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Archive for the ‘Working at Home’ Category

Pinscher

For those of us who work at home, the days can often be long and sometimes quite distracted depending on your ability to keep yourself on task. For me, that ability varies from day-to-day; I’m fairly sure most people feel the same way.

On beautiful days, I can’t keep myself away from the outdoors; on rainy days, playing inside with the dog seems infinitely more compelling than sitting at my desk. My back gets stiff; I fidget and squirm. I remind myself of an inattentive student from my teaching days. However, if I let this behavior go on unchecked, I’ll never get anything productive done. So, I’ve come up with some creative solutions to overcome this lack of productiveness while still giving in to those urges to run outside into the sunshine, to play with the dog, and to go to the coffee shop in the middle of the work day.

1. Set your office up in such a way as to minimize your distractions and support your productivity. That is, have all the supplies you need ready at hand so that you don’t have any further excuses to get up and leave the room than those we have already mentioned (as well as those we haven’t!). Also, try not to set up shop in a multi-use space where you might also be tempted to store, say, your knitting, yoga, or Pilates supplies. However, if you must do this, at least keep these distractions tucked away in storage bins or closets. I do use my office space as a yoga space, but the mat stays tucked away unless it’s during the time I’ve prescribed for that activity. This way, after some practice, when you sit down at your desk your mind will eventually get into the habit of getting to work rather than allowing distractions to slip in.

2. Use your distractions to your advantage. Take part in your favorite game with your dog or make tea for yourself on scheduled mini-breaks from work sessions. These might be 10 or 15 minute scheduled intervals once every hour, two hours, or whatever allotted amount of time best suits your stamina. If you tend to be looking at the clock eagerly awaiting these play breaks, use a kitchen (or any other kind of) timer so that you can concentrate on the task at hand and not on when your next break is approaching. Use bigger distractions (like gardening) as a reward at the end of the work day. Taking breaks is ultimately crucial for higher productivity and keeping stamina up. If you work on a computer all day, remember that it’s also vitally important for your health to have breaks to readjust your eyes away from the screen, to stretch your back and legs, and to stretch your arms to prevent carpel tunnel syndrome.

3. Resist setting up an on-the-go office in the local coffee shop. Although you may love coffee (or tea), the music selection the barista plays, and the visual and audio stimulation you get from being in the world–with people–versus the isolation we face in the home office, it is ultimately unprofessional, not to mention entirely too distracting, to set up shop in the coffee shop. I tried this out for a while and although I made many friends who were also “working” there, my productivity plummeted to an all-time low mainly because I spent too much time conversing with others who were also “working” or because I would become immersed in some other action taking place in the vicinity.

If you feel you absolutely must leave your home office for a change of scenery in order to maintain your sanity, try someplace more conducive to working such as your local library. Or, if it’s one of those can’t-stay-away-from-the-outdoors beautiful days, find some work that you can take with you to your local park and set up shop on a bench for a few hours or a half day. I’ll often print out some editing and do the work the old-fashioned way–with a pencil.

4. Remember that it is OK to take a lunch. When I first began working at home, I would often work through lunch because it was so easy to do if I was on a roll and no one was around to pull me away. However, nutrition is essential to brain power and health, so once again, set that timer if you must and use your lunch hour to go socialize at the coffee shop or to meet some friends at a restaurant. Just because we work at home does not mean we somehow should be isolated. Just remember to set your boundaries and return to work within an allotted time.

5. In addition to taking lunches with friends for opportunities to socialize, join professional associations or volunteer to combat the feeling of being a hermit. Usually, such associations will have some form of socializing built-in such as bimonthly pot-luck dinners and often offer career enrichment opportunities such as conferences and classes. Volunteering, especially if you volunteer for something your passionate about, not only provides social opportunities, but also enriches our general state of well-being while giving to the community.

6. Remember that there is no limit to the activities you can engage in on your scheduled work breaks. Do yoga or go to the gym, stare out the window for 15 minutes and zone out, or do whatever it is that pleases you.

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Ok, I’ve been working at home now for six months, which oddly feels like not that long and like an eternity. Anyway, let’s get to the good stuff, here are my tips:

1. Stay Social!  When I began working at home, the one thing everyone kept saying was, don’t forget to replace the social aspect of working in an office. With readily available colleague chatter and social engagements like birthday lunches and happy hours, the office is a veritable social smorgasbord. Join a book club, or take a class (toga, knitting, tai chi, whatever). But be sure to keep up with the social contacts.

2. Keep a Schedule. When I first started working at home, it was great. I was gung ho and had no trouble getting up early, getting to work quickly, and working at least a seven to eight hour day. However, once the magic wore off I began getting up later, taking more time to exercise and eat breakfast in the morning, and not getting to work until 10am. Before I knew it, my seven or eight hour days were now four to six hour days and frankly, that’s just not enough to bring in the bacon. So, I began keeping a schedule, with time marked off for when I should begin work, which assignments I would do at which times and for how long, and even a scheduled lunch. Of course, your schedule is always flexible, but you may, like I do, at least feel more accountable to it.

3. Take Breaks. Be sure to take little stretching breaks, just like in the office only better, because now you can actually really stretch without looking like a crazy person! Stand up, reach for the sky, sit on the floor and stretch your hamstrings, whatever feels good. Take breaks to play with the dogs (or cats or hamsters) or if you don’t have pets, sit outside in the sun (weather permitting of course) for 15 minutes and get your allotted vitamin D for the day.

4. Join a Professional Organization. If you’re an editor, join an editor’s guild, if a writer, join a writer’s group, and so on. It helps with the social aspect, may be a good source for jobs, and looks great on a CV.

5. Stay in Touch With Colleagues. That stuffy office job may be best left behind, but don’t forget about the friends and colleagues you made while there. Keeping in touch, via email, chat (g-chat, aim, etc.),  phone, or lunch date, will help keep you plugged in to what’s happening in the field, keep you socializing, and as an added bonus, probably improve your mood. I know I always have a good day when I’ve been in touch with a favorite colleague and had a great conversation.

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