All of us are making adjustments working from home. We’re trying to find our way by creating literal and figurative space to both work and live. It’s hard. Harder than many of us imagined. I’ve worked from home for a very long time but I used to travel constantly and now most of my trips are from one room to another. I hear lots of complaints about focus, lack of energy and constant distraction. When I talk to clients about this, I find that most of the direction I’m giving is about what I’m NOT doing.
- I don’t look at my phone when I wake up. Hurling myself into the world on social media, email or any newsfeed is depleting. I’m tired before I get out of bed if I start my day with my face in a screen. So I’ve slowed down and start my day with 10 minutes of yoga. I eat breakfast and listen to music and journal for 10 or 15 minutes. Yes, I take 30 minutes to start my day but my day begins with a full tank and sharp focus. I have a bunch of clients doing this and they’re utterly astonished at how much more energy they have. It’s small but radical.
- I don’t answer emails at all hours of the day. Simply because someone chooses to work at 10pm doesn’t mean that I have to as well. My response will come tomorrow after my morning routine. If I respond in real time, I’m training the world to expect an immediate response. That cycle is wicked and draining. I don’t want to be in a constant reactive mode. Setting some rules about when I work creates healthy boundaries.
- I don’t eat in front of a screen. I cook for myself. I don’t even own a microwave. Sitting down to a proper lunch without a phone or laptop allows me to nourish more than my body. It allows me to recharge and be present. Slowing down helps me to speed up.
- I don’t confuse being online with being productive. Meetings have to matter otherwise they eat a whole lot of time and exhaust everyone. I don’t need to attend meetings to prove my value. I have a competent partner. I trust her to take meetings where I’m simply not needed.
- I don’t ignore my body. If I’m really tired, distracted or unmotivated I have to figure out why. Pushing through it just makes me more tired. Sometimes I just need a day off or need to go for a walk. The time I take off has a high return on investment. I come back super charged and will be exponentially more productive.
- I don’t expect to be energized, focused and productive all of the time because I’m a human and this has been a brutal year. This sounds simple but understanding that we need rest, exercise, good food and a little peace changes the decisions we make. We operate with the assumption that if we aren’t on fire all of the time then something is wrong, but maybe something is simply wrong with that assumption.
- I don’t keep long ever expanding to-do lists. I love a to-do list and I really love ticking things off of that list, but I find that if I have something I’ve been avoiding instead of putting it on a list and letting it roll over day after day while raising my blood pressure, it’s best to simply schedule my hard task. Calendaring something further out takes it off my list and out of my head. I’m able to give the task a time and place instead of carrying it around, which tends to get even heavier with guilt and shame. Freeing up that real estate is an instant energy boost and lowers any anxiety I might have about something I’m not doing.
Give yourself a little grace. Energy and motivation are hard to come by if you’re constantly working from a depleted state. Find small ways to take control of your schedule. Find small spaces to nourish your mind and body. Take a guilt free nap or a quiet walk. Instead of beating yourself up for your struggles try lifting yourself up and consider what you need. Small changes can offer radical results. Go slow. Take small steps and pay close attention to what happens.
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By Ann marie Houghtailing