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April 13

Pro Tips on Working from Home


School might be closed, but there’s still a ton of things to do in marketing. Here are my pro tips on working from home so you can stay productive even from home.

I’ve been working from home for well over ten years, and most of the team I hire to work with me are also working from home.

Working from home was an intentional decision to keep costs down for us and keep us affordable for our private education clients.

It’s also helped us stay nimble so we can meet all the new marketing challenges that confront today’s private college, university, or college.

For me, it’s a sweet moment when we can deliver the same marketing value to our clients for a much lower cost, simply because we’re working from home.

But you’re probably not working from home on purpose.

As I write this post, the United States is in the middle of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

All schools I know of have shut down in-person classes and have moved everything to online learning to help keep students and faculty at home, where there is less risk of infection.

This means that thousands of education marketers like you are suddenly thrust into the home environment.

Although we’re all living in this strange new world, you still have to keep your marketing efforts strong. In fact, those marketing efforts are more important than ever!

One day, we will emerge from our homes, and students will come back.

How many come back to your campus may well depend on how much marketing you were able to do while at home.

So to help out, here are my pro tips for working from home.

I’m sure there’s so much more that could be in this list — but these are the things that quickly come to mind after having done this for almost a decade.

Please let me know how you’re handling working from home in the comment section and add your own pro tips!

1. Planning is everything.

Writing out your quarterly, weekly, and daily goals is an absolute must if you’re working from home.

When you’re at the office, there can be a lot of fires to put out, or a lot of unexpected calls and conversations that interrupt your day.

It’s easy to get lazy in your task planning at the office as the natural current of work at the office just picks you up and propels you forward. This current pulls you along as you just do the next thing on your desk or go to the next meeting that’s being called.

This will NOT work at home. At home, you’ve got to create the current.

To stay productive, you’ve got to have a plan of attack the night before, if not the week before.

Personally, I have found Michael Hyatt’s productivity tools, like the Full Focus Planner, to be invaluable in helping me stay laser-focused on getting tasks done.

Of course, scratching things off your to-do list is just a part of being productive.

It also has to do with how well you prioritize your tasks so that you’re doing work that propels you to your goals rather than just keeping you busy.

Here are some more planning tools you can check out that will help you decide what’s important, and what’s not.

Dress for success.

Ok, so this might sound strange, but the way you dress will affect how you feel.

And how you feel affects how well you work.

While working from home, it's important to dress as if you were going to the office. Don't stay in your pajamas, like this guy.

At first, the idea of working in your sweatpants or pajamas every day sounds amazing.

But eventually, your attitude becomes as relaxed as your attire.

Dressing as if you were at work (or just going through the morning routine of getting dressed in the first place) will help you keep your head in the game.

2. Stay in the zone with the right music.

When you’re not in virtual meetings or on phone calls, you need to be in the right headspace to get work done.

For me, one of the best ways to do this is with music.

Putting on noise-cancelling headphones, or some high-quality speakers, can help keep your mind off distractions and on your work.

Music can either help you focus or distract you, so try out different playlists and see what works for you.

Here are some great music tools to help you while at home.

3. Get your family on board.

When you’re working at home, chances are, you won’t be alone.

The chances of being disrupted by your housemates is high — especially if you’ve got young children!

It’s important that your family understands that while you are at home, you are really at work.

Have a family meeting and explain that you’ll be working for set hours in the day, say from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and that during these hours, you need them to treat you as though you’re at the office.

Ask them to keep interruptions, questions, or requests to a minimum so that you can focus and get things done.

That way, you’ll be able to close your day at 5 p.m. and spend the rest of the evening with them knowing that you got in a full day of work.

A final side note: choose a designated area in your home for work (preferably not the bedroom). 

Then, be sure that everyone in the household understands that this is where serious work is going to be done. 

4. Meet regularly with your team.

It can be easy to forget about the world while you’re in your home.

But if you forget about your team, chances are, they’ll fall into the many time traps that are waiting for them at home.

