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Day Six: Telecommuting Ninja

I worked from home today and it was GLORIOUS! I was able to accomplish more before 11am than I had gotten done all week. Mainly because a large chunk of my week has consisted of this:

I love working in super collaborative environments with diverse teams, but once in a while a lady just needs to get stuff done. And I have to say, when analysis calls for pouring over hours and hours of video, this lady would much rather be in jammies.

One of my heros, Tim Ferris, talks about automating your life in his amazing book Four Hour Work Week. Tim says that we should not spend time doing things that make us feel busy, and we should use subtle mind tricks to get out of pointless meetings. He also points out the 80/20 rule, that 80% of the work we do takes 20% of our time, and we should find ways to alleviate the tasks that are wasting our time to focus on what really matters to us. My favorite principle that Tim talks about is Parkinson’s Law.

“Parkinson’s Law dictates that a task will swell in (perceived) importance and complexity in relation to the time allotted for its completion.”

Tim explains, if you are given 2 weeks to do a task or 12 hours to do the task…you will get it done either way. If you do the task in 12 hours, the pressure will force you to get down to business and focus on what really matters. If you are given 2 weeks, you have 13 days to freak out, put the task off, or over deliver to a level that is not appropriate/good for business.

I feel like working from home is a great way to bear down and get stuff done. If you are good at working from home you can tune out distractions and produce creative/insightful work that does not have the time to incubate when you are working in 45 minute chunks between meetings.

I personally would love to work from home all of the time. For me I would save about $300 a week between the cost of my dog walker and the cost of my commute. I would cut close to 2 hours of travel out of my day which I could spend being an awesome wifey. Unfortunately my company does see the value of working from home. They think that work from home=free vacation day..it just isn’t very culturally acceptable.

The problem is, a lot of people are really bad at working from home. I really think that only take advantage of the telecommuting opportunity. To me, it is critical that when I work from home I produce more, higher quality work than when I am in the office. I set goals for myself for the day, and make sure that I meet them. I answer every call, and respond to every email/text within minutes (Tim Ferris would kick my ass for that). I need to make it clear that I am in it to win it, and that I am not taking advantage of the opportunity. Did I get a load of laundry done while I worked today? Yes…but it took less time than walking from my office to the bathroom would have if I were at work.

So now that we have decided that we are going to get stuff done when we work from home the question is: How do we get really good at working from home so we can sneak in more loads of laundry (or other small daytime errands)?

Learn how to manage your time

This one will help you in every area of your life. For me it is all about Parkinson’s law and a heavy dose of positive reinforcement. This is blog post #6 for me (20% for anyone who is keeping track!!) On average each post has taken between 2 and 4 hours to conceive, draft, edit, visually support, and broadcast. Which doesn’t include the following time spent refreshing my browser to see how many hits I have gotten. I am just having so much fun doing it, that I haven’t wanted to limit myself.  Tonight I decided write and publish the post in under an hour (and reward myself with some Soy Ice cream). I thought about what I wanted to say all day, so when it came time to hit the keyboard I was ready to run. If you are trying to really get a hold of your time management follow these simple steps:

Create a list of prioritized goals for the day- your goals should be measurable and achievable, and ranked by urgency and importance. I like to write my daily goals on my gigantic whiteboard when I work from home. Today’s goals were: Tag video from Concord Optics, Tag video from  Roger’s Funeral Home, Tag video from Adamien, Enter data into spreadsheet, QC spreadsheet, confirm travel arrangements, review proposal to prep for pitch tomorrow, review protocol for next week’s research, do a load of laundry, write blog, finish (start) expense report. You will notice that this list is pretty specific. I could have just had: Tag all videos…but that was a 4 hour task which too big of a task to be easily managed.

Assign tight but achievable times to each task- I like to keep things in 15 minute segments.

Create a reward structure- The scale of the reward should be directly correlated to the amount of time the task took (or how crappy the task was). I like to use rewards to mix up my day and make sure I stay fresh. Today I took Libby for a walk after pouring through an especially terrible video, and started laundry as a brain break after quality checking my spreadsheet. Sometimes my reward is as simple as getting up and doing some situps or pushups. The key for me is to define rewards at the beginning of the day.

Evaluate success- In some cases you may not stay on schedule, or you may get thrown for a loop. I like to keep track of the goals I met and the factors that kept me from completing my goals so I can learn from them. If you just can’t figure out where your time is going, try rescue time robot. This is an application you download to your computer to track the time you spend using each program or visiting each website. https://www.rescuetime.com/

You control your environment, it doesn’t control you

Read any article about “how to work from home” and you will hear- make sure your workspace is comfortable, buy a great chair and a desk you love to sit at… I am all for being comfortable, but I also think getting setup for success at home doesn’t need to cost a ton of money. I am currently sitting a chair from IKEA, working at a desk hacked together with crap from IKEA, and staring at my gigantic whiteboard that we bought at a rummage sale for a dollar. For me controlling my environment goes way beyond picking out my office furniture.  Controlling my environment means not giving myself the opportunity to get distracted.

Comfort first- A lot of articles talk about how important it is to get dressed like you are going to work (or wear buttons as I like to call it). For some people this act of officially getting ready signals to their brain that they should work…for me I am perfectly happy and productive when I am Jammie-suited-up.


I am more concerned with temperature control that dress code. I like to make sure that my mini-office is warm, and that I stay bundled.  

Arms reach- At the start of the day I make sure I have everything that will help me do my job in my immediate area. This means every piece of technology and paperwork I could possibly need along with a couple snacks and drinks. I have even moved my office downstairs so that I am less than 3 feet from the bathroom. I don’t leave my little area while I am in task completion mode.

Control your senses- This one requires a bit of self knowledge. For me, visual stimuli is no big thing. I like having a window, and am not distracted by clutter or stuff hanging on the wall. For a certain lady I live with, no task can be started until the area is pristine. I am personally nuts about sound. To do my best work I need silence, or my guilty pleasure, The Biebs playing on repeat. When I can hear other people’s conversations (or the flute tuning) at work I just can’t get in the zone. Know your triggers and do everything you can to remove them.

You have to collaborate to innovate

I have spent months traveling and years working on teams that cover more than 5 time zones, both have taught me how to master working on teams that are not co-located. If you are truly going to master working remotely it is critical to figure out which pieces of technology will help drive your success. For me Skype, Webex/GoTomeeeting, and Google Docs are all critical. I will also set up secure blogs for projects so that the whole team can collaborate asynchronously…in sort of an online war room.  I think the leaders of tomorrow are going to be the people who rock at remote collaboration.

This post took 1 hour and 8 minutes to complete…finding the suitjama image was my downfall. Now time for some Soydelicious!

Do you work from home? What have been the secrets to your success? What have been your biggest challenges?


Day Six- Telecommuting Ninja

Reader Comments (1)

I love this! http://www.fastcoexist.com/1678967/an-office-designed-to-keep-employees-working-from-home

December 12, 2011 | Registered CommenterBeth Werner

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