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Andy Brice
Successful Software

Doug Nebeker ("Doug")

Jonathan Matthews
Creator of DeepTrawl, CloudTrawl, and LeapDoc

Nicholas Hebb
BreezeTree Software

Bob Walsh
host, Startup Success Podcast author of The Web Startup Success Guide and Micro-ISV: From Vision To Reality

Patrick McKenzie
Bingo Card Creator

Working from home...

Am I the only one that is struggeling to work from home?

Here are my symptoms:

- A complete lack of structure of the day
- F*c**d up sleeping pattern... Getting up way to late, staying up way to late.
- Don't know when work begins and don't know when it ends.
- Lack of motivation...
- Extremely hard to build discipline
- Loneliness
- Can't concentrate during the day... alot better at night...
- Feelings of frustration because you can't get to it...

It worked well the first couple of months but it's getting harder every day. I wish I had an office with co-workers. Somehow I feel as if that would give me more stucture to work...

What's your problem? How did you make it better?

from Michigan
Friday, October 13, 2006
Right now, my problem is that I eat like a pig.  I bought rice cakes, which I like, but I find myself eating 3, then mini candy bars from the Holloweed stash, followed by a hostess cupcake that is for my kids school lunches.

So.  For me, I'm gaining weight, I'm falling dramatically out of shape, which directly affects my energy level and I've found that food has become my procrastination device.

As for staying up late.  Yes, I stay up to the weee hours.  But I have kids that I wake up and get ready for school in the morning, then drop them off before 9, so I'm still up early.  About every Thursday afternoon, my body shuts down and I wind up taking a nap somewhere in the house and wake up not realizing what happened.

Hmm.  Now that I actually wrote this out, I am disgusted with myself.  However, I am not falling behind in work, and business keeps coming in regularly.  I'm doing something right.
Friday, October 13, 2006
I had exactly the same problem. I ended up renting a 10x15 office in a shared office suite that also provides phone answering, and my productivity soared. Mine has about 30 offices on the floor of a modern office building, with a mix of 1 or 2 person startups and individual mortage brokers, lawyers and accountants. Each office is its own company, but it works like one big office with people going down the halls, talking at the coffee machine or photocopier, office parties, etc. Even though I'm my own boss it made me "accountable" to have to come in at regular hours, otherwise the receptionist would sometimes say things like "gee, a little late today?"

But I love having a place to go to keep work and personal life separate. Mine costs $1200 a month (east coast city) but it pays for itself because without it I wouldn't be in business at all trying to get everyone done at home. Plus there's the benefits of somebody else answering your phone with your company name and transferring you, meeting rooms if customers want to meet you in person, etc. Worth it I think... google on "executive suites" in your city.
Friday, October 13, 2006
Great question. Three years ago I went from a busy place with 90 people wandering around to working by myself out of the house. I had to learn the structure thing as well, but I have, and for me it's still working...

My wife leaves for work at 7:30... I am up at that time every day, in the office by 8:15, no exceptions. She is sort of my built-in alarm, even though she gets up a LOT earlier.

My office is on a completely separate floor of the house - the basement, of course - and its sole purpose is to be the office. There is no TV there, only an AM/FM radio and (of course) iTunes. When I'm doing general business busy work, I tend to listen to iTunes or talk radio sort of in the background... when developing databases, everything is off.

I believe that the separate and single-purpose thing is really important. In our last place, the office was a corner of a spare bedroom, and it was just way too easy to get distracted.

I have learned that at 6PM I turn off the lights, walk upstairs and close the door. I am now home from work.

I try to take an hour most days as a break, either to run an errand or two, walk around a nearby park, or just talk to the guy at the dry cleaners. It sort of addresses the lack of human contact thing, even if you just go outside and wave to the neighbor.

While its in the basesment, the office is a real office, and I'm fortunate to have a sliding glass door to the back yard and a big double window right next to my workstations. The bottom line is that I've conditioned myself to Be At Work when downstairs. My wife keeps asking if I don't want a TV down there, and I will not do it, and that's why.

I don't think there's any magic to it... you need to condition your brain to Go To Work and then to Go Home at repetitive times, and to make that work place somewhere other than next to the kitchen, or the living room, or even the laundry room. The isolation thing is something else, but for me I keep it at bay with my Mental Health Hour.

It is a tough thing to learn, though, and I can see why many people just can't get with it. Good luck.
Friday, October 13, 2006
It's hard to make a clean seperation between home & work when it's all at home. It would probably be the same if you lived at work, by yourself.

One thing you could try is finding a new place to work. For instance, youe local library, or a coffee shop. If you have any state colleges nearby, you may be able to get library access based on your state residency, and hang out on campus.

You could also see if there is some form of networking available from your local chamber of commerce which would allow you to get together with others.

And there's nothing wrong with going back to work in an office with coworkers.
Friday, October 13, 2006
I am experiencing something very similar to this.  My sleeping pattern is virtually nonexistent; some days I sleep at 6pm, some days at 7am (ahhh, the sun came up time for bed).  I have found, also, that when I am up that late, I usually eat another meal, making it four for the day.  Naturally, that isn't good for my waistline. To compound my problem, my wife also started working from home, so we are both here. 

I am starting to see signs of hope.  I have been able to make the gym twice a week (shooting for 3-4 per week) and in the last couple days I have forced myself to go to sleep at a "normal" time (~11pm) even though, like the above poster I am more of a night coder. 

I think it comes down to suffering that way enough that you want to do something else.  I have been at this for two months or so, and I am really interested in changing things around.  Go to bed earlier, get up earlier, exercise as much as you can, only eat when you are hungry (I know, easier said than done) and take breaks at regular intervals.  For example, when you eat, leave you desk, maybe eat with your wife and watch a movie.  I find that works to get my mind off the code I am writing long enough to relax.
Joshua Volz Send private email
Friday, October 13, 2006
John, that's a tremendous recommendation. Thanks for posting it.
someways similar to OP
Friday, October 13, 2006
Hmm, I suffer from most of the symptoms and I work in an office.
SomeBody Send private email
Friday, October 13, 2006
The key at least for me is very strict discipline. I get up between 5:00 AM and 6:00 AM and I start working by 7:30 AM. By 7:30 AM I catch up on news, close easy support requests, drink coffee and have breakfast. I work until 5:00 or 7:00 PM depending on days with about 1 - 3 hours of total break.

I found that if I do not get up early and start working my day gets wasted. The earlier I start the more I get accomplished. Family knows better not to interrupt while I am working and if I am doing some heavy design you better stay away from me... I have sign I put on the door to scare away the interrupters :-)

In any case you have to discipline yourself and start putting constant hours in every day. I avoid work after 7:00 PM and I am in bed by 10:30 PM. This schedule works for me great...

Create strict schedule for yourself and follow it for 4 weeks. Commit to 4 weeks only to see how it works for you.

After that time I think you will see the benefit and will have desire to continue with it indefinitely. If it does not create different one and try it for another 4 weeks.
Friday, October 13, 2006
I've been working from home for about 6 years now, 4 years as a regional technical sales person for some dot coms, then the last 2 or so as an independent consultant/web app developer. I can't imagine commuting to an office every day now, after being here "on my own" for so long.

I too have focus problems, especially on some long-term projects that I'm just sick of, but which there's still a fair amount of money left in if I can just get them finished off... I go through spells where I get up, surf the net, then see it's close to lunch time, so I got out to the kitchen a little early and flip on the TV. Get sucked into the afternoon movie, putter around the house a little, try to get some work done but then it's time for my favorite primetime shows, then try to do some more work, then it's bed time. As I'm falling asleep, I'm thinking "Crap, another wasted day. Tomorrow I'm gonna get right to work and get some stuff done!"  But it doesn't happen...

When I do get in a work groove, I can't stop. I spend all day and long into the night coding/etc. I can get a lot of work done then, so I get tempted into using that as a crutch for my non-productive sessions. "It doesn't matter if I basically blow off this week; all I need is a good productive week next week and I'll be all caught up."  Most times it eventually happens, but sometimes it doesn't, and I'll realize that for 2-3 weeks I've only done "firefighting" work on an on-call basis, but no progress on my long-term projects.

