How To Work From Home Like You Mean It

Working from home requires a new mindset and a good system, not just a nicer pair of pants (but put those on, too).

        Despite all the stories you’ve heard, the hardest part of working from home isn’t putting on pants every day.  I’ve been working from home, a few different homes, since late 2007. And the biggest thing I've learned during those four years is that working from home doesn’t have to change how you get work done, but it does change nearly everything else about your gig. When there are hard, regular deadlines and a constant flow of work, it is just like being at an office—with the added advantage that nobody else is there to interrupt my train of thought with an impromptu visit. And then there were times when I nearly broke down and told the boss the truth about why that weeklong project was in such sad shape: Because just when I need to focus it becomes clear that there are a lot of interesting links to look at on the Internet. Like this one. I'm far from the only person to have confronted the joys and challenges of telecommuting. So I asked a few productive work-from-homers what they would do differentl , if they could go back in time and reboot their office. Here’s a bit of home-working hindsight that might help you out the next time you’re going to work from home, whether it's for a day or a career.

        Look the Part, Be the Part
        It’s one of far too many great quotes from Proposition Joe in The Wire, and great advice for getting more done at home. Dressing for work and "arriving" on time, eating lunch on a rigid schedule, shaving, brushing, and so on seems pointless at first. But not doing these basic preparations is the start of a steep, Teflon-coated slope to all kinds of other transgressions. If you’re not dressed well enough to greet the UPS delivery person, you’re giving yourself license to hide. If you’re hiding, then you imagine nobody can see Netflix open on your second monitor. On and on it goes, until you spend a two-hour lunch watching Portlandia on your couch with your iPad, grabbing your way through a bag of kettle chips. After that you'll try and fake your way through an afternoon of self-loathing busywork. It’s not clever psychological trickery. It’s having respect for the work you do, wherever you do it. John Herrman, tech writer and assistant editor at Popular Mechanics, suggested in a Twitter chat that it's almost like treating your working self's worst tendencies like a prisoner of war, or maybe someone suffering from grief: Keeping up rituals, routines, and appearances is how you train yourself to do your work when you're supposed to, and set aside the fun stuff for after hours.

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