Category: Time Management

Managing the urge to do housework while working remotely

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When you work from home it’s common to want to tackle a few chores around the house. And it’s easy to see why: When you’re working down the hall from the laundry room why not throw in a load in between calls or vacuum the living room during your lunch break rather than on Sunday afternoon? You do one small chore here and there, which seems harmless enough but overtime your lunch break to-do list might comprise things that could take an entire Saturday! This can leave you feeling strapped for time, stressed, and if you share a living space with a partner, family, or friends even a bit resentful. Oh and on top of this your work may suffer!

So how do you find the right balance between your work and housework, while working from home? What do you do when you feel overwhelmed by the large list of chores you’ve put made for yourself as a WFH employee? Here are a few tips:

  1. Remember that before you were remote you got all (or most!) of your housework done. When you were heading into the office or worked in a more “traditional” I’m assuming you found time to wash the sheets. You found time outside of your workday then and can do so now.
  2. Just because you’re at home doesn’t mean you should be focused on the home. Sure it can seem really appealing to get some housework or errands done so you have more free time to yourself on the weekend but there’s something to be said about not cramming 10 different tasks into your already packed workday. On top of this it’s really important to remember that you’re still working. A real-life job. That pays you. So, that work needs to get done.
  3. Remember that real breaks are important. Your body needs time in between meetings and large blocks of work. Popping outside to mow the lawn doesn’t count. If you’re constantly finding things to do during breaks it’s not really a break since your mind isn’t being given the spare to clear. Allow yourself 15 minutes for a coffee without wiping down the kitchen counters. Trust me.
  4. Cut yourself some slack and make sure others do as well. I live alone so if the sink is full of dirty dishes at 6 pm because I had a day full of meetings and I’m tired after work I’m okay with it. Give yourself this wiggle room and if you share a living space be sure your partner, family, or roommates do as well. Have a conversation about expectations with those you share a space with; it always surprises me that even the most well-intentioned and empathetic of people can forget that you’re working a job and can’t just do all the housework during your 9-5.
  5. When you get overwhelmed just stop. You may have noticed that I’ve been on a bit of a blogging hiatus these past few weeks. During July and early August I had a lot going on in my full-time job, my career coaching side business, oh and I relocated from Atlanta to Chicago (more on the move as a remote employee another time!) I was stressed, tired, and overwhelmed. I had to prioritize and I decided to pull back in blogging for a bit while I got through the move. When you sense yourself getting overwhelmed and taking on too much hit pause, regroup, and prioritize. Don’t let your flexibility make you become inflexible.

Does this ring true for anyone else? Do you find yourself taking on housework here and there while teleworking? Is this a problem for you or does it work? Share in the comments below!

How to Ask Your Boss to Work From Home

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You want to ask your boss to work from home. Maybe you have some recent changes in your family like the birth of a new baby or an aging parent has moved nearby. Maybe you’ve recently moved or your office has relocated and you’re now spending 3 hours in the car commuting. Maybe you’ve simply realized that being in the office all day, every day is simply not conducive to you doing your best work. Whatever the case, you’re interested in a little more flexibility and are ready to have the conversation. Easy right? Not always, this can be a daunting and intimidating topic. Here are 10 tips for this conversation:

