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12 Ways to Stay Focused and Productive When You Work From Home

12 Ways to Stay Focused and Productive When You Work From Home

The work from home lifestyle is an attractive option for entrepreneurs and traditional employees alike. You can set your own hours, dress how you want and work in a way that maximizes your time and skillset. However, working in the comforts of home carries risks that many don’t consider before embarking on it. Working at home is filled with distractions – chores, errands, pets, family members, television and even the couch. A mid-day nap is pretty darn awesome! But when those distractions begin to dominate your time, energy and productivity, you’re in for real trouble on the work front.

Here are 12 ways to stay focused and productive when you work from home – and still enjoy the perks that come with it!

1. Be Honest

Is working at home REALLY the right choice for you? Are you prone to laziness, easily distracted or need other humans to keep you motivated and engaged? For some people, a home office is not a wise career move because their personal and professional habits, needs and wants aren’t in line with solo working.

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2. Designate a Space

Toting a laptop around and working on the couch, in bed or at the kitchen is part of the freedom of working at home. But sometimes when you scatter your work around, your thoughts, papers, ideas and productivity get scattered too. You can still move around, but choose a space in your home that will house your technology, files, tools and other work stuff that you can access quickly and easily.

3. Make It Pretty

Once you designate your space, bring it to life with your favorite photos, artwork, toys or organizational tools that will make you WANT to hang out here. This workspace is an extension of your life where you will spend many hours a day. Make it a pleasant place to spend your time.

4. Stick to a Schedule

The beauty of working at home is that you have the freedom to control when you work. However, we all have times when we are most productive and creative during the day and times we suck wind to type even one more word or make one more call. Identify YOUR best hours and work them consistently.

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5. Dress for Success

Sure it’s awesome to roll out of bed and over to the computer in your pajamas – another perk of working at home. But when you elevate your appearance even when it’s just you and your laptop, you will be more inspired and energized to do meaningful work. Wash your face, brush your teeth and get dressed as if you were going into an office.

6. Take Breaks

Grinding out work at all hours of the day and night isn’t healthy. We need to step away from our screens and refresh our minds to get re-energized in our work. Every hour step away from your desk or work area for a quick walk, some sit-ups or a coffee break.

7. Go Public

You must leave your home to stay engaged with other human beings. People buy from people so whether you’re an entrepreneur, author or employed by someone else, your customers aren’t living in your home with you. Get out into public and hang out where your customers hang out.

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8. Multi-Communicate

There are hundreds of ways to communicate these days – phone calls, texts, Facetime, email, Skype, G+, social media, mail and the list goes on. Learn how to use multiple modes of communication so that you can connect with others in a way that fits your and their preferred style of communication.

9. Be Human

Step away from your screens! Yes – I said it – step away from the screens. You must show up in person to create a stronger connection and engagement with customers, friends, family, co-workers, partners and fans. Hit up networking events, charitable events, co-working spaces, conferences and happy hours to keep your in-person presence memorable.

10. Create a Calendar

When you wake up in the morning, do you know what to focus on each day? If not, it’s time to create a calendar to keep you on task. If you’re an author it might be an editorial calendar. If you’re an online marketer, it might be a content creation or social media calendar. If you work for someone else, it could be your to-do list with more structure and priorities around it. Really hone in on what business tasks bring in more customers, money and fans so you aren’t wasting time on useless tactics.

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11. Find Your Tribe

Hang out with other people who do what you do – and this means leaving your home again! Entrepreneur groups, meet-ups, conferences and workshops are the perfect place to meet and brainstorm with like-minded folks who GET what you do and can help you grow.

12. Prioritize Right

Want to work less and play more whether you work at home or in an office? Create a system of prioritization that identifies the tasks that will make the most impact on your business,customers, co-workers and tribe. Ditch all that stuff that just fills time but doesn’t bring in any value. Write down every task you do daily, weekly, monthly, annually. For each one, note how these lead to financial growth for you or the company. If it doesn’t, then ditch it!

The key to successfully working from home is to create an environment and process that works for YOUR individual needs and preferences. Be open to experimentation to find your perfect work-at-home groove.

