Some business travelers work in an office building when they’re not on the road. But many, even most business travelers work from home when they’re not on the road. And this can be a challenge.
And right now, many have been forced into a work-from-home situation due to COVID-19. So, no matter what may be causing you to work from home when you’re not used to it or having to learn how to work from home, this is for you.
Now, working from home has its advantages as well as disadvantages.
I’ve had the following experiences:
- Always in an office environment
- Business Travel and going into the office on days I’m not traveling which was brutal, especially when I flew in late one night and had to be up early fighting Chicago traffic early the next morning.
- Business Travel and working from home when I’m not traveling, which is my current reality.
A reminder of my home life: my wife is a school teacher, so during the school year and nonholidays or spring break, I just need to get the Fam out of the house, happy and on time. Then the house is mine.
During the summer or breaks, everyone is home all the time during my workday, which increases my challenges.
All this to say, I have an ever-changing Work-from-Home environment.
Based on years of doing Work-from-Home horribly and learning to make the most of what it hands me, here are my
Eight Critical Tips for Working From Home Effectively:
Tip One – Get Up on Time and Maximize a Strong Early Morning Rhythm
Working from home doesn’t mean it’s time to sleep in.
Be sure to maintain the morning schedule you had when going into the office, and if you now have more time due to not having to commute, use it for exercise or to have breakfast with the family.
Giving in to sleeping longer may reduce your energy level and make it harder to focus.
For example, I have the exact same morning rhythm whether I’m home or on the road with some variation. I do the following:
- Drink 16 oz of room temperature water with a green mix of veggies/fruit, lemon juice, and sea salt
- Make my hot green tea
- Read my Bible for 15 minutes
- Read a 2nd book that is inspirational or educational
- Eat Breakfast
- Connect with the Fam
- Find your Morning Rhythm no matter at home or on the road.
Tip Two – Create a Designated Work Space
Don’t try to do your job from the sofa, or worse, your bed. If you don’t already have a designated office space in your home, create one.
Set up a table and comfortable chair in a room—or corner of a room—where you’re likely to have the most privacy. Use a decorative screen to help section off your workspace if need be.
Take over a guest room, if you have one, or claim the dining room as your new office, relegating meals to the kitchen instead. The idea is to have a space that’s as private as possible, where you can leave your work materials out at the end of the day.
My office was overtaken by those Buckley boys, so I created a workspace in our finished basement area that is a stand-up desk and faces a window. Brilliant!
Tip Three – Develop a Workday Startup Ritual
This is different from your Morning Routine.
You need to have a “Game On” rhythm that puts you in the work zone. It becomes a trigger to you that it’s Time to Work and Getter Dun!
This work startup ritual doesn’t have to be elaborate but simple and consistent. Here’s mine:
- Fill my Elite Road Warrior water bottle
- Turn on instrumental music
- Light a candle
- Open up my planner to review my schedule for the day
That’s it. Nothing magical or life-changing, but I do it every day to start up my workday.
Wash – Rinse – Repeat.
Tip Four – Create a Key3
These are three key action items that will determine if your day ahead is a success or not.
I’m not talking about your overwhelming task list.
These are the Key3 that will make or break your day.
How do you know what to choose?
Well, if you don’t get them done, you won’t feel like you made the most of your day, something was incomplete or missing, or you “didn’t leave it all on the field” to use a sports analogy.
Those are the days when I feel I was busy the entire day, but don’t feel like I really got anything done. I look back and think, “I was always doing something, but what did I actually accomplish?”
For the record, I hate those days and avoid them whenever possible.
And it starts with creating my Key3 for the day ahead.
Here is my process:
- Brainstorm what I want to accomplish for the day (and this is always a long list)
- I look for themes
- I narrow them down to the most crucial 3
- I list them in order of most important, 2nd most, then 3rd.
- Then I start with my 1st of the Key3.
I want to feel at the end of the day that I made the absolute most of the day and did what was key to me and that comes from creating your Key3.
Tip Five – Hide the Distractions
I’m not sure if you’re an easily distracted person or not, but being distracted on the road is completely different than being distracted in the comforts of your own home.
I’ve found three areas where I can become easily distracted:
- What You See – I cannot have the TV on because I will glance up and see the movement and that’s all it takes / my phone is another visual that can hijack me.
- What You Hear – I can’t have the TV on or even music with lyrics especially ones that I know. If I’m going to do anything that requires thinking or developing, I find that hearing dings, alerts, notifications from my computer or phone is another distraction hijack.