I'm trying to get better about setting deadlines, and then letting clients/partners know about them with a request to hold me to them. I'm actually good at getting stuff done if I know there is a drop-dead no-sh#% deadline that I have to get certain things finished by.  If deadlines become too flexible, so do I...

I'm definitely out of shape as well. Used to run cross country and track in high school (a *long* time ago now), and was a bike messenger in Boston for a while. But I sit all day, either in front of a computer or a TV, and continue to eat 3 normal meals (plus some snacks of course).  Because I don't have to "dress for clients" at home, I wear a lot of elastic waistband shorts and stuff; when I have to put on "real" pants to visit a client, and have a hard time buttoning them, I think "crap, I gotta start exercising more."  When I've done it in the past, I lose weight fairly easily. It's just ending the procrastination and Getting It Done that eludes me lately...

I like the idea of an office, but I'm so spoiled having everything I need here at home, and being able to save a buttload of money by not having to drive anyplace for days or even weeks sometimes, that it would be a BIG adjustment (not to mention outlaying "extra" cash that I don't always have... mainly because my billing is on a per-project basis, and when I don't complete milestones, I can't invoice the clients)

In a nutshell, I love working for myself and working from home. Being able to walk my kids to school in the morning, being here when they come, having my own schedule, etc -- it's all so nice. I just need a TON of discipline to be injected!

My listed homepage below is not actually mine; but it should be set that way in my browser I think... :)
Anonymous (so clients can't tell it's me!)
Friday, October 13, 2006
I started working from home 1 day/week about 4 years ago and now I do it 3-5 days/week depending on customer requirements.

The single biggest thing that helped me was having a *definitive* start of my day.  I would get up at the normal time and when I'd normally head to work, I'd go out and get coffee.  This made it clear that by the time I got back, I was "at work".

In recent months, I've started GTD fully so I have lists all over the place which tend to keep me focused on what needs to be done.
KC Send private email
Friday, October 13, 2006
"I go through spells where I get up, surf the net, then see it's close to lunch time, so I got out to the kitchen a little early and flip on the TV. Get sucked into the afternoon movie, putter around the house a little, try to get some work done but then it's time for my favorite primetime shows, then try to do some more work, then it's bed time. As I'm falling asleep, I'm thinking "Crap, another wasted day. Tomorrow I'm gonna get right to work and get some stuff done!"  But it doesn't happen..."

that's me too..
from Michigan
Friday, October 13, 2006
I go in waves of intensity.

Sometimes I'm so burnt out I get in George Jetson mode ("I had to puch 5 buttons today!"). Even trivial tasks seem to be a monumental burden. DVD binges are a must. My recent favorite recommendation is "Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang". Another option is to draw the blinds, unplug the phone, forget about shaving, and watch every season of 24, Lost, and The Wire in your underwear. Make sure to give the pizza guy a good tip.

Other times anything non-work related is just a distraction. You look at a scenic wilderness photo and think, "Yeah it's beautiful, but I bet there's no internet connection there... where could I recharge in my laptop?"

Luckily for me, most of the time I strike a nice balance.
Nick Hebb Send private email
Friday, October 13, 2006
I've started working from home 3 years ago. My job is a mix of consulting job for paying bills and work for a newproduct together with my partner.
I really *love* working at home. Having my own schedule it's wonderful, not having to pick up car by itself is a big plus also. I hate traffic, plus I have earned 1 hour each day.. a lot of time!
Yes, it does require a lot of discipline and self-motivation, but personally motivation comes from the job I have to do, not the place where I am. If I like what I do nothing can distract me.
Obviously not every day is the same, some days it's a pain and evening arrives without results, but it's the kind of job; it's the same if you are at office, The difference is, that if you are in office you have to stay behind the screen, even if it's a bad day.. at home if I feel is a non-productive day, I've learnt not to feel myself bad, but I dedicate my time in other manual activities, like clean up the house or something similar; so that I know that when creativity will come back I will have more time to concentrate in my job.
My little "secrets" are:
- fixed schedule for my days: start job at 9, eat at 13, go out for an hour to take a coffee and talk with friends, start job at 14, stop at 18 for an hour of sport, then eat, relax, start working again at 21 until 2 am.
- even if I stay at home I wear just like when I go out consulting (well, casual dress...)
- don't have food like cakes or similar at home.. I keep a bottle of water near me so if I feel I need something I drink some water
- eat regularly and at regularly hours, don't take food near the pc...
- fixed hours for internet.. I have a list of links and I visit only those sites.. so no waste of time googling here and there :-) 20 minutes in the morning for "work" links, 20 minutes in the afternoon for other non-working interests.
- dont watch tv ... NEVER.. (well, I'm lucky I hate tv :-) TV is a EVIL, you can burn entire afternoons thinking it's only ten minutes you have started watching it!! Radio and/or music not only is ok, but it's a MUST! Cannot work without..
- if I have long-time schedules, the important thing (well, works for me) is: do something each day, little or big but something.. so you never lose the contact with the job, and is important seeing that things are moving.
-for anyone..friends, parents, wife, girlfriend.. make clear that you are home working.. and so they have to respect this!!
Friday, October 13, 2006
+1 for leaving the house
+1 for separate work space
+1 going to the gym/drinking water/ no cupcakes

As for the rest...well I look at being able to wear ultra-casual clothes, and sleeping until 9:00 as the benefits of working from home. 

I got rid of the movie channels to save $50.00 and a lot of time every month.  That seemed to help with some of the procrastination. 

I also have a problem focusing during the day, but I like to have most of my real work done before my family gets home so I can spend time with them (another benefit of working at home).

I've gotten into the habit of running errands in the late afternoon and then coming home to cook dinner.  That errand time breaks up the day, and ensures that I wear normal clothing sometimes. 

I think it's also important to have a hobby.  Back when I started the ISV, I would work all day and then come home and work more on the ISV.  There wasn't a lot of time for anything else.  When I finally quit my job I made sure I had something do to relax in the evenings.

It makes it easier to focus during the day if you have something to look forward to in the evening as a reward.
Karen Stark
Friday, October 13, 2006
+1 for no TV
+1 for entire seasons of good shows

I am sure you are reading the above and thinking "what?"  I have no cable at my house.  I don't even get local channels.  What I do is have a netflix subscription which lets me get the good shows that come out on DVD.  Sometimes, when you just need some time off, it's good to watch a couple of episodes of your favorite show.  I personally like:  Alias, Carnivale, Sopranos, Deadwood, Lost, The Shield, Rescue Me and my wife likes Desparate Housewives.  I haven't seen The Wire, but I keep hearing about it, so I might have to. 

I think, in the end, it comes down to one Nike driven phrase, Just Do It.  Everytime you think something is going to take you forever to finish, just get started.  For example, I was putting off porting my architecture for C# Winforms apps from .NET v1.1 to v2.0 because I thought it was going to take forever and be a total pain.  Once I got started it went well, and I was able to port it entirely and test it in only 9 hours.  That's much less than I was expecting because I was taking advantage of several of the new v2.0 features (generics, partial classes, and a bit of anonymous methods).  But, if I had procrastinated it wouldn't have gotten done, because I would have felt it was an unsurmountable task.  In short, Nike got it right, Just Do It.
Joshua Volz Send private email
Friday, October 13, 2006
I just went back to the office, same company, just said I dont want to work from home anymore.

I miss people, I miss social, I miss having the very defined line of work & home. I was able to work and get things done, I just didnt like it, though I did have a bad no productive spell for a bit that I had to force myself to correct.

Anyway, maybe best for you is the shared office idea, look around maybe you can find a couple of other local guys/start ups that will split rent with you.
Saturday, October 14, 2006
"It doesn't matter if I basically blow off this week; all I need is a good productive week next week and I'll be all caught up."

