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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 25th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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Working from home can be fun

17 March 2020

If anyone is qualified to talk about working from home, it's me.

I've spent almost my entire life working from home. Back in the 1980s I was writing software in a spare room at home. During the 1990s I was writing software and developing a number of internet-based businesses from home.

In the early 2000s I was writing articles for magazines and online publications from a desk in my house.

And most recently I've been editing up YouTube content from my edit desk, right here at home.

So do I have any tips for those who suddenly find themselves being forced to work from home?

You bet I do!

First of all, create or set aside an area that is reserved for your work.

Don't be tempted to just recline on the sofa in the living room or to prop yourself up at the kitchen table and try to do your work. That's probably not going to be too successful.

By setting up a dedicated work area, you will have the freedom to start and stop as and when you need to, without the overhead of putting stuff away and then having to get it out again. If you're going to be working at home you might as well do it as efficiently as possible.

Separating work from play will also help you get into "work mode" so that you can focus on the tasks at hand. Being just inches from the TV remote can make it *very* hard to focus your attentions on the important stuff. There's always the temptation to say "I'll just watch this programme *then* I'll do my work". That is wicked-dangerous!

You'll also find that if your work area is away from areas that other members of the household regularly use then you'll be far less likely to be interrupted or distracted.

If it's possible, get your work started and completed as early as possible in the day.

This may be impractical if you've got to interface with co-workers via phone or conferencing throughout the day but if you're more task-oriented then there are huge benefits to starting early and finishing early.

First thing in the morning (and I mean *before* the sun comes up) there are few interruptions or distractions and that makes it much easier to get into "work mode". Also, by getting your prescribed tasks completed by early or mid-afternoon you end up with a whole lot of useful extra time for more enjoyable pursuits. Even better, because you'll be turning in your daily results ahead of the rest, the boss will think you're working harder than you actually are.

Don't wear pyjamas!

No, I'm serious... working from home doesn't mean you can slouch around like you do on the weekends. Getting into "work mode" is much easier if you're dressed for work.

No, I don't mean that you should be wearing a suit and tie... but make sure you're dressed appropriately -- just in case the boss wants a video-call or (heaven forbid) he/she drops around for a face-to-face through the flyscreen door on the front porch.

Even if your employer hasn't set any clearly defined goals on a daily basis, make sure you do. It's much easier to work towards a milestone than to just spend hour after hour stuck in a dark corner of the house. Even the most mundane job can be turned into a series of goals and you'll find that if you create those goals you'll get a much better level of satisfaction when they're achieved. Don't watch the clock... watch your list of goals and corresponding accomplishments.

Set your self a firm "knock off" time. Remember that just because you're working from home doesn't mean you should be working more than the prescribed number of hours in a day. If you find yourself unable to complete the day's work then start earlier in the morning but always finish at the same time and remember to spend the rest of the day enjoying life and socialising with your family.

That's about enough for today. You'll notice I've focused on the things that help you actually get into "work mode" and stay focused. That's because most of the people who have trouble working from home simply find it too hard to actually *start* working. They procrastinate, drink just one more coffee, watch just one more TV show or find any reason to put things off. Inevitably they also find that once they finally get around to beginning "work mode" it's a whole lot easier than they thought. However, the hurdle of mode-change remains and must be addressed.

I'd love to hear from others who've spent time working from home. What strategies, methods, habbits and other things have you used to make it easier, less boring and more efficient?

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