You’ve created the perfect working environment – one which is ripe for productivity, creativity and focus, but you may discover that it’s increasingly difficult to find your flow.
Working from home allows you the flexibility to structure your day however you would like (which could be either a blessing or a curse!). Because of this, it’s important to establish a solid routine - this will be critical to your overall success.
According to this study by researchers at Tel Aviv University, "ritualistic behavior in both humans and animals developed as a way to induce calm and manage stress caused by unpredictability and uncontrollability — heightening our belief that we are in control of a situation that is otherwise out of our hands."
Predictable and repetitive routines help you take control of your day and, subsequently, your life. However, creating a routine can be hard to do, especially when no one is pushing you to get out of bed in the morning and your commute is from one room to the next.
Define Your Core Working Hours
A common frustration we hear is “I never stop working, since there are no office hours at home”. You may be struggling with an overlap between “working time” and “family / personal time”. These lines blur if you don’t consciously devise a realistic schedule to adhere to.
There are several things you should consider when establishing your new core working hours.
You’ll want to balance the needs of your family (including your pets!) with the requirements of your job. Do you have an infant, younger children or a high energy puppy? Are you the primary chauffeur or dog walker? Do you fix breakfasts or home school your children? Take their schedules or routines in account when creating your own.
What are your natural circadian rhythms? If you’re an early bird, perhaps you can begin working before sunrise when you’re fresh and focused. If you’re a night owl (and if your position allows), you probably concentrate best when the house is silent, and the sky is dark.
Working 8 or 9 hours straight is taxing and just plain unrealistic. Consider portioning your workday into small chunks of focus time to avoid burnout and to counterbalance distractions.
Whatever you decide, clear your new core working hours with Management and your colleagues to make sure this is acceptable. Explicitly communicating this upfront will help to avoid any potential misunderstandings later. Lastly, prominently display your schedule near your office space so your family will be mindful of your time commitments.
Take Charge of Your Morning
How you start the day is just as important as the day itself. What you do in the space between opening your eyes to opening your laptop is vital to your well being.
To determine this, consider what’s important to you. Is it exercise, meditation, journaling? Consuming your first cup of coffee in a quiet space? Showering or putting on “real” clothes? Be thoughtful when defining your morning routine. Contemplate what activities both nourish or energize you and then write it down. Writing these down takes pressure off you to remember what you must do, which reduces mental clutter.
Once you’ve established your new morning routine, set your alarm so you have plenty of time to accomplish your activities before launching into your workday.
Take Consistent Breaks
Breaks increase productivity and creativity. Working for long stretches without breaks leads to stress and exhaustion. Taking breaks refreshes the mind, replenishes your mental resources, and helps you become more creative. According to research, “Aha moments” came more often to those who took breaks than those who didn’t.
The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method which structures your day based on 25 minutes of focused work followed by 2-5 minute breaks. A longer break (15-30 minutes) is taken after completing four work periods. This technique is wonderful, not only for maintaining focus but for incorporating deliberate breaks throughout the day.
Try the 50/10 Rule. Work in 50-minute intervals followed by 10-minute breaks. When you work according to the 50/10 Rule, there’s no grey area for getting your work done. Fifty minutes is a manageable amount of time for uninterrupted work, and a ten-minute break is enough to recharge your productivity muscle.
An office environment automatically lends itself to daily activity such as walking to / from the car, squatting to clear that paper jam, or climbing stairs to your next meeting. Working from home does just the opposite due to being enclosed in a smaller, confined space the entire day. Therefore, it’s necessary to intentionally incorporate movement.
Moving your body on a regular basis is vital for your mental and physical health. Research shows that when we exercise, blood pressure and blood flow increase everywhere in the body, including the brain. More blood means more energy and oxygen, which makes our brain perform better.
There are multiple approaches to incorporating activity during the day. Here are a few ideas to try:
Whatever you do, figure out what works for you and don’t over think it. We all have different needs, goals, and desires which is why it’s important to create our own routines. Begin by setting one reasonable “try” and just do it. Keep in mind - it’s never too late to start a new routine.
Come back for the next post for tips on how to maintain focus!
Just an agile-dork writing about dorky agile things.