Staying productive Working from Home too May 15th, 2012

Vinod Kumar

Working in big MNC’s there are some perks that as an employee you have and will relish – one of them is this “Working from home”. But how to maximize on the benefits is a challenge for many of us out there. I know because of this very reason that many of the companies atleast in India refrain from giving this Working from Home option. I am super addicted to this option, though I try to use with caution and minimally. There are interesting stats, from the Skype site that close to 34% of Americans works from home part-time it seems. There is surely an extra comfort, flexibility in your schedule, the extended morning sleeps and lastly the point to ponder is – are we as productive as we are if at office? Let me give you some of my known best practices I use to keep the same levels of commitment and get work done at the same time with flexibility.

I am not here to say this is a bad idea, but though a big time supporter of this concept – don’t want people to abuse the flexibility offered. Understand, for working mom’s these are great benefits. But at the same time to balance this life, there needs to be some method to the madness and I am here to call out some of them.

Juggling your time

The #No:1 thing that comes to my mind in this subject is – how should you be managing your time? This step includes to start the day looking at the work in hand and how the schedules are for you to play the whole day. Yes, you are taking a chance of staying at home to complete one-two tasks like pickup kids, get that plumbing work done, goto a bank maybe etc. So keeping that back of your mind – look how are the meetings lined up, how will you track your projects, when are you going to email, what are the background tasks that got assigned to you etc. Now keep blocking your time appropriately to make sure there are lesser distractions of emails, facebook, twitter or anything else at home. Make sure the reason why you decided to stay at home doesn’t interfere anywhere in the middle of the schedule you have in mind. If that being the case, you are better off taking the day off and giving that much needed time to family and sort things off.

Being Organized

I think this is very much in-line to the same point made above. But think – as freelancers or managers for projects, your time at home is crucial too because you get paid by the hour. I am a big time supporter that you need to have that critical TODO list. Do you track what you do during the day? Have you had a chance to see this tool? I had used it long time back RescueTime – it tracks how much time you spend on various applications and what are your patterns. Based on this it gives you an indicator to what are your trends. This can be your background tool to monitor yourself.

Use the Sticky Notes or I am more comfortable in writing the activity list and love to tick through the day. I know it is old style but it has worked for me over the years like a charm. You can use any method that works – the idea is to do it :).

Prioritize your job functions

A lot of them have asked me in the past, how I manage doing a number of things. Well, it is about the previous two points and finally about making time for everything that I want to do – work, blogging, time with family, shopping, entertainment etc. So there are ways and time when everything gets the much needed time slice from life. I call this out explicitly because if you are a developer then you need to write the code than troubleshooting some bug, if you are a freelancer then you shouldn’t be getting swamped into just the financial closure when you must be out there training / consulting / coding, if you are a manager then you should be looking at the project planning and alerts rather than building some random reports. So there are so many of these side activities that sometimes drain you away of the much need time for the important things. So this is what I call prioritize and deliver – delegate if required and have an appetite for NO if that must be used as extreme measure.

Final words

These principles are not specific to Working from Home but are critical for such tasks. I use these techniques irrespective of the situation and you will find a note or sticky note beside me when there are too many activities to complete in a given day. Prepare, plan, execute and track on progress. The cycle can be as simple as this for everything we do. The same can be also said for preparing presentations :).

What are your methods? Do share them so that we can learn from each other :). Happy working …

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 15th, 2012 at 08:30 and is filed under Personal. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


15 Responses to “Staying productive Working from Home too”

  1. [...] is the simplest of steps one can do. I have talked about this step in my “how to be productive when working from home” post. It is one of those no-brainers when it come to working efficiently. I have been a victim [...]

  2. Anup Warrier says:

    I still stick to the style of writing up ‘Things to do’ on a scribble pad and some sticky notes for reminders.As you mentioned,this has worked great for me.

    Well composed post Vinod,love it !

  3. Another interesting article:-) Your articles are very informative and the way you present, makes them more interesting and readable! I am sure they make a great amount of positive impact on the community. Atleast on me, they do!

