Continuing the tips from part 1.
Take a shower.
Take a black coffee.
Get to your desk, read emails.
We all have a routine we follow only during workdays. Those rituals are often associated to the place we work. Our body and mind understand that if we are at home we should relax, it's a day off.
Those rituals are not only part of the routine. They are the ON/OFF switch of the work-mode self. It's like an athlete moments before getting into the competition floor. The rituals are there to get them into the right mindset for optimal performance. If taking a black coffee makes you ready to tackle your email inbox in the morning, go for it.
You can do any sort of ritual as long as it feels authentic and accessible to you.
Freelance jobs and some companies measure profit by results. They understand that hours do not equal productivity. Unfortunately, at most traditional offices, people tend to associate how productive you are by the time you spend in the building. The problem of working at home with that mentality is that you are in the building all the time, every day.
That mentality is so messed up that I prefer to lash at it in another post, if ever.
Being at home can tempt anyone to bend the rules a little bit. Which is fine if you know what you are doing. If not, it will back-fire hard. Point is, at most companies, the flex-hours policy is often pretty grey and half-baked. In the end, chances are that working all the time will be the default expectation.
Expectations are resentments waiting to happen. The only way to avoid further suffering is to communicate how you manage your hours. So, if you go with flex-hours, know how to manage those hours because no one will understand them.
Communicate often. Communicate a lot.
In a perfect scenario, people will stop caring about hours and start caring about results.
If a flexible workday isn't something you care about, then the traditional 9 to 6 set-up suits you. Even then, stick with those times. Make sure that everyone else understands you are sticking with those times.
Communicate and make it very clear at what times you are available.
Time management is pain management. This is why understanding distraction can help you stay on task.
How to get back on track:
- Observe, don't judge. Don't fall into a guilt pit when you caught yourself distracted. That is counterproductive and generates unnecessary stress. At first, take note of that distraction in a piece of paper, nothing more. Instead of being hard on yourself, be an observer of your own behavior.
- Be realistic. What is the expected level of focus required from your work? That will depend of the nature of the work, the deadlines and tasks practiced. Not everybody needs to be a spartan to deliver results. Sometimes, a few adjustments will be enough to improve productivity.
- Remove the distractions you can. Put that video game console on a box, turn off the notifications of your phone, clear your desk. Anything that distracts you that are at your arms length can be removed from sight or disabled in some form. Identify it and remove it.
- Work around the distractions you cannot remove. The construction down the road makes noise and it won't stop because it's distracting you. Noise-cancelling headphones, working at different times, moving out? Some things are beyond your control and you will have to accept them and work around them as best as possible.
- Make things fun. Study proves that the ability to delay gratification is critical for success in life. But if that is a bit too difficult for you now, try to reward yourself after completing a task. Start with small tasks, celebrate those victories and work them up.
Research proves that fatigue negatively influences decision-making. Working non-stop will do you more harm than good. You will make more mistakes, stress will pile up. Productivity will be nothing but a dream.
This is why you should take regular breaks. Let me say it again.
How to take breaks:
- Take them often. 5-10 minutes every hour is better than 45 minutes every 6 hours. If you have problems to remember to take breaks, try the Pomodoro technique to get into the habit.
- Move. Movement helps improve mood, focus and energy throughout the day. Stretch those legs. Walk. If you have only 30 seconds, stand up. Get the blood flowing.
- Change scenery. Eyes get strained after too much time in front of a computer screen. Looking at things at distance help the eyes relax. Don't use your break to go from one screen to another. Try looking out a window. Better yet, take a walk outside and observe nature.
- Commit. When you are on a break, you are on break. No replying to emails, no answering messages, no working. Taking 5 minutes away from it will not be the end of the world.
- (Dis)connect. This is why that office water-cooler chat is so important. People disconnect from the work and connect with people they like. They gossip, talk about the last game, what they are doing next summer. A bit challenging to do at home but not impossible. If you have people that live with you (and assuming you like them) this is the opportunity to talk to them. You can still check-in on a friend or colleague by phone or text.
Taking proper breaks also means proper sleep.
Poor sleep affects the brain and cognitive function. That can cause deficit in attention and working memory. Most healthy adults need between 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night to function at their best. No amount of breaks will fix a sleep deprived brain, so keep some decent sleep hours as well.
Remember why you are at home: because you can. Not everyone have the privilege of a job that isn't tied up to a location. You have the flexibility so many don't.
This flexibility brings a few perks:
- No commuting. This is an obvious one. The seconds from the bed to the computer beats being stuck in traffic any day.
- Life can happen. Need to run errands or take care of your children? That can take a chunk of your day like a meeting would.
But there are also challenges:
- Overwork makes you forget to look at the clock whenever you get entranced by the task at hand.
- Under-work takes the form of procrastinating all day. I know, that new Netflix show is way more interesting than whatever you have to do.
Self-awareness is a necessity. Doing too much or too little happens because you don't know why are you doing it. The first step is to observe and be mindful of your actions. Then focus on what is important to you and you will learn how to fit the pieces together.