True Or False Music-Making In The Home Became Increasingly Important 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 extra help when he entered middle school. I spent 20 years in corporate America, working at both Accenture and Microsoft, but in the fall of 2004 I became his 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 transition to homeschooling teacher/author/consultant, I now had nowhere to go everyday. My office was the 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 marked difference from those who suddenly found themselves in a work-from-home situation with little warning or preparation. Some aspects of 2020 compared to 2004 were easier and others more difficult, for example, the collaboration tools available in 2020 simply did not exist in 2004. But the bottom line is that the changes were massive and required significant adjustments.

In my 16 years without an office I experienced many bumps and bruises to get into an efficient work/life rhythm. The key I learned was the need to enforce greater self-discipline regarding:

  • what i do

  • how do i manage my time

  • what and when i eat,

  • how much I sleep

  • When and how do I train?

  • How do I “turn off the work”,

  • And how I communicate with others.

These are the bumps and bruises I want to help others avoid when transitioning to a sustainable work-from-home lifestyle, which I’ve summarized into five lessons:

  1. Take control of the online experience – For Pete’s sake, if Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or other online meeting tools are an integral part of your business, take the time to really understand them and ensure that the hardware you use creates the most positive experience for others attending your meetings. Not knowing how to do things like share your screen, give others control to share their screen, or use a whiteboard is akin to meeting a business colleague face-to-face in a coffee shop with blaring music and no chairs or tables. When you fumble with the tools you send a clear message to your recipient that he or she is not important enough to you to create an outstanding online experience. Just as importantly, struggling with online meeting tools conveys that you are slow to adapt to change.
  2. plan “finish” not “do” – Every Monday morning I go through my to-do list and decide what I plan to do until the end of the week. Then, I schedule time on my calendar during the week to work on each assignment, and then I schedule a meeting on Friday at 5:00 PM that summarizes what I’ve committed to doing that week. The key to this is to express your to-do list in terms of a product, or “done,” not in terms of an activity or “do.” If you only think 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 everything on your calendar – in my article “I Can’t Keep Up!” Six principles for using your calendar to get more done, I’m talking 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 work start/stop events like commuting to and from work no longer exist. With those barriers gone, it’s much easier to value your time less. I had to learn that working from home doesn’t mean I can work at all times; This meant 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 critical to your overall effectiveness. Patty and I send each other meeting messages for social gatherings or other meetings where one of us will not be available to the other. It works very well for us to keep us aligned and ensure we don’t overcommit.
  5. Make your physical and mental health a priority – While there is great convenience in working from home, it also means you have to be more diligent about taking care of your physical and mental health. I never stay in my pajamas during the day, I schedule exercise time in my calendar, I eat meals away from my workstation, stick to a regular sleep schedule, and *try* to be disciplined about snacking between meals. I also weigh myself regularly. It really helps if you want to maintain or lose your weight and if you tend to wear stretchy clothes that don’t remind you if you’ve added an inch to your waistline.

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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