For many professionals, being able to work from home is a dream come true. Typically, such a statement would be followed by the likes of this: ‘but it’s not always all it’s cracked up to be’, or even: ‘but not everyone single one of us is really cut out for it’. In this instance however, I’m going to go with this: perhaps the most difficult aspect to telecommuting is ensuring that you remain proficient.
The Oxford Dictionaries Online define the term ‘proficient’ as: ‘competent or skilled in doing or using something’. Whilst we can assume that, in order to become a telecommuter, a professional must already be proficient, the trouble is in remaining so. It’s not easy, and most learn this the hard way. Here are some pointers to keep your head in the game if you should find yourself on a telecommuting contract any time soon…
Be an Early Bird
Many studies have indicated that the most successful, productive and, of course, proficient professional people get started with the days tasks from the moment they wake. There’s no reason you shouldn’t allow yourself the time it would take to get dressed and make the morning commute for extra sleep, but by getting stuck into the day’s work and completing the bulk of it before lunchtime you’re onto a winner.
Coming up with a morning routine is perhaps the best way of going about this, as let's be honest, it's very easy to just stay in bed when you don't need to go anywhere. With a little experimentation, you'll soon find your groove.
Take Active Breaks
The importance of taking regular breaks from your work in sustaining proficiency should not be under-estimated. When you’re on the nine-to-five, it’s likely that you will have a separate schedule for the likes of exercise and hobbies. Just because you’re now working from home, there’s absolutely no reason this should change. Though a couple of your breaks per week may involve sitting around drinking (yet more) coffee and checking the HuffPost, stepping up and away from the screen and increasing movement levels is excellent for brain productivity, and therefore also for professional proficiency.
Don’t Leave Home without a Mission
Just because there’s nobody stopping you from walking out of the home-office mid-task and doing something you’d much rather be doing, doesn’t mean to say you should go right ahead and do it. Self-restraint, management and discipline are all essential attributes for anyone wishing to succeed as a telecommuter. At first it may prove difficult to keep focus, so try framing your occasional outings as little ‘missions’ relevant to your working life. For example, take advantage of any locally-based colleagues or clients by heading to a coffee shop to meet them in person instead of just talking on the phone.
One Thing at a Time
Forget all you’ve ever heard about the term ‘multi-tasking’. The extra vitality it will apparently inject into your career. The rather provocative suggestion that women are more capable of it than men. Everything.
The reality is, very few people can multi-task to the standard required in order to make it simply what they do eight hours per day, five days per week. Stretching yourself too thin is just asking for your proficiency to drop. Slow things down, gain some perspective, prioritise and approach things one at a time.
Keep your Slate Clean
Telecommuters, freelancers and people who do the majority of their work on their own all share one thing in common; a mental check-list. There’s very little chance of you remaining proficient if you can’t keep this list neat and tidy.
Just as you’d find yourself working late when on the nine-to-five, sometimes a telecommuting gig will see you working overtime too. Lying in bed at night mulling over all of those things you didn’t get done that day is a direct route to unneeded stress. This bleeding of energies between working life and personal life is hard to escape when you work from home, though ensuring you tidy up those loose ends is certainly one way to reduce it.
Working from home can be a great way to live your life, providing you know what you’re doing. The pointers I have provided align with my own working habits, personality and attitude towards my work- who else’s? In order to uncover the habits (or indeed lack of habit) that aids your own proficiency, you have to be willing to try new things. Maintained focus doesn’t require chaining yourself to your desk, just that you take care of yourself so that you’re in better shape when it comes to taking care of your business.