When I was in my 20s, and commuting on the Metro to the Capitol each day, I used to dream of the day when I could work from home. But when that day came in 2017, I made every conceivable mistake. It turns out that being successful while working from home is harder than it looks.
Not Maintaining a ‘Work Schedule.’ When you go into an office every day, it’s easy to stay on schedule. You arrive at 8:00AM. Get coffee around 10:00AM. Eat lunch at 12:30PM. Come home at 6:00PM. But when you work from home, it’s easy to push those boundaries. Lunches get longer. Coffee breaks become more frequent. You relax.
But once you fall out of a work routine, it’s much harder to get back into it. So keep to your work hours. Be online and available during normal business hours. Don’t get so comfortable that every work day turns into a light Friday.
Not Staying Visible to Your Boss. This was a lesson that I learned from Kyle. When you can’t see your boss in person, you still need to make sure that you’re ‘seen.’
Be logged into Slack, or Lync, or Gchat. Be the one with your camera on in the video conference call. If you haven’t had a reason to interact with your boss in a bit, find one. (Don’t bug them, but if you’d stop by their desk to ask them a question about something if they were sitting next to you, it’s perfectly fine to do that virtually.)
Your boss needs to see that your work is getting done, and see you doing it. However that looks in your industry, stay vigilant about it.
Not Dressing for Work. I’m not saying you need to wear a suit every day, but there’s something motivating about maintaining some kind of getting ready routine. Even on days when I wear leggings or joggers, I shower, style my hair, put on a styled look, and reset from my pajamas and Scrunchie ponytail. My doesn’t feel like its started until I’m showered and changed.
As for conference calls, keep a blazer or two (I have one camel and one black) nearby so you can look ‘dressed’ when you jump on one last minute. Because, as I mentioned above, being the only one with your camera on during a video-conference is a good way too be seen.
Getting Distracted by Chores. I cannot work in a mess. Even when I was in a cubicle, it had to be tidy. I couldn’t function until it was tidy. It’s the same with my house. During my first year of working from home, I would take a ‘quick break’ to clean the kitchen, look up at the clock and realize that I had been away from my desk for an hour.
Now, I maintain a morning ritual. Before my shower, I let the dogs out, and pick up the living room while I wait for them. I take them to the kitchen to feed them, and tidy up the kitchen while they eat. I shower, change, and then pick up the bathroom. I enter my office and do a little tidying up before I log on. This way, there are no messes to distract me. It’s by no means a deep cleaning, but it’s enough that I don’t lose focus.
Losing Focus on the Work. At the office, it’s easy to stay in a work headspace. You look at your calendar, you prepare for the next day, you get ahead if you can. A lot of women I know who work from home fall into the habit of completing their daily work, but not remembering to look ahead. This is how I developed Success Fridays.
On Friday mornings, from 11:00AM til noon, I block off my calendar for a ‘Planning Meeting.’ I put my phone on do not disturb (only critical numbers ring through). I don’t look at my e-mail. This is one hour of intense focus.
My first task is to look through the previous week’s to do lists. Was anything missed? Is anything done? What needs a followup? I add these things to a Close Out to do list to be finished before the end of the day. Now, I plan.
What’s on the calendar for next week? What prep work needs to be done before then? What meetings and events need confirmations? Then, I make my calendar and to-do lists for individual days of the next week. Instead of keeping one big list, I break up tasks by day.
With the 10-15 minutes that I usually have left, I plan out blog content. Keeping up with this amount of content requires time, but it also requires organization. I write most of the content on Friday nights and Sundays, so I need to have a game plan before then or it’s easy to waste time.
Once my planning is complete, it’s such a relief. When I get off course or lose focus, I can just look at the lists and look at the plan.
Others who work from home, please add your thoughts in the comments. It’s an adjustment, and no one formula works for everyone. But these are mistakes that I made, and hopefully, you can learn from them.