Making sure working from home works

Working from home can be both a blessing and a curse.

There are many benefits with a home office such as no commute, flexible hours, being your own boss and dressing comfortably. But there are downsides to working from home too. You must be very disciplined and learn how to deal with, or ignore, distractions, chores and the lure of leaving the office to go do something else. Here are just a few of the strategies that I have found helpful to keep me on track.

Prepare the night before. One of the simplest and most powerful tools has been to review my calendar for the next day and then create my to do list. When I write out a manageable to do list for the next day, the night before, there is no pressure to perform because I am simply writing a list.

Embrace breaks. I don’t believe it’s necessary to be productive by sitting at my computer for eight hours straight. I think that is a recipe for zoning out, burning out and losing focus. The Pomodoro Technique was developed in the late ‘80s by Francesco Cirillo. The strategy is to work with focus for 25 minute intervals followed by short, three to five minute, breaks.

I like to get up, move around and knock out a phone call or even a household chore. I enjoy having a few minutes to take care of a mindless chore like folding a load of towels or loading the dishwasher to clear my head. When I’m done working for the day, my house is clean too. Plus, I’m wearing a Fitbit now and this strategy gives me an opportunity to log some more steps.

Set a timer. When I’m working and I’m dragging my feet, a timer works wonders to light a fire under myself. A timer forces me to work faster and helps me feel like the project isn’t going to last forever. My favorite, free, online timer can be found at www.e.ggtimer.com.

Share availability. I have found it beneficial to let people know when I will respond to them by leaving my return call times on my voicemail. This eases people’s minds so they don’t feel like they have to call back again; they can trust when I will call them back. It’s also a good strategy to let people know how much time you have available for coffee so meetings don’t take up more of your work day than you were counting on.

Turn off tones. When you really need to focus, turn off those interruptions. You can’t leave them off all day, but it sure helps when you are working on a critical task that has a due date or a financial consequence associated with it.

Embrace flexibility. I am working really hard at sticking to a schedule in my office and with my clients during the day so I can have my evenings and weekends for some downtime and life balance. But, if I can attend an event for my kids during the day and make up for it by working in the evening across the hallway from them, I see that as one of the benefits of working from home.

Monika Kristofferson is a professional organizer and productivity consultant who owns Efficient Organization NW in Lake Stevens. Reach her at 425-220-8905 or monika@efficientorganizationnw.com.

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