Working from Home

I work from my apartment.  In my bedroom.  At my desk.  Every day.  This is probably the single best conversation starter since “I work at Apple”.

I generally get three reactions:

“That must be awesome!  You work in your pajamas right?”

“Oh wow, I’m so jealous.  No commute!”

“Man, I could never do that. I’d get nothing done.”

There’s truth in all three of those.  It is awesome.  The commute from my bed to my desk is the best.  But, it is also a challenge.  Having my throw pillow be my co-worker can suck.  No matter what reaction though, the conversation ultimately turns to “no but really, how do you do that?”

Here’s how:

  • I never work in my pajamas. Every morning I shower, and get dressed up as if I was going to work.  Some days it’s more businessy, some days it’s more casual (jeans!).  Regardless, I almost always make myself look like I’m going to have an in person meeting at any moment. 

  • I exercise. To start each day, I do some yoga and push-ups.  There are days where I haven’t do that, and it’s amazing how much less productive I am. 

  • I have a weekday morning routine. Once I’ve showered, I come back to my room, make my bed, open both blinds and turn off my air filter that I run only at night.  Since I literally work at my desk in my bedroom, this routine has come to mark the transition from “bedroom” to “office”.   

  • I leave the house at least once during business hours. Some days it’s for lunch, some days it’s to get coffee (or, really, if you know me, chai).  If it’s a period where I won’t be making calls, I’ll set up shop in a little cafe down the street. 

  • Regular phone calls and in-person meetings. Since I am not working for myself, I do have a bunch of co-workers, some of whom are local.  We get together at least once a week, and I talk to them on the phone daily. 

  • Set weekly expectations. There’s a lot of potential distractions when you work from home.  I set goals for the week every Monday, which is helpful to drive my weekly tasks.  (And makes it possible to be held accountable for work, since I submit them to my manager.) 

  • Use online tools to combat the Facebooks. It’s easy to get lost online.  But I use a free tool called RescueTime (Mac/PC) which tracks what websites and local applications that I’m using.  It alerts me if I’ve spent too much time on certain sites/applications that I designate (facebook, gmail, iTunes etc).  I can then get a general idea of how productive I’ve been.  It’s hard to argue with raw data.

  • I set time limits for myself. Whenever I have tasks, I give myself certain amount of time to accomplish them.  There’s a great site called e.ggtimer which is a simple timer.  It quietly counts down in the background, and beeps at you when it’s done.  (And often scares the crap out of me.)  Helps me stay focused when I know that I don’t have a giant expanse of time to do any one thing. 

  • Self discipline. Honestly, the above tips wouldn’t really matter if I didn’t consider myself an independent worker.  They may help, but honestly, I love the company I work for and — more importantly — the people I work with.  And that drives me.

Hopefully that helps shed some light on the question.  But maybe a better answer would have simply been to smile deviously and announce “How do I work from home? [dramatic pause]  Magic!  mwahahahaha!”

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