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS: What makes working from home easier and more fun? What strategies do you use to stay productive and engaged when you work from home?

Featured photo credit: ClipArt via clipart.com

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Published on September 16, 2020

12 Practical Interview Skills to Help You Land Your Dream Job

12 Practical Interview Skills to Help You Land Your Dream Job

Today, with many companies going remote—at least until there’s a COVID-19 vaccine—technical proficiency is a vital skill for every interviewee to master. You may be asked to interview for a job on Zoom or Microsoft Teams. The way you handle yourself in the online interview (your interview skills) will say much about your ability to work from home efficiently.

Does your workspace look clean or cluttered? Is the area free from noise? Is your home office well lit?

Once hired, you may be asked to organize meetings on Zoom and other platforms. Along with mastering the technology, you will have to learn to follow certain protocols.

Now is the time to get up to speed on your technical skills. Learn which interview skills are needed for the particular job for which you are applying and practice them.

Online learning sites, such as LinkedIn Learning and Udemy, offer courses for free or a nominal membership fee. If you are a DIY type, make use of training videos offered through your particular digital tools.

Additionally, demonstrating that you have these 12 interview skills will help you land your dream job.

1. Organization

When you work in a brick-and-mortar office, some of the organizing is left to others. Your direct supervisor may host a Monday morning quarterback meeting where each worker reports on the progress on their tasks.

When you work from home, much of the organizing will be left up to you. To a much greater extent than before, you will need to develop a schedule and stick to it. Some tasks may be faster to complete from your home office where you don’t have other workers competing for your attention.

Conversely, you may find that some tasks that would have gone quickly in an office seem to take forever from your home computer. Your phone may ring a lot, which can distract you, or you may have kids and a spouse who inadvertently disrupt your schedule.

To do: Set a schedule and stick to it.

To discuss during your interview: Be specific. Point to the interview skill you utilized to create a schedule for a complex work project and followed it.

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2. Flexibility

You set a schedule for the completion of your tasks, but your prospective boss gets their work done between the hours of 2:00 and 8:00 a.m. Your West Coast partners are three hours behind your East Coast partners, and one of your partners lives in England while another lives in Australia.

Feedback and collaboration (see point 3) may need to happen asynchronously. Be the flexible candidate—the person who is willing to occasionally disrupt their schedule for the greater good of the team.

For extra credit: don’t just look up time zones, look up whether they observe Daylight Savings Time.

To do: Be flexible about meeting times.

To discuss during your interview: Highlight a time when you worked on a team where members lived in different time zones. Discuss your processes.

3. Collaboration

As recently as six months ago, before the pandemic raged around the world, collaboration wasn’t quite as essential as it is today. In a remote office setting, collaboration doesn’t just mean working well with others—but actually sharing documents and editing them online on time.

Several cloud-based tools, such as Google Drive, Basecamp, and Trello, enable the type of collaborative teamwork that most companies want today.

To do: Download the correct software and practice using it.

To discuss during your interview: Discuss how you worked remotely with a group. Share how you overcame certain challenges.

4. Poise

Murphy’s Law states, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”

When things do go awry, keeping your wits about you will demonstrate your consummate professionalism under fire. This will show your future bosses that you will be able to work well under the pressures of remote work.

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What could go wrong, you ask? You might be muted without realizing it—your Internet connection may not be robust, your headphones may blip out, your cellphone may ring, Zoom could have an outage. The list goes on and on.

To do: Make sure you have the most up-to-date versions of Skype and Zoom uploaded.

To discuss during your interview: Consider highlighting a time when a project did not go as planned. Demonstrate the interview skills that allowed you to rise to the challenge.

5. Communication

Your ability to handle online communication is one of the top critical skills you will need to thrive in today’s remote workplace. Download Slack if you haven’t already. Get used to toggling to a different form of online communication if one of your tools fails.

When it comes to the preferred format for your online interview, demonstrate proficiency by offering several different options. Give your phone number, Google Chat Hangouts name, and Skype ID.

To do: Familiarize yourself with video conference and online chat tools, such as Slack, Fleep, or Workplace by Facebook.

To discuss during your interview: Be prepared to share the online communication tools you’re using and examples of how you use each one.

