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Staying on Track When You Work at Home

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It has now been a month and a half since I resigned from my job. Last Friday, I stopped to think, what I have accomplished with all this time? I can sum it up in just a two words: "not much." This may surprise some of my regular readers who have realized that I'm not nearly as Lazy as my nickname might make you believe.

I was on my honeymoon for two weeks, despite that I should still have something really significant to show for it. You know, perhaps an outline of a novel... a big stack of papers... a little story... a compelling protagonist... an obstacle for him to overcome... nice little narrative... some friends become enemies, some enemies become friends... main character is richer from the experience... something like that. (Bonus points if you that reference.) I've gotten so little done that I've joking said to friends and my wife, "You'd be surprised how much work not having a job is." Behind every joke there's a bit of truth. It's amazing where the day goes.

I've found a solution to my problem. Remarkably it's an extremely easy solution. Despite my love for all technical gadgets, the solution was a simple kitchen timer. I set it for 20 minutes and focus on doing whatever task is at hand. Often that is a computer task such as writing, reading blogs, or programming. When that 20 minutes is up, I stop, reset the timer for 10-20 minutes and do some housework or a separate task. On Friday, my housework tasks consisted of washing the kitchen floor, doing the dishes, cleaning the counter tops, folding laundry, and vacuuming (though I cheated and let Roomba do this while I washed the kitchen floor).

This method prevents me from context switching before I finish what I had set out to do. Before I implemented this plan, I'd try to multi-task everything. I would fold a few items of laundry, stop to check e-mail, stop to check if there is any Patriots news, stop to read a couple articles in my feed reader, and then go back to folding a little laundry.

If you don't have a kitchen timer handy, download InstantBoss for Windows. It can help you in exactly the same way.

Posted on November 30, 2007.

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9 Responses to “Staying on Track When You Work at Home”

  1. Mark says:

    Family Guy reference

  2. Dan says:

    You are referencing an episode of Family guy, where Stewie is mocking Bryan. Just for fun, check out stewielive.com and type in “spend money.”

  3. bill says:

    family guy reference…Stuey.

  4. Laura says:

    I like the timer idea. I get distracted doing several chores at once myself.

  5. Brip Blap says:

    That timer was great except for the ‘extend working time’ function. I just kept hitting that until I realized I was working for 3 hours without a break. Probably the egg timer is better – at least you have to stand up and cross the room to turn it off…

  6. JvW says:

    hahahaha… I look forward to reading it.

  7. I do a lot of web-development and software development for my consulting business (http://www.mattpaulson.com/) so I definitely know where you’re coming from. It’s REALLY easy to get distracted by people who randomly come over or worse yet, my Nintendo Wii. The way I’ve delt with it was making it a point to work during the parts of the day where I’m naturally most productive (around 8:00 to 11:30 AM) and (around 8:30-11:00 PM), and it seems that I get everything done.

  8. Mrs. Micah says:

    I downloaded the “instant boss” which seems like a really good tool for what I’m trying to do. I’ll probably use it like a timer too.

  9. David says:

    One year and no timer yet – no wonder I am not getting anything done! It’s so easy to get distracted working from home…

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