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Some advice on telecommuting

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Hi folks.  It has been a long time since I last wrote anything of great importance.  But I think I finally have something for you.  I recently started doing a new telecommuting gig.  I have telecommuted before but not quite to the extent of being considered a full-time telecommuter.  The most I had done was a few days a week here and there for a place that was less than 2 miles from my house.  Suffice it to say that I am not big on telecommuting from a personal perspective.  That is not to say that I won’t do it, but it requires a great deal of discipline on my part.   So on to some tips for achieving that discipline.

TIME
Most people probably don’t think much about the concept of time.  Time is your most precious commodity in life.  From the moment you are born you are ‘burning the candle’ .  I sometimes think of time much like the concept of high school physic’s explanation of matter in the universe.  Matter can neither be created nor destroyed however it can transition to and fro the states of energy and mass.  I feel the same about time.  It can be changed and reallocated but you cannot make more of it.  You can only spend it.  So make the most of your time.  You might think $ is the most important thing in your life or your family, but unfortunately they are not.  That is not to say they are not related to the importance of time, but every care you have is directly tied into the time you allocate to that matter of importance.  If you suck at time management, there is no time like NOW to get it under control.

SEPARATION AND ALLOCATION OF TIME
Separation of one’s personal life and business life are necessary.  When you are telecommuting that separation gets blurred.  Rather, the TIME you allocate to those separate aspects are more easily shared.  It is very easy to siphon personal time into professional time.  You might need an additional 30 minutes to finish something up.  At home that is easy, just spend the 30 minutes.  At an office, it can be quite different as you might be trying to beat traffic or catch a train.  So do yourself a favor and become very disciplined in setting certain limits to the allocation of your time.

GET A ROUTINE GOING
If you were going into the office, you’d hopefully take a shower and put on the appropriate attire.  No shit Justin! Well that might sound like a no-brainer but when you are working from home, you might just skip the shower, skip breakfast and work in your undies.  For me, a shower is not only a physical cleansing, it is also a mental cleansing.  I feel clean and therefore can think cleanly.  Its like washing off the ‘old you’ and getting a ‘brand new you’.  I like to think of this as part of “getting my game face on”.  I really visualize it as washing off yesterday.  In addition to that, suit up.  I don’t mean get a suit and tie on, but rather, dress for work.  Dress casually, but dress like you might be going somewhere.  Not just your PJs.

I consider myself a solitary person.  But as much as think that of myself, I still need some human interaction.  I need to KNOW that there are others around me.  I don’t need to talk to them but I do need to know I am not the last man on the planet.  When you work from home, ofttimes you may not see a soul until your significant other arrives home from work.  This can wear thin on you.  If you need to KNOW that people still exist, get your laptop and head out for an hour or two at a local coffee shop or WiFi location.  Grab a coffee and get to work.  You do it on the way to the office so why not do it here.  After a while, head out to another place.  Don’t be the weird dude who goes there everyday though.  Mix it up.  Hit Starbucks for a few days, then Panera Bread, and then Local Joe’s Coffee Shop for a few more.  Get a routine of going places occasionally.  This will reintroduce the human factor of the office back in your home office.

MINIMIZE DISTRACTIONS
If you can’t have the TV on while working, then turn it off.  It is as simple as that.  If you have kids at home who wanna see Sesame Street dot com, then head out for the coffee mentioned above.  The idea is to minimize distractions as best as possible.  Personally I can have the TV on and not be distracted.  I use it more for the emulation of the human factor I miss from work.  Something about knowing that that person on TV (generally from a cable news channel) is talking live.   Radio does it too.  But putting in a DVD or listening to music from a CD doesn’t help me as I realize subconsciously that is not a live broadcast.  Call me weird.

EAT AND DRINK AND WALK AROUND
I can’t stress this enough.  When in the office, you gotta eat and drink and walk around.  The very fact that the office is NOT your home means that you at least have to expend some energy to get there and probably you have to walk to go get food for lunch.  At home, physical activity is not as necessary since the fridge and bathroom are only a few steps away.  This becomes a BIG issue.  You might notice that working from home allows you to get into the FLOW.  When you are in the FLOW, time passes much more quickly.  Hours actually pass when you perceive only a few moments have passed.  Pretty soon you have noticed that, oops, you skipped lunch and it is 3:30.  This can have a serious impact on your health.  And the quickest way to get kidney stones?  Not drinking water.  So in order to preserve your health make sure you are eating and drinking regularly.  Drink crap loads of water.  I drink upto 3L a day.  Yeah, I had “da stones” so trust me.

One way of making sure you eat and drink and walk is to set lunch dates with old coworkers.  Another is to have a timer or some alarm set up that bothers the shit out of you to remind you to eat lunch, drink water, walk around.

THE END OF DAY IS THE END OF DAY…PERIOD
Lastly make sure you call it a day.  When 5 or 6 or whenever you would normally call it a day at the office hits, then shut off your computer and reenter your personal zone.  This is probably the hardest thing to do for me as I often get in the zone and wanna finish “one last thing before the day”.  Don’t.  Soon it EOD will have moved from 5 to 6 and then from 6 to 7 and then pretty soon you are working after dinner.  Nah man.  Just call it a day like any other day at the office.

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One thought on “Some advice on telecommuting

  1. Defining you work/life balance is very important. Once you set those parameters telecommuting become a very enviable work option.

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