How to actually get work done – from home

3 lessons on why remote working doesn't have to drive you crazy.

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So here you are, working at the kitchen table.

Instead of leaning back into your comfortable office chair, your buttocks are getting sore from sitting on a stool. And your kids have taken over the part of your colleagues distracting you with questions that they could have answered for themselves, if they just gave it it try.

Life has suddenly become totally different and it seems that if we really want to stop this pandemic we might be working from home and socially distancing a bit longer. So here are 3 lessons on how to survive working from home and actually get some work done.

1. It’s different, but not that different

Reports say that parents working from home are going slightly mad, trying to manage the workload, helping their kids with their schoolwork and running a household. All that, in a place filled with distractions, is a sure way to get yourself into burnout. Especially when, because you feel you didn’t get enough work done, you go back to work at night, trying to finish your work.

If you are like that, maybe you should consider how you spend your days at the office. Surely you are not being productive 100% of the time while working there. You spend a lot of time talking to colleagues, dealing with tons of interruptions and doing stuff that is vaguely work related but not really that important. So compared to the office situation, your productivity might actually be not that different from what it is now. That is lesson no. 1.

2. Accept what is

Lesson no. 2 is that it’s probably better to acknowledge the fact that you won’t be able to focus all day, even if you tried. So, why not limit the time for work during the day and dedicate time to spend with your kids or deal with whatever interruptions there are?

Inform your colleagues, who are probably dealing with the same problem and who will surely understand that you are not available 24/7. And work out a deal with your kids and spouse, making clear when you will be available for them and when not.

This will prevent you from being distracted by your own feelings of despair and guilt and will increase your focus and productivity while working.

Limit working at night

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

If you can combine that with a two hour deep work session at night, say twice a week, you might actually find yourself getting more work done than usual. But doing that every night will simply wear you out and decrease your productivity and overall output. Don’t fall into that trap! Take time to recharge and make sure you’re fully fueled to cope with the workload and pressure. Also, bear in mind that we might be stuck with this situation for longer than we initially thought. Think of this as a marathon, not a sprint. Save your energy.

3. Zoom out

Last but not least: don’t fill your days with online meetings. It’s seems like something obvious, but apparently it isn’t. I see a lot of complaints of people getting worn down with constant Zooming, Teaming or whatever application they are using.

Being in a normal meeting already takes up a lot of energy, having a remote meeting requires even more of that. So, zoom out every now and then. Schedule breaks in between those meetings to refresh your mind. And also take some time to process your thoughts, notes and tasks that came out of the meetings. If you don’t do that, you will lag behind in no time and stress will definitely hit you.

If your time is limited, make sure you spend it on the right stuff.

The way to do that is to block your calendar. And yes, if this means you are only available for one meeting per day, than that’s the way it is! Just make sure it’s the right meeting. Maybe that is actually lesson no. 3: prioritize like you have never done before. If your time is limited, make sure you spend it on the right stuff. This is something we should always do, but in times like these we need it more than ever.

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