Anonymous (So Clients...), I'm telling you, get a separate shared office. I went through the exact same as you and accomplished only about a week's work over an entire year while working at home. But when you're sitting in a rented office with people walking by in the hallway every five minutes, there's nothing else to do except work on your projects, because you don't want to let people see you goofing off. At home there's just too many distractions and no accountability. Get an office!
Saturday, October 14, 2006
You've obviously hit a nerve here OP.

I have been working full-time from home for about 4 years. First for my previous employer and now for myself.

I am night owl, so I code later and get up late. Its just the way I am and I don't see any point fighting it. My wife is the opposite, but we manage fine. She gets up at 7ish when the baby wakes up. I get up anywhere between 8 and 10. I work from when I get up to around 6pm with breaks for breakfast and lunch. I also have tea and coffee breaks with the family. When my wife goes to bed at 10pm I work for another 2-4 hours.

I don't have a problem with motivation. I have a bigger problem with stopping working. I often put in a few hours over the weekend as well. And I rarely go more than a few hours without checking the email when I am at home.

I spend some of my 'work' time surfing the web and reading JoS - especially when I have boring stuff to do. But I am very productive, so I don't see it as a problem. Also some of the stuff I found out surfing and reading this forum is very helpful to my business.

I work long hours but I get to see more of my family than if I was at an office. On Thursday it was a beautiful day and I took 3 hours off to take my son swimming for the first time. Its nice to be able to do that.

I really like that I don't have to commute. Thats seems like such a waste of time and money.

I have a separate room for work. But the attic and nursery are full of jiffy books and books. We need a bigger house.

I don't have snacks in the house to avoid temptation. I don't have any games installed on the PC. I try to exersize, even if it is just running to the post box. I do a workout with a friend one day a week and I have started going out running with the neighbour 1 day a week. I think the key here is to make it the same day every week, otherwise its too easy to make excuses.

I don't really miss the socialising side of work that much. Even when I worked in an office I tended to shut the door and work odd hours so I could concentrate. But its not ideal that I don't leave the house some days. In the long term I am thinking about doing some consulting alongside the product development to get me out of the house a few days a month.
Andy Brice Send private email
Saturday, October 14, 2006
I was working in a 30 people publishing company, and then started my own microISV. Now, I am working from home. With three children this is not always easy, but I am by far more productive because I don't have to deal with the distraction from co-workers as well as meetings, and the work is more fun because I don't 'run into a wall' all the time with new ideas. I agree, however, that this life/work style requires a lot of self-discipline and a good structure.
Eric Boehnisch-Volkmann Send private email
Saturday, October 14, 2006
You need structure in order to be able to sustain your productivity at home. Get up at the same time, go to work at the same time, go to bed at the same time. Your body needs a schedule in order to function efficiently.

You must have an Office with a door. It not only keeps the family interuptions to a minimum but it tells your self that 'you are working'.

Get dressed, take a shower, shave -- do all the normal things you would do if you were going to commute. This makes sure your brain knows you are not just lounging around the house.

Something else that I do is keep the same schedule on weekends as much as possible. It takes your body/mind time to adjust to a new schedule, throwing a wrench into it every 5 days will take a day or two to recover from, like jet-lag.
Saturday, October 14, 2006
"Something else that I do is keep the same schedule on weekends as much as possible. It takes your body/mind time to adjust to a new schedule, throwing a wrench into it every 5 days will take a day or two to recover from, like jet-lag."

Exactly my bigger problem... I'll try to follow your suggestion, but will not be easy. I live alone for 5 days, then my girlfriend comes here for weekend.. and my usual schedule is changed... And sometimes takes me monday to become 100% productive...
Saturday, October 14, 2006
From Michigan, here's what you should do:

1. Put the television in the garage during the day. You simply do not watch television before 6 pm. That's ingrained in me. (If the TV's big, then hide the cables.)

2. Make a list of the things you need to do for your work. Sort them into order, then work your way through. Cross out each item as you do it. You don't have to do every item. You might only do one item a day. But you will be starting to get things done, and eventually will find interest. Also, you will be comfortable working at home.

3. Don't worry about preserving conventional office hours or routine too much. I've never been into that, and neither have most other home-workers I know. I might start work at 10 am, but then I work till 10 pm.

4. Focus on your tasks. So long as you get them done, the other stuff is irrelevant.
Been there
Saturday, October 14, 2006
Been there,

thanks that sounds logical to me... Lets hope I can get myself to stick with it
from Michigan
Saturday, October 14, 2006
I guess you need structure. I don't like structure and fell right into working without any :)

Seriously though OP, I think you need to get it out of your head that you need to work in a particular way or a particular set number of hours at a set time of day. You didn't say if you are married or have children at home but if you don't then just don't worry about it.

Stop thinking of your sleep patterns as messed up. Why are they messed up? Only because they don't match what a majority of society have deemed correct. Work when you want and sleep when you want. Your choices are as correct as any other sleep pattern.

The list idea is a good one. Make a list and start by making sure you get at least 1 thing on the list done each day (or night). You will improve as you continue to do this.

As for number of hours worked, you choose. Your choice is as valid and correct as anyone else’s. If you want to work 2 hours a day, fine. You can work a different number of hours each day if you want, depending on what needs to be done that day and how you feel. Personally, I have never worked "long" hours, don't work long hours now and probably never will work long hours. I love creating software but I also love several other things that I want to spend time doing.

My husband & I ran our own business for 14 years out of our basement and now he's employed outside of home for a while and I'm working on my own from home again. We've always been successful and made a very good living. We've never shut ourselves off from the world while working at home. We never worked "long hours". Oh yea, we've always had a TV in our home office.

The point I'm trying to get across here is that just because you feel like keeping unconventional hours and sometimes you get distracted with other things does not make you a slacker. You are not required to do the same thing as anyone else. This is a job perk. Just relax, get at least 1 thing on your list done, and stop trying to conform to rules that no longer apply to you. Things will eventually fall into place and you'll get more comfortable and confident in your ability to manage yourself. And, as you get more confident, you'll be more inspired and get more done.
Deborah Miller Send private email
Saturday, October 14, 2006
I make sure to get up every morning at 8am by setting my alarm.  I hated getting into the office late, so why should I think any different getting late into my home office?  I'm also forcing my self to "commute" by making a real breakfast every moring instead of ceral or toaster waffles.

I think it is very important to dress the part too.  I make sure to dress just like I did when I when I took a bus and worked in an office, only wearing slippers instead.

For me the hardest part is calling it a day.    I can literally work a solid day 8am to 8pm if I'm not careful.  Maybe I should set an alarm to tell me to get the hell off the computer and call it a day, huh?

Basically, it's really about self discipline.  You have to really force yourself into being just as professional at your "home" office as you would at a "real" office.
Cory R. King
Saturday, October 14, 2006
Wow, I completly forgot the most important thing:

I force myself to do all that because I enjoy every minute I spend building my product.  More time sleeping is less time doing something I enjoy.  I love my day and wake up excited every single morning.
Cory R. King
Saturday, October 14, 2006
John's experience in an executive office center is seconded here (I'm the only one in my location and almost could work from home).  I rent in the town next door with good conference rooms, receptionist, etc.  For me, there's a huge difference in working in an office - my body senses "this is a place to work". 

Right now, I'm in my living room, trying to do a little work.  My eldest is at my feet, playing with Polly Pockets and there's Alternative Rock on the radio.  Nothing stopping me from work, but I'm goofing around on JoS.

