How to make 'work from home' work for you
When I moved back to Jamshedpur, my hometown, in 2016, my family thought I was crazy. My father used to wonder whether I was doing “real work” or simply goofing around in my room.
Crossing over to 2020: The pandemic has forced most of us to work from home!
I am happy that a lot of people no longer have to be part of the rush hour, or get involved in the obligatory discussion in our bay area.
That said, I see a lot of my friends complain that they are working more than ever.
They are worried that people might think they're lazy and that's why they are always ON. There are no clear boundaries between work and personal life.
In this guide, let's figure out what are some broad ideas that can help us get over this feeling of insecurity while working remotely. This is my comprehensive guide to staying productive at home, by focusing on big ideas and not being prescriptive about tools or hacks.
“Many people think they lack motivation when what they really lack is clarity.” – James Clear
A lot of the times we get stuck because we don't have clarity about our tasks and their priorities. This feeling of overwhelm freezes us.
This is where a note-taking system and a personal todo list come to the rescue. Investing the time to create a solid process for notes and task management will pay you heavy dividends in the future.
The work that we do has become complex and entrepreneurial. Trying to figure this out in our head is a fool's errand.
“A good rule of thumb is that any environment that consistently leaves you feeling bad about who you are is the wrong environment” ~ Laurie Helgoe
In an office, an optimal working environment is set up by default. You have an ergonomic chair, air-conditioning, good lighting, strong internet connection amongst many other facilities. All of this to make sure your focus is on the project at hand.
Now when we switch to working at home, we are suddenly exposed to a degree of freedom with which we have never dealt with before. This is where we have to be mindful of the distractions available to us.
How you deal with the distractions which fall under your locus of control, determines whether remote work can work for you. With great power, comes great responsibility.
You have to be deliberate in crafting some rituals and creating an environment which supports these rituals. Some examples could be
This ensures that your precious cognitive ability will be spent on getting things done by avoiding decision fatigue during the work day.
“Three to four hours of continuous, undisturbed deep work each day is all it takes to see a transformational change in our productivity and our lives.” - Cal Newport
In Cal Newport’s book, Deep Work, he formulates that Work Done is a function of Time and Intensity.
We are no longer in the industrial age where output is directly proportional to our input. The quality of our work is heavily dependent on the quality of our thoughts. Being reactive with our emails, slack messages or twitter can become an impediment in creating the best version of our work.
Putting more hours isn’t going to make up for the lack of flow. Practise "structured procrastination" where you have fixed times of the day where you can do shallow tasks like checking your inbox. Make a conscious effort to have long blocks of time in the first half of the day where you can get in the right state of mind to consistently create.
You will be surprised by how much you can get done before lunch once you start practising the habit of deep work.
"A shutdown ritual is a set routine of actions that you perform at the end of each work day to finalize your day and signify that your work day is done." - Cal Newport
We’re less likely to make an effective impact if we work from a position of weakness and exhaustion. And this is likely to happen if we don't prioritise rest and reflection.
This ritual specifically gives you a chance to review your task list and journal about how your day went. Once your shutdown ritual is over, you can confidently cut yourself away from your work notifications and relax. Funnily this rest period also gives your subconscious a chance to process your ideas.
The work day is done. And you can come back tomorrow with a rejuvenated spirit.
This guide comes with a couple of caveats
My intention for writing this guide was not to give you the answers but to provide some food for thought so that you can figure out your own playbook.
The odds are pretty high that you will falter. Do not despair.
"Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections but instantly set about remedying them—every day begin the task anew." —Saint Francis de Sales
All the Internet gurus, Lifehacker articles and social media updates, have lulled us into a productivity mindset that sets us up for shame, rather than success. Be wary of this toxic nature of productivity.
Let's treat this freedom as a blessing. Let's be grateful that we can get things done when, where, and how we work best.
We no longer have to jump up from bed, get ready and leave for the day. Instead we can be there for our parents, whenever they need us. We can have lunch with our family. We can enjoy a short burst of playtime with our kids. And we can go out for a walk without worrying about the opinion of our co-workers.
Let’s make this work!