I’m lucky enough to have a job that allows me to work part of the time from home. Due to some difficult family circumstances, this has been a blessing despite the wear and tear on my body, soul, time, car, and wallet.
I’m getting through it by changing my mindset, creating effective systems, and good-old-fashioned faith in God. And while working from home is incredibly convenient given today’s technology, it has some drawbacks as well.
I’ll go over these drawbacks and some steps I’ve taken to overcome them.
Drawback: Getting motivated. When you don’t have a commute, can work in your pajamas, and don’t have your boss looking over your shoulder, it can be tough to get in the right frame of mind to work. After all, as long as you get your work done and have your cell phone fully charged and ready to receive calls, who cares how you do your work?
Solution: Have a system. I feel like the entire world is six degrees of Scott Adams, but he articulates the importance of having systems instead of goals so well I have to recommend you heed his advice.
I like to think of a system as some action or ritual that primes your body and mind to do what you want it to. For example, Adams suggests that just changig into your gym clothes, or even having them visible when you wake up or come home from work, will make you feel more like working out.
I try to do the same thing when working from home. Now, I don’t get into a three-piece suit, but I try to make sure I’m showered, shaved, and not in my pajamas when it’s go-time. You’d be surprised by how much more you’ll feel like working hard.
Drawback: Distractions. Whether it’s your kids, your spouse, chores that need doing, or your smartphone or TV, home is a lot more entertaining than your workplace. Relaxing, too. With no supervisor checking up on you, what’s the harm in watching that show in the background or checking up on your social media. There’s just too damn much fun stuff at home.
Solution: Delayed gratification and different distractions. Ed Latimore calls delayed gratification the key to getting you “everything you want and then some”:
By delaying gratification, you force yourself to look into the future and plan for things that could go wrong. This is how a person has success: they plan for what can go wrong, execute, and remain in a position to improve rather than recover. If you constantly give into what you want at the moment, you will never be able to look more than one move ahead in your life.
For work purposes, this means putting off the fun stuff for regularly scheduled breaks. Here’s a tip I swiped from Brett McKay at The Art of Manliness: I put my iPhone into airplane mode and set a timer for 45 minutes to one hour. When the timer buzzes, I get up, take a walk, and check emails and whatnot. And sometimes, I get in such a groove I shut the timer off and keep working.
I find this useful to do at the office as well.
For the “other distractions” piece of this, I find that listening to classical music gets me in the mood to focus. Not because it’s boring–far from it–but because it’s so interesting it almost puts me in a trance-like state. My personsl favorites are Beethoven, Stravinsky, and Brahms. YouTube, Spotify, and Pandora are your friends here.
Drawback: Boredom. At the office, there’s always stuff going on. People stopping by. Projects coming down the pike.
At home, you’re alone. No colleagues knocking at your door, unless they’re creepy stalkers or something. And we all know that boredom can lead to distraction. But the fact is that there is less going on at home than in the office.
Solution: Communicate and make work. That’s right, I’m recommending reaching out to your boss, even if they aren’t reaching out to you. You’ll at least be able to get updates from them about what’s going on at the office and also let them know what you’re up to. Better yet, this conveys to your boss that you’re still engaged and not merely sacking off.
That said, there might come times where you have nothing to do, not even any outstanding projects to close the loop on. In these instances, I do some housework.
Yup. Instead of using the time to do something harmless and frivolous–which will make me feel guilty–I’ll go gold the laundry or vacuum the floor or even pay some bills. I don’t let it go to far, but it’s a way to still do work even if it’s not exactly the same kind of work that your day job entails.
Working from home is great, but is not the panacea some make it out to be. The trick is finding systems and methods that work for you. Everything I’ve suggested is customizable, and I sincerely hope it helps.
I’d love to hear your suggestions for making telecommuting work better, so please leave them in the comments below.
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