Working at home sounds like a cushy gig, and it can have its advantages, but it also has some pitfalls to avoid. What follows are the things that have worked for me so far, and may help you when you’re just staring out at home. Your mileage may vary, and please comment if you have some tips to share. We’d all love to hear them.
Ritual is an important part of being human: The marriage ceremony, counting down New Year’s Eve, brushing and flossing, and getting ready to start your day. Since you don’t have to commute, you might be able to get up a little later, but other than that, keep your morning rituals. You’ll be dealing with enough changes at first, so any habit you can keep will be a touchstone to keep you on your game. If you can be so boring with your schedule that Swiss watchmakers will take notice, do it.
This seems like a no-brainer, but don’t do anything you wouldn’t have done in the office. Just because you can “multitask” and catch The Daily Show online while you work, it doesn’t mean you should. And sure, you could satisfy that afternoon hankering for a bowl of chili since the kitchen is just feet away, or take an hour and a half lunch since you can make it up later. Just remember, both the good and the bad habit can take root in just a few consecutive days of repetition, so be careful at first.
Fortress of Solitude
If you live with other people, it’s important to make sure they respect the sanctity of your office. You couldn’t have your spouse or roommate dropping by your on-site office four times a day to chat, so it can’t happen at your home office either. When you are in your office you practically need an On Air sign so that no one breaks your flow state. Have a talk with everyone and explain that when the office door is closed, you’re unavailable.
Working at home can be a Crusoean affair. Now that I’m locked in the basement for eight hours a day, I find myself with more and more “urgent” errands to run on my lunch hour just to interact with the physical world outside. There’s just no substitute for face-to-face contact that you’ll end up craving, so have lunch with a friend or colleague when you can. Attend local tech events and connect with the like-careered and like-minded.
OK, so all that stuff I just said above, it was conditional. It’s good advice when you’re just starting out, but once you’ve gotten yourself well established and are in the work-at-home grove, you should try little tweaks here and there to find efficiencies and/or to make things interesting. Why not work half a day at the local coffee shop once in a while? Or maybe take a walk around the neighborhood when you need to get the creative juices flowing, or to shake off that mid-afternoon sluggish period. If you’re a real wild man, you might do a beer-thirty on Friday, and sip a tasty beverage that last 30 minutes of the day to celebrate a week well done while you finish up. You’ve got some interesting freedoms that can be explored for positive results.
What about you other basement and spare room dwellers? What works for you? Let us know in the comments below.