This is a video from a Udemy course I created a few years ago to help people maximize their efficiency while working from remotely or from home. Instead of selling it as a paid course, I’m sharing the content here, for free. I hope you find it helpful. -Ron Stauffer
I’ve used the metaphor of staking a claim. That’s a start, but it’s not enough. You also need to have borders and fences around your property. So people know where yours begins and theirs ends a great example of this is with your home office. If you have a door that you can close, close it. Whatever sense you can give people of this is the line.
Do not cross. That’s going to be helpful for my home office. I have a dedicated room that I use only for office time. So when I’m in that office, I close the door. Believe it or not. When I close my office door, that’s not enough of a visual deterrent for my kids. They’ll still open it and come in and talk to me right in the middle of a really important video chat or a phone call.
So what I did is I went to the store and bought a do not disturb sign, kind of like on a hotel. And when I’m taking important phone calls, I put up that do not disturb sign on the door. This is a visual marker. Like offense. It tells my kids don’t don’t come into the office cause dad’s doing important work.
Sometimes even a do not disturb sign is not enough. I have a toddler gate, you know, those fences that are adjustable, that you can stick in your hallway that you use to keep your toddlers out of dangerous areas. When they’re learning to walk, all of my kids learn to walk a long time ago, but sometimes I’ll put that.
Toddler fence in the hallway to prevent them from even coming near the door. So that way they can literally see a fence and know I need to stay out and I need to keep my distance, whatever you need to do to create a visual deterrent or some sort of a visual cue so that people know that you’re doing something important and that you need silence or that you need space.
Do that. Sometimes I think of doctor’s offices. If you’re a patient in a doctor’s office, you might notice that when you’re sitting and waiting for the doctor to come into your room, there’s a little set of flags above the door. Sometimes they’re colored black, red, yellow, green, those have meaning, and the staff members know what those flags mean.
So as each staff member goes in and out of the room, whether to take your temperature or to weigh you or take your blood pressure or whatever, They will flip the various flags on the outside of the door so that people know what to expect and whether someone’s in that office room or not. In whatever way works for you.
See if you can find some sort of visual marker so people can know what the status is of your Workday without having to come in your office to check. In addition to the do not disturb sign that I have on my office door. I also have a really small whiteboard attached to the outside of my door. And what I’ll do is during the day time, When I have certain phone calls, I will write out my schedule on that whiteboard that I have a phone call from 9:00 AM to 9:30 AM.
10:30 AM to 11:00 AM to PM, to 3:00 PM. Whatever that schedule is that notifies my wife and my kids. Dad needs quiet time right now because it’s nine o’clock and the whiteboard says he has a call at nine o’clock. That prevents me from getting irritated at the people who are living in my house when they’re just living their lives.
And they’re not trying to disturb me, but they don’t know that I have an important call. So I like to use that visual signifier as well. Once you’ve created this office space. That is your dedicated workspace. Stay in it. Something that I really struggle with is because I’m working from home. I tend to feel relaxed.
Hey, I’m working from home. It’s my house. I want to go take my laptop and sit on the living room couch. Don’t do that. I know it’s hard to remind yourself of this because you’re so used to living in your house. You’re used to sitting at the kitchen table. You’re used to sitting in your easy chair. But if you’ve gone to all the effort to create this office space where your work can happen, make sure your work actually happens in that office space.
For me, I have to remind myself that the kitchen table. The kitchen counter, the living room couch. And my easy chair in the living room are off limits during business hours. I need to stay in my office space because that’s the office space that I created for me to do my best work in. It’s only fair that if I’m going to ask everyone else in my family to keep the volume down and to respect my office space, that I also respect their living space.
The worst possible place to work from home is your kitchen table. And yet it’s something that I see people do all the time. Don’t work at your kitchen table. That’s where everybody else comes to eat at least three times a day. That’s the place where if you have kids, they go to color in their coloring books or play with playdough and Lego.
It might seem silly, but we’re so used to sitting at our kitchen table that it’s hard sometimes to remind yourself to stay away from the kitchen table, because that is where all the other living that happens in the house typically happens. Keep your work in your office and let the kitchen table be the kitchen table.
Ron Stauffer is a solopreneur and freelancer with over 14 years of experience running a small company. He’s extremely familiar with the loneliness, frustration, and challenges unique to freelance work and running a business of one. He started Free Soloing to help other people just like him.