Best Math Books For Self Study In A Fun Way What 16 Years Working From Home Taught Me

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What 16 Years Working From Home Taught Me

In 2004, my wife Patty and I decided to homeschool our autistic son because we knew he would need more help when he entered middle school. I had spent 20 years in corporate America, working for both Accenture and Microsoft, but in the fall of 2004 I became their part-time math and science teacher, and spent the rest of my time doing business consulting and writing books.

Until then I always had a client or an office to go to. With the change of teacher/author/homeschool consultant, I now had nowhere to go every day. My office was our playroom where we studied at home, our home office or local coffee shops. It was definitely an adjustment and I learned a lot about how to be effective without going to a workplace. Now I can’t imagine it any other way.

In 2020, millions of people were quickly forced to work from home. When I started working from home sixteen years earlier, I had the advantage of preparing for my new life, a big difference from those who suddenly found themselves in work-from-home mode with little notice or preparation Some aspects of 2020 versus 2004 were easier and others more difficult, for example, the collaboration tools available in 2020 were simply non-existent in 2004. But the bottom line is that the changes were massive and required important adjustments.

In my 16 years without an office, I experienced many bumps and bruises to get into an effective work and life rhythm. The key to my learnings was the need to apply greater self-discipline on:

  • what do I do,

  • how do i manage my time

  • what and when i eat

  • how much i sleep

  • when and how I exercise,

  • like “turn off work”,

  • and how I interact with others.

It’s these bumps and bruises that I want to help others avoid when switching to a sustainable work-from-home lifestyle, which I’ve summarized in five lessons:

  1. Master the online experience – For Pete’s sake, if Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or other online meeting tools are integral to your business, take the time to really understand them and make sure the hardware you’re using creates the most positive experience for others who attend your meetings. Not knowing how to do things like screen sharing, giving others control to share your screen, or using an electronic whiteboard is akin to meeting a business partner face-to-face in a coffee shop with loud music and no chairs or tables When you reach for the tools, you send a clear message to your recipient that he or she is not important enough to create an exceptional online experience. Just as important, struggling with online meeting tools conveys that you’re slow to adapt to change.
  2. Plan “Done” not “Do” – Every Monday morning I review my to-do list and decide what I think I will have done by the end of the week. I then schedule time on my calendar throughout the week to work on each pending task, and then schedule a Friday 5pm meeting where I summarize what I’ve committed to doing this week. The key to this is to express your to-do list in terms of deliverables, or “done,” not in terms of activity, or “doing.” If you think only in terms of activity, you’re more likely to measure success in terms of how much time you spend doing something versus what you actually did.
  3. Put it all on your calendar – In my article “I Can’t Keep Up!” Six Principles for Using Your Calendar to Get More Done I talk about how to use your calendar not just as a work thing, but as a life thing. This is especially important when you work from home because the start and stop events of work, such as going to and from work, are no longer there. With those barriers gone, it’s much easier to be less respectful of your time. I’ve had to learn that working from home doesn’t mean I can work at any time; it means I had to be much more disciplined about when I would work and when I wouldn’t.
  4. Set clear expectations with loved ones – Working from home does not necessarily mean that you are always accessible. Having very clear expectations about when you will work and when you won’t work is crucial to your overall effectiveness. Patty and I send each other meeting notices for social gatherings or other gatherings where one of us will not be available for the other. This works great for keeping us aligned and making sure we don’t overcommit.
  5. Make physical and mental health a priority – Although there are great conveniences in working from home, it also means that you have to be more diligent in taking care of your physical and mental health. I never stay in my pajamas during the day, I schedule exercise time into my calendar, I eat meals outside of my workstation, I stick to a regular sleep schedule, and I *try* to be disciplined about snacking between meals. I also weigh myself regularly. This will help a lot if you want to maintain or lose weight and if you tend to wear stretchy clothes that won’t remind you if you’ve added an inch to your waist.

For many, working from home may be a long-term, if not permanent, reality. Consider these five lessons to help you design a sustainable and fulfilling work-from-home lifestyle.

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