Taking exams can be nerve racking at the best of times, regardless if you are looking at obtaining project management certifications such as PMP, Prince2 etc., or furthering your education in any field. The one aspect which cannot be denied is being prepared and that goes for most things in life. There can be other factors which can assist with being prepared to take that exam and the following are some tips and tricks which you may consider using before taking that test.
Reading through some of the tips and tricks may seem like common sense, and you will work out that most things normally relate to what is common sense, but we are all different and there could be some elements which may have not been considered as an opportunity to remember an answer to a possible question. To that end, the following are a few tricks which have been of assistance to people I have spoken to over the years, and you may find them useful, and possibly apply to certification exams.
Attempt the easy questions first, don’t spend too much time working out the answer to the complex question first, save the time. No matter the question, there are always some clues and sections that are easier than others. Possibly use those to help answer harder ones and to build confidence. Leave answers blank when unsure, and only lightly pencil in those partly known.
So when applying this method during a certification exam, skip hard questions and leave them blank the first or second time through your exam. Exam creators like to put hard questions near the beginning to test understanding. It is easy to spend 10 or more minutes on early difficult questions, which leaves precious little time for the remainder. Skip them! As, difficult questions are easier the second or third time through.
When an answer is not evident, then rely on patterns to figure out the answer. So applying this in exam conditions, look for distracters (e.g., oxymoron like “assumption constraint”) to spot incorrect answers. Look for answers that have 3 commonalities between them and one that does not (odds are good that is the correct answer, but not always.) Wording from one question can help you with others.
Ensure that the question has been comprehended correctly, so interpretation is extremely important. Exam writers want more than someone who can recall the answer, but think of it instead. For instance, suppose a question is encountered that makes common sense but contradicts your understanding. An example of this can be, and this during preparation to take the PMP exam, a question regarding paying bribes to get a project approved in a foreign country where the practice is common was asked. That option would not be the correct answer because it violates the PM Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide®).
Consider using multiple iterations to complete answers, unless you love doing tests, and it is a common occurrence for you, this is not the case for the rest of us. Prepare by doing two or three iterations of reading through and answering questions on the exam. Follow rule number one that is leave blank every hard answer encountered on the first read-through. Flag any questions partly sure, as mentioned in rule number 2. Doing practice exams also enables discussions, and it is during these discussions that you work out that changing an answer or two can lead to discovery that the first answer was correct after all. Ensure this does not happen to you during the exam. Leave answers blank until you are sure of them.
The best guess, not very scientific, but at times a fall back, especially when time is almost up and there are still unanswered questions. There is no penalty for guessing, only for not answering a question. Try to pace yourself, so time management is a must so you don’t have make an educated guess on too many questions. If you are seriously close to the end, put down any answer. When in serious doubt, and this may be a myth, but the answer “b” occurs most often in exams. Not entirely sure if this is true but putting answer “b” on say five blank answers probably ensures you get one or two of them correct.
It is understood, that one common denominator among virtually all students is exam anxiety. It is very common, and if nothing else this was to provide you with more than one approach in combating it. It would be great to hear from you and please share your own tips and tricks that have worked.
Regardless if we are working remotely during these challenging times or in the office face to face with our colleagues, stakeholder and the business. The ability to communicate effectively is an integral part in being able to get your point understood. It’s just that communicating, even with technologies like Zoom, GoToMeeting, Skype, Webex and others, is a challenge when done virtually. Given even factors, there is a greater chance of successful communications when we’re together. Many of us, though, are working from home, so we need to maximize tools and techniques that will enhance communications during these uncertain times.
The following are some keys to be understood for the virtual leader, which should be used to promote effective communications. The power of community should never be underestimated, teams usually function better when they are together, when they belong to a group whose purpose is to complete a common objective. When there is more focus on what both the team and the organization need to accomplish than our own individual needs, we tend to have less conflict and greater productivity.
It’s easier to establish sense of community when the team is located in the same building or within the same campus than being spread across a city or worse, across regions or a country. If the team is international, it becomes even more difficult, dealing with time zones, for example, make it harder to get the team together frequently. Cultural and language differences can make getting the point across a real challenge. The further apart team members are from each other, the more difficult it is to establish that sense of unity.
