Dorthy Rosby
Contributing columnist
When I sat down at my desk this morning, I noticed a pencil needed sharpening. I don’t actually use pencils to write; I use a computer. Nevertheless it did need sharpening, and I’ve never been one to avoid doing a task that didn’t need doing if it meant I could put off doing one that did.
Since I’d be using the sharpener anyway, I decided it would be efficient to sharpen all our pencils at once. So I made the rounds searching for pencils in every drawer, cupboard and pen holder in the house, hauled them downstairs to the sharpener and spent the better part of the morning sharpening pencils, which I never actually use.
And there you have it; one of the dangers of working from a home office—dangerously sharp pencils. I don’t recall if there was a pencil sharpener in my previous place of employment, but I’m pretty sure someone would have noticed if I’d spent an entire morning using it.
Without the structure of a workplace, I have to follow some rules to ensure that I’m not spending all my time sharpening pencils, playing solitaire and teaching the cat to fetch. Workplace computers aren’t normally loaded with solitaire, mainly because of what it would do to the gross domestic product. Still I think some of these may apply to those who work outside of home offices too.
1) Work when you’re awake. In other words, we’re more productive when we work with our biological clock. Some people are morning people, some people are night people, and some people are only people for a short time around suppertime. I happen to be a morning person, though I do cheer up considerably at the thought of supper. For me, mornings are best used for anything that requires brains. Evenings are for more mundane tasks, and I have no idea what afternoons are for, unless it’s napping.
2) Plan. For me, planning is a fancy variation on the old-fashioned to-do list which I’ve always been particularly good at. My to-do lists are so effective I’m often able to use the same one three days in a row.
Yes, there is one thing more important than planning, and that’s following through on the plan. If I don’t do both, my husband may ask what I’ve accomplished one day, and all I’ll have to point to is a cup of very sharp pencils.
3) Follow a routine. I’ve heard of people who crawl out of bed and dress up for a day at the office even though they work from home. That’s their routine and it helps them get in the groove for work. If your job takes you away from home, I definitely think you should get dressed before you go to work. But if I headed to my closet instead of my computer first thing, I may get distracted and start doing laundry.
My routine is to wake up, get myself some caffeine, sit down at my computer and work until I get hungry, which is normally about ten minutes later. I don’t get dressed until after breakfast and I wouldn’t even do it then were it not for an occasional visit from the UPS man.
4) Be on guard against time leakage. Theoretically, we all have the same 168 hours in our weeks, but I consistently come up short by around 20 hours. There’s clearly some leakage somewhere. There are the usual suspects: email, junk mail and social media. But I also find a fair amount of time is taken up by well-meaning people who think I should socialize and volunteer more than I do. It’s as if they think that since I work at home, I don’t work at all. I can’t imagine why they think that, except that maybe they stopped by sometime when I was sharpening pencils.