Bankstrong Send private email
Sunday, October 15, 2006
Working at home requires real discipline.  My suggestions, based on what works for me:

* Set an Alarm Clock to wake up.
* Maintain the same wakeup time on the weekends.
* Try to maintain a set schedule for when you start working and when you stop working.
* Separate work and living areas.  That includes work computer and recreational computer.
* Do not start your day with either television or recreational surfing or any other recreational activity.
* Get a TiVo to control your TV habits if necessary.
* Set aside a half hour or an hour a day to work out.  Make this the exception to the recreation rules. I like All Things Considered on NPR, so I never listen unless I'm working out.  When I want to listen, I have to workout.  Then, I plan to quit work and go workout before it comes on at 6 every day.  NEVER skip a workout just because you are busy with work stuff.  In the long term, maintaining daily structure is more important.
* Set aside an hour a day for purely social activity.  I like to go to a small local coffee shop at noon, where "Everyone knows my name."
* Use the sleep timer on your TV to make sure it shuts off at a particular time each night.
* Don't allow yourself to get out of sync with the rest of the world.  Don't plan to work evenings or weekends when others will be doing recreational thing that might distract you or that you might have to miss out on.
Jeff Send private email
Sunday, October 15, 2006
To me being able to get up when I like and wear what I like is one of the attractions of working at home. so I am surprised to hear people say that they set their alarm clock and dress as if working 9-5. Different strokes for different folks I guess.
Andy Brice Send private email
Sunday, October 15, 2006
great thread...

Are there any discussion boards or blogs that focus on the working-from-home/telecommuting audience? 

I'm considering making a pitch to my boss at the end of the year to allow me to telecommute.  Our office is in a part of the country that is just far too expensive for me to stay long term.

I'd like to do as much prep as possible to strengthen my argument before I broach the subject, so discussions like this are great.
W@rlock Send private email
Sunday, October 15, 2006
I saw a documentary long ago (back when I had a TV) about telecommuting in Sweden (or was it Norway?) Anyway, they profiled one guy who would take a walk (20-30 minutes) first thing in the morning. This was his "commute", signalling the start of the workday. Then he'd "walk home" at the end of the day.

Sorta killed the excercise and mental trigger birds with one stone.
Tork Twist Send private email
Monday, October 16, 2006
Had that nordic guy set up a cubicle in the toilet so the working environment was also similar to the one in his company?
/A Send private email
Monday, October 16, 2006
I've been working from home for almost a year. Initially my productivity wasn't too good because I wasn't used to working from home. I wouldn't start work until 10. I'd take "computer game breaks" that ended up being 4-6 hours. I couldn't get into a work groove, and I started feeling like a real slacker.

Eventually I was able to get much better, to where now I pride myself on being more productive than I ever could be in an office. What helped for me:

- get up early, get to work early. Having a working roommate or spouse helps -- if they get up & leave for work by 7:30, then you end up getting up & having breakfast with them and are awake and alert by 7. :) Getting up early meant that I had a nice big block of time to work. When I started late, I would often NOT work late to compensate (even though I thought I would) because there were a lot of things going on at 5-6pm or later (wife, friends, tv shows, other stuff) so that I'd end up stopping work around 5 or 6 no matter when I started my day.

- don't do any activities (not even 5 minutes) during the day that you tend to get sucked into. For me it's computer games, so I don't touch them at all during the day. For others it's TV, or myspace, or whatnot. Reward yourself after your work day, not during. Don't fall into the "well I'm working from home so I can have fun for a few hours during the day & make it up at night." It just doesn't happen (for me, anyhow).

- if you can't focus, then getting an external office might help you avoid surfing all day & slacking. Early on I considered getting an office so that I could resist distractions by a) leaving them at home and b) having other people around ensuring that I'm at least looking busy if not actually busy. Thankfully for me I ended up not needing the external office, and I like having a zero commute. At some point I may get an external office anyhow so I can socialize a bit.

- having lots of water around & no snacks. Kept me from getting huge anyhow. ;)

- have a list of things you need to do. You can read Getting Things Done, or make yourself a weekly list. Make sure you have a deadline & are accountable to it. If you're working solely for yourself (not a client) then it can be easy to slack off. You need to have a deadline & a reason to meet it.

- feel free to repeatedly remind yourself what will happen if you don't work this out. That's right, you get to drive into an office again, and explain to everyone why you weren't able to work from home, and look back wishing you had been successful. :)

A friend of mine & I actually started a blog a few weeks ago called vacantcubicle.com specifically about working from home, although the content is a bit light right now. :/
Ben Strackany
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
I worked from home - it ruined me! I had no motivation, no structure, no discipline. What saved my sanity was a friend getting me deskspace in an office in town. I went in every day and it helped me get things done. May have saved my career too! Just being with people gives you perspective (or, if you prefer, helps you *lose* perspective!)
I'm not sure if I could ever go back to working from home. YMMV, of course, and I have a depressive streak in me, but I highly recommend having somewhere to go where there are other people.
Dan Chambers Send private email
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Currently making plans to work from home, figured I'd ask for a little advice/input...

Slightly unusual situation; am still at the living with flatmates stage in my life, and am making plans to get a flat with someone I know who works with me (y'know, this is sounding like a worse plan even as I type).

As part of the move, we're planning on getting somewhere with a room we can use as an office, and then working from home most of the time. The plan is that having someone else around should solve the issue of working alone, as well as hopefully helping with motivation.

Question is, does anyone have experience of living and working with someone? Any advice?
Ross Nicoll Send private email
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Great thread. The two biggest fixes for me:

As has been seconded many times, I was able to set up an office situation. My husband has a studio where I can work, and I take advantage most days. This forces me to shower, put on presentable clothing and know that I'm going to be seen.

The second fix was IM, since many folks at my biggest client (including my supervisor) use it. So by setting up a work-only IM name, I'm 'visible' to my company during the day, helping to keep me from those two-hour trips to the library, when I'd otherwise have to log out.
Michelle Wu Send private email
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
To the original post from Michigan, I know exactly what you mean. To make matters worse, if you're a telecommute programmer, you run the higher risk of getting cut from a gig because you lose your political clout of having eyeball time with the powers that be, and the only way out is to never ask for a raise (because you're already paid well), let raises come to you naturally, and work your butt off with noticable results -- moreso than what an internal programmer in the office could pull off.

And if you're a startup entrepreneur, if you're in this Michigan guy's situation, then your idea must be too dry of an opp and you're better off changing the business plan a little or looking for other work.
Supermike Send private email
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Great post.

I am currently working from home and suffer from all of these problems.  At first I thought it was the greatest offer I ever got, now I miss the office and want to go back.

As a software developer, the lack of human interaction is the biggest problem.  The second one would be the constant temptation to see what new stories have been posted to Digg or Reddit, leading to a big decrease in productivity (in fact, I found this off Reddit, and I should be working!).  Personal hygiene gets interesting too.
John Send private email
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
They key to conquering this would be to define a why.
Why are you working from home. You could do it as a mind map.
WHen you have brainstormed the why (because  u cant't afford an office, it saves time commuting and so on,) you brainstorm How. Linking the why and the how allows you to see the connection. The "how" sounds like an easy list, (I'm guessing you would say 8 to 12 work, 12- 13:00 Lunch 13:00 17:00) but by reading your post you are not following your own guidelines. So create a realistic "HOW" . (If you think you need a break after 1 hour than write that doen in the HOW. Be specific in the how, don't say take a break, but say what you are going to do in the break and also define the lenght of the break. If the realistic "how" plan isn't where you want to be write that down also, where you want to be in one month, one year and so on. When you have the how list break them up in a daily list and use for example http://www.joesgoals.com/ joe's goals to motivate you. Like the other posts, I think you have to define rules for your work day. Worked for me ! Good Luck
Ari Send private email
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
I love working from home!  My success however centers around the following:

1)  I have a true home office.  A separate building on my property that I go to every day.  Therefore, I leave the "house."
2)  I am an active guy and live in a beach destination location.  People come here for vacation, I live here!
3)  I work/interact with my coworkers using IM, Livemeeting, teleconferencing on a regular basis.  Therefore, interaction with coworkers is not an issue.
4)  I am a software engineer which is a perfect job for working offsite.  Writing code is easy when set up in your own space.
5)  Flexibility is a gift, but cannot be abused.  If I take an extended lunch break to catch some waves, I make up for it later in the day.

