Working from home isn't for everyone, but it clearly worked for me: I can't imagine doing anything else now. I certainly didn't get it right the first time, but I've developed a slew of lifehacks and shortcuts to boost my productivity and maintain a healthy work-life balance. This is something I'm good at.
However, when the pandemic struck, many of you were working from home as well. And, no offense, some of you are terrible at working remotely. You're all rookies who continue to make rookie mistakes. I've been watching you break every cardinal work-at-home rule I've honed to a science over the last 16 years; it's a little like watching a toddler try to use a chainsaw. And now the entire world is indeed a bloodbath.
With the accelerated vaccine rollout and large swaths of the workforce likely to return to work sooner or later, we'll (hopefully) be returning to some semblance of normalcy — or, at the very least, a New Normal. However, hundreds of thousands of people who were not working from home prior to the pandemic will continue to do so. You all need to up your remote work game and get a lot better at it if you don't want to drag the rest of us down with you. To that end, if you're going to commit to remote working for the long haul, here are five unbreakable rules.
Do not spend the entire day in your pajamas.
I'm not saying you have to dress up like you're going to work at a bank or something. (However, it wouldn't hurt?) If you're still wearing your bedclothes all day, your mind, body, and soul can't help but not take anything you're doing seriously. You don't have to be formal, but you do need to establish very clear boundaries between "work time" and "off time," and dressing appropriately is a great way to do so. I recommend, at the very least, workout clothes that signal to your mind, body, and soul that you should be doing something right now.
Changing your clothes before going to work tricks your brain into thinking your surroundings have changed. And convincing yourself that you are under more scrutiny than you are is an important part of working from home. It's truly amazing how many people tell me that when they work from home, they just wear their pajamas all day. It's no surprise you're not getting anything done.
Conversely, keep in mind that you are also in your home.
When people who have always worked in an office find out I've been working from home for so long, they always say, "I don't know how you do it." "Don't you just want to lie down instead of working?" In practice, however, it is the inverse problem: when your home is your office, you are constantly in your office. After all, there is always work to be done, and if you are not careful, you will spend all of your waking hours doing it. And we already have enough of a national problem with workaholics and burnout.
The issue isn't remembering that your home is your office; it's remembering that it's not just your office. During the pandemic, it is becoming increasingly clear that some of you are spending every waking hour at your desk... and nowhere else in your house or apartment. It is your living space. Immerse yourself in it.
Limit the amount of time you spend on social media.
This is just a good life tip in general, but the problem with sitting at your computer all day — especially when we're all in the middle of a global pandemic — is that you can get sucked into a doom scrolling black hole. (After all, that is what lying in bed and not sleeping is supposed to be for!) Social media is already driving us insane, but when combined with cabin fever, you get, well, the total craziness we've all been experiencing over the last year. I recommend the Freedom app, which will block any sites you specify for as long as you specify. You'll be surprised at how much happier and more productive you become.
Create a detailed schedule with parameters.
This is related to Rule No. 2, but you must force yourself to stop working every day, regardless of how innovative the revolution appears to be. (Imagine it like a job.) Instead of thinking about the day in terms of hours, I suggest thinking about it in terms of tasks. Make a to-do list at the beginning of each day. If you complete all of your tasks ahead of time, that's fantastic: you now have time to read a book, play a video game, or change back into your pajamas. But don't go over your time limit or add to your to-do list. You'll be unable to stop if you don't.
Even in the event of a pandemic, this is critical. (Especially during a pandemic.) People who work from home must constantly remind themselves that, despite all the evidence in front of them, there is a whole big world just beyond their doorstep. Go check it out. Your house, computer, and work will all be waiting for you exactly where you left them. And who knows what else? You might even find it easier to find work when you return.
Seriously, you all need to get back to work; the majority of countries have resumed work, while a few have not. I can see how this is driving you all crazy. But, if we're all still stuck without an office for a little while longer, you can start by mastering these five unbreakable rules for working from home. For the sake of you. For my own. For everyone's benefit. You'll be able to thank me later.
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