Thursday, February 1, 2018

How to Be Productive Working from Home

It's a new month and I have new goals in the form of being more productive with my work time because nothing is more of a time and emotion suck than disorganization when you're self-employed.

Ahh, working from home.  It's many people's ultimate goals and the first thing to get insulted if you do work from home by others.  Whether you're self-employed or have, to quote others, "a real job" (don't even get me started) if you even think of griping about one work-related thing like the rest of the world, be prepared to get the eye roll, sigh or just flat out "oh please, you work from home, I don't want to hear it."  Welcome to the 21st century folks.  More and more people are able to telework for their jobs for various reasons including the company trying to save money by not having to pay more utilities to keep a place up and running for as many employees to companies knowing that a specific job doesn't require someone to be onsite.  For example, the Mr's job could be completely and totally remote and he doesn't do anything there that he can't do from anywhere in the world.  Yet because others are complete idiots or tried to buck the system, we get to suffer for it by him having to go into work twice a week for no real reason and I get to live out the last years of my mobile life in a place I no longer want to live.  I'm not bitter.  Movin' on. 

People envision that those working from home are sitting around in their PJ's all day, being unproductive slugs.  They're only half right.  Most of us are guilty of sitting around in our PJ's 80% of half the time, but we're not necessarily unproductive slugs.  I mean I know the Mr isn't for sure because I hear him rolling over my head 7 hours a day going back and forth between monitors only making me wish we had a first-floor office for him.  Me on the other hand.  Well, when you're your own boss, the waters get a little murkier.  You know what your self-imposed deadlines are and when everything falls on your shoulders, it gets more than a little overwhelming.  I am trying to juggle two different businesses (three if you count what I left my "real" job for 10 years ago but they kind of run themselves but it does desperately need my attention and I have zero time for updating.)  So many things need your attention but knowing where to put the time and attention can be stressful and some days you handle it like a champ, other days you cover your head with a blanket, surf Facebook or check the slope conditions in Vermont with tears streaming down your face and you don't eat breakfast until 11am, lunch at 4pm and dinner at 8pm.  Then you feel guilty for all you didn't get done so when the hubby goes to bed between 10-11pm, you stay up until 2am blitzing through everything you needed to get done.  By the way, done is also a relative term because you will never be your life.

Doesn't sound as glamorous as you thought, does it?  Matter of fact, most people who are their own boss will tell you that they are constantly exhausted, there are no days off, they are likely making less money than they did and their relationships in all aspects of their lives suffer because of how much work they put in.  Don't ever be fooled into thinking blogging is an easy money maker, it isn't.  After getting preliminary taxes done with expenses this year, I barely came out ahead this year and I'm talking $100.  So yeah, when you are kind enough to click through an affiliate link, please don't ever be fooled that you're enabling me to live in the lap of luxury.  It's the Mr's job that allows us to vacay.  Mine would have us on the streets.  There are truly no words to express the gratitude I feel when I see someone has been kind enough to buy through an affiliate link.  So money is obviously not my motivator to share my life and stuff I like and learn with you.

On the days where I feel like I have it together, there are a few things that help me be more productive.  These are not life-changing epiphanies, but they are things that are easily neglected that can make all the difference.

1)  Get dressed.

Seriously.  I'm not talking sit in your Hello Kitty pajama pants or those 'jeggings' and tank top braless with your hair not brushed.  I'm not saying dress like the Royals are stopping over for a spot of tea this afternoon but dress as if you were at least going in for casual Friday to work.  A pair of REAL jeans, a nicer shirt, brush your hair into a ponytail or something you wouldn't be afraid to open the door for when a delivery man comes.

2)  Makeup.

No need to go for a full-on smoky eye, concealer, and the whole deal when it's just you all day.  But the most basic of things like a little mascara and maybe a swipe of lip tint to freshen your face for the day.   Do you know how many times I've rolled out of bed, come down like death warmed over all day then gone to the bathroom and recoiled in horror at what was staring back at me in the mirror?  When I have even very basic makeup on, even if I don't see it, it lifts my mood and literally takes 30 seconds.