All in all, I have been teleworking for over 5 years, and much of that time has been full time.  It would be hard for me to go back to working full time in a regular office!
Bill Send private email
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
I've been at it for over a year. My biggest problem is working too much. When I'm rolling, I don't like to stop.

I start around 7:45am and try to end around 7pm but it often winds up being more like 9pm. I do errands whenever I want but I have very few to do. I seldom work at all on weekends.

About two days every couple months I just don't want to work — but that's usually because of what I'm working on at that time.

My client is my old employer so I can call in and talk to old friends whenever I want.
Eiren Send private email
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
I'm yet another computer programmer that works from home a few days a week.  I have found that I am more productive at home than I am in the office for several reasons:

- Lack of "exhaustion" from commuting (the office is over an hour away).
- Lack of noise (although I code, I sit in the "general pop") and the quirt environment suits my coding needs.
- Lack of interuptions (unless I have IM open, no one can bother me).

In addition, two huge differences in my lifestyle help working from home - eating right and working out.  When I was eating poorly and just sitting around, I had less energy, lacked focus and generally sucked at being an employee.  Now, I workout 6 days a weeks, run 8+ miles basically every day I do workout and eat much better.  Incorporating a workout helps you get out of the house too for a little social interaction.
Hagrin Send private email
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Exercise, exercise, exercise. Go to the gym at least three times a week (in the morning helps) and take at least one walk around the neighborhood every day.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006
I think the best advice (or account-of) is the one where someone pointed out having a separate but independent office did the trick for them.  Although I do not yet "work from home", I do see my next job as involving a degree of self-employment.  I intuitively ran the scenario and realized I would never work from home productively for all the reasons you cite.  However, I am aware of places that "rent" small office suites and THIS would be a place to "clock in" and "clock out" each day, not to mention provide office social support and variety.

The problem is that if you've been working on a traditional schedule in a traditional office all your life, your brain is effectively wired to work that way.  You need to leave the house, go to an office, work, and then leave the office.  That feels normal and so you're more productive.  It might be different if someone has always worked from home, but few grow up career-wise that way.  The rent-a-suite thing is exactly the kind of thing that maintains that familiar pattern and is certainly something I'm going to look into.
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
This is scaringly comparable to my life right now. :S

I had a part-time job along my homejob for a couple of years which was great to keep me 'in line' with the normal way of life but since I started working fulltime at my homejob I started slacking. Getting up late, going to sleep late, watching movies and series for houres in a row, reading reddit - digg all day , ... having trouble finishing even the simplest of tasks , the whole nine yards ... I really wonder how I can let myself fall this low.

I'm currently at the all time low of my motivation and productivity, so this post isn't a second to soon.

It's nice to see I'm not alone on this but nobody can fix it in our place. We need to change our way of life and mentality or we'll still be posting/reading this thread in
5 years. (after going bankcrupt first ofcourse).
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Stop visiting links.  Use an RSS reader to save more time, especially if you only have a few things to read.
Ernie Oporto Send private email
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Two kinds of people work from home:  Those who never leave work, and those who never leave home.
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Try to avoid working from home if at all possible.
Or you might find management starting to think along the lines... if the job can be done remotely from home, the job can just as easily be done by someone in Bangalore for US$5000 a year....
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Most all IT workers really only do about 10 hours of "real" work a week I am convinced.  So, even if you FORCE yourself to work 4 true, focused hours a day, 5 days a week while working from home you DOUBLE your productivity and have all that free time to slack.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006
I'm another person with similar experiences. In my case, I bought a laptop with a big battery and now go and sit in one of the local chain-store cafes to work. Just getting out of the house improves my spirits, and somehow there are less distractions at the cafe (or at least, the distractions that do exist - like talking to cute girls at the table next to me - don't feel like "wasted" time compared to the distractions at home).
Matt Send private email
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
I used to struggle from these same problems.  There's a couple things I've done to make it easier.

First, set hours and stick to them!  I wake at 8am, and I start working at 9am.  I don't work past 7pm.  If I do work in the evening, it's for personal projects, or interesting problems that I would otherwise be trying to solve.  I set the same standards for weekends.

If you do spend the day screwing around and not getting anything done, when 7pm roles around -- tough shit!  You shouldn't have been screwing around.  It only takes a couple of days like this before you start to feel an incentive to stick to your hours.

Also, David Allen's Getting Things Done, and Merlin Mann's 43folders.com have done wonders for my procrastination.
bugeats Send private email
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
I started working from home a year and a half ago and haven't looked back since. I have a small 'office' in the attic where I can shut the door and get away from the hustle and bustle of 3 small kids downstairs (although I have to admit that I do enjoy their visits up-stairs :-).

One of the most important things I find is having the discipline to start on time (usually 9:30) and keep the momentum going during the day, even when it looks oh so nice outside (unfortunately I can't see my laptop screen when sitting in the garden).

As for social contact, I do manage to get out and about a bit - all meetings are done at the clients office or a cafe in town and when I'm in Amsterdam for a meeting (I'm living in the Netherlands the last 12 years) I always tie in a visit to friends or ex-colleagues there so as to keep in touch (they're all in the same business as me, so that helps).

Another up-side is, having small kids, being flexible enough to 'stay down stairs' when one of them is sick (long live Sponge Bob and Stuart Little :-) - I can usually get my work done and still keep an eye on them. That was extremely awkward when working for a boss.

The down-side at the moment is that I'm extremely busy at the moment and I need to hire in other freelancers to help out but where can I put 'em... I know myself I wouldn't feel comfortable walking into someone elses house at 9:00 to start work and even something like making a cup of coffee would feel awkward. It looks like  I may have to start looking for an office here in town so that I can get some help in when things go bonkers.

What's the best thing about working from home? Listening to MY MUSIC on iTunes the whole day and not having anyone giving out about the crap I listen to... Oh, and seeing my wife and kids for lunch most days as well of course :-)
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
I've found its actually healthy to check into the office once in a while. since my primary job responsibilities require me to be at work, I only get to work from home occasionally. However, these symptoms you list are very familiar.

Some things to help keep you motivated? Take regular breaks. Go for a small walk outside, lay out by the pool, read a book for a few minutes or lift wieghts. I've found just having a set of dumbbells nearby and picking them up every now and again takes my mind off things, gets the blood pumping again and doesn't take me away from my computer.
James M. Send private email
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
When I started working from home things really changed for the better.  I found that I was finally able to get enough sleep without being constrained by having to be at work at the same time every day.

I also found I generally had more time to do what I wanted to do in the day, like working out and taking a nap when I needed it.

My issue is that, even when I have a normal job, I don't feel like working at the same time every day, so it's nice for me to have the flexibility to work when I feel like it and do other things when I don't (it saves a bunch of time that would normally be wasted browsing the web while stuck in a cube).

Tuesday, October 17, 2006
It is not for everyone.  I've been at home for four years now and love it.  I tried a few months ago to go to an office (shared space) thinking I would work harder, do more, but in reality it was more of a distraction that staying at home.  People would stop by to say hi, I was a few steps away from a dozen restaurants, or looking at a bookstore, or just taking a walk.  On top of that, the net was slower at the office (T1 v. 8mb cable) the phones were more expensive (every call) and there was the hassle of driving to the office and parking and whatnot.  At home I have distractions too, but when I get in the zone, I'm sort of oblivious to everything.

My last business partner, in contrast, couldn't do more than 20 minutes work at home EVER.  It was nearly impossible for him to even check his email, as he was constantly being pulled in different directions, etc.

As for the out of shape, I don't go to a gym, but I find I eat better at home (no take out, no fast food) and I get some exercise doing other things (mow the lawn, plant some bushes, clean the garage). 

You do need to get out and meet people--it is an important part of business, but meeting them can take the form of tech conferences and other trade type meetings in the area, along with client calls of course.  I also keep all my IMs on all day long and get a lot of video conferences and what not done as well.
Andrew Leyden Send private email
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Working at home (WAH) can be a challenge.

I've been wah off and on for several years and entirely for the last year and a half.

