BY JEN OLENICZAK BROWN
What was seen as just a few weeks’ or months’ stint has turned into a reality for many of us. Over the past few months, major companies like Amazon, Twitter, and Facebook have changed over to all-remote work – which may indicate that many companies, even smaller ones, will be ditching office space and communal coffee to work remotely. While many people were attempting to work at home when the COVID pandemic hit, the transition to successfully working at home has to happen to make this sustainable.
How do you stay motivated to work when you have so many distractions? Your dog, the plant, the fridge…all of these things can stop the flow and start the meander to other projects that suddenly become that much more important when you’re staring at them. The dog needs his nails trimmed today. That plant hasn’t been repotted in a few years, so now is great! When did I last clean out the fridge?
Here are a few tips to stay motivated and focused on your work while you’re trying to make your home an office:
Find a Space
I am so guilty of not always doing this. Work in a space that isn’t your bed or couch. Even if you’re set up at the kitchen table, you need to separate relaxation and “normal time” with work time. If you have an office, great! If not, your table does fine. By working in your bed or on your couch, you’re not only blurring the boundaries of “free time” and “work time” – you’re more likely to do the activities you’d do if you were off work (like think about cleaning the fridge.)
Have a Clock In and Out
Start at a specific time, and clock in. If that means making a cup of coffee and eating breakfast, then getting started, do it – focus on this becoming a routine. If you sometimes start before coffee and breakfast, as an example, and sometimes you get up around 11 am to grab some food, you’re letting that structure turn into a flow. The flow might work well for some people – others will have a hard time with consistency.
As for clocking out, you need to find an endpoint. Would you stay at the office until 10 pm, checking and sending emails? How about Sunday mornings? No? Then don’t do it here. Have a routine that gets you out of work. Maybe it’s changing clothes or pulling your hair back or leaving your work in another room. Don’t let the lines blur.
If You Took Breaks At the Office…
Take breaks at your house. You aren’t doing anyone favors going on 9-hour work binges that result in you not wanting to work the rest of the week. If you took a break in the office to grab a coffee, eat lunch, stretch – do that at home, too! Build-in and schedule that time if you need to.
This is not a “To-Done” list – I repeat, this is not a to-done list! This is a list of things you work on, not a list of things for you to finish every day. Make it, cross things off, tap into it, and revisit it when necessary. If it feels like you’re not getting anything “done” and you need to have the satisfaction of crossing things off, break down the big tasks into smaller tasks, and cross those micro-tasks off. Maybe it’s as simple as “answer four emails” – if you focus on celebrating the accomplishments, you’ll seek to accomplish more.
Set your timer for 15 minutes – and work the entire time without checking your phone or getting distracted. Too easy? Try 30 minutes or an hour – or even two. When you’re done with the time, allow yourself the comfort of distraction, and start again.
Good luck, and remember – give yourself grace when trying new things, even if it’s working at home!