I work with a lot of authors, business owners, writers, editors, agents, and many people in the publishing industry. A significant number of them work from home and have been doing so for years, although some are just now making this transition due to the pandemic we’re experiencing. In addition, people from all different work backgrounds are having to set up a home office so they can continue to do their jobs. It’s a big adjustment and one that may remain in place for a very long time to come.
I’ve been reading all kinds of tips from journalists and bloggers on how to adjust to this new reality — working from home. It’s been many years since I set up shop on the lower level of my house, but I remember pretty well when I first started. In fact, I wrote my first book on exactly how to make that transition. Little did I know it would have a larger reach down the road a bit–like now.
If you’re one of the many Savvy Pros here who have been working from a home office for quite some time now, I’m sure you have great tips to add here, so please send them along and I’ll share in the coming weeks. We can be a great resource for others, but for now, let’s begin with a few of my favorites.
Actionable Work-at-Home Tips
Set specific work hours
Determine exactly what hours you are going to devote to your work and then let others know what those hours are. If you can set your own hours, then discuss it with your family first so that it’s agreed upon and understood. Then you have to hold your ground. There is a retraining process here, and if others are used to being able to come to you whenever they want to, well, you have to help them understand what the new rules are. I know it can be challenging with kids, but if you can work something out with your spouse or another adult in the household, the kids can go to them first. Then post a sign on your office door that says, “Unless there is blood involved, do not disturb.” You get the idea.
Get an early start to each day
I didn’t use to be a morning person, but since I started working from my home office, I transitioned into one of those people who I thought were absolutely crazy. “You get up at what hour??!” Incredulous. That was me.
I soon discovered all the benefits of getting up before the crack of dawn, including the incredible amount you can get done while the rest of the house is asleep. By the time you have breakfast with them, you can feel productive and accomplished by what you’ve already done.
Have an “all done for today” ritual signifying the actual end of the workday. For me, it’s the closing of the office door. When that door closes, not only does the work stay put until tomorrow morning, but the steady stream of thoughts about it stays put, too. Then I put on my “free time” face.
Other end of day rituals could be talking a walk or going for a run. Playing with the kids. Sitting down for a personal conversation with your significant other. Taking a shower. Reading a great book for 20 minutes. It doesn’t’ really matter what it is; you just need something for that transition into family time.
It’s easy to let work invade every part of your day and night, but that’s not healthy and it’s not fair to the rest of your family. There are times when you will have to respond to an email or take a quick call during off hours, and if doing so allows your mind to relax, then that’s a good thing. You get to decide how much of this is OK. I also know if you work for a boss or in a company where the culture is to always be available, then it’s harder. But it’s important to find some ways of defining your hours so that you can have a life. Both a work life and a life life.
When you work, work. When you play, play
This is a common problem for many. When they’re working they think about all the things they could be doing with their kids, and when they’re with their kids they’re thinking of all the work they should be getting done. Get a grip. Be present where you are.
Forget powering through. According to some studies, when you’re focused and working, a five-minute break every 90 minutes is necessary to keep you on track and productive. (I’ll have to research to find that statistic, but I remember reading it.) For a great book on moving forward, I recommend The Now Habit by Neil Fiore. His thesis is to work on something for 30 minutes and then take a break. His advice works particularly well if it’s a project you’ve been putting off.
New realities: Get it together
When you work from home there are some new circumstances to prepare for and you want to set yourself up for success. This means a cold hard look at the facts.
Fact #1: You can’t call the IT department. When you have a computer problem, you can’t call someone in IT and ask them to come and take care of it. YOU ARE the IT department, so create a team that will work for you. For example, I have a company called Always On It and they manage all my devices for me. They update, maintain, and fix them when there is a problem.
Fact #2: Get the tools you need. What do you need to make it work? Is there software you need to install and learn? Does your company use a platform such as Slack or Basecamp or Monday to stay in touch? Will Google Drive make your life easier? Whatever it is, you’ll want to learn it, and quickly.
Fact #3: Get used to being on camera. More and more people are connecting virtually and that is only going to increase, so if you have any hesitations about being on camera, now is a good time to get over it. Figure out the best lighting, camera, and whatever else you need to look and sound good on camera. I have some more tips here in case you missed them last week. Oh, and here are some more on-camera tips that may be helpful to you.
Fact #4: Make sure you have the bandwidth. You have to have an Internet connection that can handle your demands, particularly if you’re going to be doing video conferencing. Nothing is worse than being on camera and someone’s image keeps freezing up or they get booted off for not having enough bandwidth. Don’t you be that person.
The bottom line here is to get your technology together.
Treat it like a job, because it is
Over the years I have heard lots of people suggest that you get up, get dressed, and pretend like you’re going to the office. It’s good advice and will help you to feel like a professional–even when working from home.
Morning pre-work ritual
I mentioned the advantages of getting up early before, but I would like to add here the importance of self care, whatever that means to you. Two things I have found invaluable are meditation and exercise. Consider taking some time to do both before starting your workday.
This post could go on forever because there are so many wise and helpful suggestions for working from home. The above are just a few of my favorites. As I mentioned before, I’d love to hear your suggestions. If there are enough of them, I may do a Work-At-Home Hacks, Part 2 next week.
To your success!
P.S. Our hearts go out to all who are suffering now due to the pandemic. Our thoughts are with you. For those who are under quarantine or lockdown and the biggest problem is being stuck inside, well, this is for you. I posted on social media earlier this week. Are we connected there? We can be . . . Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn.