The intention here is to show that with discipline and goodwill, working from home may meet the friendly offices we have today.
I will describe a typical day, in my case and how I organize myself not to get so distracted to the point where I feel uncomfortable with my daily work.
When working from home, you can lose track of time, it is easy to burn the midnight oil, so I start and stop working as if I am going to the office.
There are those early birds and those night owls, find what is best for your mind, body and work.
The first move is to get dressed as if you were going to the office. Working with your underpants is not setting your mind in the right mood.
I write down my daily tasks on Google Keep, so I know what I have to do. Identifying daily tasks is crucial. Collect the required information to do the task beforehand because you don’t want to depend on someone else and block your progress.
Another detail that helped me is the separation of contexts. In my work machine, I have nothing from my personal life. I am not logged into my personal e-mail, social media, WhatsApp or whatever is not related to work. Separating work time and private time is what helps me to focus.
About focus. I need to have a clear definition of what needs to be done, I devote some time preparing what I have to do. I also have a plugin that blocks two news pages I used to check with a bizarre frequency while waiting for something and accessing it became an excuse to everything:
“I am waiting for X to respond so I will check the page”. X answers after 10 seconds and I wasted 10 minutes on that page. Be aware of what is draining your quality time and block/delete/pulverize it.
Slack is still a time drainer to me, I am looking for ways to use it without it being a pain. That red dot telling me a new message arrived is telling my brain to open it and so far, I am losing this battle. Hoping for a Slack alternative that is less invasive.
Going back to the task definition, in doing that, it helps me to find gaps in my knowledge that maybe I need to fix, try that.
There are days when I feel alone or in need to talk to someone about something cool I did. Sharing it on Slack is not the same. Use Slack call or hangouts and talk until there is no tomorrow, share your thoughts and frustrations. If possible, arrange a meeting somewhere, lunch, breakfast or dinner, have some quality physical time with people you care about.
About communication. We like to look at people when talking to them. You notice a lot of extra information. You can determine the mood, for example. Now everything is text, so you need to improve your reading and writing abilities. When reading, do it with interest, attention and without trying to figure out the writer’s intentions. When writing, be obvious, short and do not assume your reader always knows what you are talking about or that your reader has all the context that you do.
About the space. An obvious suggestion is, be comfortable. Good chair, desk, light, monitor, whatever you need to work better. I like to take a walk in my house from time to time to make my blood flow, stretch a bit. When I am blocked, sometimes I go outside for a walk, and most of the time, it helps me to have a different perspective.
About family. I am married and have two kids, 9 and 5. There are days when I am left alone with my 5-year-old. When that happens, distraction is a certainty, “dad, can you…”, “dad, come play”, “dad (a universe of possibilities)”. In situations like that, I try my best to explain that although I am at home, I am working and he gets that until the next time he needs me or gets bored of being alone.
My wife and oldest son are well aware of my working time. When it is 6 PM sharp, they call me to do dad/husband/house stuff, and that is when my personal life begins and work life ends.
I have a suggestion. When changing contexts, leaving work and heading to your personal life, give it some time, let your mind settle down, go for a walk or read a book. I failed many times in not doing that and mixing things, not being present with my wife and kids because I was thinking about that bug. Being impatient with my kids because of a bad day at work. They have nothing to do with a broken VPN pipe or a customer that is complicated to deal with.
That separation is vital. Not easy but doable, a good exercise for the mind.
Be there for your family, always. When in need, they will be there for you, not your super APIs, databases, customers, iPhones, super cool console/PC, investors and etc. But your family will.
Family first, remember that.
Perhaps it will work for you the same way it does for me, maybe it won’t. I believe there is no secret rule, just tips like mine, consider what works for you, try it, adapt it. The beauty of humans is in our differences.