Work-from-home & work-for-yourself tips

Work-from-home & work-for-yourself tips
Photo by NEOM / Unsplash

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A while ago, I sent this quick and casual note to a friend. He just quit working for a large PE firm and transitioned into starting his practice. He said he related so much and that I should share it publicly, so here it goes

Problems:

  • You are alone
    • No one is watching
    • Feels no strong reason to kill it
    • Peer pressure is gone
  • You are at home
    • Sleep and eating areas tend to merge with work
  • You have no real deadlines
    • I don’t know how long things take
    • Do I REALLY need to work right now??
    • Feels no pressure

Solutions:

You are alone

Remember why you are doing what you are doing. Keep your eyes on the prize. Try to schedule regular but useful calls with your colleagues, make sure you aren’t wasting their time though. This would add a bit of normalization to the work you are doing. Adds a layer of accountability and attachment to the work.

You are at home

Since you are at home, you don’t have to work the same hours you do in the office. If you work 4 hours a day, that’s actually quite good. The average in-office worker does less than 3 hours/day of work. Since this is a new venture. You are doing taxing work, less mechanical bullshit, this is way more draining to your brain. So don’t feel bad that you didn’t put in the crazy hours.

You should consider making your home office even more of an office and less of a home. This means an office outside your bedroom if you don’t do that already, or facing a wall/window so you don’t see the bed. Leave your phone somewhere else, you are in the office with people.

If you are working on a personal laptop, create a work user. In that user, you are at work. The boss is watching you so don’t watch YouTube or scroll Instagram there.

Take your lunch break. Leave the office, go to the living room or wherever, and eat, drink, lounge, and stay on your phone.

Consider getting an office in a co-working space. I personally don’t right now, however, when I feel like I’m getting too cozy, I go to a nearby quiet cafe for a change of scene and that usually gets me to be super productive.

You have no real deadlines

You have to break down your day. Your day should have 1-3 tasks or so. A task that takes a week or two is hard to progress on. This way, you know, you have done your tasks for the day, go chill, have a beer.

Add some artificial pressure by promising your colleague something by some date. But be realistic, push it if it becomes unrealistic but don’t get in the habit of pushing it.

Sometimes, there is downtime, so enjoy it and don’t freak out because you aren’t doing much. If you are still freaked out, find more real work.

This is hard to get used to. You are now someone who works for themselves, no one is going to complain that your work isn’t done. So you have to find motivation from within and trick yourself into getting things done. This is a big problem with new PhD students, entrepreneurs, etc… you can always “deliver” something but the quality would vary dramatically and no one is there to scold you.

I sometimes use the Pomodoro method to focus for 25 minutes and screw around for 5 minutes for 3-hour stints. Bells get you back to work, ditch the phone, tell the world you won’t be available. You can see which tricks work with you.

Tools for success

It might be helpful to invest in planners and tools that work with you. I personally use Notion, Notion Calendar, Apple to-do list, a handy notebook, random Pomodoro website. Worth experimenting a bit, you came from a strict office environment where the latest and greatest productivity tools aren’t accessible or allowed. Maybe it’s time to experiment a bit. But I recommend keeping them simple.

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