  1. Frame it in a way your boss will understand and find value in. This is #1. Highlight how this new work set-up will benefit your company. Yes, companies want their workforce happy and healthy but what they most want is productivity and a good bottom line. Think about what your manager most values and show how some flexibility will help your team and company achieve this.
  2. Keep personal gains out of it. Yes you’ll have the opportunity to walk your dog more and will be able to throw in laundry in between meetings. This a personal benefit that your manager does not, I repeat, does not care about. Keep this out both because it doesn’t present any value add to your manager, in fact it might suggest that you will be spending more time with your pooch or keeping house than working.
  3. Consider what’s appropriate and realistic. All companies and teams are different; some are keen on flexibility some are not. You know your company and manager so spend some time thinking about what is a reasonable request. Maybe your firm will respond best to one day a week, or a month, or an afternoon after you have a doctor’s appointment. Spend some time thinking about what’s a reasonable amount of flexibility and pith that.
  4. Prepare for the conversation. Don’t wing it. If you have regular check-ins this is an appropriate time to bring this up; if you don’t (you should and that’s a different story..) ask for a check-in to talk about your role. Do it behind closed doors and come prepared with a specific plan (based on what you feel is appropriate and reasonable) for your boss to react to.
  5. Don’t demand an immediate answer. No one likes to be put on the spot and you never know what meeting or conversation a person just came from Don’t make your boss feel as if she has to make a decision right then and there; in fact if you make it clear that you want her to think about this and get back to you. She’ll likely appreciate the time to mull it over, especially if this would be new for your team or if she mat have to run it past her manager.
  6. Suggest a trial period. Particularily if this would be a new step for your company suggest starting with a short, trial period. Identify a window of time and schedule a check-in at the end of this period for you to discuss how the flexible set-up is working.
  7. Work hard. If you get the yes you’re looking for that’s great news, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to coast. In fact it’s the opposite; you need to prove to your company that you can handle this responsibility and your work won’t be compromised. Said differently: don’t slack off. Work hard, post results, show that flexibility doesn’t take away from your productivity but enhances it. You must be responsible and disciplined for your success here.
  8. Be flexible. Since you’re asking for flexibility you need to be flexible. In my experience this can mean coming even last minute even if I had planned to be at my home due to a last minute client meeting or a presentation. Especially if you’re in a trial period you need to ensure that your schedule is accommodating and flexible, since it won’t go over well if your new flexible schedule makes it harder for work to get done.
  9. Prepare for a no. Some companies, some teams, some managers simply don’t like remote work. No is an answer and if you ask for something you need to be prepared for it. If you get a negative response don’t wallow but keep on doing your thing. And while you do this…
  10. Think about how important flexibility is to you. If you’re reading this blog you likely have some interest in work flexibility (or you’re my mom–hi mom!!) If you bring it up to your boss you clearly have interest in it. If your manager shuts down the idea or you know your company simply won’t go for it, I’d encourage you to spend some time really thinking about whether this is something you want or need to be successful–and most importantly, happy–in your job and life. If it is then it may be time to consider a role that offers you the flexibility that you desire.

Workplace flexibility is a growing trend that can benefit a company and team in big ways. What else have you found to work (or not work) when asking for a flex-schedule?

Avoiding distractions when working from home

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: working from home is awesome. You can work in yoga pants on your patio, avoid a traumas of a long commute, avoid the distractions of your co-workers at the office, accept a mid-day delivery, and much, much more. But that’s not to say there are no distractions at home. In fact it can often be the very opposite. You can also be tempted to watch “just one episode” on Netflix, prepare everything on your “#EAAATS” Pinterest board, or talk yourself into a mid-afternoon nap.

So how do you strike the right balance between the freedom of remote work with the responsibility of being employed? Where does a break end and a distraction start? And what distractions are okay in moderation and what are simply inappropriate while on the job?

This one is hard and honestly, really varies based on what you do, who you work for (working full-time for a big company versus running your own business from your house are two very different things), and your personal work-style. Here’s my take on 5 specific distractions I’ve recently been asked about:

