Walking the dog, and other productivity killers

barneyAbsolutely, hands down, the best part of telecommuting is the freedom.  I can come to work in whatever I want, work whenever I want (mostly), play whatever music I want, you get the drift.  However, for many, the freedom can be a killer when it comes to productivity.

Many tasks around the house get done on a schedule of nights and weekends.  Why?  Because you can’t do them while you’re at work.  But, what if you telecommute?    Imagine it, no more racing home to walk the dog who’s been left alone for 10 hours.   You can just walk Fido anytime you need to because you’re home, right?

The problem is that these thoughts, and the activities that result from them, can absolutely kill your productivity.  In fact, one of the hardest aspects of telecommuting is blocking out the temptation to cut the grass, run to the store, and even walk the dog.  While in most cases, you can get away with sneaking out to do one here and there, be careful.  Don’t make it a habit.

Here is what works for me:

  • Even though I’m not leaving the house, I act as if I’m “going to work” by following a routine each day.  This helps me establish the boundary between work activities and home activities.
  • I am an employee of a large company so the time you’re supposed to be working essentially belongs to my employer.  I value my time, so I try to value the company’s time as well.
  • I maximize the benefits of working at home by scheduling the cable guy or the plumber to be either the first or last appointment of the day, just as if I was working at an office.  I never make the mistake of saying “I work at home, come whenever”.  My time will be taken.
  • I recognize that sometimes I have to walk the dog, but I don’t make it a habit, I account for it in my schedule, and I resist the urge to do non-work things during work hours that could wait until after work or the weekends.  Thinking that if I just snuck out and cut the grass today during work, then I can hit the links Saturday,  is dangerous.
  • When I do decide to engage in non-work activities during the workday, I am always prepared to be called back to work in an instant.   If I am scheduling a meeting at my church, for example, I inform the participants that I may have to reschedule at the last minute if I can’t juggle my schedule to fit it in.

So, how well do I do at following my own advice?  Some days are better than others!  I do try to learn from my mistakes, however:

One spring, I decided that I really didn’t want to waste my Saturday cutting grass.  I figured I could spend an hour Wednesday afternoon and knock it out.  So, on Wednesday, I spent time cutting, trimming, and cleaning up.  Before I knew it, I’d killed 90 minutes.  But here was the worst part:  Next Wednesday, the grass was really long again.  Uh oh  I thought, if I let it go until Saturday, it will be really long, and a lot more work.  I better just cut it again today.  Now I’m on a cycle I don’t want to be on….I have to cut grass on Wednesday, when I’m supposed to be working.

What are some of the productivity killers you face while working at home?


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