Like many others, during lockdown I started working at home more than ever. As I was furloughed, I wasn’t able to work with clients though I had more than enough to keep me occupied with all those outstanding business activities I never seem to get round to. You know know the sort of things…a website, accounts, blogging…
Initially there was the novelty of being at home full time and I set myself set hours to work to stop me frittering away time. I started at 8.00, had lunch around 12.30 and finished at 16.00 with a workout or a walk. It helped my partner wasn’t furloughed and had pretty set hours.
I work for myself. The trouble with working for yourself is that you don’t have to answer to anybody. The benefit of working for yourself is that you don’t have to answer to anybody! You can have many conversations in your head about what you ought to be doing or not doing!
There were days when I was fantastic and was on top form and others when I would probably have been sacked or at the least given a written warning.
Part of the challenge of working at home was the boundaries between me, my work and my life were becoming tangled and enmeshed. Initially this wasn’t an issue. Over the short term it was manageable, even fun to have this freedom of dipping in and dipping out.
Boundaries matter. They are important for our confidence and self worth. As they become blurry our confidence can take a dip. Having a framework can prevent this happening and even boost our self worth and confidence. .
As time went on though things changed and the seepage between work, rest and play began to take its toll on my productivity, enjoyment and stress levels. The clearly defined edges of different areas of my life became increasingly blurred and my head got foggy.
I’d set out with the best of intentions and then discover the washing up needed doing, it was a great day to be putting washing out, a Zoom call to catch up with a friend was very necessary or take a longer than usual lunch break. You may have noticed similar things happening? Things I’d intended to do for work or in my home were often left incomplete if they were even started. I was using extra mental energy than was necessary getting through my day. This impacted on my confidence levels and self doubt crept in.
As my pattern of working at home continues, for the sake of my sanity, anxiety, relationships, productivity and confidence it’s more important than ever to heat seepage and keep my work and home life distinct.
Introducing a Focus Hour is one of the ways I’ve prevented seepage, boosted my confidence and become more productive than I have ever been!!! It works like this.
- Arrange with a friend, or two or three, to have an online call at a regular time daily.
- Briefly share what you aim to complete in your hour.
- Go for it with your internet cameras on.
- At the end of the hour check in with how you have got on.
Using this method is how I committed to and completed my accounts, website revamped, created new business ideas, introduced online coaching and stopped checking my phone or emails. At the end of the hour there is an incredible glow of achievement and fulfilment even if you didn’t complete what you set out to do fully. The Focus Hour also sets you up for working outside of the hour.
Two Focus Hours each day, Monday to Friday have transformed my business and my life working at home. Another benefit is you get to support each other and feel supported. You are not alone!
Here are some of the other ways I’ve used that have helped in stopping seepage, regain my home life and boost my confidence levels. I know personal circumstances vary and there are some that may be out of your control though give as many as you can a go. You may be surprised at the difference(s) they make.
Other Ways to Stop Seepage
- Create habits around your working day.
- Have a set routine in the mornings before you begin work. Mine includes my version of yoga, daily Spanish, a shower and breakfast. If you spend time on yourself first thing in the morning everyday, even only five minutes, you’ll feel better all day and be able to give more to others.
- Get dressed! It’ll make a big difference in your attitude to your working day. Working in your sleep wear doesn’t do this no matter how much you tell yourself it does!
- Start your working day at the same time each day. This will tell yourself and others its work time.
- Only turn your computer on when it’s time to begin working. Early turn ons mean you are at the office early and usually avoiding doing something at home!
- Finish your working day at the same time daily and turn your computer off immediately. Yes I know it seems impossible. Be strict and it will become easier. When you close down your laptop put it in another room and ideally in a cupboard. The harder it is to get hold of the less likely you will be to reach for it out of hours.
- Get comfortable, avoid straining your body or eyesight by having your monitor at eye level and never ever work in bed. Your mind and body will not know whether your bed is for sleeping or working and it’ll interfere with your sleep patterns. Plus your bed isn’t designed as a work station and your body will soon start telling you it isn’t one as well.
- Have clothes for work and clothes for home. Dressing in specific clothes for work means you will associate specific clothes with work and others with time out of work.
- Never eat where you are working. Work in a specific area or room if you possibly can. If the only place you can is the kitchen table, eat in a different place at the table to the one you are working in.
- Talking about food remember to drink regularly. Dehydration will make even the simplest task harder. If that means you have to get up to use the loo more frequently that’s great. You’ll break up the time you spend sitting continuously at your desk!
- Know the exact hours you are meant to be working are otherwise there will be seepage between your personal and work time. As someone who works for himself, I’ve used my partner’s hours as my guide and then reduced them!
- Write down the start and end of your day including any breaks for meals and making a cuppa. You can stick a copy on the fridge door to remind yourself and others.
- Keep a record of the hours you work. It may surprise you how much time you actually spend at work and it probably won’t surprise you that work is the biggest addiction in the world!
- Schedule in an activity and commitment that you have to do at the time you are meant to be finishing your day. Mine was to exercise at 16.00. Even better see if you can make it someone else you commit to…walk with your neighbour at 17.00…call to see how some one is at 16.30, play with your children, have a cup of tea with your partner or even better give your loved ones a cuddle…touch heals!
- To avoid conflict make sure everyone in your household knows the hours you are working. If others are also working in your house maybe agree to work at similar times?
- Liaise with others around household chores and activities – dog walking, child minding, shopping, hanging washing out…so you can focus on your work and only your work.
- Remember to take breaks. Physical movement boosts mental activity. No one is efficient, effective or more productive sitting at a desk for 4 hours straight no matter what they tell themselves. When you work in an office there are usually natural ‘distractions’ and that break your day up. Making a drink is perfect – you move and hydrate. You could make sure you have to get up to use your printer.
- Stay focused by putting your mobile somewhere that means its not readily to hand. When the going gets tough, boredom creeps in or you need validating you’ll have your phone in your hand before you know it otherwise.
- Keep your environment fresh. At home there is you, your desk, table and the same chair. Put a photo or picture on your desk and change it everyday. Maybe put some flowers into your ‘office’. Put the pot with pens etc. in a different place in your desk. Stand up rather than sit when you are making a phone call.
- As far as possible limit your online calls and keep them as brief as possible. After 30 minutes most people are drifting away, beginning to check their phone, typing up some work that seems more interesting, wondering of a great excuse how to make a cup of coffee, maybe sneakily eat a snack, all without looking too obvious. In the early days of lockdown productivity must have dipped with all the ‘stay in touch’ Zoom conversations as well that quickly became tedious.
- Block out time in your calendar for meetings and other times when you are not available for calls. In an office people can see when you are busy!
If you have your own I’d love to hear about them. Now, more than ever, we need to pool our resources.
Enjoy the day you create.