Making working from home work

The commute to my office is over 50 miles and even with my workday starting on the earlier side, it currently takes over an hour to get to the office and almost two hours to get home. Fortunately, I am able to work from home three days a week which helps considerably to maintain my sanity. Since the vast majority of IT work can be performed from anywhere, it’s a decent arrangement for everyone.

Aside from saving significant commute time, there are other benefits to working from home:

  • Every day is a casual dress day.
  • I get to have lunch with my wife.
  • I’m available to take out the trash or other around-the-house tasks.
  • I don’t have to save quick errands for the weekend.
  • I can help make dinner.

There are, however, challenges with working from home:

  • The distractions in a home environment can be a bit more significant (doing laundry, vacuuming, etc.).
  • One of the cats can demand attention by jumping on my lap.
  • Staying focused on work, in general.

When I first started working from home over two years ago, the novelty of the situation was a problem early on. It took a little time for my wife and kids to realize that dad being home working wasn’t the same thing as just dad being home. Personally, I also had to adjust to not allowing a tea break (I don’t drink coffee) to take too long as I caught up with the lives of my family.

The basic solution I enlisted to maintain balance is actually the same I use while in the office: The Pomodoro Technique. That productivity method is to simply set a timer to focus effort and concentration on a particular task or project for a set time. I’ve been doing it for years and it’s helped considerably. I set the timer for 25 minutes and go head-down on clearing my inbox or doing some coding. When the timer is up, I set it again for 5 minutes and I head downstairs and see how everyone is doing.

It allows me breaks to ‘come up for air’ and re-assess what I might work on next. It works for my family as well as they know I’ll be popping my head in regularly. I’d say it was one of my secrets for being productive, but I just told you.

Oh, and in case you didn’t understand the picture, pomodoro is Italian for tomato.

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