Dealing with the isolation factor when working from home.

Working from home has many rewards, but it also presents its challenges. Not least of which is the isolation factor.

I am not the world’s most social person and I have no desire to re-enter the retail world that I once inhabited. There are times though when working from home can get pretty lonely and while no two days are ever the same, there are times when it can become mundane and a little ho-hum. These are the days that I find the most dangerous. It’s easy to lose a couple of hours watching music videos, or sports highlights. It’s easier still to convince myself that I’m being productive when I’m really just pushing files around my computer.

I find that the best defence against these days is to have a working plan that gets updated on a daily basis.

The importance of planning when working from home

On one of the numerous management courses that I attended in my previous working life, we were told that those who fail to plan, plan to fail. It’s one of those cliches that actually contain plenty of wisdom. I’m a fly by the seat of my pants type of guy, and planning doesn’t come naturally to me. I know what I want to do. It’s just a matter of doing it, or so I thought.

But some days, knowing what I want to do is simply not enough. There’s always tomorrow, I think to myself. That’s a pretty poor attitude, one that you can get away with when you’re working for a major financial institution, but one that doesn’t pay the bills when you simply have to produce results.

I went through a really bad phase some time ago now, when I allowed extraneous issues to get the better of me and my working hours became less than unproductive. It took a major attitude shift to reassert myself and part of that attitude shift required that I map out what my plans were. The change in productivity has been enormous. Planning keeps me on track. Not all days are super productive and days like today, where the Test Cricket is on the TV can be quite challenging.

Planning routine

Every Monday, I review my work and prioritise what I need to do. I’ve tried a myriad of different software planners and I have to say that I find the best device is an exercise book. It helps me to keep track and to set daily goals These daily goals help to keep me accountable. Keeping the exercise book close also allows me to scribble down any bright ideas and thought bubbles that I may have. Before I started this practice, I’d often pursue those thought bubbles along tangents that led me down dark alleys.

Consistent planning allows me to review those thought bubbles and prioritise and strategise accordingly.

Breaking the Day Up

Working from home nearly ended my marriage. I became so obsessed with making sufficient money that I lost track of the really important things.

It’s important to have balance. I remember one of my district managers asking me how many hours my staff were actually productive. I answered honestly and said about 50% of the time. He smiled and said that was the most honest answer he’s had. “People are not robots.” They get distracted. They have personal lives. If you’re getting that much out of them you’re doing pretty well.

A fully productive five to six hours is quite an achievement and should be celebrated.

I can sit at my computer for twelve hours or longer and, to be honest, I won’t get much more achieved than I would have if I just worked full-on for six hours. To get the most out of myself I need to take breaks. I take the dog for a walk, I might go out and do some gardening, or I just might spend some time outside. I need to heed the warning signs and take some time to smell the flowers.

I love working from home, it has taken me too long to understand that it has its own rhythms and disciplines. Now that I do, I love it all the more.

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