I think the type of work you do really affects how well you can work from home.  My job is in client services, so a lot of my work is reactionary.  I probably do 75% of my job via email and 25% on the phone.  When I'm on a conference call I often just need to keep track of what is going on and listen, not actively talking.  Other meetings I have to run, take notes, etc.  If I'm on a meeting where I'm basically a bystander, I often browse the web or play a PC game while I listen with the mic on mute.

TV doesn't distract me when I'm emailing, but Tivo is a must.  It's much easier to break away from a program to write an email, produce a project plan or answer a phone call or email when I know I can pause something and come back to it later.  If I didn't have Tivo I probably wouldn't watch much TV.

I do have a defined "office" but I often move my laptop to my lazy-boy chair, outside or even in bed if I'm not feeling well.

My sleep habits define themselves.  It's rare that I'm not up and out of bed by 7 or 7:30 every day.  I often have calls starting at 8am, so that works out well.  I also don't have a definite "quitting time", although I do shut out my voip phone at 5pm.  Technically I'm on-call 24-7, so I keep my phone with me constantly.

I have a PDA phone that allows me to go out and run errands while still keeping my appointments. 

It's mostly living my life and putting that on hold for work, rather than working and putting work on hold for life.

I reply to emails or voicemails as soon as possible to avoid forgetting and also to keep a sense of urgency, which is important for customer satisfaction. I heavily utilize Outlook calendar and I set reminders and flags constantly for emails so that I don't forget and can track long-term projects.

Discipline is essential, but that type of discipline depends on your job. I don't have to get dressed or brush my hair or even sit down at a well-defined workspace.  But I do have to be available 24-7 and I try to respond and address any concerns as quickly as possible.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006
I go with John on this one. Have been working solo for about 5 years (with previous stints solo). My experience says that I get the most done and feel the best psychologically when I have a dedicated office outside the home. Sub-lease in offices with similar professionals is the best bet since you likely won't have to eat the premium charged by an *executive* suite and you won't have the responsibility of a master lease with the landlord. Keep it short-term and flexible. Good luck to all - here's to staying out of those ugly cube farms and here's to independence.
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
I don't have any problems working at home...I can get out of the house whenever I want, to socialize.
NORTH Send private email
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
I've been working from home for a couple of years.  I have had, and continue to occasionally have, many of the same problems people here mention: I stay up late and get up late, getting started during the day is a pain (but at night it usually kicks in), and I sometimes get caught up surfing the Internet or watching TV, often as part of a long "break" (from all the Internet surfing?).

I've got some techniques that work to keep me on track, and most of them are ones that are already listed here.  It's key to be organized enough to know what you need to be doing.  GTD is great for that, though sometimes I can't keep track of it the way the book recommends.  If I devolve into having some computerized sticky notes with to-do lists and my inbox, that generally works OK.  I find that after I shower and get dressed--even in casual clothes--I'm more likely to stay focused on work.

Someone(s) above mentioned that it's OK if you work late and get up late.  I agree with this (last night I went to bed around 0300, woke up around 1030), but it's very easy to fall into a trap of thinking you're putting in sufficient work time when you're really not.  In the case of my job I have a never-ending queue of work, practically speaking.  The result is that I don't want to slack off because I won't be pulling my weight in our small company, but I also don't want to overwork myself since there's no real point to it.  To this end I've started keeping a timer on my gnome-panel (equivalent of Windows task bar).  On Sunday I set it to 40 hours.  Throughout the week, everytime I start/stop working, I start/stop the timer.  This lets me know throughout the week if I've been slacking or not.  So I can work nights, but the time is accounted for: if I wait until 2300 to start working, I'm either going to get behind or stay up really late (and I've found the hour or two before bed to be somewhat unproductive).  Also, when you have to remember to start/stop the timer, you start to also get a sense of, "hey, I just stopped that timer to browse random web sites... that's probably bad.  I should get back to work."

To make this timer work, though, I have to have a drive to actually get 40 hours.  At the end of the week, if I don't have 40 hours, I actually feel bad because that means I'm basically not keeping my end of the bargain with my employer.  (Speaking of which, I need to finish this up so I can get my timer started this "morning.")

Someone also mentioned that you shouldn't worry if you're watching TV/movies a lot during the day, or only doing two hours of work, etc.  If you find watching TV/movies to be a good use of the remainder of your short life, by all means fill up your Netflix queue to your heart's content.  For me, I feel bad if I don't accomplish some things every day, whether work or personal.  Personal stuff includes learning something new, writing some useful software and releasing it, exercizing (oh, I keep granola and water around, and very few sweets in the house period), or at least reading some book I judge to be "mind-expanding."  If you also don't feel fulfilled when you watch a lot of TV, and you really find you can't control this (my TV watching is almost solely at dinner time), I actually suggest getting rid of your TV, at least for a while.
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
At work I go out and chat with other people. Commuting takes about 2.5 hrs in total. And Lunch breaks and coffee breaks take a lot of time.

At home, I am usually up at work by 7.30 and by 4.00 I am done. I dont have to be strick with myself it just comes in easily becasue i feel that already i have slept an evtra hour in the morning and did nothave to take bath and get ready. I dont go out for Lunch; usually cook something thats very quick. I am not compulsive coffee drinker. On the whole I am a lot more productive at home. But usually i dont work a lot from home. avg is about 2-3 days a month.

Best thing I like about working from home is that in the evening i dont have to ruch out and leave the work; I can continue working till 10-11 from home and finish my targetted tasks.

But the flip side is that, usually when i work from home, i miss my evening Gym sessions or skip Yoga classes.
Kapil Aggarwal Send private email
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
It makes me feel better to see that others are going through the same struggles. I worked in the cubicle-office world for over 20 years and I had a really hard time the first year I worked from home. I was so used to the office dynamic of balancing the demands of my boss with the needs of my staff required to get the work done. All of a sudden it was just me and the work.  No meetings, no personnel issues, no idiot managers... sounds like a dream?.. Well kinda. It's scary because you realize that now there is nobody to blame for failures, no circumstances to justify deadline delays... JUST YOU. I had to re-wire my brain. At first you calculate ALL THE EXTRA TIME you're going to have because you're not commutting, spending time in meetings, etc, but if you don't fill this time with structured activities, you will end up feeling guilty and beating yourself up because you've wasted the morning yaking on IM or surfing. KEEP USING YOUR PLANNER. Respect yourself by respecting your time. You don't have performance appraisals or pats on the back from your boss now, so you need to reward yourself for accomplishments. Also, any bad work habits you had in the office setting WILL follow you to your home office. You need to continue to work on these just as you would have, only now, there are no in-house seminars, you need to find the help you need on the internet. My last little piece of advise is that when you start to miss the human interaction element , ALSO remember that this was not always so great. Remember the obnoxious co-worker who you spent valuable time avoiding, or the pain-in-the-a** manager who just didn't "get-it".  Sit back, put your feet up, take a deep breath and SMILE... cause working at home is WAY-BETTER.
Suzie Healey Send private email
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
You seem to forget the incredible inefficiency of working in an office. Cast your mind back to the days when you did -- the long journey's to and from work, the misery of leaving your home in the dark and returning in the dark, those long pointless meetings, those endless e-mails. You're confusing "presenteeism" (the need to be seen) with productivity. Most days spent in the office are completely and utterly useless. You just feel better if you do nothing at work rather than doing nothing at home. I appreciate that this does not answer your question - but it might remind you of the utter inefficiency of office working.
Bobby Elliott Send private email
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Wow.  Exactly the same symptoms for me.  It just got progressively worse and worse.  I finally quit my job and moved back into an office environment.  That was the only fix for me.
Otter Send private email
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
This is a really interesting topic. I've posted a rather long reply to several quotes from this thread on my blog:


What I didn't write in my blog is that I think this goes somewhat into the direction of 'disagreeing with the stupid masses'. What is normal? Why is 'normal' good? Stuff like that.

Looking at the world on a bigger scale, I sometimes feel it's all these little decisions we make, that in the end really count.