However, this difficulty can be mitigated by conducting daily stand-ups, frequently meeting and not only discussing the tasks for the day, but to ask how they are feeling and generally the opportunity to say hello within a community environment. It’s even more important to have frequent virtual team meetings than when the team is together. Team members working from home can find themselves feeling isolated and unproductive.
The purpose of this is getting to know something about each member personally and to ensure everyone understands the project objectives and constraints. It is important to take a few minutes at the beginning of each meeting for small talk about family, vacations, activities, entertainment, etc. However, it’s also extremely important to ensure the project is on track. Sharing status, tasks planned for the day and issues helps reinforce the sense that the team is working together to meet objectives and solve problems. In this instance the leader or other team members will help them move forward should assistance be required.
Solving problems together creates a sense of unity. When a leader steps in to solve all the problems, the benefits are short-term. And not all problems require the involvement of all the team members. Having subgroups solve problems and report back to the larger group is also effective. This can be achieved via meetings with individual team members, during initiation to learn about their individual wants, needs, concerns, issues, etc. Resolve individual issues and conflicts, rather than trying to do so in a group meeting when trying to assess level of commitment. As virtual leaders, we need to emphasize and reinforce this sense of community, keeping in mind that the team itself is part of a larger group.
Being able to establish normal protocols for how we want to engage with each other is important. This should be obligatory for the success of virtual teams, as it helps ensure that the team becomes and stays cohesive and productive. All projects are subject to unproductive time related to resolving conflict among team members. In projects this averages to about 5% of the project total being spent on HR-related issues. Having more communication protocols may not prevent conflict, it would certainly have helped to bring these issues to light sooner.
Ideally, when the team is in the process of being formed during initiation, these norms can be established within organizational and technical constraints. Where possible, the team meets to recommend appropriate protocols. Virtual leaders need to take these recommendations seriously without formalizing them. Effective leaders ask questions about the reasoning behind the protocol recommendations to ensure the team’s goals are adhered. If they do not, then the virtual leader will need to provide direction and guidance without being too forceful.
Communications protocols can include some of the following factors, such as types of meetings. These might include status, celebrations, milestone checkpoints and decisions, and issues newly identified and/or resolved. As for each meeting, it must be clear on how often to meet, keeping in mind that more frequent check-ins are necessary when leading virtual teams. The meeting duration, time and venue, whose input is required, desired, and format. Ensure an agenda is followed, conference video’s and muting to minimize distractions, ensure clarity of point.
It is important to have frequent breaks, when in the office there is an aspect of socialization, this is not the case when working in isolation. Also how to handle questions and interruptions and the preferred technology to use if there are choices. The response time, that is the maximum wait time to respond to other team members and stakeholders.
The virtual leader should discuss and clarify communication preferences with the team, stakeholders and the business. It should be understood that stakeholder and team member stated preferences may not always be practical. If the preferences result in risk or will have a negative impact to the project, they should be discussed and negotiated. Priority, urgency, and importance of resolving issues. An issue, for example, might become urgent if not dealt with by some future date, but the urgency is not immediate.
How to deal with the very nature of conflict, interpersonal conflict requires one-on-one interaction, which can only be dealt with through video or teleconferencing. There are impacts to the project and risks of delayed communications. Being able to effectively communicate is an important aspect to all teams. There are inherent difficulties communicating virtually. As a virtual leader be careful to plan how the team will communicate not just within the team, but with key stakeholders as well. The three factors mentioned above are only but a few ways to establish effective communication during this uncertain period. There was no mention of listening, or note taking which are also other aspects of communication. By focusing on these items the virtual leader can minimize the confusion, contention, and feelings of isolation that often prevent virtual teams from being successful.
If you have a mechanism to establish effective communication as a virtual leader, or someone who has an idea on what effective communication should be administered by a leader, then it would be great to hear from you.