  1. TV. This is a don’t for me. I’ve written before about taking breaks and will say that watching a short program can be a part of my lunch sometimes. But I draw the line at having television on at any other point of the day. Maybe you’re one of those people who needs noise. I will never fully understand that 🙂 but I do understand that everyone works differently and some people may need light noise. Still, I say music is a much better option since TV is not only a proven distraction but call me old-fashioned, watching television simply doesn’t seem like something you should be doing while being paid to do your job. So whether you’re employed by a big company or have a couple clients in a business you run on your own, stay away from your flat screen while in work mode.
  2. Naps. This is another one I personally say not to do. Or at least spend some time really making a judgement call based on your situation. While some companies are beginning to encourage power naps during the day, to me sleeping at your own home is an activity that should reserved for when you’re not on the clock. With this said, everything is case-by-case; if you’re a salaried employee and tend to work 10 hour days starting at 5 am a mid-day nap might be just what you need. Again, use your judgment and gauge your personal situation.
  3. Social media. Ten years ago there’s no way you’d imagine checking Facebook or Twitter to be something that’s okay to do occasionally at work. But as these outlets evolve and increasingly become our news sources how we use them changes too. I would never advocate to have Facebook open all day (and will always say to use your own device versus your company computer!) but quickly checking to see what’s trending, reading an article tweeted about your industry, or even posting the occasional #tbt isn’t the end of the world.
  4. Using another personal device. In moderation I say this is fine. Checking the news via Twitter or on CNN.com, sure but editing photos on your MacBook or playing games on your tablet not so much.
  5. Doing other work. No. No, no no no no. One more time: no. Maybe you run a side business or write a blog (both like me!), if so read carefully: your slated time to work is to work. If you run your own business there may be more blurred lines and you have the discretion to toggle from one project to another, but if you are employed by a firm and are expected to work from 9-5 or bill hours do not use this time to do anything else.

There are some boundaries clearer than others but generally speaking if you have a company modern enough to be employing you as a remote worker you likely have some freedom. It comes down to the fact that you need to be a responsible, working adult. So keep that in mind before engaging in a behavior.

Still unsure? Try this: if you’d have a difficult time explaining your behavior to your manager (or it feels wrong to you!) then don’t do it.

How do you balance the distractions of your home office? Have you created any “rules” for yourself that you find particularly important or helpful to follow? Share in the comments below!

When You Can Work From Anywhere, Here’s How to Do It Well

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One of the great perks of being a remote worker is that you can work from anywhere. I have a work space in my home in Atlanta but I often work from my desk in my childhood bedroom when I visit my parents, or from a kitchen table when I visit friends, or from random coffee shops or even airports while in transit. It’s a huge perk for me but like everything else with this work from home life, it’s about give and take.

Last week (and a bit of the week before) I was traveling. I flew up to Boston, worked from my cousin’s place for a day and a half so that I was able to drive to my grandmother’s in Vermont Friday after work, then I headed to New Hampshire on Sunday to spend Mother’s Day with my other grandmother and family. After that I flew to Kentucky to work from my company HQ for a week.

It’s a perk that I personally value tremendously but it can be exhausting and not without its challenges (like scrambling in the dark to get the wifi to work before your hosts wake up since you are working on a different time zone!) Even with its challenges I am quite aware of the fact that my job is affording me this great benefit so I refuse to let my location choices negatively impact my performance. So how do I do that?

When I travel like this I ask myself what my priorities are. For me it often includes a range of items from seeing family and friends, exploring new areas, eating good (but healthy) food, exercising, writing blog posts (hi!), connecting with clients on my side business, giving myself some quiet time, oh, and of course excelling at my day job since again, they are enabling me to work like this. Like everything else in life it comes down to choices.

On the recent trip I described above, along with my full-time job my top priority was to see my family. That meant that I didn’t get to exercise as much as I normally would at home, I wasn’t able to prepare (or choose) my own meals, and I wasn’t able to blog for a week (sorry!) And that’s okay, because that’s the give and take of being able to be location agnostic.

People often envy what a WFH set up allows, and I certainly see where that comes from. But what they don’t always anticipate is that with it comes responsibility and the need to really ask yourself what a particular trip, or even day, is going to be about. It’s important for my to keep myself in check regarding so my work doesn’t sacrifice for the sake of the flexibility it affords me.

How do you take advantage of, and balance, your flexibility? Have you ever worked from a friend or family member’s home? What challenges and benefits has a remote set up afforded you and how do you manage it?

