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How to Effectively Work from Home

The most common question I get about working remotely is:

How do you get anything done at home?

I’ll be honest, it's not easy. It's actually pretty damn hard. But I believe that anyone can overcome the challenges of working from home when they're given the right tools. Here's a guide to successfully working from home that doesn't involve willpower or life hacks.

1. Set the Tone

Keep your morning routine in tact. There's no reason to change it just because you're working from home. If your morning routine usually involves staying in bed until the last moment and scrambling out the door, take advantage of the extra time and set the tone for the day. Exercise, meditate, make an awesome breakfast and catch up on your reading. Take advantage of the time you save by not having to commute and fill it with something you enjoy to start the day.

2. Get Dressed

It can be tempting to just roll out of bed and work in your PJs all day, but getting dressed will boost your productivity and help you stay focused. Find something that is both comfortable and presentable to wear instead.

3. Eliminate Choice

Decision fatigue can drain you of valuable energy as you try to figure out what to wear or what to eat for lunch. Keep it simple whenever you work from home. Assemble your outfit the night before and prepare your lunch in advance.

4. Make Your Space

Create your workspace. Find a reliable space where you'll be able to comfortably focus. It can be an actual office, a desk, the kitchen table or a spot on the couch. Experiment with the lighting and ergonomics until you find something you like. I often find myself transitioning from my desk to the couch as the day wears on.

5. Set a Time

Choose a time to start that works for you if your schedule is flexible. Otherwise, start at the same time as your clients or colleagues. Keep this time consistent so that you, your clients, colleagues, and family all know when you start (and usually end) your work day.

6. Log Your Time

Don't arrive at the end of the day wondering what you actually did. Track your time so that you, your company or your clients know what you've spent your hours working on. Harvest allows you to actively track your time. RescueTime runs in the background and tracks the time of different applications and websites that you're actively using throughout the day.

7. Stay Focused with Pomodoro Timers

If you struggle with staying focused due to motivation or distractions around you, try using the Pomodoro Technique:

  1. Select a task to be completed.
  2. Set a timer to 25 minutes.
  3. Focus on the task until the timer rings. If another task pops into your head, immediately document it and get back to the original task.
  4. When the timer rings, you've completed one pomodoro; take a 5 minute break and return to step one.
  5. After four pomodoros, take a 15 minute break. Reset your pomodoro count to zero and return to step one.

There’s a great selection of apps you can download to track and visualize your pomodoros, but a simple kitchen timer or your cell phone's timer is all you really need to get started.

8. The Two Minute Rule

There are a lot of temptations that you'll need to overcome when you work from home. It's easy to get distracted by an endless list of chores that still need to be done. To combat this, use the two-minute rule:

If a task will take you less than 2 minutes to complete, do it, otherwise add it to your personal to-do list and take care of it after work.

9. Small Wins

Create a positive feedback loop by finding a small way to reward yourself after you've accomplished a task. Even just crossing the task off of a list can be a simple but satisfying reward.

10. Family and Pets

One of the biggest benefits of working from home is being able to interact with and take care of your family and pets. Plan breaks throughout the day where you can shift your focus and attention to your loved ones. Establish boundaries so that they know when you’re available and when you’re not.

11. End the Day

There's always going to be more to do. End your day by curating a to-do list for tomorrow. Jot down the things you didn't accomplish today and tasks know you are on the docket for tomorrow. Prioritize them so that when you come back to work tomorrow you know exactly where to start.

12. Snooze your Notifications

Enable do not disturb. Consider actually logging out and closing your work applications if you're not on call.

13. "Commute" Home

Normally the commute home is a physical buffer between your home and the office that you can use to decompress from the day. Substitute the physical buffer with an emotional and mental one to decompress from work once you clock out. Listen to a podcast, read, exercise, take your dog for a long walk, be with family or create an artificial commute. Do something that gets your mind off of work and back into your home life.

With these guidelines you'll be well on your way to improving your productivity when you work from home while maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

If you’ve always wanted to work remotely, check out our open positions. We’d love to hear from you.

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Larry Walangitan Headshot

Larry specializes in module development and theming. When he's not developing with Drupal, you can find him performing improvisational and sketch comedy around Chicago.