Back in 2019, some dude in a bar would say to me “Wow, Phil! Working from home must be awesome LOL! It’s like you’re never at work LMAO!!!!” And I’d be like “Well yeah, it’s pretty cool to roll out of bed 3 minutes before you’re supposed to be at work, and you get to do it while watching the Price is Right like you’re taking a sick day from school. But really, it’s kind of the opposite. It’s almost like I’m never NOT at work.”
Well, those people understand now.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure they don’t miss the commute; If it was anything like mine, they’d be wasting roughly 10 hours every week stuck in traffic. Then they’d probably have to rush to make dinner, and then argue with their children to eat it. And then argue with them to bathe. And then argue with them to brush their teeth. And then argue with them to go to bed so that they can FINALLY have 5 minutes to unwind with a glass of chardonnay without some pathetic little human constantly needing things from them. Or whatever. I don’t know, I don’t have children. I just imagine it’s a lot of arguing. Personally, I would probably get home from work, throw on a leather jacket, and then go meet up with some professional baseball players at a cool speakeasy or something because that’s what life is like when you’re not a parent. My main point is that commuting sucks and that children are awful.
But when you work from home, the line between “your time” and “work time” kind of blurs- whether or not you have children. Some people can’t get into work mode when they know that they have laundry to do. Some people can’t get into laundry mode because they know there is work to do. It’s a real struggle to find that perfect work-life balance when your clothes hamper and your computer screen are staring at you simultaneously. And you can’t even go see a movie to cleanse your palette because currently the whole world is either shut down or literally on fire. How can you prevent cabin fever when you don’t have a way out?
Well as a remote-work veteran, I’ve got a few quick tips for you:
- Keep a schedule.
I don’t have any science to back this up, but I feel like human beings inherently crave structure. I think this is because when you were a kid, you probably had some poor soul begging you to eat your peas or take a nap (see paragraph 3). And yeah, you argued because you were a little ingrate that didn’t realize certain things NEEDED to get done, and that it’s easiest to complete them all when each one had a dedicated time frame. This mode of operation is now subconsciously ingrained into your psyche.
That’s why having a schedule is comforting; It makes you feel like mommy and daddy are guiding you to get all of your homework done and to get enough sleep. The problem is that now you’re the one guiding yourself. And just like when you moved out of the house for the first time and spent a year eating junk food and gaining 15 pounds, you don’t have the discipline to guide yourself properly when you’re overwhelmed by freedom.
What you need to do is emulate the structure you had as a child. Set rigid times to get things done, and be specific. Example:
9-10: Work. (10 minute breaks at the top of every hour)
12-12:30: Lunch break.
12:30-5: Work (10 minute breaks at the top of every hour)
5-6:30: Decompression time (read a book, run errands)
6-7:30: Dinner time
7:30-9: Family time
9-11: Wind-Down Time (write the great american novel, video games, hobbies)
I mean, obviously this is just an example. I don’t know what your responsibilities are. Maybe your schedule will just be different blocks of arguing with your kids. Every life is different. The take away here is to break your day down into granular items, one after another, to keep your life moving forward at a predictable pace. And If you’re having trouble setting a formal schedule because you know that you set it for yourself, and, let’s be honest, it seems kind of arbitrary to not have flexibility with your own time, then try this: Get blackout drunk and fill out your day planner–that way it will be like somebody else wrote it for you.
- Have a dedicated workspace.
It’s possible to train yourself to turn on your “work” mindset, and your “setting” (read: your surroundings) can have an impact on how quickly and effectively you can activate this mindset. In a Pavlovian way, having a dedicated workspace can trigger productivity.
Even if it’s just a corner in your kitchen, bedroom, or, Ideally, a spare bedroom, having a set place where your work gets done actually helps it get done. Find an area that is relatively free of home distractions. Bonus points if it’s somewhere that gets little foot traffic. Extra bonus points if it’s somewhere hidden away from the biggest distraction of all: people under the age of 13 that can’t even heat up a hotdog without crying for your help.
I understand that there are some dumb menial tasks that everybody has to tend to in thier personal life, but don’t let them cross over into your work space. The point is to maintain a business element to your chosen place. Beethoven didn’t compose “Moonlight Sonata” while balancing his check book and you shouldn’t have to fill out expense reports while tying another person’s tiny shoes. I don’t know if that’s true about Beethoven, but I think you get the point I’m making.
- Close the door on that workspace.
When you’re done with work, you need to be able to leave it behind so that you can transition into your “Home” mindset. I like to physically separate myself from my workspace by literally closing a door to it. It’s easy when you have an actual door, but your physical barrier could be as simple as putting your laptop into it’s bag or even just covering your monitor with a bed sheet. It worked for my parakeet. I just threw a sheet over its cage and it went night-night. Parakeets are dumb, just like kids.
The ceremony of closing the door, or putting your computer away signals your brain that it’s time to move on to your real life. Work is done. And the fact that you’re not able to see your work portal anymore keeps the intrusive thoughts of “maybe I should just get a head start on those TPS reports” away. Remember: in most cases, it can wait until tomorrow.
You’re still going to naturally think about work from time to time (just as you would if you were working from an office) but you won’t have something constantly reminding you. Out of sight, out of mind.
- Get the hell out of dodge for a little while.
Maybe go for a walk after work. Just around your neighborhood. Or if you’re lazy like me, go for a little drive. Go see the world around you. Maybe you’ll see something delightful, like a cute dog or festive new holiday decorations or an overturned school bus. See anything besides the walls of your house.
The perk here is that you kind of create a time-bridge between work and home. It gives you time to easily undress your work mindset and slip into your home mindset and It happens without you even noticing it. By the time you’re home, you won’t feel like you’re at work anymore.
- Get a hobby, loser.
Your house should still feel like your house. It should be a place that you can relax in, learn in and grow in. Engage in a little escapism. Take some time to lean into your hobbies. Maybe something physical. Do a little gardening. Change your oil. Lift a weight. Do something that gets the blood pumping after siting sedentary for 8+ hours. Maybe do some yoga. Meditate. Astral project yourself to a faraway beach, free from chocolate-stained mouths and lego blocks, sticky from apple juice.
Engaging your interests is not only good for your personal growth and mental health, it’s another way to further separate yourself from the other obligations that you have in that same location.
These are a few things that I’ve found help keep me somewhat sane, but this is just a brief overview. I’m in no way saying that it’s a comprehensive list. The main theme is that mentally compartmentalizing your day keeps your day from being one long blob of monotony. And an equally important takeaway: wrap it up.
Interested in learning more about Fanzoo and how we can help your business in 2021? Check out our Problems We Solve or Our Services page to learn more about our tried and process for everything from custom app development to business solutions. Or head on over to Our Clients page and get a full view of our current client roster. We’re proud of the work we do, and we’re excited to share it with you! Ready to get started? Fill out the form below.