As project managers we just can’t get away from Governance. Regardless of how long you have been working as a project manager at some stage you would have had to generate a report. Possibly as part of a standard requirement from the Project Management Office or directly to the stakeholder. A report could either be automated, via available tools or by hand. The following is a set of must have reports and how they should be used with the intended audience. There are several different types of reports to use, but the following five are must haves in your arsenal.
The more common types of project reports needed for the successful running of a project are, Status Reports. This report can be produced either weekly or monthly, but more commonly depending on the size of the organization, status reports are generated on a fortnightly basis. The frequency depends on where you are in the project and how much there is to say. There’s not much point reporting daily if your tasks all take over a week, as you won’t have any progress to report from day to day.
As you will spend a fair amount of time producing status reports, it is worth considering ways to make it faster to write them. Better yet, automate as much reporting as possible. Create a standard status report template or use the one that comes with the project management software used.
Check out the Project Status Report template here.
Another must have report is the risk register. Many PMs Report on risks at least monthly, and the report is normally the output that comes after a risk review meeting. A risk register can be updated at any-time, normally an organization will dictate when it must be done. Also team members should be encouraged to contribute risks to the log whenever they feel something needs recording.
The risk report should include a summary of the risk profile of the project, how it is presented is left to the Project Manager. A good approach would be to only include the details for the risks that have the potential to create the most problems for the project. Then, include a statement on the lower-level risks, perhaps summarizing how they are being managed.
Possibly produce a report about all the risks in a project, regardless of how significant they are. It’s probably easiest to do this as an automated download from your project management software, or if you keep your risk log in another format like a spreadsheet, by issuing a complete copy of that document.
Board/Executive Reports are definitely required, and tailored to the people who are going to read them. So the report produced for the project board will have a different level of detail in it compared to the weekly status update that goes to the internal project team and key business stakeholders.
For the project board reports, the information should be of a high level. They will want to read about things that are important to them, like issues they can help resolve, a summary of the budget position, and whether or not the project is on track, and the upcoming and delivered milestones.
Make sure that the board or SteerCo report is in a format that can easily be read. For example, if executives are always on the road and use their smartphones to check emails, don’t produce reports in the form of a complicated spreadsheet that won’t display correctly, or include loads of large graphics that will take ages to download. A pdf will render across devices when emailing a static report. Or possibly grant licenses for board members or senior leadership so they can see real-time dashboard reports on the go.
Resource allocation report is another, using the project management planning software to work it all out is a great tool to have. Most software tools, whether they are a standalone Gantt chart software or fully-featured project tools with integrated time sheets, will have the option to create a resource report.
The resource report will show the breakdown of which project team member is allocated to which task on which day. They can also be used to pinpoint over allocation problems – where a team member is allocated to more than one task. If a resource is working on more than one task at a time then this can be detrimental to the outcome of the project. Use the resource report to ensure that there aren’t any individuals over committed and reschedule those tasks as necessary.
Resource reports can also be useful for scheduling more than one person. By seeing when someone becomes available, and that is a good sign that they can be given more project tasks at that point. If you compare the resource availability to the project’s timeline you can also plan more efficiently. As one task done by one person ends, you can make sure that someone else is available to pick up the next thing that needs to be done, so that tasks don’t stop halfway through waiting for the next person to become available.
Overall, resource reports are one of the most useful types of project reports to be had as a project manager, although they can be a bit difficult to interpret at first. It really is worth spending the time getting to know how to read the reports so that you can make changes to your project schedule as appropriate.
Finally, a mention of variance reports, ensuring that the project is in fact progressing as planned. That’s the beauty of a variance report, as it compares the planned against the actual outcome, providing a metric to measure if you’re on track, ahead of schedule or running behind. The variance report will collect and organize the data on what is being compared, whether it be the budget, schedule or scope of the project variable being measured. The variance report gives you the tool to many a variance analysis or a measurable change from the baseline.
There are several variance reports, such as cost variance, variance at completion (budget surplus or deficit), scheduled variance and others. Mostly, variance reporting is used in budgetary analysis, trend reporting and spending analysis.
