Like much of the world, in March I traded in a drive to work for a walk to a quiet spot in the house. For me, it was the kitchen table. I cracked open my laptop and got busy. And I discovered something: my projects got finished faster and I was less exhausted at the end of the day.
Why was that?
The walk to the bathroom is certainly shorter, but more importantly, no one stops me to visit on the way. And then there’s the phone— now it rings less frequently in favor of texts and emails, which means I can finish a task before replying and save focus. And breaks? I can do a load of laundry or wash dishes or prep for dinner on my lunch break, clearing my after-work schedule for family time ... or a quiet, meditative walk in the neighborhood.
There are some struggles, though.
I am blessed that mine is pretty self-sufficient and was quickly occupied with virtual school and Zooms with his friends and books and video games. Had he needed more attention or guidance or lunch, I would have had a harder time. Moms I know of younger ones tried a number of tactics. Some color-coded the clock so that certain hours were for chores, quiet play, reading and schoolwork, exercise, lunch, crafts. (Frankly, unsupervised crafts sounds like a bad, black-and-white horror flick!) They prebagged snacks and lunches, just like a school day. They spent their lunch hour checking homework, redirecting chores, playing hide-and-seek, and cutting gum out of hair. I commend them all! I wish I had better advice for this challenge. Feel free to post your winning suggestions!
Face it. “Sink Distraction” is a thing. You know: you’re working hard when, out of the corner of your eye, you see dirty dishes or couch cushions in disarray or a pile of lethal Legos on the floor... and you just have to take care of that mess. Here’s where you have to draw some lines. Sure, if you’re waiting for a report to print, straighten the cushions. If it’s time for a 15-minute break, load the dishwasher. But painting the cabinets will have to wait. If you need some chronological boundaries in this blend of work and home, set some timers: morning break, lunch, afternoon break, go home! Help yourself to the on-off button, and leave work at — well, whatever space you have staked out.
For some, a spacious well-organized office is just another room in the house. But for many, our “home office” is a corner of the kitchen table or the couch and a coffee table. Whatever your new venue, make it comfortable, compatible to the work, and concealable. The first two are self-explanatory, but concealable? Yes. Take time to put your work away: close the laptop, stash the files, cap the pens. Get them out of your living space so that when work is done for the day, you don’t catch yourself looking at it. Separate job from home enough that you don’t check your email at dinner or review reports during a family movie.
After all, “we work to live, not live to work.”
What challenges are you having with remote work? Let’s help one another out!