There are those who have to brave traffic to go to work who have looked upon those who work from home with some envy. The idea of working from home, like most things, is a lot prettier, imagined, than it is in reality. Being able to sit in the ‘office’ in your pyjamas without the pressures of shower, get dressed and leave the house with a schedule can seem easier than it is.
Working from home can be fulfilling but many are discovering that the grass is not always more comfortable on the other side.
Writing on productivity
I have been working from home off and on for years. It has taken as long to create a guilt-free routine that works for me. I have scoured books on productivity and work to find tools and habits that work for me. These include:
- Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World, and Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World;
- Greg McKeown’s Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less;
- Atul Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto: How To Get Things Right;
- David Allen’s Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity;
- Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do and How to Change;
- Nir Eyal’s Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life;
- Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky’s Make Time: How to Focus on What Matters Every Day;
- Robin S. Sharma’s The 5AM Club: Own Your Morning, Elevate Your Life;
- Austin Kleon’s Keep Going: 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad, and Steal Like An Artist; and
- Tim Ferriss’ Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons and World Class Performers.
This is a snapshot. I enjoy Erik Fisher’s podcast Beyond The To-Do List.
Find your working from home routine
I continue to draw from this reading and develop my own system but here are some thoughts.
Find what works for you
Look at all the tips and find what works for you, taking into consideration time, energy and focus. Afternoons work better for me when dealing with administrative stuff, including emails, messages, calls and meetings. I generally don’t do much writing in the afternoons. I used to be a night owl, preferring to do my writing and deep work then but because of the school run, I try to get to bed earlier. Obviously, in current circumstances, I don’t have to do that but, with home schooling, I do wake up – albeit later – to get them settled and into schoolwork. I start my day, always, with 30 minutes to an hour of journaling.
My office is next door to my bedroom. I also have a patio where I work from sometimes. I never work in my bedroom although my wife, who also works for herself, can and does work in bed. Some people find it easier to get ready and dressed for work, even if it is in the next room. If it works for you, great. I have spent years working in pyjamas or tracksuit, so I don’t need that.
Having a ‘tapas life’ or portfolio career means I work on a variety of projects, some of which are unrelated. I have an organogram that details each clearly and I allocate time to each on a weekly basis. Break your work down into its different components and create a schedule for each.
Allow yourself room to breathe
You can take time off during the day. So many people are burning themselves out, working constantly and for longer hours. With the uncertainty, anxiety and added mental pressures of the current state of affairs, the weight can be a lot to bear. Give yourself breathing room and be gentle with yourself.
In Knapp and Zeratsky’s Make Time, they suggest identifying a Highlight for each day. This is the one thing that you need to accomplish on that day. Right now, out of all the tools they have, this is the one that I use. I write on a sticky note and put it on my wall. Getting Things Done is a comprehensive system. Allen details how to create lists covering the different tasks that you have, dividing them into calls, emails, etc. While I haven’t implemented his complete system, I have a long to-do list that I write in a notebook labelling each item according to the category it falls under. Also, to be able to work undistracted, I run the app Forest on my phone and focus at intervals of 25 minutes.
Advice on finding your routine while working from home can be overwhelming. Search online and there are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of pieces like this giving advice. Yes, I get the irony – this is another one.
My two cents.