Some easy ways to make your work from home productive, enjoyable, and free of random cyberspace noise.
I’ve been involved in a bunch of little businesses over the years and each one has forced me to overcome my natural tendency to want to drift into the recesses of cyberspace, buckle down and get some work done. My schedule is rambunctious to say the least, but as a developer, it’s important to carve out the time to commit to work.
It isn’t easy to work from home. First, let me be clear that I, like you, have fallen into the pit of ADD and there are definitely instances that this effected the quality and quantity of my work. I have had to set strict guidelines for myself and create an environment that is conducive to long hours of eyeball-straining, neuron-firing work. It’s taken me a long time to get to the point where I feel like I can pseudo-successfully pull this off. I hope some of the lessons I learned will help you in your journey!
1. Know yourself.
Ok, the first thing that I realized after a bout of failed attempts to G-S-D is that I am EXCELLENT at justifying my time away from the task at hand. It’s easy to tell yourself, “I just need a few minutes to get the juices flowing” or “I’m only going to take 5 minutes and then back to work”, but we all know that it’s just the beginning of a house-sized snowball that turns the next 2 hours into a blur of cat videos and self-loathing. Don’t make excuses and if you need to take a break, step away from your work area. Go for a walk and move around. Even if cat videos are your thing, get away and don’t blend your spaces between work and personal.
2. Clean it up!
I’ll be the first one to tell you that, whether accurately or not, “I totally work BETTER when my desk is messy”, but that’s no excuse to leave it like that all the time. Make it a habit to clean your work space at the end of EVERY day. Grab the garbage bag and throw away the crap that you don’t need (which if you are like me is probably almost everything). If you do need to keep it, make sure it has a permanent place. Don’t become a perpetual stacker, where neat piles of stuff you either don’t need or you will never find get stacked into anonymous piles of paper or items at a corner of your desk. I like to carry this over virtually as well. A clean desktop is a happy desktop! Get into a routine and you will be that much more likely to be excited to wake up in the morning and sit down at your fresh, inviting work space. Who knows, maybe your new clean habits will even bleed into your personal life!
3. Set clear boundaries.
I know you love your family, your kids, whoever else is in your life and has the power to invade your workspace. One of the conditions to you working from home needs to be establishing rules for non-work related engagement. It is in, not only yours but their best interest to maintain distance when you are working. No one likes when someone tells you something when you are focused on something else and then you forget later on. Make sure you have contingencies set up, and for god’s sake, don’t even think that working from home is a good idea if you can’t make this commitment. Plan things out, like: “What do you do if the kids have to stay home sick?”. You should have a plan that DOESN’T involve you trying to balance both. Because all that will happen is you will be a distracted mess the whole day and neither thing will get the attention it needs or deserves.
4. Get out when you need to.
Sometimes, despite your tireless efforts to make it all work and be productive when you work from home, something is just off. It’s time to pull the rip-cord! Get out of the house and find a new space. A nice coffee shop with fast wifi is the perfect solution. Put on some headphones, whether plugged-in or not (great post from LifeHacker on using unplugged headphones to block out pesky interuptions), find a quiet corner, and get busy. Just the act of removing yourself from the house can spark your creative juices and get the work flowing again.
5. Make it a priority.
However you got into this position, a position of envy across the world, YOU ARE WORKING FROM HOME! You’re on your own schedule, on your own furniture, and you are accountable to yourself. It’s great to be able to wear pajamas and eat Cheetos all day, but remember that it is up to you to make this time effective. It’s easy to think that, because you have a home office your time is flexible. The more you think like that the more you will be, at best, scrambling to catch up (at worst never getting it done). Focus your energy and make this time your best time.
If you don’t no one else will.