Four tips for finding your flow while you work from home
Hi, How are you hanging in there? We’re on day who-the-heck-even-knows-anymore of quarantine, and for many, these stay at home orders have meant a massive transition to working from home. (To those still out working in public to make the fundamental needs of our world go round: THANK YOU! We appreciate you so deeply.) It's probably feeling weird, distracting, and difficult to feel like you can get anything done.
A fun fact about me: I’ve worked from home for the better part of the last 8 years! Before I started Waterbody and moved fully into self-employment I worked for many years with a regional nonprofit – the Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition – coordinating communications and community based watershed projects, from the cozy kitchen of our tiny two-bedroom trailer house.
My first year transitioning to work from home had its challenges – and fair share of annoying assumptions from other people that “work from home” translates to “wears sweatpants and bakes cookies all day” (the sweatpants part is true). That first year also included many a professional video conference with cameo appearances from my fellow self-employed partner casually frying bacon and eggs in the background…
But I’ve found my groove along the way and now happily run all the Waterbody biz operations from that same cozy kitchen, though thankfully we have grown enough to graduate out of a kitchen lab to our sweet new formulation space (:
Here are my tried and true suggestions for finding your flow and keeping your focus while you work from home:
1. Create your space
Consider a regular day at the “office” (or wherever it is you work outside the home). You leave your house and enter a new space that is purely dedicated to that work. It’s easier for our brains to shift what we’re focused on when we shift our surroundings. Carve out a dedicated working space for your home “office”. Even if that just means completely clearing off the kitchen or coffee table and taking over that surface for your working hours. When you’re done with work for the day, change the setting back over to "regular life mode" in your space. Treat the shift in space like your morning and evening commute – a little ceremony to open and close out your day – that doesn’t involve traffic!
2. Set your schedule
If possible (I know this can be difficult for those with kiddos around the house), set and keep to a regular schedule of working hours for yourself. Creating physical boundaries around your time helps to keep work time from bleeding out into your personal time, and vice versa. Try keeping to your normal work schedule, or if you're taking full advantage of the opportunity to sleep in, set 2-4 hour time blocks for yourself. When the work day is done, let it be done. Avoid the temptation of checking a few emails after dinner and allow yourself 100% pure downtime.
3. Prioritize your tasks
Blending our workspace and home space creates all sorts of opportunities for attention to wander. I find it super helpful to sit down at the first hour of my workday and prioritize what I want to accomplish. I write out the three tasks that would have the most impact for me that day on a sticky note, and slap that sticky right next to my computer. When my mind starts to wander, I glance over at my note and ask myself if what I’m doing currently is moving the needle on any of those tasks. If its not, then I reset and refocus on the task at hand. And it feels real, real good to cross out, crumple up, and slam-dunk a completed sticky note into the garbage at the end of the day.
4. Give yourself a break
In the literal, and figurative sense. When I need to reset my brain, take a break, or shift gears I’ll step outside for a walk around the yard. Take regular breaks to get up, stretch, make a cup of tea. Grab your tin of calm balm and sit back for a 5 minute head and neck massage.
Give yourself the breaks you need to rest your brain and recalibrate your focus. But also, just give yourself a BREAK. Chances are you’re experiencing a major shift in your day-to-day life. It feels weird. You feel thrown for a loop. And that’s totally okay. Be kind to yourself and simply do the best you can. Break when you need to. Make a snack plate of nachos when you need to. Remember that you’re doing an awesome job.