That’s why meeting with your team virtually throughout the day is important to keep everyone on task and motivated.

I highly recommend Zoom, a video conferencing tool that’s got a lot of features for a very economic price.

But here are some other options to check out depending on your needs and budget:

5. Organize your team’s work digitally.

While we’re on the subject of digital tools, if you don’t already, now is the time to begin organizing your team’s work digitally.

I’m sure half of the things you do are already in the cloud with services like Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, or even Apple’s iCloud.

But what I’m talking about here is a way to organize your team’s work, which includes:

    • Assigned Tasks
    • Project Milestones
    • Discussions on Tasks
    • Project File Management
    • Work Reports (so you can if a project’s on time and on budget)
    • Discussion Boards
    • Tags or Labels (so you can quickly filter to what you want to see)

You can meet virtually using Zoom, but this is a shared workspace where you can assign tasks and see when they’re done.

I personally recommend Teamwork.

It’s been the best one that we’ve used so far. The price is extremely reasonable, and it’s kept our international team of marketers working seamlessly across a large number of projects for several years now.

Here’s a list of team project apps you should consider:

6. Get up and move.

When you’re in the zone, you’ll forget just how long you’ve been sitting down at your desk.

You can easily be sitting for 3 or 4 hours at a time.

And that’s no good for your health.

It's important to get up and move while working from home, unlike the young lady in the picture who's woking while laying on the floor.

Get up every now and then to keep your blood flowing, your muscles flexible, and your body free from aches and pains.

At the office, there are  all kinds of reasons you have to get up to go meet people or get items that you need.

But at home, you’ll have to be more diligent at getting up and moving.

Motorized, adjustable standing desks are a great tool. Also, there are many apps you can download that will remind you to get up and get moving.

7. Work during the hours you’re most effective.

Some of us are at our absolute productive best early in the morning.

Others are night owls that hit their stride around 10 p.m.

Whenever your sweet spot is, if your team can allow you to do so, plan to hit the desk around that time.

Of course, some of the most productive times are early morning or late night because the house is typically quieter.

8. Put on a timer.

Parkinson’s law is a real enemy of productivity: Work grows to fill the time allotted.

If you start a task with an indefinite period of time in mind, you’ll end up with a time monster.

But if you put a time limit on the task, you’re more likely to finish within that time.

Having a time limit forces you to make decisions on what is necessary to get the task done, what needs to be cut, and what can simply wait for later.

One of many life hacks to help you exploit this quirk of human nature is something called the Pomodoro Technique.

Try it out. You’ll be surprised how well it works.

9. Don’t eat at your desk.

Counterintuitively, eating at your desk doesn’t make you more productive.

It just adds crumbs to your desk.

I recommend eating in your dining room or kitchen rather than at your desk for several reasons.

    1. It forces you to get up and move, which is good for your health.
    2. It forces you to put a time limit on your work, which means you’ll be more productive.
    3. You’ll be eating with the others in your household creating bonds, which are very important.

10. Choose clear start and stop times.

This goes back to the idea that work expands to fill the time allotted.

If you let yourself go, you could be working all day.

Marketing never ends. There’s always one more thing you can be doing.

So set a time when you’re going to start work and a time of the day when you’re going to end work.

These office hours will help you avoid any guilt that you’re just being lazy, because you know that you “put in a good day of work.”

Consistent office hours also help you to better organize your work and your time because your teammates will know when to call or message you.

Working from home is great!

But it can also turn into a nightmare if you don’t know how to navigate all the psychological pitfalls like distractions, laziness, self-induced guilt, and mental fatigue.

More than anything working from home requires that you get to know yourself, your habits, and the way you think in detail so that you can hack your way to productivity.

I wish you all the best as we work from home together!

And if you need help on how to ramp up your marketing efforts, even from home, please contact us today.

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Featured image by hakinmhan via Adobe Stock
Man Working from Home image by David Pereiras via Adobe Stock
Woman Working from Home image by adrian_ilie825 via Adobe Stock

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