The variance report is a great tool for the project manager, who needs a lens into the project’s progress so as to make intelligent decisions on allocating resources. But not only project managers benefit from the reporting. Stakeholders are interested in high-level reporting, and variance reports give them a thumb’s up or down as to the progress of the project and whether it meets its schedule and budget.
How often you should run a variance report depends on many factors. For example, what kind of project is it? What’s its duration? Where is it taking place? The accounting methods a project manager uses will likely be different from project to project, but a regular variance report is a powerful metric to determine the health of your project.
Understanding and being able to organize a team, goes a very long way to successful project delivery. When every person knows exactly what their role is in the project, then success rates skyrocket. The RACI matrix (sometimes called RACI diagram or RACI chart) was created to ensure that all stakeholders are on the same page, and working together in unison. Download this free RACI matrix template, to assist with organizing a team and work better together.
A RACI matrix is a chart that identifies and defines the roles and responsibilities of team members in relation to the tasks in a project. A RACI matrix uses the letters R, A, C, and I to categorize team responsibilities. RACI stands for Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed.
The following explains each;
This is someone who is responsible for getting the work done. When labelled “responsible” in a RACI matrix, it indicates that the person is expected to be hands-on when executing the task.
This is the person who is responsible for overseeing the task and making sure the work gets done properly. They are not hands-on with the work, but instead they are managing and ensuring the completion of the work.
This person assists by providing information and support about a particular task or deliverable. They are not directly responsible for a task, but instead they provide necessary information that will help the R get their work done.
This person or group of people is to be kept up to date on the progress of a task or deliverable. This is commonly upper-management or a client who should understand the progress of the project, but does not have immediate input on the completion of the work.
When used properly, a RACI Matrix is the guiding document as it keeps a project on track by clearly defining who is responsible for what. It avoids miscommunication, wasted time and confusion. The RACI matrix clearly lays out who is performing this task (R), who should weigh in on it (C), and who has final say on it (A).
How to Use the RACI Matrix Template
Step 1: List the Project Tasks
In column 1, beneath the “Project Tasks” header, list all of the tasks that will be completed as part of the project. Categorize the tasks into different project phases in order to keep things more organized. This can also be achieved by removing the project phases and completing a large task list.
Step 2: List All of the Team Members
Next, locate the light blue bar. Going from left to right, add all of the team members to this section. Include every stakeholder involved in the project, even the ones not directly involved with the project.
It is best to use the job title / role in this section, but stakeholder names are just as acceptable. Job titles are also good to use, so this document is useful for someone looking at the matrix who may not be familiar with everybody’s name.
Step 3: Assign R, A, C, I to Each Task
Locate the first task of the project, once the first task is identified, move across the matrix to the right. Decide who will be (R) Responsible for executing the work on this particular task. Remember, R is for the person who will actually be performing the work on this task.
Continue moving to the right, and next choose who will be (A) Accountable for this task. The person labelled as (A) Accountable is the person who will be responsible for ensuring that the task is done properly and in a timely manner.
Next, decide who will be (C) Consulted on this task. Remember, (C) means that a person will be asked for help or advice on a task, and they will work with the responsible team member to complete the task. In some cases, a C will not be required for a task.
Finally, for each task decide who will be informed about the task progress. This stakeholder will be labelled as (I) Informed. If someone is labelled (I) for this task, they will be updated about the progress of the task, but they will not have direct feedback going back to the person responsible for the task.
An informed person is a one way communication, as compared to a consulted person who has two-way communication about the task. Most tasks will have an informed person, however there will be some cases where there is no (I) needed.
Step 4: Share the Document
Once the RACI chart is fully filled out, it is important to share the document with all of the team members on the project. This is an important step because a RACI matrix is most helpful when each team member understands exactly what their role is at each step of the project.Download
For those who have been a project manager for some time understand that the qualities needed to effectively lead a project are very similar to those required to lead any team within a business. As project managers are responsible for overseeing and delivering assigned projects. There are time Project Managers need to select the right tools and techniques for a particular job. Manage, lead, and motivate project team members. Providing stakeholders with and overall view of progress on all the different elements. It is obvious to understand that effective project management requires various different sets of skills.
