By February 13, 2013 Read More →

Working from home – 13 ways to waste time

Working from home productivity killers

Work from Home Wisdom - 13 Easiest Ways to Waste Time When You Should Be Working from Home, Anthony ChatfieldAnthony Chatfield provides content writing and marketing services from his Staten Island home office, and knows all about the working from home tricks we use to put off getting down to that crucial task.

So as not to take up too much of your time we’ve split his article into two parts! Here are time wasters 1 to 7 – are any of them familiar?

I started working from home more than six years ago and probably spent the better part of three years just figuring out how to keep myself motivated. Today I’m extremely efficient, but still waste time with the best of my colleagues when things don’t fit my existing routines.

I have 8 bobbleheads [nodding head toys] and a computer filled with games in my office. My bookshelf is full of doodles and scribbles in books that I was supposed to be reading. I routinely turn off the router downstairs just to make sure I have no option BUT to write for an hour or two, so I know the trials of maintaining productivity when working from home.

Here are 13 of those working from home time-wasting habits and activities and how I overcome them, even when I really, really don’t want to.

1. The Kids
Microsoft did a study of its employees recently (they have more than 30,000 so it’s a good sample size) and found that 29% liked the idea of working from home because it offered more time with family.

And it’s true. You CAN spend more time with family, but not because you’re home all day. It’s easy to hear your children downstairs or know they’re home from school and want to engage with them, but if you’re trying to get work done, it can also be a HUGE distraction.

At the same time, they can’t understand why you’re off limits when you’re only a door away.

My son is not quite 2 years old, so my perspective on this is more of “I want to hang out with my son” than vice versa, but boundaries certainly help – for you and for the kids. At the same time, taking breaks and stopping in to say hi is a great way to break up the day.

2. Friends Who Don’t Get It

The single biggest problem I had when I first started. While the same Microsoft white paper shared that working from home made their employees more productive, gave them less distractions and resulted in a quieter atmosphere, there are always people who don’t get it.

The first summer of my new career I dated a woman who could not, WOULD not understand that, when she wasn’t working, I often was. There are certain hours of the day I prefer to work, and she worked graveyards. I was not going to write overnight, so we had a number of arguments about this.

Just because I’m at home and CAN answer the phone, doesn’t mean I’m not busy.

3. Sleep
Ah, sweet glorious sleep. This is one of my favorite work at home perks.

When I have a late night, am sick or simply didn’t sleep well because of a teething toddler, I know I can sleep in a bit and productivity won’t take a big hit.

But, it’s a slippery slope. Don’t take advantage of your flexible schedule too much or you’ll find your days shrinking rapidly. I still have an alarm set every morning and I try to get to the gym before sitting down to work – it’s a nice routine and gives me more energy when I do start writing.

4. Drinking
I’ve only done this a handful of times, almost all of them in the first year or so of my career (when I was still 22 years old with a fridge full of beer). It’s not that I (or anyone else) want or need a beer while working from home. It’s that I could do it. The simple freedom to have a beer with lunch was too enticing to ignore.

Unfortunately, it was always a horrible idea. It’s harder to think, harder to write, and if anyone calls, you’ll be immensely self-conscious, even after just one drink. Hold off for dinner or the weekend and keep your productive working from home hours alcohol-free.

5. Perfectionism

There are two types of perfectionism in my experience.

The first is the desire to get it right – knowing that your name will be on something and your reputation on the line. This happens to every freelancer I know in the five minutes before and three hours after sending an email to a client. This type of perfectionism is good. It drives you to work better, smarter and with greater focus.

The second type of perfectionism is really just procrastination and usually results from self-consciousness. I do this whenever working on a new type of project – something I’m not used to doing or am less than confident in. I put it off, dragging out the drafting process, waiting until the last day and telling myself the entire time it’s to get it “just right”.

Do yourself a favor and recognize what you’re doing – you’ll get it done faster or put it off entirely, but won’t waste hours and hours circling the wagons when you could work on a different project.

6. Itty Bitty Tasks
I use OmniFocus – a Getting Things Done® tool for my Mac and iPhone that organizes tasks by date, project and priority.

It’s filled with itty bitty working from home tasks. Stuff like “ask business partner if he read report” and “add $45 to next invoice for Matt”. It’s all necessary, but it’s small stuff and for me, the most efficient way to knock it out is to bunch it up into an hour a day.

I know that, but when I’m procrastinating or avoiding work, I’ll start weeding through my lists, pulling out task after task and wasting time. It’s a great way to feel productive when you’re really avoiding the stuff you should be working on.

7. Email
The ultimate “itty bitty task” is email. If you’ve read The 4 Hour Work Week you know Tim Ferriss put a HUGE emphasis on email. He had a chart that showed the sheer volume of time the average worker wastes checking and responding to email.

The logic goes that if you respond to email right away, the other party will do the same and you’ll send four or five emails in one day to the same person instead of one. If you make them wait, the emails you DO send and receiver will be more targeted and efficient.

If you get more than 10 emails a day from clients or colleagues, I recommend cutting back on how often you check your inbox. I find that twice a day is a perfect balance (unless expecting something specific). I do mine at 10am and 3pm and if anything is super urgent, I encourage people to call or message on Skype (which is only marginally less distracting).

You can find out more about Anthony at his blog, and see his home office on the Attic Home Offices Gallery. He’ll be back soon with Part 2 of his favourite ways to waste time while working from home.

Posted in: Procrastination

Comments are closed.