Did you begin working from home and find yourself thinking that you might be ok with this? Were you going to be able to take a break when you wanted it and finally achieve a better work-life balance? How has that worked out for you? My guess is that it isn’t the much improved work-life balance you imagined. We have so internalized the need to be productive that we are pushing ourselves more than ever. Being at the office used to help you set automatic boundaries around work. Perhaps you occasionally took work home, but you were very clear on this being “extra” work, just a little thing to finish off at home.
Now that you’re working from home, the need to be productive is coming from inside of you, not from walking into the office or being on a project. When you add to that internalized productivity the deep seated fear that many of us are feeling during this uncertain time, what you find is that we are working more hours. Even though you are probably working more hours, you may not feel as productive as you imagined you would. There is a deep internalized need to show the boss or organization that we are vital and productive, yet that becomes harder and harder to do.
It is recognized that during times of crisis and trauma such as our current situation living with this pandemic, it is challenging to be productive in the same way. I’ve heard several of my friends complain that they just can’t get into books in the same way as they did before struggling with the pandemic. Some of them have found that listening to books helps. How do you find a way to shift the work you need to produce in such a way that will still allow you to recognize and celebrate your productivity?
What can often end up happening is that you just knuckle down and try to be more productive despite the difficulties and challenges that you may be having. People often recognize the need to take a break during the day when they’re at the office, but are you as likely to give yourself that productive break while creating an at home work schedule. Do you feel confident that you’re producing enough results so that you can give yourself another break or do you push that idea aside and keep working? Remember, you’re no longer spending the same amount of time commuting or engaging in water cooler chit chat, so why do you keep chastising yourself and demanding more?
How well do you know your work style and what the keys to your own productivity are? If you don’t’ know the answer to these questions, you have another potential way in which you free up some more time for other endeavors in your life. If you work to gain some clarity on these questions, you may be able to keep your focus and allow yourself to set some clearer boundaries around these internalized feelings of inadequacies. Wouldn’t it be nice to know you’re working productively and allow yourself to take mental and physical breaks and know your worth? Let’s silence that inner inferiority demon. I’ll show you how.
First and foremost is to recognize the importance of setting up a routine. This is where you have to know yourself, when you’re most productive, and then go with what you know works for you. If you are an early bird and you know it, try getting up early to knock out some tasks before anyone else in your home is up. Take advantage of the alone time to get serious work done. If you’re a night owl, the same applies for evenings. I know I’m a very early riser. I’m super productive before the sun comes up. I’m often getting up for my alone time only a few short hours after the night owls in my house have gone to bed. It works for me, so I don’t question it or try to fit into their patters. I embrace when I know I work best.
After setting up a routine, it’s also extremely important to set up a space for you to work that is conducive to staying on task. Do you really want to work while still laying in bed? What about being near the tv? If the temptation to just turn on the TV quickly is too hard to resist, work somewhere else. Generally, working in bed is never good. It is poor sleep hygiene to mix where you work and sleep. I’m sure someone out there can do it, but it’s not me.
Next we get into the vague areas where you have to be really honest with yourself. No one is checking on you. No one is grading your answers. What are your time sucks? What things get you distracted? How much of a rabbit hole is social media for you? Do you suddenly need to clean some part of the house before you could possibly be expected to start working? You know yourself and you know your distractions. If you really don’t, then it is worth the investment to take one day and really keep track of what you do, how long you do it for, and write down interruptions and ow long before you get back to the task (if ever). Social media trackers on your phone can help you see how much time really spend checking social media.
If you’re like me, you can’t honestly say that you “work” solidly for 7-8 hours. Similarly, I often work much more than eight hours a day, but if I don’t have set work habits in place, I may not be aware of how much I am actually working. Take the time and really get to know yourself and how you really and truly spend your time. The more familiar you are with your own work habits, the better able you will be to realistically calculate how much you are working on a daily basis.
Before we go much further, I want to clearly say that the point of doing this work and getting familiar with your work habits doesn’t immediately imply that you are working too much or that you aren’t working enough. Ultimately in this new world of home quarantine, no one besides you really knows how many hours you’re putting in. Then again, do you really know how effectively your’e working. However, if you find yourself feeling less productive than you want to be or more exhausted and over-worked than ever, this is a place to start.
Another one of the things that it’s worth putting some intentional time towards understanding is what you want to see for yourself. What do you want out of life? What do you want out of each day? There have been times in my life where my career advancement was first and foremost in my priorities. I dedicated a large amount of time to crafting a vision of where I saw myself in the next year, the next three years and then next five. I laid out short term and long term goals and kept working diligently towards them.
However, it is just as valid to be at a point in life where you want to be recognized for successes and prowess at work, but that is no longer what completely feeds you and keeps you motivated. Perhaps you’ve reached that place where the need for work/life balance is being felt on a regular basis and you know you have to address it. The trouble comes when you’ve built up habits around being a work-a-holic or selflessly applying yourself to a goal and then that work style and those habits continue though you’ve achieved what you originally set out to achieve. Rather than stop and celebrate your amazing ability to achieve rather incredible things, you moved on immediately to the next goal without taking account of where you’re at in life.
If you’re ready to work on clarifying what your work style is, where and how you work best, I can help. And if you’re really looking at whether you’re living life aligned with the purposes that you feel matter on a deeper level, set up a time for an introductory call.