There are three necessary types of skills, as presented by Robert Katz in the 1974 article titled “Skills of an Effective Administrator.” The three categories of skills necessary for effective leadership:
- Technical Skills
- Human Skills
- Conceptual Skills
Technical skills address the hands-on, direct skills necessary for accomplishing certain types of tasks. This means having knowledge about and being proficient in a specific type of work or activity. Technical skills include specialized competencies, analytic abilities, and the use of appropriate tools and techniques. These kinds of skills involve hands-on ability with processes, products, and equipment.
Human skills refer to the people skills necessary to lead and manage. This means having knowledge about and being able to work together with others. Good human skills mean being aware of one’s own perspective and the perspectives of others at the same time. A skilled manager can assist group members in working cooperatively to achieve common goals.
Conceptual skill is the ability see, and understand, the big picture. It is knowing how all of the various parts of an operation or organization work together and affect each other. A leader with conceptual skills works easily with hypothetical notions and abstraction. This kind of capability is necessary in creating and articulating a vision and strategic plan for an organization.
How are these skills applied in Project Management when delivering projects of different types? In project management, technical skills can be further divided into two categories; technical skills required to understand and manage the project and the actual technical skills of project management itself. The Technical skills required to address the “How To” details the discipline area a project is involved with. For example, if the project at hand is to develop software applications, then the project manager should have a certain level of understanding for software development. If it involves implementing new medical processes and procedures, the PM should have some medical knowledge. Even when working with subject matter experts as a part of a project team, a project manager needs to have a base level of knowledge in order to effectively manage the project, this to have a comprehension of project delivery time frames, so there is a level of understanding on what is required to deliver, and when a Project Manager has no fundamental understanding on the technicality, the team would quickly understand this and undermine time frames.
Technical skills of project management address the ability to utilize project management tools and techniques. These are the hands-on skills of project management and involve everything from scheduling, to planning, to execution, monitoring and controlling, resource analysis, and all of the other skills need to successfully deliver projects.
The human skills, is an important factor in any project, the way we communicate, both written, verbal and listening within the team, stakeholders, customers and the business as a whole. Human skills are the various abilities in dealing with the people involved in projects. Sometimes this involves negotiating. In other cases, it means acting as a motivator. The vast majority of projects involve more than one person in some way, so human skills are a central part of managing most projects.
Projects involve a lot of moving parts. Different areas, both inside and outside of a project organization, need to be connected and coordinated in order for projects to run smoothly and achieve success. Schedules need to be coordinated with available resources, budgets need to be maintained, and equipment and resources need to be procured. The list of items that come together goes on and on. In technical terms, this all refers to the knowledge area of Project Integration Management. A skilled project manager needs to understand the different parts of the project. They need to understand how to coordinate, communicate, and integrate all of the interconnected elements.
There are as many variations of the three skills in practice as there are projects. Identifying the needs of each project requirements and skill area can be a good starting point when matching a project to the project manager. For highly technically oriented projects such as construction, biomedical, engineering, and ICT projects, those with the necessary specialized skills in these areas should be considered for engagement. For wide ranging projects that involve sweeping changes for large organizations, higher levels of administrative and conceptual skills are necessary and so project managers with these skills should, therefore, be selected.
Each skill is as important as the other, so if there is an aspect of the skill which is not a project manager’s strong point, then it is a good idea to focus on it, build up on that skill’s shortfall so there is more selection on assignment opportunities. Also, as skill shortfalls are developed in all three skill areas, the better we will be at managing projects of all types.
During this time of lock down, it may be a consideration to develop any skill shortfalls and any further professional development.
It is obvious to most that there is a stark difference when working from home as opposed to working from an office. The most obvious being how to turn personal space into a productive workspace. The office environment is designed to eliminate distractions, which is not necessarily the case at home. It’s set up for a completely different end, so a part of it will have to be repurposed into a structure that permits uninterrupted work. This often requires some creativity.
