What helps you work from home? No, really, I’m asking. Please feel free to add thoughts to the comments section.
Whatever the answer is, I think it has something to do with managing transitions…
A Need & Transitions
Apparently, there is some sort of virus going around. So, many of us are now set to work from home. There are many who already have been working from home, but there are many who have not. It’s new territory.
We often get our work done, unwittingly, by relying on environmental triggers. A meeting here, a deadline there, someone stopping by to ask something, etc. These are the small taps that guide us throughout the day. Sometimes we use them well, having reflected upon them and designed our own environments.
But the upheaval in transitioning from an outside office to home can be significant. All of your stuff’s there! All the usual triggers for home life, be that family, a beckoning gaming system, or both, are there.
So this is one transition – office to home. But there is another transition to consider: that of moving from one work to another. 1
Whatever productivity technique you use to get started, be that of Being Productive, the Pomodoro Technique, or GTD’s idea of “tricking yourself”2 – they all consider transitions. The idea is that once you start something, there is a tendency to continue it.
Perhaps there is a parallel to Newton’s first law:
“A body at rest tends to stay at rest, and a body in motion tends to stay in motion unless acted on by a net external force.”
In this way, rather than consider having to do something for extended periods of time throughout the day, you might do well to think of having to make several transitions.
Additionally, there is a longer term consideration. To illustrate, consider one difference between those who retire well vs those who have difficulty is in their lives beforehand. If a person has developed hobbies, relationships, and the like that aren’t somehow tied to an occupation that will end, it is easier to make the transition. Often these activities can simply expand to fill the void left. Sometimes they suddenly realize that still don’t have time to do everything they want!
But those whose entire lives are work, the transition is more like running into a state of famine. They have to start creating a whole new garden from scratch—something very difficult to do at a later stage of life.
Certainly this latter advice is hardly helpful for the moment. It amounts to “you should have done x, y, or z”. But, hopefully, this crisis will pass, and you’ll be left with the realization that life outside of an occupation is vital. Not only is it important for the content. It’s also important for learning how to set up rhythms for oneself. Further, I find that having learned these habits of transition enhances my abilities and interactions at work even during the day at the office.
- Now, I should say that I often use the word “work” similarly to GTD’s David Allen. In other words, “work” is “anything that you want to be different than it currently is.” Allen, David. “A New Practice for a New Reality.” In Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-free Productivity, 4. No ed. New York: Viking, 2001. ↩
- The example given is that if you want to start jogging, then put your shoes on and go outside. You might just start jogging. Once you do, you’ll likely continue. ↩
I agree regarding transitions. I try to structure my work day and my home day by enforcing certain barriers. I devote one area of my home to work, and try to stay in that space.
I dress in work clothes while I work, and switch to home clothes when work is over.
I even have a work water bottle and a home water bottle, and don’t drink out of the “wrong” one depending on time of day.
These boundaries sound silly, but for me they help enforce the distinction between my work life and my home life, even if they are in the same physical place.