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The Rhythm of Working at Home

Published September 10, 2013

working from home one office
For the last 13 months I have been away from the corporate world and have been working from home, re-engaging with my family, and recharging my batteries. The time has been wonderful but along the way I have learned some important things when it comes to working from home, managing a busy family, and navigating the always difficult waters of finding a healthy rhythm to live life well. Not getting on a plane 3 to 4 times a week and going to an office was a big transition for me, and it may have been for you too. Here are 10 key principles for working from home that helped me get on track, and achieve positive momentum in my life.

  1. Get up, eat breakfast and get dressed.┬áJust like you would do if you were getting in your car everyday and driving to an office, you want to be physically prepared for the day to be at your best. While lounging around in your pajamas might sound fun, it does not lend itself to getting yourself mentally ready for the challenges you’ll face in the day ahead.
  2. Exercise! I can’t stress how important it is to either continue, or start a regular exercise routine when you are working from home. This isn’t just to help you control your weight (which numerous studies show increased weight gain when you work from home). There is a direct link to getting regular exercise, the endorphins that are released as as result, and generally feeling better about what you’re doing.
  3. Go to work every day. Even when you work at home you have to make a physical space for you to work in. Doing work at your dining room table with all of the distractions that come with being in a main living area guarantees you are not going to be as productive as you would have hoped. Find a place you can reconfigure to call your own, and go there, every day. Protect it and make it sacred.
  4. Eliminate all peripheral distractions. Working at home can be a wonderful thing, until it isn’t. Don’t let things like email, IM, text messages, and social media distract you from your plan for the day. Schedule time into your day to check your messages and catch up on social media. It is not realistic to expect that you won’t check Facebook, but it is smart to make sure you have a plan to do so.
  5. Schedule your day. The temptation when you work at home is to let the day unfold as it will. Don’t do that. Make your to-do- lists, your not- to-do lists, and prioritize accordingly. You will feel a sense of accomplishment and that you are moving closer to achieving your goals. This is important because when you work at home, and/or are your own boss, there is no one there to tell you how you’re doing. You have to manage yourself.
  6. Get up, stretch, and take a walk. Taking a few minutes at regularly scheduled intervals will not only make you feel better, but you will actually get more done. Something happens physiologically when you step away from the digital world and actually interact with nature, or other people. You will see things with a fresh perspective when you sit back down at your desk. That issue you were struggling with? A solution may very well appear after taking a few minutes of down time.
  7. Start on time and stop on time. One of the biggest issues with working at home is the “always on” mentality. Set a time to start each day, and a time to stop working each day. This may sound silly but if you don’t put structure in place to monitor your working hours, you will cheat and work more than you should. Set the times and stick to it.
  8. Close the laptop and step away from the desk! Technology keeps us tethered to our work life more than ever before and it is imperative that you shut down to allow yourself time to process the day but also to engage with your friends and family. That combined with the fact you have an office or dedicated space at home makes it very tempting to step into your space and send one more quick email. I wrote a post on margin a few weeks back. When you work at home creating margin and protecting it is as equally important to do as when you work out of the home.
  9. Take time off. You may or may not be receiving a paycheck when you work from home. Either way though you owe it to yourself and your family to take regular vacations. This all about having margin and being able to choose to take your time off and enjoy it! You will feel better and be more engaged when you get back, having had the time to recharge your batteries.
  10. Remember who you are actually working for. When it is all said and done, and you look back on your life, you will never, ever, think about anything other than those loved ones who are with you. You will always be glad you put the necessary steps in place that allowed you to maximize your time with your friends and family, while still being a top performer in your chosen profession.