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7 Invaluable Home Office Lessons

7 Invaluable Home Office Lessons

Workers on the corporate front have been dreaming about having a home office days for years. In large and modern companies, this is already a standard practice. In the “not-so-advanced” ones, the prevailing mentality is “if you are not at my fingertips, and I do not see you, then you are doing nothing.” In both cases, working from home is considered a privilege.

I have always been a huge fan of working from home or from anywhere else, as long as it has no fixed working hours or location. With a few interruptions, I spent many years working the way I dreamed.

In all these years, “working-without-a-fixed-location” turned out to have not only advantages but also some disadvantages. For me, the benefits outweigh the cons. Still, I must acknowledge that the latter has given me several invaluable and painful lessons.

Here’s what I’ve learned from many years of “working from home”:

Lesson # 1: If You Work From Only One Place, It Becomes “The Office”

For me, the great advantage of “freelance work” is that I can “work on my computer” in a variety of places and a wide range of work environments. I tried to work in co-working spaces, from home, from selected cafes. What I notice every time, however, is that if I use the same location several times in a row, it runs out of “fun” potential for me. I start to feel it like an ordinary office. I begin to have an overwhelming desire to find a new place to work.

In this sense, the isolation imposed by the COVID-19 crisis transforms work from home into the new ‘standard office’ and, unfortunately, removes much of the charm of this approach to work.

Lesson # 2: Working without a fixed location does not eliminate the need for work discipline

In the beginning, working from home is great – you can get up whenever you want, you can work in your pajamas, you can visit the fridge 36 times a day. Soon you find that the work is unfinished, and the stress levels increase exponentially with deadlines approaching.

The same applies to the work at coffee shops, the so-called “cofficing”. It’s fun at first – you drink coffee, you eat cakes, you check tasks. At one point, however, it turns out that you spend 60-70% of your time queuing (or waiting for waiters), putting milk in coffee, eating cake(s), trying to connect to the café’s wireless network, looking for a power plug for your laptop’s, etc.

Therefore, it is essential to clarify for ourselves – do we want to work and achieve results, or do we want to lie down, eat pastries, and drink coffee after coffee? If the former, unfortunately, we have to follow the same work discipline as in the office – defining tasks, writing emails, deep work, reports, backups, and everything else that is part of the workflow.

Lesson # 3: Remote Working Looks Different in Promotional Videos and in Reality

If you look at advertisements for courses and books on home business and freelancing, for example, you’ll notice happy young people working on shiny laptops on hammocks, in cafes, laying on puffs, sitting on the kitchen table, resting on sofas, beds, and the like.

When you start working remotely and try to do the same for 6 hours straight, you find that your waist becomes a pancake, and then you can’t stand, walking like a robot. If you try to work on the beach, you notice that your keyboard is filling with sand, and your impressive glossy screen reflects every sun, and you cannot see anything.

Important conclusion: Find a comfortable chair. Adjust it so that your elbows are at the level of the tabletop. Put it all in a quiet place or put on a soundproof headset. Otherwise, you will not do anything, but at the same time, you will get diseases of the musculoskeletal system.

Lesson # 4: If there are kids around, there is no way to get things done, don’t even try

Believe me, I’ve been through it all, I’m going through it now. There is no way you can do any meaningful work if you have shouting, rolling, fighting, and dragging children around.

Do not try to work while they are in the same room or being conscious. It just doesn’t work.

What can you do? Only work when the children are sleeping. If you have a grandmother or a caretaker, then consider yourself lucky – send her with the kids outside and then get to work.

How to proceed under the conditions of COVID-19 home insulation? There is a way I call “transferring to an alternate space-time continuum”. In simpler words, it means – go to another room, lock it, put on your headphones, and play the music loud.

Lesson # 5: If you do not take care of your equipment and it will not take care of you

When working remotely, the most important thing for your success, apart from your professional skills and contacts, are your technological tools – computer, Internet connection, storage devices, mobile devices, etc.

For good or for worse, teleworking (and online businesses in particular) require us to be a little more technically literate than usual.

