So, it looks as though you might be working from home for a while. Perhaps you’re feeling jittery about it. You love the buzz of the office. The ringing of phones and the chatter around you. You thrive on the energy of the team bouncing ideas about. I know this is how some of my coaching clients feel.
Or maybe you’re cherishing the peace and quiet. The lack of interruptions. The space it gives you to think. But after a few days of not quite getting focused, you’re wondering how on earth anyone gets anything done. There are so many distractions!
I’ve worked at home for 21 years
I’ve worked at home for a long, long time. I never thought this would be a topic on which I’d be sharing guidance but it seems I’m quite the expert now. I promise it’s perfectly possible to make it work, to love it even. (And I’m a big extrovert who needs people around her to stay buoyant and I’m not even that well organised). So here are a few top tips from me – and, of course, we’re all different so take what works for you and ignore the rest.
1. Create a working space you’ll love
I’ve got a lot of favourite places to work – by the fire in a friendly pub, in the café in a church in central London (yes, really!). For the moment these aren’t going to be possible so I’ve gone back to the desk in my proper office – and I’m enjoying being more settled.
I encourage you to find a few square feet you can call your own and designate this as your regular working space. Make it as appealing as you can. You’ll want to love being here so it feels good to get to work. Go green with a pot plant or vase of flowers, dig out some gorgeous stationery – a lovely pen works wonders – and keep it nice and tidy if that helps focus you.
And if all you have is a corner of the living room, think about how you can make it somewhere you want to be and how others will recognise this as your work space.
2. Stick to your working hours
When you first start working at home, work can sneakily spread into all your waking hours. It feels good to knock off those emails here, just get that report done there. I really get that and I’m definitely guilty of it myself.
But my experience is that it’s better to decide regular hours and, more or less, to stick to them. Isolate that work! And that includes when you’ll respond to work calls and emails. Being ‘always on’ is stressful and it eats into meaningful connection with family or other priorities in your life. We all need to look after ourselves at this difficult time, so do watch when that laptop comes out.
3. Take a break
Without the usual interruptions and meetings I can find myself working for hours at a time without getting up at all – not be recommended! It seems we can’t concentrate at our best for more than 90-120 minutes at a time. So, set a timer and take that break. Otherwise it’s the law of diminishing returns.
In your breaks, I encourage you do something totally different. I might dance about madly to a couple of uplifting songs (after all, no one’s watching, right!?) Or do some stretches, or take a walk. Have a moment with your cat who’s desperate to sit on your papers (Got a cat? Yep! That will happen a lot). Or how about chatting to a friend on Zoom?
Oh, and do you know the 20:20:20 rule? If you’re working at a screen, every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. It’s sound advice for happy eyes and a clear brain.
4. Squeeze that frog!
If you’re a coaching client or you’ve been on one of my Taming Time workshops you know all about with my famous green frog. (More here if you don’t.) This is the moment to take our squeaky friend’s advice to heart and do the most important piece of work (or at least a good chunk of it) first thing in the morning.
It could well be something you’re putting off because it’s tricky or boring or overwhelming but that yucky frog task is most likely to give you the very highest return on your efforts. Use that early morning focus to get it done!
To acknowledge an early morning win, my clients squeeze the frog I’ve given them. Celebrating our successes is a great way to keep up morale. What could you do instead?
There’s so much uncertainty to roll with right now and this is a surefire way to crack on with your top priority, whatever else happens with the rest of your day.
5. Celebrate your extra hours
And finally, I invite you to see working from home as an opportunity to pick up some extra time in your day – for you. You may have two or more hours which you used to spend on commuting. Wow!
Ok, so maybe we’re not talking about right now. I know I’m struggling to think straight and to get organised for our new normal. But eventually, things will settle down and we will be able to explore what this could mean for us. I wonder what’s possible? An online course to learn a new skill? Getting that vegetable patch going that you’ve been talking about for years? Having some coaching even?
Over to you?
I know it’s a tricky time and working from home may not be exactly what you want right now, but does any of this seem useful? Do let me know.
I’ll be continuing with my usual coaching and support to leaders in the sector. It’s even more important now! We’ll just take it online. Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org or give me a call on 07958 501 427 to see how I can help.