Tips for Working From Home
Published (updated: ) in misc.
It’s been five years since I’ve worked in an office on a regular basis. Working remotely has been a huge productivity boost for my life, but it requires a certain level of discipline to pull it off successfully.
98% of the time I’m working from my apartment and there are some unique challenges to working from the same location where one also rests and sleeps. Below are some quick tips that I use in order to be successful and remain productive working from home, while hopefully mitigating the challenges and distractions.
These are just some tips that work personally for me. Your mileage may vary.
Always keep strict working hours
I try to only work between 9-6 on weekdays. Working in support for a startup for my day job, there’s always more work to be done and more customers to help. I give myself a hard stopping time to log-off each day. Anything that is still unfinished by the end of my working hours remains until the next day. Those emails will still be there in the morning.
Keeping a strict schedule helps keep me focused and disciplined. It also helps me not waste time during the work day. It also has the benefit of my work not bleeding into my personal life, nights, and weekends.
Push Non-Work Until The Weekend
Many things on my personal to-do list I simply push back until the weekend as much as possible. Most of these things are never urgent, ex: Doing the laundry, getting groceries, etc.
For example, I liberally use Gmail’s Snooze functionality to snooze emails in my personal inbox until the weekend. If it isn’t urgent, I don’t need to look at it in my inbox during the week.
Another great tool I use is Instapaper to save interesting articles I come across online to read later. Let’s say I click on Hacker News during the work day and see an interesting article. I’ll simply save the article to my Instapaper to read later instead of wasting 20-30 minutes reading it during the work day.
Have a Dedicated Work Environment
In my apartment, I have a desk that has my laptop, a second monitor, and an office chair in front. I use this space for work and I’m rarely doing anything in this space for anything other than work. Maybe 5% of my time here is paying bills, etc. The rest of my time here is work, not for leisure.
When I want to relax outside of working hours, I’m rarely at my desk. I’m usually on my iPad on the couch, reading articles I had previously saved to my Instapaper or reading books, etc.
Take Frequent, Small Breaks Throughout The Workday
Sitting for 8-9 hours straight without moving isn’t feasible for most people, nor is it healthy. I probably stand up and stretch my legs once an hour. Or I’ll take 10 minutes to rest my back on my couch. Or 10 minutes to do the dishes. I got this idea of frequent breaks from the Pomodoro Technique.
This is especially helpful if I’m stuck on a difficult programming problem. Stepping away from my desk forces my brain to focus on something else. When I come back to my desk, my brain is more clear and I can often solve the problem much quicker.
My laptop also goes to sleep after 10 minutes as a good reminder not to be away from my desk for too long.
Have a Set Amount of Work to do Daily
A good way to track my personal progress is to have a specific goal of how much work I want to do each week. For example, my goal for programming is 15-20 hours per week, which is about 3 hours per weekday.
You can break it down even further by setting a goal of one hour completed before Noon, a second hour completed by 3pm, and the final hour of studying done by 6pm. This isn’t too difficult to hit because it can be one hour before I start working, one hour on my lunch break, and one hour at the end of the day.
Being this specific with goals throughout the day works great for me so I don’t procrastinate and leave everything until 5pm and then end up too tired at the end of the day to do anything.
This also forces me to ignore everything else going on in my life, not related to my career goals. This is because the only thing that matters to me is hitting my goal of studying programming a set amount of time each week and of doing my job at work well.
Have a Dedicated Day Off
I originally wanted to put in work 7 days a week but was quickly burning out. For the past month or two, I’ve been taking Saturdays completely off.
I’m now not touching my laptop on Saturdays and instead using the day to watch Netflix or read a book.. or do anything else that doesn’t require intense mental effort. By Sunday I’m refreshed and ready to go again at full speed.