3)  Make a physical to do list.

I can write a to-do list on a Word doc until the cows come home.  Then I hit save and it fades into the background with the 57 other tabs I have open between 3 browsers and I never see it again.  If I have a physical list where I must cross off what I've accomplished with a pen, I'm 1) more apt to actually see and refer to it and 2) the sense of satisfaction of actually crossing off a completed item as opposed to deleting it feels way better to me.

4)  Turn off the tube/tunes.

For me, this means both since I use my tube as a means to listen to my tunes.  When I need to be super productive even having on music in the background distracts me.  I didn't think it did until I realized that I got the most work done when I didn't turn on the TV at all.  Then I paid attention and when a song I liked would come on, I would find myself mentally singing along and when a song I hated came on, it distracted me from the task at hand to find something that didn't make me cringe.  Even if I tell myself "don't turn it on for an hour", I will sometimes look and 4 hours have flown by!  You don't realize how much background noise can influence what you do and don't get done.

5)  Proper workstation and posture.

I suck at this one.  My "workstation" is my lap and couch and I'm about 90% sure it's responsible for a lot of my leg problems.  These couches are relatively new in the past 4 years and there is a weird tilt to it that makes my posture off and I have 4 throw pillows in various Tetris like combos for the right fit for the day.  Then if I'm sitting forward, I have a tendency to slump over my laptop and I just feel worse.  I am going to make a concerted effort to work at the table for as long as my battery allows where the posture is much better.  When I sit up straight, everything feels less stressed.  The couch kind of feels like a prison cell because that is my view 98% of my life.  If you do the same, consider working in different rooms and even getting a stand-up desk you can put on the table like I have.  (affiliate link)  Now obviously standing up won't change your life either.  You develop muscle weakness and imbalance by sitting all day and standing all day will do the same.  Alternate between the two if you can and that leads me to my next point.

6)  Set an alarm on the half and/or top of the hour.

My doctor has said it.  My chiro has said it.  It's nothing you don't already know...sitting is the devil.  It clogs up your lymphatic system making it nearly impossible for it to do its job getting the waste out of your lower half.  Obviously, you're sedentary at that time.  Most importantly, all of your muscles shorten while in that position so when you walk, get up to walk or do anything else for an amount of time that is less than the time you're on your butt, it feels that much stiffer, harder to do or causes you downright pain.  Set an alarm that you will actually pay attention to, even if you have to buy a physical egg timer type one so that you must get up when it goes off and stretch to touch your toes.  Lean forward letting your upper body hang over you and as you go for 20 seconds, you will feel your lower back stretch out and your hamstrings lengthening which also puts less pressure on your hips.  That should be done every 30 minutes without fail.  Then along with it or at least once an hour, do some kind of exercise like 15 forward lunges on each leg.  Then the next break, do 15 squats.  The next break, do 15 knee lifts per side.  Then 15 reverse lunges per leg.  15 deadlifts with no weight.  15 curtsy lunges.  You get the idea.  This isn't just for the work at home crowd, you should be doing this anywhere.  In a cubicle, these can all be done there.  In a spot where lunges would be hard?  Go to the bathroom and do them in the "poop stall."  (Don't even act like you don't call the big stall that.)  I know a few teachers read here too, don't think your students wouldn't benefit from a top of the hour stretch too!  And no, if you've got some whose parents think they are too delicate to participate in such things, it doesn't have to be mandatory.  But they're sitting there longer than you are if you're up teaching.  You could be setting them up for good habits for life!

7)  Think ahead/brainstorm.

