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Your Telecommuter’s Toolbox

Your Telecommuter’s Toolbox
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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    Last Updated on November 18, 2020

    15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It)

    15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It)

    It’s okay, you can finally admit it. It’s been two months since you’ve seen the inside of the gym. Getting sick, family crisis, overtime at work and school papers that needed to get finished all kept you for exercising. Now, the question is: how do you start again?
    Once you have an exercise habit, it becomes automatic. You just go to the gym, there is no force involved. But after a month, two months or possibly a year off, it can be hard to get started again. Here are some tips to climb back on that treadmill after you’ve fallen off.

    1. Don’t Break the Habit – The easiest way to keep things going is simply not to stop. Avoid long breaks in exercising or rebuilding the habit will take some effort. This may be advice a little too late for some people. But if you have an exercise habit going, don’t drop it at the first sign of trouble.
    2. Reward Showing Up – Woody Allen once said that, “Half of life is showing up.” I’d argue that 90% of making a habit is just making the effort to get there. You can worry about your weight, amount of laps you run or the amount you can bench press later.
    3. Commit for Thirty Days – Make a commitment to go every day (even just for 20 minutes) for one month. This will solidify the exercise habit. By making a commitment you also take pressure off yourself in the first weeks back of deciding whether to go.
    4. Make it Fun – If you don’t enjoy yourself at the gym, it is going to be hard to keep it a habit. There are thousands of ways you can move your body and exercise, so don’t give up if you’ve decided lifting weights or doing crunches isn’t for you. Many large fitness centers will offer a range of programs that can suit your tastes.
    5. Schedule During Quiet Hours – Don’t put exercise time in a place where it will easily be pushed aside by something more important. Right after work or first thing in the morning are often good places to put it. Lunch-hour workouts might be too easy to skip if work demands start mounting.
    6. Get a Buddy – Grab a friend to join you. Having a social aspect to exercising can boost your commitment to the exercise habit.
    7. X Your Calendar – One person I know has the habit of drawing a red “X” through any day on the calendar he goes to the gym. The benefit of this is it quickly shows how long it has been since you’ve gone to the gym. Keeping a steady amount of X’s on your calendar is an easy way to motivate yourself.
    8. Enjoyment Before Effort – After you finish any work out, ask yourself what parts you enjoyed and what parts you did not. As a rule, the enjoyable aspects of your workout will get done and the rest will be avoided. By focusing on how you can make workouts more enjoyable, you can make sure you want to keep going to the gym.
    9. Create a Ritual – Your workout routine should become so ingrained that it becomes a ritual. This means that the time of day, place or cue automatically starts you towards grabbing your bag and heading out. If your workout times are completely random, it will be harder to benefit from the momentum of a ritual.
    10. Stress Relief – What do you do when your stressed? Chances are it isn’t running. But exercise can be a great way to relieve stress, releasing endorphin which will improve your mood. The next time you feel stressed or tired, try doing an exercise you enjoy. When stress relief is linked to exercise, it is easy to regain the habit even after a leave of absence.
    11. Measure Fitness – Weight isn’t always the best number to track. Increase in muscle can offset decreases in fat so the scale doesn’t change even if your body is. But fitness improvements are a great way to stay motivated. Recording simple numbers such as the number of push-ups, sit-ups or speed you can run can help you see that the exercise is making you stronger and faster.
    12. Habits First, Equipment Later – Fancy equipment doesn’t create a habit for exercise. Despite this, some people still believe that buying a thousand dollar machine will make up for their inactivity. It won’t. Start building the exercise habit first, only afterwards should you worry about having a personal gym.
    13. Isolate Your Weakness – If falling off the exercise wagon is a common occurrence for you, find out why. Do you not enjoy exercising? Is it a lack of time? Is it feeling self-conscious at the gym? Is it a lack of fitness know-how? As soon as you can isolate your weakness, you can make steps to improve the situation.
    14. Start Small – Trying to run fifteen miles your first workout isn’t a good way to build a habit. Work below your capacity for the first few weeks to build the habit. Otherwise you might scare yourself off after a brutal workout.
    15. Go for Yourself, Not to Impress – Going to the gym with the only goal of looking great is like starting a business with only the goal to make money. The effort can’t justify the results. But if you go to the gym to push yourself, gain energy and have a good time, then you can keep going even when results are slow.

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