I am writing this article today sitting at the dining room table with my two boys at my side doing homework while my wife uses my home office space to work from home.
Life has changed for all of us in ways I don’t think we have fully realised yet.
We will need to dig deep in the coming months and find ways to work from home and be more present and intentional with our time.
We will need to be present with our family and loved ones more than ever before and extremely intentional with what we focus our attention on.
“Where focus goes energy flows”. -Tony Robbins.
Right now we're all being told by our Government to work from home. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), approximately 31% of the Australian workforce either already work remotely or from home. However this statistic does not represent the volume of the workforce that have a job that actually allows them to work remotely or from home (not in a physical office) 100% of the time. It cited one of the main reasons for working from home was to “catch up” on work due to the heavy workload. This leads me to believe that the actual percentage of workers that can work from home 100% of the time could be considerably less (then 31%).
What about the rest of us – If our workplace is not geared up to allow its employees to work remotely how are we suppose to work from home?
Here lies one of the biggest challenges our economy is facing right now. If you're fortunate enough to be able to work from home and this is the first time you have had to do so, you're probably fast realising that it comes with its challenges and may not be as easy going as you initially thought.
I remember when I first started working from home. When I told people they thought it would be the best thing ever and said I was so lucky. However, its not until you actually do it you realise it is not as easy as you thought. Mainly due to the endless distractions, interruptions from the children if they are also at home, messages from family to run messages and and disconnection from other humans.
Working from home isn’t easy during the best of times – let alone during a global crisis.
After doing it now for a number of years, there are a few things I have learnt that I would like to share with you to help make the most of of your new found time at home and your “working from home life” that bit easier.
Stay consistent and show up every day
In times like this, it's important to remember to give yourself time to settle into important tasks, and be patient with yourself. A busy, clouded mind, makes it difficult to focus and also task switch. Sit at your desk, take few deep breaths and try to clear your mind of everything else that's happening around you and be present. I think my seven year old calls this ‘mindfulness'. do this at the start of each day and set a time to begin your work and commit to it every day.
Make a routine and stick to it
I believe a routine is important. I am not saying your entire day should be planned out. However there is value in having set time allocated each day for tasks that matter. Write them down, plan them on a Trello board, make them your desktop wallpaper, it really doesn't matter. After a while they will become habitual and you will do them without thinking.
Put your phone away to allow yourself to focus on deep work
Our phones are the most distracting device we own and provides us with validation and feedback—something our work often doesn’t. If you're able to turn it off for a set period of time, try doing so. It will be one less thing to think about and help you avoid unnecessary SMS's, calls and notifications. Everything else can wait while you do the things that matter.
Know what your Most Important Task is
I am a big fan of the Most Important Task (M.I.T.) method of working. To achieve this, I use WorkFlowy. There are plenty of things in out life that demand our attention. However it's important to focus on and give energy to the things that matter the most. I like to start my day knowing what my priorities are and focus solely on achieving these. I keep a list of no more than three most important tasks and everything else gets ‘logged'. It always feels more satisfying to complete the tasks that require the most work or biggest return on their investment. I review my M.I.T. list at the end of the evening in preparation for the next day. This way I kick-off my day knowing exactly what I need to focus and not waste time figuring it out.
Schedule news and distraction time
I normally go out of my way to avoid the news. I am extremely intentional with what I choose to read and give my attention to. Leave reading news updates until later in the day. You're sure to see or reads something that will put you in a bad mood. I believe if something is important enough it will find a way to reach you. Consider scheduling specific time at the end of the day to catch up news and current events rather than checking in with news websites when you feel stressed out. This small change also makes you feel more in control of your day.
Get comfortable with not being as productive as usual
Working from home can often mean spending more time at your desk because you can and it is easy. However, not all time you spend in front of your screen will be productive. There is nobody looking over your shoulder or checking in with you to see how your day is going or how you're progressing on that report that's due on Friday. Accept the fact that you will move around the house, seek distractions, need another coffee or snack and just be aware that this will happen. As a result, you will probably feel less productive as you normally feel when in the office. That's fine, it's normal. Be comfortable with it and accept it.
Replace you usual commute time with something you enjoy
By working from home you will most likely be saving yourself considerable time by not needing to travel or commute to the office. Take this time and do something you enjoy. We may never get such an opportunity again. An opportunity to disregard the world outside our front door and stay inside with our family and loved ones without the hustle of life getting on our way. Have something of interest you can contribute a little to each day. This could be anything from reading a book, learning to cook, listen to an audiobook or podcast, learn a new language or begin planning your next overseas trip. Yes, why not!
Journal to get stuff out of your head
In stressful times we can tend to keep a lot in our heads. We think too much and overthink what read and see on the news. Keeping a journal or diary allows us to get the thoughts and what is stressing us out of our heads so we can move on to thinking about other things. It also allows us to give a different meaning to the thoughts we write down and become more clear-headed. Don't Google journaling methods, just grab a diary or piece of paper and start writing. Get those thoughts out of your head!
Stop looking at everyone else’s Show real
Quit social media completely. Yes, that's what I said. Quit all social media while you focus on your work and the important stuff. Those tasks you have already decided mean the most to you and your work. Set aside time at the end of the day to catch up on your feeds and scroll through other people showreels. Think about how social media contributes to your quality of life and the meaning you give it. You may find it does not give you much back in return for all the you spend on it.
Have a productive place to work
Having a comfortable, productive place to work is not easy for everyone. Particularly if you have never had to work from home before. Invest in a large monitor and external keyboard to ensure you're sitting comfortable at your desk (or inner table). Try to keep a clear desk free of distractions. Clear workspace = clear mind.
Do you have a spare phone?
Something over and above these suggestions to make working from home a little easier I think adds great value is delegating one of your mobile devices as your ‘distractions device'. I have been doing this for some time and find it incredibly useful and satisfying. I have an iPhone as my primary mobile phone with no social media or other distracting apps installed and an Android (Pixel 3) as my device with social apps and anything else non business/work related on it. I use the later during my distracting time. I find this allows me to focus more easily when it’s time to work.
Hope this helps.