You work from home? How great is that?
Do you watch TV all day and wear pajamas?
Not exactly. The part about the pajamas might be true sometimes. But it is the opposite of what a lot of people think.
I have worked remotely, or from home, for a little over a year now. The truth is you do not work less. You are tempted to work more.
Sometimes a lot more.
I used to commute to work every day. A 45 minute or hour long drive. I would get on the road around 6 AM and get home around 6:30 or 7 PM. That is a lot of time in the car.
I worked in agencies where we had meetings that lasted so long there was a line to the bathroom when it was complete. A lot of time talking and not doing.
I remember being in open offices and getting interrupted by someone sneezing or getting up to get a drink. Someone is tapping you on the shoulder. You are never able to string together a quiet 20 minutes.
Now that I work remotely, almost all of these things have vanished.
I have more time.
At first, you might find yourself taking advantage of all this newfound time.
You might make dinner instead of getting take out. But soon you will find yourself working again after you eat.
When you blur the line between work and home, it is easy to work more. It can be dangerous. And lead to all sorts of burnout.
How do you avoid it?
The boring, methodical, and uninteresting things you do every day.
A routine is crucial to working at home.
Stress comes from a lack of control.
A routine is where you find control. Without one, you lose control. And on comes the stress of working more than you should.
What does a routine look like?
Here is my routine this summer.
A few things to keep in mind about my routine.
It is Subject to Change
My routine changes with the seasons. For example, I love waking up early, but when it is cold and dark in the winter, that is a bit tricky.
My routine is not full proof. Things happen and come up. I cannot always follow it. But when I do, I feel in control.
I do not recommend everyone check email at the hours that I do. I work in customer support. Our company is never closed. People from around the world use our software 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
We only provide email support. It is like a leaky faucet. Customers can always email you. Sometimes the faucet is on full blast. Other times it drips.
We do not have 24 hour coverage yet for our customers. This is the reason I check and answer emails for 30 minutes when I wake up and before I go to bed.
The emails will always be there. But if I can chip away at emails now, it is a reward for me when I am back online later.
Balance and Variety
A routine by definition does not involve much variety. But balance is key.
The days are almost identical. In the mornings, I find a different form of exercise is important. Yoga and swimming are a good mix for me.
Twice a week, I try to sleep in an hour longer. This is huge. It allows extra rest, but also feels like another reward for my body.
A little variety is good. Balance is better.
This is another quote that stuck with me from Jeff Bezos.
If you want to do more of something, make the friction less.
If you want to do less of something, make the friction more.
Bezos gives the example of putting the bag of potato chips on top the refrigerator, if you do not want to eat a lot of chips. This increases the friction and makes it harder for you to do.
The same is true with your routine.
When I am on my routine, in order to respond to a work email, I must be in the specific room where I keep my computer. It is a rule. I do not use my phone or another device to respond to work emails.
This means if I am in bed, and something pops up, I would have to get out of bed and travel to the room with my computer. I am increasing the friction, so I do not answer emails at all hours of the day. I am in control.
Now, when I am off my routine, traveling or in a new location, stress arrives again. My computer is a step away in the same room with my bed. There is almost no friction.
It is easy to open the computer and respond to emails after hours. It is a tough habit to break. I am not in control.
After working remotely for a year, I am not sure I could ever go back to working in an office.
The amount of time you gain is priceless.
I am also not sure I could ever survive without a routine. It puts me in control.
Have your own routine? Any tips or tricks, let me know @cjgallo