If you are a soldier and you don’t keep your weapon clean and loaded, then go into a battle, no good news is waiting for you. The same goes for the “battle” on the online front.

Get to know your computer. Keep it clean. Do not fill it with coffee and water. Do not eat over it, spitting crumbs on the keyboard. Do not hit it or kick it. Provide space around its fans for cooling.

Get to know your operating system, no matter what it is. How to back up files? Is your hard disk full? How can you clean it? How to protect yourself from viruses? How to connect to Bluetooth devices?

Familiarize yourself with the software products you use. What office suite do you have, and how to use it most efficiently? What online applications do you need to work with, what is the access data for them?

Dive into cybersecurity. Learn how to protect your computer and your main online accounts from a breakthrough. Store your passwords in a safe place, preferably with the help of a password manager. Use complex passwords different for each application. Run two-factor authentication, if not for all, at least for critical accounts like Gmail, Dropbox, Facebook, and the like.

As the saying goes (or at least I believe so):

“The good samurai knows how to take care of his sword.”

Lesson # 6: Being far away does not mean you have no problem

When working remotely, you can observe the effect of “soft communication.” The boss or client is not right next to us, and they do not call us, they do not quarrel, they do not resent us. We get emails and messages, but they don’t have the same strong effect as if someone were “chewing your ass” live.

This effect is somewhat pleasant and reduces stress, but on the other hand, it can mislead us. There are tasks and problems whose importance and urgency you can underestimate because we learn about them through “non-shouting” channels.

Therefore, beware of online communication. It’s not an “unreal” world. It just doesn’t bang with its fist on your desk. However, if you ignore your messages (because you can stop notifications, for example), the real problem will hit you just as much.

Lesson # 7: Freedom and responsibility go hand in hand

Most people do not like to work in an office, but it is much easier than working at home. There are rules in the office – when to come, when to go, how to dress, in what room what is being done, when what task to perform, etc. Someone else has invented and defined everything for you. It’s annoying, but – in most cases – pretty easy to follow.

When working from home, you have absolute freedom. Still, also you have the total responsibility to mobilize, get the job done, take care of your health, and manage your time well.

The one extreme is continuously going to the fridge, watching movies, and lying on the sofa, while the deadlines are coming closer and closer.

On the other extreme, you work up to 18 hours a day, forgetting to eat and going to the toilet, answering emails at 3 o’clock in the morning.

I cannot believe I am saying this, but the ideal option is to set yourself a “work time”. Divide your day into blocks like you go to work in an office. Set aside time for work, rest, eating, sports. Don’t mix them up and focus on just one activity at a time.

I’m sure there are many more than seven things we can learn from remote working. I will be glad if you share your impressions, lessons, and how you tackle the challenges of the home office.

Systems Always Win

Systems Always Win

Here is the simplest system for achieving success:

Step 1: Define what you want, what would you consider as success.

Step 2: Define a strategy and action plan – a list of steps to perform that lead to obtaining the desired outcome.

Step 3: Do the next step of the action plan.

Step 4: Check if the goal has been achieved.

Step 5: If not – go to Step 3. If yes – celebrate.

Of course, this “system” is too basic. We can go into details and define if-else forks and all the logic behind. This is just a small example, but no matter the scale, if you have your system in place – business system, workout system, pickup system, negotiating system, you name it – it will eventually lead to achieving the goal.

What do you need in order to build an efficient system?

Element 1: A set of rules.

Element 2: A set of processes, activities and procedures.

Element 3: Key metrics and a methodology to track and analyze them.

Element 4: Input / Triggers.

Element 5: Output / Results.

There is one more good thing about the systems. When you have them implemented, they are replicable and scalable.

To make the long story short – you need systems. In your business. In your life.

Systems always win!

The Big Problems Are For The Big Boys

The Big Problems Are For The Big Boys

We all have problems and issues in our lives. Usually, our issues always look more prominent and scarier than those of others. We don’t like problems and difficulties. We even hate them. They are kind of things in our lives we want to avoid at all cost.

