Step off the hamster wheel of home-working

Whether you’re working or studying from home, at the moment you’re living in your office, and this is causing productivity over-drive.

I’m hearing the same from parents, non-parents and students that their inner workaholic is emerging day in, day out. There’s a sense of guilt around any down-time.

I’ve heard this before from part-time home-workers too, though. If they do three days a week from home, it’s never really three days. They feel pulled into calls and meetings which happen to fall outside ‘their days’. They feel guilty about stepping out of the house for a walk, in case they get caught out.

Let’s flip this. When we’re in a workplace, or at college or university, do we spend our whole day glued to our desk? No. We go and make coffee, or stop and chat by colleagues’ desks. We often get out at lunchtime to grab food or have a walk. So what is it about being at home that makes us so guilty about taking breaks, and feel the need to be ‘doing’ relentlessly?

Firstly, we rarely recognise the importance of the ‘water-cooler’ moments. Those human interactions are like mini coaching sessions where we talk through challenges and obstacles, and find ways through them.

It’s far easier at home to not take breaks – unless you’re multi-tasking with home-schooling, which let’s face it, isn’t a break – you’re at your desk, focusing on work, and there’s an underlying sense of guilt that because you’re at home you need to just plough on….forever.

Without colleagues around, it can be easy to slip into an unstructured day, lacking efficiency and focus. This is bound to lead to a sense of panic that we’re going round in circles and not achieving goals.

Some tips

Don’t underestimate keeping in contact with the team. You may have a weekly Zoom meeting, but call people in between. Collaborate. Share successes and challenges like you would in the office or in a student environment.

Pomodoro technique – work on a task for 25 minutes. Take a five minute break. After four cycles of half an hour, take a longer break.

Schedule – stick to a daily schedule. You might set aside two hours first thing for a longer term project, and hour blocks for other tasks. However you plan it, stick to it.

To-do list – set weekly goals and daily goals as you go along.

Eliminate distractions – easier said than done for parents, but schedule more challenging tasks for times when someone else is keeping the children busy. As a general rule, give yourself a quiet environment to concentrate and focus.

Consider at the end of each day what needs to be done the next day. Make it achievable and realistic and write a list. Stick to it, and congratulate yourself when it’s done. Now go and do something that counts as down-time and leave the computer alone! This is your time, and if you wrote your list, achieved what was on it, that’s that work day over and you can focus on yourself. Savour things you enjoy, and really differentiate that time.

Plenty of research shows that homeworking is more productive than working in an office, but only you can make it work for you!

Get in touch if you’d like to talk about what strategies might work best for you. You can book a free, no obligation chat here


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