Why you must get up early even as a WFH employee

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The other week I was answering some very fair questions from my parents about how my work from home job actually works (“But Janie what do you do all day?”) Since it’s often helpful for people to understand another person’s experience by considering their own reality, at one point my mom began to talk me through her own daily routine. She started and really focused on her morning. She gets up pretty early, pours a cup of coffee (side note: she and my dad have this adorable/practical rule that whoever gets up first makes the first pot of coffee and whoever gets up second makes the bed), walks outside to get the paper then spends 10 minutes reading The Star Ledger (#jersey) at the kitchen table. She noted that she always does a biiiiiig stretch on the patio outside (which I can actually visualize her doing), which may seem like a trivial part of her morning but is actually really important to her. It’s part of how she greets and begins her day: regardless of whether it’s 80 degrees or 20 degrees she does this and it has become part of her ritual.

I’ve always believed that mornings set the tone for the day. And rituals set the tone of our mornings. I studied Anthropology in college and rituals are proven to be vital parts of our lives and cultures. They create comfort and routine and contribute to us feeling like ourselves. A morning ritual can be just as important as a family ritual like hanging Christmas stockings together during the holidays in that if you don’t do it you can feel off.

When you are a remote employee and don’t have children or pets to care for, or a partner getting up early to begin his or her day, it can be incredibly difficult to get up early. If I don’t have a meeting until 9:30 that I don’t have to actively participate in it can be appealing to lay half asleep in bed until 7:30, 8, or even 8:30. But what that does that get me? A little more non-restful sleep. And more importantly it takes time away from my own time.

I don’t have complex AM routines. Sometimes I workout but more times than not I let myself wake up leisurely: I make coffee, open the front door to see what the weather is like, sometimes I make a big breakfast but a lot of times I sit down and turn on the news or draft a blog post while having my morning coffee. Since I am so acutely aware of ensuring my 9-5 work-time is dedicated to work this is some of the only time really set aside for me when I’m motivated and ready to take on the day. I really like to enjoy it because it’s allllll mine. Only after easing myself into my day with my rituals do I feel ready to tackle what’s ahead.

When you head into an office you might have anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours of time to yourself as you get ready and commute. Yes many people have to get kids ready and drop them off; but hopefully they carve out a a small moment to themselves, even if it’s a slow deep breath before leaving their car or getting off the train. As a remote employee it’s critical to give yourself even this time for a deep breath before you start your day.

What’s your morning ritual? Do you need to get your gym-time in? Read or watch the news? Share below!

Why do I feel guilty taking breaks?

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If you read this blog (*insert upside-down smiley emoji*) you know that I’ve been working remotely full-time for the past few months. Prior to this I’ve been lucky enough to always enjoy flexibility as part of my full-time jobs and have always had the opportunity to work from my home to varying degrees. As I reflect on my journey to teleworking full-time I think a lot about the similarities and differences between this and going into an office daily, a lot of which I strive to capture in this blog. One has kept creeping up in my thoughts lately: taking breaks.

We all need breaks to function. Studies show taking regular breaks in between bursts of work then, well, working again, improves creativity and productivity whereas not taking breaks can lead to stress and exhaustion.

But I’ve noticed that when I take breaks while working remotely I feel significantly more guilt about doing so then when I would take a break in an office. Which is odd because even with the same amount of time spend “breaking,” I am still being far more productive and spending more time on work than when I was going into an office.

Consider: a 30-60 minute workout during lunch actually takes me less time while working remotely since I don’t have to make myself look presentable (i.e., re-do my hair and makeup) after the workout; I can opt to stay in my gym clothes for the of the day or rinse off then put sweats right back on. I estimate I save a total of 30 – 45 minutes when I work out during lunch while working remotely but I continue to feel more guilty about it. The same goes for running an errand. When I was in an office I would have to navigate my way through a maze of elevators, then out of a 10-story parking deck before even starting the errand. Starting and returning to my house saves me about 15 minutes, but again, I feel more guilt leaving my home office for just 30 minutes. The examples go on and on but the story stays the same: breaks seem more guilt-invoking when remote.

And it’s not just me. I had lunch with a peer a few weeks back (in the office) who mentioned that since she’s been working remotely a lot she couldn’t remember the last time she stopped to eat. I had to gently remind her that short breaks–especially to refuel–are essential.