    As far as my way of managing day-to-day tasks is concerned, I track it using my favourite tool “Microsoft Excel”. I have built a template for myself (I tweak it from time-to-time to make suitable changes based on my past experience), wherein, I maintain information like what are the action items for the day, list of tasks I have worked on during the day, amount of time spent on each task, time I entered office and the time I left the office etc. “Total Time in Office – Total Time spent on tasks/work” gives me my unproductive time (the time I spend on things like coffee break, lunch break, casual chats and so on).

    • Vinod Kumar says:

      Datta – Really nice to see someone who is sooo organized using Excel. As I said, my todo list is simple and I need it front of me to remind of the tasks ahead of me. You are taking the whole concept to the next level, really nice. In my previous company I used to use Microsoft Outlook Calendaring to the max (though it is less these days), wherein if it is on the calendar it gets the complete time and attention while others take a back seat. I think each one of us are unique and using the common tools we use daily is the best way to track.

      Thanks again for taking time and dropping a line. Appreciate it.

  4. Hari Jaganathan says:

    Dear Vinod!

    Its just a Extreme post and awesome. Always you insisting the time management and love the word Time cultivation:) I go with Marlon – really its critical to work from home and definently missing to manage the time. If get to work on prioritize, surely will utilize our time productively.

    Again iam putting these line why dont you write a book on time importance, usage and priortize? Hope you already remembered which I raised these queries 7 months back? :) Very much interested to see your action:)

    Thanks for sharing your wonderful view. Hope you will happy if I glad to get charged:)

    • Vinod Kumar says:

      Thanks Hari for the kind words. Well, I remember your request and yes that is a lot of commitment to write something down – guess what, I am working on it too and expect something before next year.

  5. Gaurang Patel says:

    It is Great post for Me ,cause i have work from since Nov’2011.But it may end soon work from home for me.When i started work from home i was worried will i be able to give my best performance from home as well?but now it is more comfortable for me to work from home as i can give sometime more working hours to given task.And i am going to use RescueTime soon cause i facing problem that sometime other activity stealing my working hours(Reading Blogs that i should do after working hours,faceBook,newsite,etc..).We use http://www.atlassian.com/software/jira/ and http://plan.io/en/ for keeping track of task. end each task can have priority so i have to pickup task with highest priority first then pick other based on priority.

  6. Nilesh Gule says:

    Nice post Vinod. I don’t have work from home option in my current job. When I used to have it in my previous job, on many occasions I found myself more productive compared to when I was in office. The usual distractions like tea breaks, snacks breaks along with colleagues were not there while working from home. On the downside VPN connectivity can drag you a bit if you need to work on some critical task.

    • Vinod Kumar says:

      Nilesh – thanks for the note. I think this has been the same for me too. Yes, connecting to corporate network is a big bonus and using VPN is painful sometimes. But for the most part I make sure I can work without any dependency.

  7. Vinod – please delete my previous comment (and this note). I made some correction.

    Working from home is not at all easy as many would like to believe. I had a sideline gig on SQL Server that I was allowed to do from home. I struggled when I first started on the project because of the natural distractions that I’m not used to face. In the office, your co-workers will understand if you tell them you’re too busy to talk to them and you cannot be distracted. Also in the office, you can turn down your telephone’s volume, close your email and shut the your office door (or put a “don’t disturb” sign on your cubicle). I don’t think these are easy to do if you’re home. Family members, specially kids, wouldn’t understand why you can’t drop what you’re doing and attend to their needs right away.

    • Vinod Kumar says:

      Marlon – Yes, getting into your zone and knowing how to manage your time when at home is critical. Distractions are all over and it is important how you manage the same. Nothing is easy but these are part of juggling your time and resources around you to make it happen.

  8. Phani says:

    Another nice blog. Forget about home, even at office I start my day with a list of activities that I would like to complete, and by the time I start the activities from this list, there comes something else from my boss with higher priority and then the day starts with this activity instead of the ones that I planned. It further ends up that the To Do list keeps growing and closing those would become critical. As you rightly mentioned, all three points which you mentioned are to be appropriately exercised for better output. Thanks for sharing your inputs/views.

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