7 Steps to Good Work Habits
Away From The Office
by Jeff Wuorio
used with permission from the
Microsoft Small Business
laptop was built for doing work away from the office. Making
sure your self-discipline comes along for the trip is
owners and executives associate an office environment with
the will to work. As a result, they fret that they—or their
employees—may be less than diligent when working from home
or a hotel room.
But keeping up
your self-discipline away from the office is just a matter
of thoughtful planning. Here are seven strategies, culled
from feedback from experts and my own experiences.
1. Know your
This philosophic tenet is particularly important to being
disciplined away from an office environment. Consider what
makes you more productive: being proactive well in advance
or sweating things out under a tight deadline. Knowing what
sets your wheels turning can help you establish work
patterns and systems that bolster your discipline. "Are you
motivated by feeling good or fear?" asks Jan Jasper, author
of Take Back Your Time: How to Regain Control of Work,
Information and Technology. "Some people don't need to plan
ahead as much because their discipline comes from
2. Keep a
comprehensive to-do list.
Whether you seek to stay ahead of the game or you spring
into action at the last minute, keeping track of all you
need to accomplish is particularly important outside of an
office setting. You're absent from anyone ready to remind
you what's going on. But knowing just what you need to do
and when, in comprehensive detail, can keep you focused and
motivated. No matter how you do it, be it with a PDA or day
planner, be obsessive about planning out your activities.
3. Set up a
Ads showing a businessperson sprawled on a hotel bed, cell
phone in one hand and calculator in the other, belong in the
netherworld of Madison Avenue. Discipline away from the
office often derives from a setting that singularly
represents work. No matter where you are, earmark a
particular spot for work. Jasper suggests bringing along
family pictures and favorite music to bolster your
perception that this is where work is going to happen. "It's
important to arrange things so you can function," she says.
4. Look at time
in a different manner.
One of the pitfalls to discipline away from the office is
time—or, rather, the lack of a regular schedule of events,
be they meetings or business lunches. That can lead to
downtime and, conceivably, a lapse in productivity. Plan
ahead to make the most of those few minutes here and there
to keep your discipline sharp. Recognizing the importance of
working when time permits, many airports offer workstations
for businesspeople in between flights.By the same token,
read a business article while your flight is tenth in line
for takeoff. Lisa Kanarek, founder of HomeOfficeLife.com,
suggests clipping articles of interest rather than hauling
along entire magazines. It's less weight and a more
expedient way to focus on what's of interest to you.
5. Keep the
Working away from the office often means limited space.
That, in turn, makes paper management critical. File those
documents with which you're finished and recycle any and all
papers you don't need any more. As Jasper notes, nothing can
be more discouraging and crippling to discipline than a snow
bank of papers with little clue as to what's important and
what's left over from 2008. "Just clearing out every bit of
paper that's unnecessary can do wonders for your morale,"
6. Keep in
touch with the office, but thoughtfully.
Communicating with the folks downtown (or in another state)
is not only essential to the mechanics of a workday; talking
with colleagues and others can also be a boon to discipline.
Even if you can't see them, talking with others in the
company is a reminder of people down the line who are
counting on you. But tailor your communication accordingly.
While you may want to check in with some people on a regular
basis, you may want to shy away from others who, for
instance, may take an hour to explain a two-minute problem.
"You have to determine the level of contact that's most
helpful to you," Jasper says. "Communication problems are
really magnified once you have to deal with them away from
7. Know the
dangers of procrastination—and avoid them.
Putting off necessary tasks melts discipline in any setting,
but it's particularly destructive when you're away from the
office. For one thing, there's no one physically nearby to
boot you back into gear. On top of that, a task that's
repeatedly put on the back burner until it becomes a bona
fide headache can drain time from other responsibilities—a
workload that fosters despair rather than constructive
discipline. "Procrastination is terribly damaging," Jasper
says. "The more you procrastinate, the more you turn a
routine chore into something that's really painful."