How to work from home

Dan Guilak // Sep 27th, 2017

When I tell people that I've worked from home for almost a year now, many are aghast my partner and I have been able to stay focused enough to launch ughMoney. The following are lessons I've learned in the past twelve months.

Understand your motivation environment

Knowing your motivation environment—how, where, and when you're most motivated—is arguably the most important point I want to get across. It took me years to figure out that the time of day and where I am have a direct impact on my productivity. For example, I've realized I'm more creative in the mornings sitting at my dining room table, and able to concentrate more on busywork tasks in the afternoons at my desk.

I classify myself as someone who gains energy from being around people. So when I'm feeling restless, I'll take it as a sign to pack up and head to a coffeeshop. In addition, I make sure I see friends at least a couple times during the week.

Nothing gets done if you're doing nothing

Living in an time where everything interesting is at your fingertips, it can be hard to stay focused on the task at hand. But when you're trying to get a company off the ground, if you're not working on it, it's not getting done. Each hour spent working is an hour closer to success (hopefully).

Have an accountability partner

Accountability partners are inherent in an office environment—everyone around you is working, so you feel social pressure to work. When you're sitting around at home all day, there's nobody to make sure you don't watch all the Nicolas Cage action movies on HBO instead of what you should be doing.

Find someone to keep in touch with throughout the day so you feel pressure to get things done. For me, it's my business partner. We FaceTime every morning, and are on Slack all day, so we can help keep each other on task.

Understand which methods of time management work for you

Systems, rules, and schedules all help remove cognitive load so that you can focus on your work. For some people, to-do lists help keep them motivated. For others, done lists are the way to go. Personally, I don't find myself using lists because I leave myself physical notes (mail I have to take care of, post-it notes) in conspicous places, and virtual notes (mostly just unread emails, text messages, slack messages) to keep track of what I need to do. It's far from a perfect system, but it seems to be working for me.

In addition, I've been experimenting with the pomodoro technique again, and it seems to be going pretty well. I've managed to convince myself that I can focus on anything for 25 minutes, so having a timer ticking down reminding me of that fact is incredibly useful.

Leave your phone on Do Not Disturb mode

I'm embarrased at how long it took me to discover this after using iPhones for four years. Enabling this mode will turn off sounds/vibrations for push notifications and text messages (and phone calls too, but I only get phone calls when bad things happen so I leave those on). Now I no longer get distracted on Twitter for fifteen minutes after getting an automated text message from Comcast telling me that they're upping my rates yet again.

It also helps to leave your phone in a different room—sorry, mobile app developers!

Enjoy the benefits of working from home

Working from home affords you a lot of extra freedom that you probably haven't had before. It's okay to take advantage! For example, I'm not making a 30 minute commute to and from an office every day, so I use that extra hour to do things that energize me:

  • When the coffee wears off at 2 PM, I go on a quick run to recharge
  • Cooking dinner instead of getting takeout
  • Playing guitar

Your mileage will vary

... and it should. If there's one thing I've learned from talking to people, it's that everyone has their own unique motivation environment. What works for some won't work for others. This list lays out things that help me, but is intended as inspiration for others that are venturing out (in) on a work-from-home adventure.