Can we live without any problems and issues? Is it possible to have none of them?

When I was very young, one of my biggest problems was that the kids in kindergarten took my toy and broke it. When I started school, I had a problem writing homework and learning Maths. Then I grew older, and I had a problem with my belly and my fat lower-back-part.

Have you noticed that even the physical size of the issues increases with age?

At the end of high school, my problems revolved around some love affairs. I started my first business at university, and it failed.

Problems. Problems. Let me not continue that things are getting even dirtier and messed up. However, I’m here, writing this post and feeling better and more alive than ever.

Also, I look at other people. My happiest looking friends are having problems of some kind. Take the wealthiest people on the planet, for example. They seem carefree, but in fact, they deal with issues – on daily basis – that are even beyond the common man’s understanding.

Observing the problems all of us have, I summarized my observations by presenting some lessons that I learned over the course of my long and not-so-easy life:

1: Whenever you “have” a problem, both the power and the opportunities to deal with it come to you. You have to watch and listen carefully, act at the right time, and not give up, despite the difficulties.

2: As we grow older, we get more and more problems because our ability to cope with them grows proportionally.

3: The growing number and size of our problems is a sign that we are progressing and developing.

4: Lack of problems is a sign of stagnation, but since boredom is, in essence, a problem, there is clearly no situation where we have no issues at all.

5: It is better to think of problems as “challenges” and “lessons”. It is more practical and easier to understand and tackle them.

6: A good strategy is to outgrow the problem, grow bigger than it. We are no longer the “little scared kid”.

7: The problems are the lessons we need to learn and exams to pass. If they are keep repeating, this means we haven’t learned them yet. And if we do not learn the lesson, the repetition is always of greater magnitude and strength.

8: You can fear the problems, but it is always better to choose the fight, not the escape. Every problem is weaker than you. Its purpose is to make you find that power – the power to defeat it – in yourself and bring it into the light.

9: Every problem has a solution. If there is no solution, then it is not a problem.

What kind of problems and issues do you have in your life and work?

Tomorrow Will Never Come

Tomorrow Will Never Come

I am not a fortune teller, but I can tell you right now how much time you have available to live from no on. Don’t call your doctor; there’s no time for that. You have only one moment to live. And this moment is all yours. 

If you live it entirely, you can:

  • Fulfill your dreams. 
  • Achieve your goals. 
  • Feel happy and satisfied. 
  • Secure your life. 
  • Make others happy and take care of them. 

As you can see, this moment is very powerful, and it can change your life – how to say – in a moment

I am sure you can guess which is this moment. Of course, it is the present moment. Now! Why “now”? 

Why not “the next 60 years”? No, forget about them. There’s no future and no past. You cannot live in them.

The future is just the sum of other “now” moments. When they come, they become “now.” So the future can be considered as an illusion.

The past is a collection of your memories about “now”-moments you’ve already lived. This way, you can tell that the past is just a relic.

The present is the time in which you are living. You are here and now. At least your body is. If your mind is somewhere else, get it back immediately, because you will need it. 

Now is the moment to:

  • Do things. 
  • Say your words. 
  • Finish that project. 
  • Meet your friends. 
  • Love your spouse. 
  • Play with your children. 
  • Quit the job you hate. 
  • Start learning Italian. 
  • Go to the gym and do some exercise. 
  • Pick up the phone and call your parents. 

The present moment is the moment to change your destiny. If you miss it, it will not come back. “Carpe Diem, Baby” – that’s Metallica, and they are damn right.

NOW Is the Time of Winners! Tomorrow is for Losers!

So, just do it and make sure you are doing it now!

20 Ways To Say No

20 Ways To Say No

One of the hardest things in life is to say “No.” People don’t like to reject others because they are afraid of not being liked by their colleagues, spouses, customers, partners. But in most cases, you should say “No” if you want to defend your time, goals, and interests. So one of the most crucial skills is to be able to reject others.

In this post, you will find 20 reality-proof ways to say “No.”

