How to Embrace Working From Home

Last updated Aug 24, 2021careerreflections

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic made working from home routine for millions, increasing numbers of people had been saying goodbye to their onerous commute to work. Many kinds of work can be done just as effectively, if not more so, from a home office.

Whether you are a freelancer, an indie maker, an indie developer, a company part-timer, or a full-time employee who just doesn’t hit the office on certain days or at all, working from home is a way to escape the daily grind.

For employers, remote working can boost productivity, reduce turnover, and lower organizational costs, while employees enjoy perks like flexibility and the lack of a commute.

Efficiency and flexibility are some of the top reasons that people want to work from home, along with shorter hours.

But sometimes flexibility is too much of a good thing. When your office is always there, waiting, with that deadline looming over your head, it’s pretty hard to just close the door and pretend you’ve left for the day.

Deep Work

Working from home takes a lot of effort to be effective. It’s going to be a sizable time commitment. But just how big of a time commitment do I need to find success?

So how many hours should I work per week? There’s no correct answer. The hours I work are a meaningless measure as long as I’m not making money. Popular recommends are extensive work hours, substantial sacrifices, giving up sleep, 60 to 100 hours per week, and on and on.

You know what I do everyday? Write some code, answer a question, send an email, check Facebook, write some code, check on babies, write some more code!

Each switch consumes my energy and time, both of which are finite resources. The most critical effect of constant task switching is that I never enter a state of deep focus and concentration.

The bottom line is to work as many hours as I can without harming my personal life, productivity and overall health.

The real question is can I still be successful if I work less hours? No one can promise that, but there are tons of researches show that working intensely (deep work) is better than longer hours (shallow work), and I’ll still have a bit of time for myself and my family.

Shallow work is the present reality for a lot of people, characterized by a distracted work mindset and un-engaging tasks that return mediocre results.

Deep work involves picking a single task and focusing on it without any distraction, expected to increase productivity and improve work quality.

Scientists generally agree that the ideal daily working time is around 6 hours, and more concentrated in the morning. This is what being practiced in Sweden, and they are currently experiencing significant success.

To start embracing deep work, I put aside 4 hours of highly-focused distraction-free in the morning for difficult tasks like writing new content or developing new product features. Anything unimportant will be done during rest of the day as shallow work.

Initially day-to-day attempts at deep work don’t feel adequate for a goal I’m striving towards; it does take time to change the temptation of long working hours. I often combine deep work with batch working lifestyle, buffering tasks for the whole weeks or months ahead.

According to my personal tracking statistics, the result surprises me after couple months following deep work strategy, I accomplished more work as twice as before when I worked literally 10 to 12 hours daily.

Batch Working

After years of being highly multitasking, I have been feeling so stressful and less productive, harder to achieve something significant, and tend to finish only less important tasks in to-do lists.

Multitasking has become such a regular part of my life that I believe I do it well, until I found out that this lifestyle can cause brain damage.

Multitasking might seem like I’m accomplishing multiple things at the same time, but what I’m really doing is quickly shifting my attention and focus from one thing to the next.

Batch working is highly-focused, topic-specific forms of working, dividing my workflow into different long time blocks (days, weeks, months) of one topic instead of jumping around from task to task constantly.

Instead of repeating the same thing day after day, I only have to do it every month or so and then are able to work in a state of focus instead of scrambling.

Some people like focusing by days, where I prefer to focus by “project”. However you decide, it will help me become more efficient, free up mental space, creates a feeling of being “ahead”, reduces stress, and allows you to think with strategy.

The main thing that batch working brings to your business is efficiency. When your plan is clear for the day, it is easy to show up, focus in for an hour or two, and get the job DONE. Instead of half-done, or 99% done, it sets the stage for focused work that is wildly efficient. With just a few hours of focused work, you can be done with one task and not have to think about it again.

I’ve tried batching my days (terrible, I barely got anything ‘batched’ and barely got through my workload), batching my weeks (I got round to my ‘batching tasks’ by Thursday, so…. not great) and batching whole months (so far, this one seems to be working pretty well for me).

Work-Life Balance

Work-life balance is the state of equilibrium where a person equally prioritizes the demands of one’s career and the demands of one’s personal life. It has numerous positive effects, including less stress, a lower risk of burnout and a greater sense of well-being.

But no entity can be optimally efficient at more than one thing. The more limited the goals, the higher one’s chance of efficiency. A multipurpose machine – human or corporate – is always going to be less efficient than one which is dedicated to a single purpose.

Focusing on one thing to the exclusion of all others has its costs. We might well accept a measure of inefficiency – in professional and personal life – in exchange for diversity and less boredom.

Some days, you might focus more on work, while other days you might have more time and energy to pursue your hobbies or spend time with your loved ones.

Work-life balance will mean different things to different people because, after all, we all have different life commitments. In our always-on world, balance is a very personal thing, and only you can decide the lifestyle that suits you best.

I prefer to prioritize than balance my work-life, balancing seems illusive and temporary to me. I do think the will toward mastery is deeply wired into most of us, it can be deeply uncomfortable along the way and we doubt our ability to become expert.