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The New Corner Office

How the Most Successful People Work from Home

By Laura Vanderkam
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The New Corner Office by Laura Vanderkam

The New Corner Office (2020) is a practical guide to succeeding in the world of remote work. This timely tome is filled with sensible advice for remaining creative and productive while working from home.

Key idea 1 of 6

When working from home, think in terms of tasks, not time.

It’s no secret that puppies love to play. But can they also teach us about work? For Meredith Schwartz, CEO of the wedding planning company Here Comes the Guide, the answer was a resounding yes.

When Schwartz got her first puppy, she decided to spend a few weeks working from home as the new pet settled in. At first, she worried that she wouldn’t be productive while away from the office. However, she found the opposite to be true. She got more done. 

In fact, the experiment was such a success that she slowly shifted her entire company to remote work. Now, her team works from home. So how do they stay effective? Well, they focus on completing tasks, not putting in hours.

The key message here is: When working from home, think in terms of tasks, not time.

The traditional workday asks us to toil from nine to five, 40 hours a week. Often, however, those hours don’t correlate with any outcomes. After all, we’ve all spent days sitting at a desk doing nothing, merely because it’s expected. Manage your day more effectively by ditching the time sheets and instead evaluating your performance based on what you actually do. 

A good way to reorient your work around productivity, not time, is to draw up a list of tasks for each week. Every Friday, take a moment to write down what you would like to get done the following week. This should include discrete duties that can be done in a day as well as milestones to meet on longer-term projects. If you manage employees, you can create accountability by having your workers submit their lists to you each week as well.

Once you have your agenda, forget about hours. Each day, just focus on crossing items off the list. Some days, you’ll meet your goal early. Don’t fret – you can always work on tomorrow’s tasks. But remember, there’s nothing wrong with quitting at noon if you’re getting everything done. When working from home, you’re in charge of your schedule, and knowing when to stop is just as important as knowing when to start.

At the end of each day, complement your to-do list with a “to-done” list. This is a record of everything you accomplished each day, whether it was on your original agenda or not. Keeping tabs on your progress helps refine your time management for the next week.

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