Not everyone lives in spacious quarters that allow for a home office in a dedicated room. That home office might have to be set up on the dining room table. At work, there could be a talkative co-worker or loud music nearby which may be a distraction, however at home there are distractions at every turn. It’s not so easy to eliminate those distractions—kids, comfy beds, laundry— but it’s possible.
There are many ways to work better from home, although every working from home job is unique, they share many of the same challenges. The following are some tips set out to assist with doing a better job with the limitations of having to be isolated and remaining socially distant.
Try and remain motivated, initially this may not be an issue, but given time and the monotony of doing the same thing day in day out within a space that you cannot move away from can become demoralizing. Sometimes motivation, creative thinking and innovation fall behind in a work from home environment. This can be due to a lack of routine or discipline. It can be hard to get out of bed when the office is just a few steps away. Therefore, have a home office that is as separated from where the sleeping quarters are located. It’s imperative that sleeping in does not become normal, wake up as though you are going to the office, and follow the normal morning routine. This puts you in the work frame of mind. A routine is a way to develop the discipline you need to stay motivated.
But, don’t forget to add breaks to your routine. Get up and take a walk. Don’t neglect to have lunch either. If you must, set up a rewards system, such as a treat between meals once you get a certain amount of work done.
Try and remain productive, it’s difficult for most to maintain productivity when you don’t have a manager or co-workers around. To solve this, don’t start your work in spurts. Set up a work schedule and start at the same time each day. Many people find it helpful to use time blocking in order to segment each day into different types of work.
Remain on task, avoid procrastinating and avoid getting distracted by the television or the refrigerator. Yes, that’s easier said than done. Therefore, to avoid procrastination give yourself a break after that work period to do something you like. It’ll recharge your batteries for the next long haul. Another way to stay on task is by making yourself to-do lists, such as what must be done by lunchtime and by the end of the day. This gives you goals and deadlines, which are also great remedies for keeping procrastination at bay.
Health should not be neglected either, time can get away from you when concentrating on a particular task. However, health is a major consideration in any job. But when you’re working from home that responsibility falls on your shoulders. We’ve talked about taking breaks and rewarding yourself, which covers mental health, but don’t forget that you’re in a body and that body was never intended to sit at a desk all day tapping away at a keyboard. Ergonomics help. If you use a laptop, get a separate keyboard. Then get a stand to elevate your screen to eye level. But these fixes only go so far. You can get yourself a nice chair, one that keeps you sitting in good posture, but even that will not save your back.
Get up, stretch and talk a walk—maybe during your lunch break. Even just getting up from your desk every half-hour to get a drink of water is helpful. Speaking of water, stay hydrated and eat healthy. Keep those empty calories at a distance.
Don’t burn yourself out, this is a danger lurking in every modern office, even if your office is your home. The dark side of motivation and productivity is that people overestimate their capacity and push themselves to the breaking point. Once that happens, it can take time to recover, so it’s important to set up protocols that stop you before the crash.
One way is to maintain your boundaries. That means when working, work, but when you’re off the clock don’t jump to answer that email or text from work. Knowing how you work and keeping boundaries will stop burnout from exhausting you. Are you a morning person? Then get your heavy lifting done then. If you find the afternoon is more productive, then do less mentally challenging tasks early.
There are some benefits to working from home, probably the number-one thing people complain is having to go into the office itself. In most metropolitan areas, commuting adds hours to the work day. People often decide where they’re going to live based on the commute. Working from home turns distance into an afterthought. While an office might be set up to facilitate work, your home has some major benefits for productivity too.
To some degree there should be fewer distractions when working from home, children and pets aside, if they are of a certain age, most of their day will be spent in school. It’s like your home is a cone of silence. You’re comfortable there and are likely to work longer and take fewer breaks.
Working from home is often used as an example of how corporations can mine talent outside their geographic footprint, but the same is true for the worker. A person working from home is able to work for anyone, anywhere. Smaller companies and start-ups that might not have the capital to invest in office space can funnel that funding into paying for skilled labor.