If you have a job where you know certain seasonal deadlines will be upon you before you know it, brainstorm and jot down your ideas in a physical notebook.  Do it in a document or task it if you work better with computers but as I mentioned before, that kind of stuff easily gets lost with all of the other crap I'm working on.  I have a little notebook that I decorated and I have ideas, dates, deadlines of what I should do when etc.  If something pops into my head at a weird time, I'll email myself the idea in the subject line so I can write it down in the notebook.  Once I read it or even if it's "starred" or marked as important, I just don't see it anymore even if I'm looking straight at it in my inbox.  I don't know if I'm just a weirdo or what (don't answer that) but it's likely my age and how I grew up.  So you youngins do what works for you whilst middle-agers like myself will continue writing in this secret code you can't read called cursive.  (I keed, I keed!)  ;-)

8)  Eat your meals on a regular schedule

I know this sounds stupid but do you know how many times I've been up at 7:30am working off of my phone and then when I go downstairs between 8:30-9am, I say "I'm just going to X real quick" and 2-3 hours have passed and I eat breakfast like I'm a rock star that's just rolled out of bed, then eat lunch around 2-3pm sometimes 4pm depending on how deep I am into something and then eat dinner between 7-8pm because we've dorked around and didn't work out until later than we wanted to?  When I get up and go straight to eating breakfast, it sets the tone for my day.  I feel more awake and ready to power through at a calmer pace.  When I don't eat right away or within an hour of waking up, I power through but at a much more frenzied pace and then freak out when I see the time.  Then freak out again when I realize I'm eating lunch within an hour of when I'll be working out because working out while still digesting makes me feel gross.  I know eating on a regular schedule doesn't work for some people and that's okay.  But your body does need fuel for a reason and for me getting that fuel in before getting into the nitty gritty makes me feel more mentally ready to forge ahead instead of a twitching mess.

9)  Do NOT multitask!!!

1,345,992 studies have come out damning the practice of multitasking.  You know when you start something and think "oh yeah, I have to do that one thing" and you go to do that and get most of that done that leads you to think of the other thing you need to do that will "only take a second" and before you know it, you have three things you meant to do and none of them got done or got done well.  This is where the notebooks or to-do lists come in handy.  Prioritize that task and work in a manner that makes you feel most productive.  If you give yourself 2 hours to do tasks that you know are easy and can get done in 10-15 minutes, then put those first and knock them out successively.  Do not start one and get into the other.  Start it, finish it, cross it off.  I am being SO hypocritical as I write this because I've come back to this post 5x over this morning as I've been typing it.  Because I started it and then thought "oh, I have some comments I need to get to, let me just do that real quick."  Come back, type a paragraph.  "Oh let me get some of our tax stuff in the software so that its done when the time comes that we're ready to file"  Come back, type some more.  "I have to send an email to so and so, let me do that real quick."  (Literally just did that.)  I could've been done with this like 2 hours ago if I'd taken my own advice and made a to-do list for today but I didn't and this is what I get for it.  Chaos.  I'm not trying to say do as I say and not as I do...but do it.  As I say.  Not as I do.  Because...chaos.

I'm going to tell you straight away, I obviously do not have this mastered in the slightest.  It's a constant work in progress and I plan to refer to this post on days when I'm feeling least productive.  I'm actually glad I'm at the end of this post because I am going to go eat my lunch and do that thing that was the most important thing I do today but put off somehow until closer to end of the day that has been nagging me as I type.

We're in this together, right?   LOL

What are your work from home tips?

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  1. So much of that sounds like me. If I have an email that I have to get back to, I have to mark it as unread or it ceases to exist for me. I have to keep a paper to do list. Often on a sticky note and stuck to my phone. That's what people mean by using their phones to stay organized right?

    I'm irritated on your behalf that people assume you don't have a "real" job since you work at home. Growing up my dad had his own business and worked out of his basement home office. I know how hard he worked, and I assume everyone else that works from home works just as hard.

  2. I currently work at home 1 day/week, but that possibly may ramp up A LOT. So this is very useful advice. I honestly prefer the office, but you do what you gotta do! Have a good day!

  3. People in my field complain a lot about not being able to work from home but honestly I think it would be a disaster for me. There is no way I could focus all I like some backg conversation so even with music the quiet would be too much


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