Tips for Working from Home

Tips for Working from Home

Like many of you, I work from home. But unlike most of you, I’ve been doing it for over three decades, and it’s not as easy as you think.

Based on my decades of home work experience, here are the two techniques I find most useful.

Start your workday with a plan

I realized long ago that a to-do list is not a plan. So I start every workday by determining what to do today and how long to wait for each task. Then I highlight the three most important things to remind me to finish before tackling minor tasks.

Use the Pomodoro technique.

After taking my workday out in the morning, I use something called the Pomodoro Technique to help me stay around and get more work done in less time.

This technique only requires a timer and uses work intervals (traditionally 25 minutes) separated by short breaks. Each 25 minute session is called “pomodoro” (tomato in Italian) and regular breaks help improve your mental agility.

Here’s how:

  • Decide on a task.
  • Set a timer for 25 minutes.
  • Work on the task you chose in step 1 only until the timer goes off.
  • Check a sheet of paper when the timer goes off:
    4a. If you have less than four check boxes: Take a short break (3 to 5 minutes).
    or
    4b. If you have four check marks: Take a long break (15 to 30 minutes) and reset the number of check marks to zero.
  • Go back to step 1 and repeat the process.
  • If you are interrupted in the middle of Pomodoro, take note quickly and resume work immediately if possible. Otherwise, handle the interruption and restart the timer when you are done. Of course you want to avoid dropping your session as much as possible – after all, the goal is to end your session successfully. But sometimes things happen – use your common sense.

    Use a timer – any timer

    There are dozens of Pomodoro timers and apps in the App Stores; my favorite is called Zonebox, which is free on the Mac App Store. I like that I can load it in the morning with all my scheduled work and it shows the remaining time in two places: the menu bar and the window.

    Zonebox shows me the remaining time in two places.

    Or you can just ask Siri to ‘set a 25 minute timer’.

    Finally, I keep track of everything – my daily plan, key tasks and Pomodoro sessions – on a spreadsheet I invented called SuperPlan (a free download from www.tinyurl.com/SuperPlanPDF).

    I use my SuperPlan spreadsheet to plan every workday.

    In the beginning I often worked all day and late into the night. And I always had a hard time finishing my projects on time. Today, with my daily plan and my pomodoros, I finished more work before 5pm. then I worked after midnight.
    Planning and Pomodoro sessions are my secret weapons for doing more work every day in less time. If you haven’t used them yet, give them a try!

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