if I don’t get up and get my day started, I may never make it out of bed. Telecommuting is about flexibility, but without setting your ‘hours of operation,’ you may be too flexible to get your work done. I’ve also found that my alarm clock is crucial to reminding me of times that I need to leave my office: appointments and such that I can easily forget because no one stops by my cubicle to remind me of a meeting.

    The Exercise Regimen: If you work from home, you have little incentive to get up out of your chair. You can slack at your desk without anyone saying anything and, unless your laundry pile has gotten to the point where it is sentient, your computer is probably your best bet for talking to someone. You still have to make the effort, though. Take a daily walk. Do some pushups. Even exercise in your chair. There are a whole slew of health problems desk workers face, most of which can be mitigated by the occasional lap around the block.

    Advertising

    The Business Card: I can hear you asking why you need a business card right now. After all, you work from home — who are you going to give your business card to? One of the biggest problems telecommuters face is being able to advance. Many managers think face time is a prerequisite for promotions, not to mention raises. As a telecommuter, it’s up to you to network and build up your options for advancement. And if you’re working for yourself, rather than some employer, you’ll want to market your business to make sure you’ve got work rolling in. Hand out your business cards (and other promotional materials — resumes, brochures, etc. — as needed) at your coffee shop and everywhere else you see people.

    The Snack Cupboard: I fondly remember the vending machines at my last job — sodas, crackers and candy bars all calling my name. Those machines were always good when I needed a quick snack. I’ve heard that some work places even offer up free snacks and drinks, though I haven’t been lucky enough to land a cushy job like that. However, I now have my own cupboard full of snacks that I don’t need to pay a machine to dispense, which is almost as good. Stocking snacks and drinks in your home office can help you from needing distracting breaks from your work. Even better, you can stock healthier snacks and the flavors you like best.

    Advertising

    More by this author

    5 Sites Where You Can Sell Your Photos 7 Tools to Find Someone Online 19 Entrepreneurship Websites Worth Checking Out 50 Businesses You Can Start In Your Spare Time 5 Suggestions for Leaving With Style

    Trending in Featured

    1 22 Tips for Effective Deadlines 2 How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck 3 15 Ways to Cultivate Lifelong Learning for a Sharper Brain 4 How to Get Promoted When You Feel Stuck in Your Current Position 5 Building Relationships: 11 Rules for Self-Promotion

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising
    Advertising

    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:

    Advertising

    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

    Advertising

    Advertising

    Read Next