Tips for Staying on Task from a Teleworker
Oh the perks of working from home. Telecommuters save on gas, enjoy more free time, and they don’t even have to wear shoes. The perks are undeniable for both employee and employer. Employers save on office expenses and enjoy the perks of productive and stress-free employees. These perks only apply if actual work is getting done. It’s so easy to sink into a couch with Netflix when it’s right there calling your name, or run a few errands while the offices and banks are still open. There are so many temptations when you’re the master of your time. One in ten U.S. workers work from home at least one day a week, and I’d be willing to bet that at one point or another they have trouble staying on task. Get a grip and get work done with these five tips from a telecommuter. Think of it as the time-waster’s diet tricks.
Give Yourself Deadlines
Obviously we have deadlines from managers and project leaders, but those are often pretty open ended like, by the end of business or by the end of the week. With multiple tasks on the to-do list, it’s easy to say, “I have until ____”, I have plenty of time. Working from home is a time/task balancing act. When we aren’t in an office, it’s easier to put things off. Creating personal deadlines for each task, ahead of their actual deadline, ensures that everything will actually get done on time. If everything is due by the end of the week, it can get pretty hairy when you’ve put everything off, it’s Friday afternoon and you still have a whole season of Fringe to enjoy. Don’t even try to act like you don’t know what I mean.
You don’t’ get a cookie for each email written or call made. However, define groups of tasks from beginning to end. Tell yourself you get something when that task or group of tasks is complete. This can be as simple as a snack, a walk around the block, or even a scan of your social networks. I will often tell myself that I can’t check that little red dot on my Facebook until I finish the task at hand. We all know what a slippery slope that dot can be. You check a tweet and next thing you know, you’re searching camping equipment on eBay.
If you currently work from home, you know what it’s like to look at the clock at 3 p.m. and realize that you haven’t brushed your teeth (don’t lie). One of the major perks of working from home is that you don’t have to be office-ready. That doesn’t mean we don’t have to get human-ready. We exude more confidence when we look and feel presentable. Confidence shines through in our work and communications. Not to mention, there is the all-dreaded face-time call. How many times have you turned down face-time chat because you were donning a hoody and rocking some zit cream on your face. This inhibits client and co-worker relations. Getting in some face-to-face time is vital in creating bonds. After all, soft skills reign.
Prepare Your Environment
Getting your head in the game has a lot to do with your environment. Whether the T.V., social networks or the great outdoors is what keep you preoccupied, know your weaknesses and keep them at bay. If you find yourself checking your social networks every 5 minutes, don’t keep those tabs open and don’t stay logged in. It’s a much different action to click on a tab than it is to enter your email and password each time. If your weakness is TV or getting outside of the house, make those rewards, not breaks. You can get quite carried away and mess up your timeline very quickly.
Take a Siesta
There are undeniable benefits to taking naps during the day, and telecommuters are in a unique position to take advantage of them. A 10-20 minute nap can improve productivity by more than 30 percent. While we still have to be available and working during normal work hours, we get breaks too. Time is the hottest commodity around and telecommuters get more of it. A typical telecommuter saves nearly 109 hours of commute time per year, on average. Put this extra time to good use. Spending 30 minutes on lunch (which, as a telecommuter is completely possible), checking your email, and then spending 20 minutes on a nap, still puts you under the mark for a full lunch hour. Rest is so beneficial to productivity and engagement. Plus, naps are just plain the best. Making the most of your time is the ultimate goal here.
Let it be known that I love working from home. The time, the freedom, the relaxation are all on the top of the list of reasons why. I do have to admit that it is hard to get my brain in gear for work and keep it there. If you want to reap the benefits of telework, you have to make sure your employer does as well. This means getting work done!