- What Enables Procrastination – There are tasks in work that I simply don’t want to do – return that call, write that proposal, start the presentation. And if I notice the dishes are not done or the laundry needs to be folded. All of a sudden, they become incredibly important and MUST BE DONE NOW!
Know thyself and what will hijack your focus and productivity especially for your Key3. Avoid distractions with what you see, what you hear, and what enables procrastination.
Tip Six – Establish a Communication System
Working from home can often leave you feeling cut-off from your coworkers and managers, which can quickly stymie productivity.
Make sure you have a system for effectively connecting, using both chat programs and video conferencing to stay in regular contact. Don’t just rely on email, which can lack details and intent.
The idea is to avoid isolating yourself, even though you’re not physically present at the office.
Know how others like to be communicated with, but make sure it doesn’t become a distraction (like Tip Four) with all the dings and notifications.
Tip Seven – Work in Time Blocks
It’s easy to just open up the computer and dive right into email or CRM. So, Tip Seven is the Money of all Eight tips, so if you get anything from the eight, pay specific attention to this one tip.
- Focus Time Blocks – 90-120 minute blocks of time when we’re especially creative, inspired, and able to do high-level work that requires your focus (this would be your key3). Focus blocks fuel your best work.
Critical – NO distractions. Turn off all alerts. Close email. Turn off your phone.
- Social Time Blocks – 90-120 minute blocks of time when we’re primed and energetically in the right space to meet other people. This is interacting with people in real-time. This is your video and audio time when you’re home and have meetings, set calls, etc.
Critical – Spread these out throughout the day otherwise it will drain you. Also, take your calls on a walk. Productivity expert, Marcey Rader, calls them Walkie Talkies. Get some movement in, get outside, and double dip with the call and exercise.
- Administrative Time Blocks – 30-60 minute low-energy blocks of time when we’re not in the zone to do the work that requires “heavy lifting,” but there are still types of work we can do effectively. Think: email, phone calls, CRM work, digital, paper filing, low-level filing, organizing, etc.
Critical – Batch admin tasks together which means lumping the same kind of work together (30 minutes of e-mailing, 30 minutes of calls, 30 minutes of CRM updates).
- Recovery Time Blocks – variable-length blocks of time that we use for activities that recharge us such as a lunch break without a screen, going for a 15-minute mid-morning or mid-afternoon walk to “move the body and rest the mind.”
Remember, the other three-time blocks of focus, social and admin are energy output blocks, and just like a battery that outputs energy, they need to be charged and this is done with the Recovery Time Block.
Critical – Do NOT underestimate or devalue the importance of the recovery time block, especially when working from home. You need to recharge and stop thinking you’re superhuman and the quality of your work won’t suffer. Lies nothing but lies.
I live my days working from home leveraging these four-time blocks. Each day the amount and length will look different, but that can be planned ahead of time.
In the Elite Road Warrior book, it’s a concept called Block and Tackle. The concept uses these four-time blocks then focuses on tackling only the task in that block of time.
One last word on Time Blocks. Know your energy levels throughout the day.
I use the term energy pacing and learning to become an Energyologist which means becoming an expert of your own energy levels.
It’s key you match your time block with your energy level. Don’t try to do Focus Work if you’re tired or hungry – your results will suffer.
Tip Eight – Develop a Workday Shutdown Ritual
Just as you had created a Workday Startup Ritual, you need to do the same to “shutter down” for the workday.
Work during work hours. When working from home, it can be tempting to try and sneak in some domestic tasks or social engagements. Try to avoid this during designated work hours, as the distraction factor will quickly mount, and you’ll find it hard to keep switching between work and home life. Take a lunch hour and a couple of breaks for your personal tasks, then focus on work during the times you would while at the office.
Honor quitting time. One of the dangers of working from home is that your work is always right there with you. Be as productive as possible during work hours, then end your day as you normally would when at the office. Shut your computer down, organize your papers, turn off the light in your home office space and call it a day. Taking the necessary time to detach from work every day will ultimately make you more productive.
Here is my specific workday shutdown ritual:
- One last check of email
- One last check of work platforms like WeChat, Slack, etc.
- Check my calendar for tomorrow’s appointments
- Begin to create my Key3 or at least the list of tasks for tomorrow to create my Key3 based on how today went
- Physically shut my laptop down and audibly say “Case Closed” – why? Sounds silly but it’s a trigger that lets me know I’m officially off the work clock and I’m now on HST – home standard time.
You don’t have to choose all the tips but at least try and implement one tip and see what happens. The goal is daily trying to improve your Work-From-Home environment.