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Helder Machado

President/CEO of Machado Consulting

Staying Organized While Working from Home

It’s unsurprising that the transition to remote work has been so difficultMost companies lacked adequate systems and policies to respond to the sudden, urgent need to move people off-siteThere’s a simple reason for that.“We spent the last 120 years learning how people can be productive in an office,” explains Hiten Shah, an entrepreneur and adviser to remote-work companies.

Most businesses still have to learnthat remote work is different, says The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson. And while the percent of the U.S. labor force working from home has tripled in the last fifteen years, most workers were not adequately prepared for this change, either. 

“Workers will have to adopt extraordinary conscientiousness when it comes to dividing their day into deep work, office communications, personal time, and civic or family life,” explained Thompson.

Love it or hate it, you might be stuck working from home for an extended period of timeso you owe it to yourself to make the best of the situation. This begins by being organized.

 

In her article explaining what it takes to be a successful remote worker, Jennifer Muse explains that organization is key, which makes perfect sense. Staying productive depends on staying organized. All the hard work in the world will be squandered if it’s not directed purposefully and efficiently

Since it is so essential to your remote working experience, you shouldn’t move forward without a strong foundation. Here are some keys strategies that will help you do just that.

Separate Work and Play

22% percent of people working from home report that “unplugging after workis what they struggle with more than anything else. Lindsey Pollack and Eilin Coombes from Inc.com explain thatremote employees end up working more than ever because it's harder to "leave" work.

When the same space (your house or apartment) becomes both work and home, the lines between them can start to blur. 

We suggest trying the following strategies to separate the two:

  • Take scheduled breaks. Who doesn’t love lunch? But we said “breaks” plural. Setimers every hour to get up, stretch, drink some water, chat with a friend, go outside—just do something non-work related. And don’t shortchange yourself. Enjoy a ten-minute break for ten minutes!
  • Know when to startFollow the same morning routine you had before, if possible (utilizing a commute-adjusted alarm, as we have suggested before). 
  • Know when to stopSchedule a time when you will drop everything work-related and adhere as closely to that deadline as possible. Five or ten minutes is okay, but after that, leave it for tomorrow!
  • Let others know when they can contact youThis way, you avoid after-hours messages that drag you away from home life and back into work life. Coworkers can’t know your schedule unless you share with them.
  • Use a time-tracking app. Not only can these keep you from over-working, they can also tell you which hours of the day you’re most productive. Tackle the most important or challenging tasks during this time.

Making Lists

Lists come naturally to some people and are a complete chore for others, but they remain once of the most important strategies for staying organized. 

Thankfully for people who struggle with them, there are a million different ways manage listsWhat’s more, for people who don’t like sticky notes or white boards, where hundreds of different task and project management apps and programs that online teams can use to collaborate. Asana is popular option, as are Notion, DapulseProofHubRedbooth, Trello, and Wimi

It’s important to keep track of both short-term (usually daily) tasks as well as long-term projects. Here are some strategies we found for becoming a successful to-do list maker:

  • Kitchen To-Do List: YouTuber Thomas Frank invited his friend Martin to share his kitchen system of staying organized. He keeps four lists, broken up by priority:
    • The Back Burner: Things that might be important later but aren’t right now.
    • The Front Burner: Things you’re currently working on that take highest priority
    • Vitamins: Things you “take” every day, like checking email
    • The Oven: Scheduled items that happen regularly, but not often. When the timer goes off, check on them.
  • Kanban Boards: Popularized by David Anderson, this workflow system involves putting projects and work items on cards. Cards then move left to right through columns that describe their status(“To-Do, Doing, Done” is a simple three-column board). Many apps build off this system.
  • The 1-3-5 Rule: This strategy is simple. Each day, you write:

Today I Will Accomplish

1 Big Thing

3 Medium Things

5 Small things

By implementing structure, discipline, and clear, realistic goals for each day, week, and month, you will be on your way to staying organized while working from home. As seven-time Mr. Olympia, former Governor of California, and famous actor Arnold Schwarzenegger says, “You can have the best ship or the best plane in the world, but if you don’t have the specific goal—where you want to go and when you want to get there—you just drift around and you never get anywhere.”

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