I hope this is not too 'meta' and 'abstract'. I tend to be (write) this way.. sorry for that..

Daniel Lukic aka The.French.DJ Send private email
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
me too.
Willy B Send private email
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
I was in a similar crisis, then I tried my best to remember what was it like when I was in a corporate office, then I concluded that I should be able to do a better job in one efficient hour than the work done in a whole day in that office plus all the time spent in traffic, meeting, and all kinds of "overhead". So now, I am starting not to feel guilty when I watching TV in the middle of the day and working out when no one else is in the gym as long as I keep pumping my confidence that I will finish and even over accomplish the day's work in that one efficient hour that will come. It turns out that my efficient hour is often in the late night when my wife and kid are asleep and I felt a lot of pressure then. I admit it often happens that I have to work more than a few hours. But the next late morning, with a good sleep and a feeling of work done, I am feeling great!

If you are working at home yet still bearing the mind of punching timeclock at a corporate office, you are suffering the cuplrit of both. To enjoy working at home, you need enjoy the flexibility you gained. However, the bottom line to enjoy either is the passion of work. If you just can't enjoy work at all, you need consider changing career or maybe just quit for a while until you miss work again.
Hui Zhou Send private email
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Man, I'm never going back into an office unless I'm desperate.

I'm much more productive working at home and don't miss the 40 minute commute driving 80mph twice a day one bit.

The key is treat the home office just like one where your boss is around the corner. I'm at my desk at 8 and stay there until 5 with an hour for lunch and occassional breaks just like at the office.

Since I'm a writer and Web editor, the lack of distractions and necessary socializing at the office helps me be much more productive.

But then, I'm a reader-writer type and a natural introvert anyway, so I enjoy being alone while many people just dread it. My guess is that some folks are just not cut out to work at home.
Allan Send private email
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
I think working from home could be good for awhile. But sometimes it does get boring.

The strange thing is, while working from home I dont' have to need to eat as much and therefore easier to control weight. Perhaps I don't feel so stressed.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006
This article is funny and uncannily describes my own situation. I just started working from home and I have all of these issues. I am really worried and I want to get off my butt and get some work done (when I do work, I find that I am FAR more productive than I was when I was working for a large corporation).

One of the comments in this article resonated with me: someone said that she is more productive because her supervisor is on the IM.

So I thought I will set up a small (5-10) group of people who work from home in my IM buddy list. I will report my goals/progress every day, sort of pretending that people in the group are my bosses; I think I will be ashamed if I did not meet my daily goal. If you are working from home, IM me. My AIM id is struggling94301. You don't have to share any details about your work if you don't want to. Just share as much as you like, chat about issues if you like. If enough people are willing, I want to try this out for a month or so.

CAUTION: This is strictly for people who actually want to get some work done. You will get booted if you self promote or are otherwise disruptive.
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Yep, you nailed it!
Ok, this is what I do:

1 hour of work = 45 minutes of high concentration, 15 minutes to let off the steam. Use a clock for this and stick to it. Never more than 2 hours on the same task unless absolutely necessary.

Assignements for the week:
Monday is for management
Tuesday is for hardware work
Wednesday is for learning new skills / else
Thursday is for marketing
Friday is for finances
Saturday is for social
Sunday is for myself

Split the day in 2: before noon, after noon. Have a to-do list and follow it through.
A = URGENT AND IMPORTANT(First priority)
D= Delegate or discard

1. start work early.
2. schedule the worst part for the morning when brain is fresh
3. easier part for the afternoon
4. take a nice coffee/tea break middle of the afternoon (20 mn). Have a notepad and a pen with you.
5. send my emails
6. reply to emails
7. assign a mark for the work done that day (or pinpoint it on the road map to your goal), prepare work the next day (things to do, information, etc.)
8. clear the desk
9. end of the day of work, go outside for fresh air and exercise.
Francois Le Berre Send private email
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
I occassionally put my laptop in a backpack and bike to the library. In Vancouver's central library they have high speed wireless internet. It helps me focus having lots of people around who are also engaged in their work... people who won't bother you.
Adam Jones Send private email
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Working from home complicated my marriage (since dissolved), complicated my ability to separate work and life (two nervous breakdowns), and complicated my ability to actually get work done -- all despite my having a dedicated office in a separate part of the house, and a generally organized approach to the work.  It wasn't until I gave up working from home and got an actual office, still consulting, that I was able to treat work as work and leave it there at the end of the day.

Since then, in the wake of my marriage, I've essentially left consulting (sold the business) and chosen to work with a team again -- and I don't regret it a bit (except, of course, when I'd rather sleep in.)  Working alone was just too solitary for me, in too many ways, to be worth it.

Chris N. Send private email
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Wow... many of the complaints and some of the solutions are VERY familiar.  Left a company with 200 people after 12 years (G.E. bought us and layed everyone off). Now consult out of my basement.  It has been a hard year, but there are MANY plusses and minuses. 

Not commuting is a great plus (1.5 hours/day on a VERY dangerous road).  Being lonely is a minus.  I am still quite productive, but it comes in "bursts".

ONE OF MY BEST SOLUTIONS:  I joined a local lunch "pickup" game of Ultimate Frisbee 3x per week.  Gets me exercized, gets me some social interaction, someone one to have lunch with. 

Also, including showering, etc., I am gone from noon - 2:00 pm, and that makes me really plan my day well on those days. 

Find SOME local swimming, basketball, frisbee, bicycling club, etc. etc. near you.  Google or Yahoo Groups search will be good.
Bill T. Tomlinson Send private email
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Yep, been doing it for about a year and have all the downers you mentioned, i.e. motivation, routine problems etc.

I like the idea of setting up an office with other people. Perhaps a group of um, homeworkers could do this, even if it just means sharing space/rent/phones? Like the exec offices idea but more economical.

I live very rurally, so it would be hard for me to organize this, but just an idea, i.e. club together...
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
I work from home and I love it. I have found a great company with top notch products and training. Check it out via my website below. I would love to help you out.
AnnaLaura Brown Send private email
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
It's great to work from home. It's terrible to live in your office.
Paulo Eduardo Neves Send private email
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
I have the same problems. I am giving up working from home completely. It needs a lot of discipline and I don't have it.

Without variation whenever I worked from home my life was a mess and it ended up being 100% work, no personal projects. Since there's always work to be done but I am tired, I do some other things (like reading reddit), 98% of the time. Really a mess.
Pupeno Send private email
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Interesting comments so far, I'd like to know

Why is sleeping once a day normal?

Why do you have to do all your work in 1 block?  Well in an office where you have to commute and so "going to work" once a day reduces overheads, but otherwise?

Why not exercise and follow a different diet, they don't have to take alot of time.  I had great success with

Perhaps it's time to go and find yourself and what you want, what are your goals.
Gornin Send private email
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Wow, as soon as I can establish a career working from home, I will be certain to inform you all of my results. 

Working at home is my dream, however, have yet to find a profitable way to accomplish this.

Any ideas? :-)

Great article nonetheless.
Joel Send private email
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
I've been working from home for almost 30 years - 28 years, to be exact (yep, before tele-commuting, before wireless, before computers ... I was home officing back when officing wasn't even a word). It's always worked really well for me, but I think to a large extent it's really a personality thing. If you're someone who really likes a fair amount of external structure and lot of social interaction, working from home probably isn't going to be your cup of tea. But if you're pretty comfortable spending a lot of time alone and find external structure more of an aggravation than a plus, it's a good bet working from home will suit you fine.

I don't do any "separate work and home life" stuff. I have a "dedicated" office, but it's also kind of my de facto personal den (nice sofa, comfy chair, books, magazines, TV, the whole boat) and though I also have a livingroom and a "regular" den, I often watch TV and relax there in the evening and on weekends. I keep more-or-less regular hours, generally from about 8 a.m. to around 3 p.m., but I'm not a Nazi about it - I try to take each day as it comes and just do whatever seems like the most reasonable thing. Sometimes I'm still working at 9 p.m. and other times I'm basically done by noon. I like to get up around 7 a.m. (mainly because I have clients who tend to call the minute they walk in their office door and I need an hour of wake-up time so I'm on my toes if they do). I more or less aim for getting to bed around midnight, but if I get involved with something or I'm just not sleepy I don't worry about it - I figure it will all eventually even itself out, and it does.

