Kansas Citian, Sarah Wood tweeted last night that she would like to read a blog post about ways to make sure you are staying focused while working at home during a blizzard. Since Kansas City is having its second blizzard in a few days, staying focused while working at home is a natural topic to address, at least in the center of the US.

Staying Focused While  Working at Home during a Blizzard

Here are my eight ideas for staying focused when your whole work team is “working” from home during a blizzard. And as was pointed out when I sneak previewed the list on Facebook last night, this is definitely oriented toward those without kids also at home for the day. That's unfamiliar territory for me since we don't have kids. While our feline Director of Enthusiasm demands attention, it's every now and then, not fourteen hours straight. Because of this, your actual results may vary with these eight ideas!

1. Get up at your regular time.

Sure, you’re not going to have to commute, and you may not spend nearly as much time as you normally would getting ready, but the earlier head start you can get on your day’s to-do list, the sooner you’ll feel the warm glow from a sense of accomplishment.

Blizzard-Work-at-Home2. Don’t watch updates about the weather.

You’re home. You’re not going anyplace. You have no need to be monitoring reports about ½-inch increases in snow totals or all the crap happening on the roads with people who didn’t have the sense to stay at home. So no Weather Channel, no local weather, no scanning endless Facebook photos of patios being covered in more and more snow. They're all unnecessary time wasters today.

3. Work from a to-do list, but don’t go crazy with it.

Yes, if you play your cards right, you have a great opportunity to be more productive at home than when you’re at work, but it’s a marginal level of productivity improvement. Try to be ten or fifteen percent more productive (whatever that may mean for you). Forget about being 3x more productive; it isn’t going to happen.

4. Test your boss early.

At some point early in the day, ask a question or even better, send some type of update with a question attached, to your boss. This is the epitome of putting the ball in your boss’ court to see if your boss is focused on work tasks during the snow day. It’s all about being “visible” even during white out conditions.

5. Step your way through the day.

Set interim goals for throughout the day, i.e. by mid-morning, you want to have completed some specific to-do items or some number of them. Using a few interim goals, you have beneficial productivity stepping stones to help you focus throughout the day.

6. Make yourself take worthwhile breaks.

Don’t let yourself take a bunch of single-purpose breaks (i.e., stop to get a drink and then go right back to work). When you take a break, make it a worthwhile one. If you’re getting up to go get something to drink or go to the bathroom, look out the window, stretch, walk around, and then go back to work. Far better to take ten minutes and go back to work refreshed, than to take twenty breaks during an hour to stare out the window for 30 seconds each time.

7. If you have to visit Department Z, go ahead.

If you need a nap, take a quick nap. You know you catch a few winks during meetings (especially conference calls) or facing away from the opening of your cube when you’re at work, so go ahead and do it at home. Set a timer / alarm and crash during the afternoon if you need it.

8. Plan to wrap up the day early.

Take advantage of your early start, your to-do list focus, and your refreshing breaks to shoot to get your day’s work done 60 or 75 minutes earlier than you would if you were at the office. That’s the payback from your fifteen percent productivity improvement. Shovel, make a snowman, throw snowballs, or take a nap. Whatever you'll enjoy doing, have at it!

How do you handle working at home during a blizzard?

What things do you do to make sure you are staying focused when you are working at home, especially now that you don't have to spend time checking out job openings at Yahoo!? If you have kids, how do your staying focused strategies vary? - Mike Brown


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