A hallmark of a job in technology, the freedom to work from home can be a dream come true. But in the comfort of your own home, it can get too comfortable, and productivity can start to slip away. During the last three years I’ve held jobs in different cities and time zones from my home office, and in terms of the ups and downs of productivity, I’ve experienced it all! Here are my top tips to stay motivated and be successful when working from home.
(Hint: it starts with not working in your bed!)
Separate the Work from the Personal
This applies to both space and time. What I mean by that is you have to cut a clean line between your work space and your personal space, and also between the time you consider yourself on the clock and the time you are not.
Separate work space from personal space. If you’re working from home, set up a room, corner or desk that is separate from your personal space and is reserved specifically for your work. In my house my living room is L-shaped, and I use the smaller side as my workspace and nothing else. This separation helps your brain maintain two separate modes, and makes you less inclined to do personal things during work time, leading to increased productivity. If you don’t have this separation, the lines between the two can blur easily, and before you know it you might find yourself in bed watching Netflix on your work computer at 2pm, or sending work emails at midnight.
Once you’ve got that space set aside, make sure that you set yourself a schedule of when you will be “in office” at your workspace. It’s not always possible to stick to that 100%, but do your best to draw the line between when you are working and when you are not. When you are working, don’t check Instagram, send silly snaps to your friends, or plan your grocery list. When you aren’t working, don’t check your work email or commit code to work repos! Separating the two will greatly improve your work-life balance, because you will feel like both work and personal time have a distinct place in your life.
On any team, it’s important to make yourself and your ideas heard, but when working remotely it is more important than ever! When working remotely, it is a good idea to over-index on communication, especially when some (or all!) of your team members work together in person. By over-communicating, you’re making sure that, even though you aren’t physically present in your teammates’ worlds, you are present in their minds as they complete their tasks. They’ll think of you when looking for collaborators, they’ll be more likely to agree when you ask them for support, and most importantly they’ll know who you are and what you’re good at. Having this mutual accountability will keep you and your teammates ever-motivated, no matter how many miles are between you.
Use, Don’t Abuse, Media
Sometimes media can help us be more productive and get through the work day, and other times it can turn a day of planned productivity into a total snoozefest. Basically what I’m saying here is DO listen to music but DO NOT watch Netflix! Seriously, there is no such thing as “just one episode,” no matter how much you try to convince yourself. So go ahead and make that pump-up playlist, but keep the Netflix for your personal hours.
Social media is a beast of its own. It’s so easy to “just look at the notifications” and then find yourself stalking your ex’s latest ex’s new boyfriend’s sister. Not that there’s anything wrong with that…just do it during your personal time for maximum productivity.
If you work from home, odds are good that you aren’t confined to working a 9-to-5. If that’s the case, embrace it! Find the schedule that works for you. Maybe eight hours of work in a row is difficult – if so, schedule breaks in your day. Since my job has a lot to do with meeting developers and demoing technology at events, I often work evenings and weekends. So instead of working 9-5 what I’ll do is get up early, work 7-9, go to yoga from 9-11, work 11-3, take a break/commute to event (avoiding rush hour)/eat dinner, and then finish up the day with my event. It often adds up to more than eight hours of work in a day, but because I’ve balanced the work out with lots of “me time” it doesn’t feel as exhausting as eight straight hours behind a desk.
Finally, get out of the home office at least once a week. A change in environment can do wonders for creativity! Find public spaces with lots of natural light (and good coffee), and work from one of those once a week. When I lived in Halifax, I worked out of the beautiful rooftop cafe at their award-winning public library. Look up co-working spaces in your city, or find friends who also work remotely and hang out with them. Doing this breaks up your week and gives your brain a change in surroundings, which can lead to increased creativity and help you look at problems in different ways.
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