I wear regular everyday at-home clothes, sweaters/sweatshirts and jeans in the winter, shorts in the summer. I often have the TV on while I'm working, usually something like HGTV or food Network, just pleasant background noise.

One thing its best for me to avoid if possible is "multi-tasking" business and non-business stuff at the same time (i.e., throwing in a load of laundry while the files upload, unloading the dishwasher while you're on the phone with tech support, etc.) Sometimes thats unavoidable of course, but it does make it hard to really focus and it always gave me a really harried, disorganized feeling.

I guess I've just worked this way so long that it's become a way of life and I don't really even think about it - ha, I get all thrown off my game if I have to actually get dressed up and go to a meeting. :-)

Working at home isn't for everyone, but if it appeals to you it's definitely worth a try and even if it turns out that you hate it, you haven't wasted your time because you're bound to have learned some things about yourself and how you're the most productive. I'd just say give it a fair shot, six months or a year at least - it's bound to be disorienting at first and it takes some time to get into a satisfying personal groove. But if you've given it a solid year you've probably got a good idea of how you're always going to feel about it.
zcx Send private email
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
I had all of the OP's problems. Sometimes I still do. Loneliness is probably the only one I haven't overcome completely.

Something that helped me recently was to take a morning class at my nearby community college. It gave me something to achieve every morning. I had to get dressed and out the door to make my 8 am class. This gave me a chance to interact with real people (not IM) and it woke up my brain. By 10 o'clock I'd be back at my desk, office door locked and Starbucks in hand. I would churn through work until mid-afternoon when I realized I was hungry. After that the day would usually decay into insanity with all of the little demands life throws at you - just like in an office!

+1 dedicated home office (with a door you can close)
+1 no TV
+1 iTunes

I also turn off email and IM during serious work time.
Matt Send private email
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
You just need a set yourself a routine and stick to it. Having a partner around who has to get up and work is also a great help. It does take a degree of discipline that some people just don't have and will never have.

I appreciate that not having people around during your work day is hard. To solve this I often organise meetings with my friends, either for a coffee or for lunch during the day.

No commuting. No office politics. No stupid questions over the wall of my "cube". My own laptop configured by me, for me. To listen to music while I work. No anally retentive manager who gets stressed when I arrive at work at 9.05am.

I love working from home.
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
I've been working from home for the last 18 months as a telecommuter.  Its tough, but my secret is to make sure that I set my hours to match the office hours of my employer.  I work 8:30-5pm every day.  My office is just that, my office.  At 5 pm I sign off the computer and leave the room.  My current job has me using my personal Cell Phone to stay in contact with clients, and all of them are on the caller ID, after 5, I dont answer, they can get my voice mail.  Motivation can be a real problem some days (like this moment for example) but I also realize that were I in the office, there would be interruptions from meetings, people just dropping by the desk to chat or get input on some issue, so I don't beat myself up over spending 10-15 minutes here and there doing web surfing.  My biggest complaint I think is that I miss out on some of the communications loop.  A project is started which I am to have some stake in, and then my first indication that I missed something is when the boss is asking for a status report on something which I have never heard of.
J Murray Send private email
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
I find that it's harder to concentrate in the office than it is at home.  In the office, there are people walking around, talking to each other, phones ring, people stop by, flourescent lights battering me relentlessly, meetings happen, long lunches.. it's horrible.

At home, I have the environment I want... nice chair, table by the window where I have natural light... I can work outside in nice weather with a laptop.  When I get tired, I take a nap instead of pretending to work (credit Paul Graham), when I need to *think* I can go outside for a walk in the woods or sit by the pond on the beach - and actually *think*.

I have friends outside of work that I spend time with, and I don't mind being mostly alone all day working.

for me, four hours at home = eight hours in the office

Over the course of years in both environments, I find that to be true.  At home, because of the productivity boost, I can set schedules for clients that are "easy" .. so I have lots of slack to either a) get things done way ahead of schedule or b) get things done on time, while only working four hours a day.

Right now, I'm working in an office and I notice every single day how much time I am "wasting" via commute, meetings, and useless crap.  I long to be back home.
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
I have four kids and bills to pay - the fact keeps me in check.
R. Lachenal Send private email
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
If anyone is still reading this post, we are in the process of opening up a new type of business club for entrepreneurs to solve these exact problems.  If anyone is interested in hearing more, please let me know.

Justin Wohlstadter Send private email
Friday, October 20, 2006
i tend to set my days apart, this is a work day, this is not. as such, i can get my goals accomplished. i also ask my boss to give me 2 or 3 separate dev tasks to do, so i can bounce between them and avoid getting stagnated on one.
scott Send private email
Friday, October 20, 2006
I really can't understand this worry about structure and boundaries. I work, sleep, eat, socialise, play with the children, warch TV (I leave it on all the time) have business meetings, listen to music (I have it playing all the time), do my accounts, read books, build shelves, repair computers, all in my office/lounge/bedroom. It's not because there are no other rooms. I have ten children and we rent a big house. It's not even a big enough room. (If only it was bigger.)
Of course I don't change into 'work clothes' when I get up, nor do I shave (not in the last 30 years anyway). If I didn't mind doing that I could consider working for a company.
Of course I don't keep business hours -- I'm a night owl so I just keep the hours that come naturally. Actually, about 20 hours up and nine hours asleep works for me.
I suppose I believe that if boundaries and structure are important at all, it doesn't come down to things like a separate office, a morning/afternoon routine, shave or shower.
Of course I realise that different kinds of work can create very different working lives. If I had been writing comoputer programmes for years my head might function differently now.
But the one point I wanted to make was that I am amazed at how,  in so many discussions about working at home, this talk about 'structure' turns up as if it is the obvious and unquestionable ingredient people need to add to their lives.
"Keep your work time/space/activities separate" is the slogan we always hear. But why separate? It seems to me that what is required is to INTEGRATE work and home life. Isn't separateness and compartmentalisation the opposite of integration?
No Thanks I'm an Introvert
Sunday, October 22, 2006
Also working from home and for me it's working our good thanks to
a) customers expect to reach me at their office time
b) kids to drive to(pickup at school and daycare
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Hello, world! With all the comments, plus mine, you (err, we!) are not alone after all...

I love working from home! The getting up/staying up is really just a matter of flexibility gone way too wild. Flexibility is really my simple reason to go with working from home.

Nobody dictates me what exact time is really a beginning of a day. I wake up, oh, what a wonderful day to begin with! I sleep, that's a wrap.

I may go on working on and on for the whole day, with just biological clock as indicator telling to have an end to it (it's like, say, your eyes just can't find the letter you type within the many lines of code of your app).

I may go to wondering around until the night fall just to have the feel of being a human among another human being, then start the engine.

Or any of what everybody else already stated above. Including going to an office. Of a friend, actually. Just to keep up with what's going on the "real world" of business, and a little bit of a reminder for myself why on earth I took this path I'm walking.

Be flexible. Cause whatever "trick" you take to live up this "working from home" decision you made, you're - supposedly - doing it to do the thing you love, getting paid for it, and trying to get it done the best way you wanted - with a lot of time end up with, "wow, I actually can do that thing I think I can't!" -  without losing your mind and your “self” inside a bureaucratic and machine-like structured environment. In the end, every working process, no matter where it happens, is about you accomplishing something for someone else. To choose where, is really about to choose how you do it. Maybe. :D

Ok, this gibberish crap of mine end here. God, I'm sorry making you read it all the way :D.
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Reminds me of that Meet Joe Bloggs episode:

bollocking hell, is that the time?
Thursday, October 26, 2006

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