Build Yourself a Successful Work-From-Home Routine

It takes discipline and patience to create a successful Work From Home routine.

Once upon a time, the saying went, "On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog." This was meant to refer to the anonymity that the Internet can so easily confer, but which is an increasingly effort-laden posture to adopt nowadays.


In this brave and scary new world of corona virus, we're all online nowadays. And while we can certainly choose to behave like canines, that's probably neither a terribly productive nor useful identity to embrace right now (with my profound apologies to caninophiles everywhere). Instead, the real challenge in living and working online is to stay focused and get things done. Let me explain ...


Establishing a Daily Routine, Complete with To-Do List


On the Internet, you can go anywhere, do and see anything you want, and find endless information and diversion. That's not really what life is all about, however, and it's certainly not conducive to a professional, productive online work identity, either. Instead, you really want to begin each new day with a set of objectives.


Often this will start with the list of items from the day before that you didn't finish (or perhaps even start). It will usually also include a routine list of daily tasks that most of us must repeat ad infinitum — namely, check e-mail, voicemail, return or initiate phone calls, visit various websites for world and professional news and information, and so on. This is where things like task or to-do lists come in really handy.


Then there's the list of assignments and tasks that involve actual deliverables. For me, this is pretty easily coordinated (managed, in fact) through Outlook's built-in calendar, or through other calendaring applications (Google Calendar, the Windows 10 Calendar App, and so forth). Items with deadlines are easy to manage, because those deadlines tie directly into a timeline of some kind or another.


In fact, if I understand the art and science of project management correctly, it involves working backwards from big milestones and deliverables to crafting incremental iterations of those things that lead up to them in small, easily achievable steps. Thus, in some sense or another, WFH involves at last a modest degree of project management for all of us. So presto! We're all project managers now for our own projects and deliverables.


Build the Social Networks You Need, Not the Ones that Interest You


It takes discipline and patience to create a successful Work From Home routine.

There's an alarming tendency to start off on work tasks, but wind up in the weeds that I've had to get past lately. Especially on professional social networks (e.g. LinkedIn and Yammer for me, with lots of other similar possibilities for readers), I've noticed that I enter looking for specific bits of information or looking to keep up with topics I follow (e.g. IT training and certification), and wind up following threads or conversations further than I meant to. Sometimes, indeed, I wind up someplace completely different.


My old Novell friend, Paul Turner, posted an interesting observation along these lines on LinkedIn this morning. In an article titled "What is appropriate LinkedIn Content?," Turner observes that much of the content we see on social networks comes from likes or recommendations from other members in our personal networks.


Turner goes on to note that if we see content we don't like, need, or want to see in our feeds, then we can filter some of that dross out by unfriending or unlinking those responsible for sending it our way. Obviously, this does not work for colleagues or co-workers, whose input we must accept because of ongoing working relationships.


It does work, on the other hand, for almost everybody else who gets invited into our various social networks (personally, I'm active on Twittter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Yammer). One good way to stay focused is to be firm, if not ruthless, about excising connections we don't need, or that balance more toward the negative than toward the positive.


Keeping On-Task, On-Time and On-Target May Be Good Enough to Stay Focused


I've been doing the Work From Home thing more or less full-time since May 1994, with a couple of in-office intervals for fewer than two years during that nearly 26-year period. Over the years, I've learned that staying busy enough to make a good living means that I pretty much keep myself on-task, on-time, and on-target because that's the only way I can do the job, and hit all of my deadlines.


It takes discipline and patience to create a successful Work From Home routine.

Getting my work done covers a broad range of secondary tasks, too. Sure, I wind up spending the majority of my time researching and writing. Then, I must also keep up with recurring business tasks, too. For me, this includes paying bills and contractors, sending invoices, scheduling and conducting interviews, attending meetings, and so forth.


As somebody who's self-employed, I've also learned to spend at least half a day every week, checking in with current contractors and customers, and looking for new assignments (or new sources of work), too. In short, I have no problem filling up 40 hours a week on work stuff, and sometimes more than that.


If you're new to the WFH thing, then I hope you'll find enough general guidance here, along with examples of specific tasks, to help you put your own routine together. Sure, you can now work in your PJs, if you like — but the work must still get done. Have fun, but do your best to make that happen. Cheers!


Would you like more insight into the history of hacking? Check out Calvin's other articles about historical hackery:
About the Author

Ed Tittel is a 30-plus-year computer industry veteran who's worked as a software developer, technical marketer, consultant, author, and researcher. Author of many books and articles, Ed also writes on certification topics for Tech Target, ComputerWorld and Win10.Guru. Check out his website at, where he also blogs daily on Windows 10 and 11 topics.