Tips on working from home

and not going nuts


Many people are waking up to the fact that in the midst of a global pandemic-virus-apocalypse scenario you are amongst the lucky ones if you can work from home.

Despite the rather smug government advice to ‘work from home if you can’, there are only a few of us who  actually can. It’s not so easy if you are a bricklayer, or a vet, or part of the emergency services. But if you are one of us who basically sits in front of a computer or uses the phone to do the bulk of your day-to-day business, then you are probably already on the sofa with the laptop burning your thighs as you read this.

I’ve worked from a home based office for nearly twenty years and I can safely say that I am more productive than I ever was when part of a ‘vibrant work environment’. There are a bunch of reasons for this, some to do with personal discipline and some to do with the cumbersome way corporate life dictates work patterns. So here are a few tips to staying sane and being productive.

The To-Do list is king

Obvious. But be specific. Don’t just write ‘call Tony’, define what the outcome should be. Then Tony stands no chance. The key unwritten rule about to do lists is to make them really selfish, forget all the corporate meeting waffle and define what you want – then get it done.

And yes, it is OK to write something on the list after you’ve done it just so you can cross it out.

Keep a timesheet

No listen – this works even if you don’t charge your time. You will quickly discover the disconnect between how long we think something takes to get done and how much time it really takes. Basically the stuff you dislike feels like it takes longer than it actually does, once you see it reduced to its actual insignificance on your timesheet you suddenly get a perspective on it. Split the day into 15 minute chunks.

This knowledge allows to to plan your day more easily. Working from home is very different from an office, don’t be afraid of adapting the way you are used to working.

Get out of the meeting mindset

You will suddenly find out how much time is spent talking about doing stuff rather than actually doing it. Then you’ll identify the people in the office who only talk about it. Meetings are often a way out of making decisions, they generate agendas and minutes but often little else. Use the to-do list to defeat this, list achievements rather than discussion points or things to ask other people about.

She’s not laughing now she has to work from her sofa

Sort your work hours out

Decide when you want to finish each day, probably that will be the normal 5pm if you’re a lightweight, or the 7pm if you’re really committed to climbing that greasy corporate ladder.

Now a big component of being productive at home is not being interrupted. Personally I like to start early, firstly because I’ve always been an early riser, but mainly because I can get a couple of hours at least done before my clients are in the office. Interruptions are the biggest problem, sometimes just let that call go to answerphone and deal with it when you are finished.

Whatever hours you decide on, stick to them, keep some sense of division between work and home life.

Don’t stand staring into the fridge

Seriously the fridge is your biggest hurdle to get over. You will find yourself staring into it’s depths hoping to be tempted by a delicacy. Anything rather than finishing that report. Drink lots of water, it’ll fill you up and you’ll be in the loo rather than the kitchen.

Don’t be afraid of Youtube or Netflix

You can watch that boxset and be productive. Just don’t tell anyone.

One phone call can save a dozen emails

You know it does, if you are keeping a To-Do List and a Timesheet then phone calls are your biggest ally. Don’t send an email and wait a day for an answer, get them on the phone and sort it, then cross it off your list.