It’s taken me some time to adjust to the reality of lockdown. Since mid-March my routine went out of the window and I’ve simply been doing what seems right in the moment. That’s served me well through the period of greatest uncertainty, when day-by-day the ground was shifting beneath our feet. Now things have stabilised, and in the UK we’ve been in lockdown for two weeks, I’m beginning to rediscover my routine.
As I’m not new to home working I have some existing structures in place. Now more than ever I feel I need reminding of these. I’m aware that there’s a plethora of information being shared right now about working from home, and I’ve delayed adding to that. But I’ve been asked a few times to share my approach and rather than repeat myself I wanted to have something to point people to. So without further ado, here’s how I tackle working from home.
Start and end of day rituals
When we go out to work, our commute provides a welcome boundary between work and home. But when we’re living and working in the same space it’s easy for the boundary between the two to get blurred. Developing a start and end of day ritual is the approach I take to make sure work doesn’t bleed in to home life (and vice versa).
In the morning, I get ready for work as I would if I were going out to an office. When I sit down to work my start of day ritual is to review what I did the day before and what needs my attention that day. It’s a small action, but it’s enough to wake my mind up for work.
At the end of the day, I review what I’ve done and make myself a note for tomorrow with anything that’s still on my mind. I leave my desk how I want to find it in the morning. Then I always spend the first 30 minutes to an hour of my evening in the kitchen. Cooking helps me to shift gear and switch off from work.
Chunking up the day
Breaking up my work day into small chunks of time is an essential strategy for me. It helps me stay focused on one thing at a time. And works especially well when the task is open ended, or you’re working towards a big goal, eg writing an essay.
At a basic level I use the Pomodoro technique, which is blocks of 25 minutes focused work followed by a 5-10 minute break. Then when I really want to supercharge things and commit to a few hours of deep work I use Ultraworking’s Work Cycles method.
Now we’re doing everything remotely, the time we spend looking at screens has necessarily increased. As we’re not getting the natural screen breaks that would come when working side-by-side with our colleagues or clients, it’s important to build that time into our days.
I’m conscious that the days when I work solely at my computer are days when I feel most drained. To get around this I make sure I do at least one work-related activity every day that gives me a break from the screen. Mostly that’s reading, sometimes writing or planning.
I also find that my best ideas come when I’ve stepped away from my desk. It’s one of the reasons I instigated a community jigsaw in the co-working area outside my office. When working from home I like to have a craft project to work on.
When thinking about how you approach home working, remember the sentiment expressed in this tweet from Neil Webb and elsewhere:
You are not working from home; you are at your home during a crisis trying to work.
This is true for all of us, not just those new to working from home. We’re all adjusting to a new way of living and working so we need to cut ourselves some slack.