1. “I am in the middle of several projects.”

  • let people know when you have accepted other responsibilities 
  • no need to make excuses if you don’t have any free time 
  • no one will fault you for having already filled your plate 

2. “I am not comfortable with that.”

  • You might be uncomfortable with any of several issues.
  • The people involved, the type of work, the moral implications, etc. 

3. “I am not taking on any new responsibilities.”

  • You aren’t saying that you will never help out again.
  • Just that you feel your schedule is as full as you would like now.
  • Understanding your limits is a skill to be mastered.

4. “I am not the most qualified person for the job.”

  • If you don’t feel that you have adequate skills, that’s okay.
  • It’s better to admit your limitations upfront.
  • The best way to avoid feeling overwhelmed down the road.

5. “I do not enjoy that kind of work.”

  • Life isn’t about drudgery — if you don’t enjoy it, why do it? 
  • Don’t be afraid to let someone know you don’t want to do the work.
  • Someone else is bound to enjoy the work you don’t want to do.

6. “I do not have any more room in my calendar.”

  • Be honest if your schedule is full. 
  • “Full” doesn’t have to mean “really full.” 
  • Know when you are “fully booked” and stop taking new responsibilities. 

7. “I hate to split my attention among projects.”

  • Let people know that you want to do an excellent job for them.
  • But you can’t when your focus is too divided or splintered.
  • You will be more effective if you focus on one project at a time.

8. “I have another commitment.”

  • It doesn’t matter what the commitment is.
  • It can even only be time for yourself or with friends or family.
  • You don’t have to justify — you are not available.

9. “I have no experience with that.”

  • Volunteering shouldn’t mean learning an entirely new set of skills.
  • Suggest that they find someone who has experience in that area.
  • Offer to help out with something that you already know how to do.

10. “I know you will do a wonderful job yourself.”

  • People often ask for help because they doubt their abilities.
  • Let them know that you have confidence they will succeed.
  • You are doing them a favor in the long run.

11. “I need to focus more on my personal life.”

  • Don’t be ashamed of wanting to spend time with your family.
  • Having a healthy family relationship is an essential priority. 
  • Be ready to put your personal needs first.

12. “I need to focus on my career right now.”

  • Often, you have to focus your energies on a work-related task.
  • You may have to give up some civic or community duties.
  • If you don’t do it, someone else will take on the task.

13. “I need to leave some free time for myself.”

  • It’s okay to be selfish — in a good way.
  • Treat your personal time like any other appointment.
  • Block off time in your calendar and guard it carefully. 

14. “I would rather decline than do a mediocre job.”

  • Know when you aren’t going to be able to deliver a quality product. 
  • The reason doesn’t matter — not enough time, wrong skills, etc. 
  • Whatever the reason is, it should be enough for turning a request down.

15. “I would rather help out with another task.”

  • Saying no doesn’t mean that you can’t help at all.
  • If someone asks you to do something you despise, refuse it.
  • Then offer to help with something you find more enjoyable.

16. “Let me hook up with someone who can do it.”

  • If you are not available to help out, offer another qualified resource.
  • Helping to connect people is a valuable service to offer.
  • Make sure the person you refer will represent you well.

17. “No”

  • Sometimes it’s okay just to say no.
  • Say it in a way that expresses respect and courtesy.
  • Leave the door open for good relations.

18. “Not right now, but I can do it later.”

  • If you want to help but don’t have time, say so.
  • Offer to help at a later time or date.
  • If they can’t wait for you, they’ll find someone else.

19. “Some things have come up that need my attention.”

  • Unexpected things happen that throw your schedule off.
  • Accept that you may need to make a few adjustments.
  • It is temporary, and you will have more time when life stabilizes 

20. “This is not one of my strengths.”

  • It’s okay to admit your limitations.
  • Knowing what you can handle and what you can’t is a skill.
  • Your time will be more efficiently spent on something you do well.

All of us know that saying “No” is an important thing. Well, now we have at least 20 ways to do it. Hello, dream-life.