6. Good Computer Hygiene

Setting up a backup system for your computer files is one of today’s crucial requirements for working in the digital age. Storing documents that can be shared by team members is also an efficient way to work together on presentations, articles, and reports—although studies show nearly one-third of employees avoid them because of the time it takes to find documents.

Be prepared in your interview to indicate your experience utilizing this technology, describing how you organize and store files using cloud-based collaboration tools. How do you keep track of links and tabs? Do you use Dropbox? Google Docs? Confluence? Others?

To do: Take inventory of the cloud-based document sharing and storage systems you know and use.

To discuss during your interview: Describe the document sharing tools and backup systems you utilize—both for personal protection and professional file sharing.

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7. Proper Meeting Etiquette

Today, presenting yourself virtually has its pros and cons. While you only have to show a professional persona from the waist up (make sure to straighten up your office space behind you), you must boost your energy to show that you’re engaged in the discussion.

Make your voice as upbeat as possible. Have your talking points at the ready and be careful not to ramble on, as long virtual meetings easily become tiresome. Use the mute and chat features to avoid interruptions.

To do: Once you know the meeting platform, make sure you have it mastered before your interview.

To discuss during your interview: Offer to share your screen to show an example of a work project— while at the same time demonstrating your prowess with video conferencing tools.

8. Respecting Feedback

In the age of working remotely, there may not be as many systems in place to obtain feedback (such as yearly performance reviews). Workers may need to ask for feedback, while managers may need to give more feedback than usual as the team adjusts to working off-site. Respecting feedback is on top of the interview skills list that you should learn.

Taking a proactive approach with giving and receiving feedback and incorporating it into your work style is a desirable quality that your employers will note.

To do: Reflect on the positive feedback you’ve received from past employers to bolster your confidence.

To discuss during your interview: Share a time when you received feedback that made you grow in the job. If you’re a manager, share a time when you gave feedback to an employee who needed to better their job performance.

9. Project Management

Staying on task with projects has evolved far past a to-do list, with electronic tools that can track time, manage team workloads, and even do the client billing. While your prospective employer may have its preferred project management program, your experience with any of the various options—whether it’s Basecamp, Teamwork, Smartsheet, or another—will be applicable.

To do: Know which project management software is likely to be used by the industry in which you’re interviewing, and familiarize yourself with its features.

To discuss during your interview: Highlight a project management feature that is particularly useful in helping you excel in your work, and explain how you utilize it.

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10. Staying up to Speed

Employers expect their remote workers to be technically proficient so that technology runs smoothly and doesn’t create work disruptions. Bosses count on remote workers to know enough about their systems to manage them without relying on the help of overworked IT staff.

To do: Make sure you have a fast internet connection and have a back-up plan, such as a second computer or other tethered devices.

To discuss during your interview: Note that you are diligent about keeping your computer and software up to date.

11. Attention to Cybersecurity Issues

“Virus” is a loaded term these days. Spreading a computer virus in your company, however, will not only bring productivity to a halt, but it will also make you a pariah. While working from public places using free Wi-Fi (with uneven security provisions) has waned, in pre-pandemic times, coffee shops accounted for 62 percent of Wi-Fi security breaches.

To do: Keep antivirus software updated and don’t download software without verifying its authenticity.

To discuss during your interview: Emphasize your awareness of cybersecurity risks and your care in taking necessary safety measures.

12. Teamwork

Work relationships now mostly happen in virtual settings, yet employers value team-oriented workers.

Being a part of a team gives you a sense of connection and shared purpose. A well-honed team understands how mutual reliance makes the sum of its parts greater than when individuals act on their own, improving the end product.

To do: Take stock of your attributes as a team player and where you can cultivate skills that will enable you to work more collaboratively.

To discuss during your interview: Inquire about the company’s culture and how it encourages a sense of community despite working remotely.

Final Thoughts

Preparing for remote positions available in today’s job market will mean honing your interview skills to highlight your technical abilities as well as your adaptability. By adhering to these To-Do’s and perfecting your online interview skills and charisma, you will rise above the competition and win over any prospective employer.

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Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

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