There is money to be saved, as businesses may not have to set you up an office. They might pay for your internet or even supply you with the equipment you need, but much of that will be online, saving them from costly installation. The extra money is going to help their bottom line and be shared among the staff, should the organization have this as an incentive.
There is also flexibility, as not all people who work from home have the luxury of setting their own hours, but even fewer who work in an office are able to do that. Some jobs will ask people working from home to schedule their time to match that of those working in the office. However, one of the perks of working from home is that, as long as the work gets done, many employers don’t care when you do it.
While business casual has become the norm in many industries, people are still not encouraged to go to work in their sleep attire. But, outside of a conference call, you can work in your robe if that’s comfortable. Not having to wear a suit and tie or high-heel shoes is very attractive to many people.
There are some challenges to working from home, while there are clearly many benefits to working remotely, there are also several challenges that can arise and cause problems with productivity and collaboration.
The social aspect of working from an office, the lack of social interaction is akin to a prison sentence. This, naturally, will depend on whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert. There are ways around this; though most of them involve digital solutions. The next issue is technical. You are tethered to your office and co-workers through technology. If that technology is not delivering, then you’re going to get frustrated or worse.
Whether it’s a slow internet connection that makes a simple task take all day or it’s having poor tools that make it difficult to get your work done, you need to make sure that whoever is handling IT at your organization provides you with the right software solution.
With the invention of email and texting, the eight-hour day has mutated into a 24-hour work cycle. This modern problem is even worse for those who work from home. It can feel as if your day never ends. Always being on call can add to pressure and stress, be that a phone, text, chat or any of the other communication devices set up to keep you in touch with your manager and the team. It can be hard to ignore that notice that comes in after hours, which can make you feel as if you’re not home but always in the office.
The lack of structure can be depressing. As much as you might hate the alarm clock, showering and getting dressed for work, the commute, etc., these activities create a structure to your day. Structures are important. They are what hold us up and keep people productive. Without a structure being forced on us by office hours, it’s easy to slip into a twilight zone where work and home life merge to the point that both falter.
There are challenges for your employer, too. Working from home means that your manager must trust you, of course. But even with that in place, there must be a way to monitor and track progress. This can be difficult when you’re not in an office. You can’t as easily check in with your manager or get immediate feedback to keep your work moving forward.
Working from home has its challenges, but it fits a growing niche. Depending on the corporate culture where you work and your own temperament, working from home may not be ideal. But, it’s not going away.
If you find yourself either willingly or unwillingly working from home, there are still a few more considerations to be made;
- Spend five minutes each morning planning the day ahead and prioritizing your tasks.
- Respond to emails only at a specific time each day and allot only a certain amount of time to the work. These email management tools can help.
- Creative work, like drawing, music, etc., can be restorative, and you should allow yourself a period each day to just have fun.
- Daily stand-up meetings are a great way to start your day, meeting with your team and discussing what’s ahead and what everyone is working on. It’s good for work and helps teams bond.
- Exercise is important to your mental and physical well-being. Remember, exercising for only an hour is but four percent of your day. You can do it!
- Don’t let interruptions frustrate you. While you want to minimize them, they’re going to happen. Just accept the fact that you’ll be pulled away from your desk from time to time and enjoy it as a work break.
- Have lots of natural light in your work area and leave a window open, if you can, for the fresh air.
- Breathing exercises help reduce stress, such as square breathing (four seconds in, hold for four seconds, four seconds out and hold for four seconds, repeat).
- If you don’t use a white noise app, there’s always your record collection or streaming to create a productive soundtrack for your office.
- If you can regulate the temperature in your room to maximize your attention, do so. Some people work better in a cold room.
- Adopt a pet for companionship, and if you get a dog, walking them is an added bonus of exercise and fresh air. If you can’t get a pet, there are lots of cute animals to follow on Instagram.
- If your family or kids are home when you’re working, set guidelines for them, so they know when you can’t be disturbed.
There are more considerations, and although the current situation, as to why we have to work from home in the first place is less than ideal in the first place, it is up to us how we handle the situation, and make the most of what we have. Stay safe, remain productive and how that we have more of a choice, that is either working from home or the office very soon.