This post is not meant to be a typical “here’s how you work from home” post. This is not a post about routines, habits, equipment, or if you should shower before noon. No, this post is meant to offer my perspective about work, productivity, and outcomes. As always, you’re welcome.
First thing I want to make clear—this is not normal
. Nothing about social distancing, stay-at-home orders, or self-quarantine is normal. We’re not just working from home. We’re all living at work as well. And we’re doing it in a manner designed to keep us isolated. No one saw this pivot in our work-life balance coming.
For over ten years, I’ve worked from home. Now, when I say I’ve worked from home for over ten years, what I mean to say is I’ve been working remotely. I’ve spent a lot of time on the road. I’m not just a remote worker, but often a remote parent, son, and brother. That’s a large set of expectations to manage.
That’s the challenge we all face now. Isolated from friends and family, with your home now invaded by work and video conference calls. Now is the time for you to understand and manage the expectations being set onto you by others.
Over time I came to see the best way to manage expectations is by focusing on the outcomes desired. Good managers and executives will task their people to deliver an outcome, and let the worker figure out how to get the job done. I’ve been lucky to have such an environment to thrive in for these many years.
I used to live in the world where the focus was on “productivity,” whatever that means. To me, productivity is often just a feeling. Productivity is why an executive like Marissa Mayer once banned working from home
. Just because someone shows up in an office doesn’t mean they’re productive. If executive management needs to see people in the office, it’s less about being productive and more about control.
This is why it’s important right now for you to start thinking about outcomes. Because you’re not
going to feel productive for the next few weeks, or months. You’ll be distracted by things such as children, laundry, dirty dishes, and the smell coming from your shirt because it’s past noon and you haven’t showered yet.
Working remotely means you must focus on the outcomes put in place by your manager and team. I track my outcomes using pen and paper, creating a to-do list and crossing off items as they are complete. On Friday afternoon I reset the list, getting things ready for Monday morning. This habit has served me well, going back many years to graduate school.
Here’s the secret sauce to all of this. Each day you ask yourself “If I only get one thing on my list done today, which one would it be?” And then you get it done. That way, at the end of the day, you have a sense of accomplishment, of moving forward and progressing.
Because moving forward is the outcome we all want right now.