I often try to understand why I feel a certain way before, or in conjunction with, remedying it. I imagine my feelings are partially a function of the fact that I know working remotely is a luxury; it represents a company showing faith and trust in you to be responsible and productive and get your work done. I don’t want to let my manager or team down or appear not to be pulling my weight or more generally, doing my job. But, I also want and need breaks.

So how to get past this mental block? For me it’s a constant, gentle reminder to myself that while my company is affording me the luxury of working remotely, they still want my best work. And since we are not part-robots (yet) I am still a working human and require breaks.

I have begun to use a personal litmus test of asking myself, “Would I do this in an office?” and if the answer is yes I do it and if the answer is no, I don’t. So going on a short walk around the park in my neighborhood during lunch or watching a 30 minute news program while I eat mid-day: fair game. Depleting my DVR or taking a nap: keep reserved for outside the 9-5.

How do you who work remotely manage your breaks– both the actual breaks you take and telling yourself it’s okay to do so? What strategies have my fellow teleworkers–and office dwellers alike– found to be helpful?

Make Monday Your Most Productive Day

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Mondays are hard. Whether you go into an office every day or work remotely there’s something inherently difficult about ending the 2 days that we each have to spend with our families, friends, and ourselves and handing our lives back over to our commitments. Okay that’s dramatic (and weekends can be full of commitments too!) but if you’re like the majority of people the reality is you have to work and Mondays are a part of it. If you’re like me and a full-time remote employee, or even have worked remotely on a Monday you know that Monday’s are their own interesting brand of hard while telecommuting.

Now I am not suggesting that it isn’t hard to get out of bed, get the coffee going, and get into an office on a Monday morning. That’s hard too. But working remotely these past few weeks full-time I’ve noticed that my Mondays in particular are, well, different.

There’s been something about kick-starting my week from my home after spending so much time in that same place over the weekend not working. Of course this could perhaps be a broader question about work/life balance and separation while working remotely but there have been a few strategies I’ve been employing on Mondays in particular which have helped me not just “get through” a Monday but rock it.

  1. Start your Monday on your own terms. What I mean by this is do whatever you need to do in order to start your day, and week, off right. For me that means getting up a little earlier to let myself have the lazy morning that I want. I make coffee, sometimes walk outside a little, I’ve been known to clean in the morning or throw in laundry that I just couldn’t bring myself to finish over the weekend. I once put together a 140 pound desk (if you follow me on Snapchat you were likely right there with me 🙂 ) The point is whatever you like to do in the morning to get ready give yourself enough time (maybe more than normal!) on a Monday.
  2. Sweat. If you’re able to get a workout in, in the morning or mid-day, do it! A lunchtime workout on a Monday is one of my favorite things to do. My mind literally feels noticeably clearer after doing this. Yes, this can be done in the early morning hours but I’ve learned that, that’s just not how I like to spend my first morning of the week.
  3. Go easy on yourself. You’re easing back into the work-week, let yourself truly ease in. Of course sometimes Mondays are hectic and deliverables don’t seemed to know days of the week, but if and when you can, cut yourself some slack. This doesn’t mean to not work by any means but if you need to grab a second (or third! Only me…?) coffee or tea then do it. Or if you don’t have a hard deadline to get something out maybe re-read it in the afternoon (maybe after that mid-day workout!) once you’ve had some time to warm up to the day.
  4. Have a solid Sunday. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: a well-spent Sunday is key to a strong week. Yes, sometimes Sundays are meant for boozey brunches, I won’t deny this, but for me most Sundays are for relaxing, being productive, a bit of fun (always!), and gearing up for the week.
  5. Mondays are Mondays where ever you work. If you work remotely every day like me it’s easy to tell yourself than something (everything!) is challenging because you are remote. Remind yourself that Mondays are Mondays regardless of if you’re at your desk at home, desk in an office, or anywhere else.

Mondays can suck, yes, but you can definitely do some things to make yours better. Find your routine, allow yourself the extra coffee, and make it work for you!