Take five for a work-from-home headspace

583C213F-EDB1-469A-8A10-099B52C8F9C8Getting into a home-office headspace isn’t easy at the best of times. Making the readjustment when COVID-19 is dictating how we live, socialise and work is a real challenge.

Before taking on a full-time role two years ago, I spent 15 years working on major projects, both from home and client offices. Distractions, I’ve had a few. Especially during school holidays, when our five blended (and stir-crazy) young children created full-on havoc.

Along the way, I’ve picked up a few useful tips that might help your transition and improve your home-work productivity. It’s worth a shot, right?

  1. Turn up at the desk, preferably not in your pyjamas. I once heard about a woman who’d get into her corporate wear and walk around the block with her briefcase as if she was going to a workplace. Okay, we’re in lockdown and a skirt and heels don’t count as exercise wear. You could also be mistaken for an end-of-the-world salvation salesperson, but you get the point. Getting dressed, making your coffee or tea, and turning up at the desk sends signals to your brain that it’s work as usual – and that means being outcomes-focused not just checking in.
  2. Switch off for a productivity hit– obsessively checking your emails and social media is just going consume your brain and your day.

Emails: schedule in times for checking and responding, and stick to it. Turn off your email notifications and consider setting up an auto-responder so people will know they’re not going to hear from you straight away – and to call you if it’s super urgent. You might be surprised that most people are okay without an instant response.

Social mediawrestle that FOMO beast to the ground and have designated social media blackout times. Since 95% of posts are COVID-related, you won’t be missing much – except the anxiety spikes.

  1. Make a plan – On Fridays, write your plan for the following week. This helps to keep you on track and motivated, and there’s something satisfying about ticking things off as you go. Disclaimer: be realistic. Don’t put 30 things on the list if you can only achieve five.
  2. Forget multi-tasking – it really doesn’t work and, in the home office, it’s a disaster. You’ll get to the end of the day and not have a clue what you’ve done. So check your weekly plan, pick a priority task and block off the time to do it, then dive in and work on that concentration muscle (which will only get stronger).
  3. Keep active and connected – don’t skip your lunchtime chat, walk, crossword or whatever it is you do to break up your usual day at work. And don’t give up those Friday afternoon wine-downs over Zoom, Skype, Facetime, Houseparty or whatever your favourite platform is. Taking care of your physical and emotional wellbeing is always important – and it’s absolutely vital in these challenging and isolating times!

If the idea of switching off or writing a weekly plan makes you break out in a cold sweat, start small and build up to it, just like you would if you were learning to run. It takes two weeks to form a habit apparently – which is good because we might be in the home office for a while yet. So #stayhome, stay well and be productive. We can do this!

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You are a project

I can’t remember a time when I felt I was okay just as I am – at least, not without a few tweaks here and there. I’m guessing I’m not alone in thinking like that. We are who we are, but most of us aren’t particularly satisfied with that – and we let it hold us back.

We think we’ll be okay once we lose weight, or get a better job, find a partner, have a baby, get published, get famous, win lotto… The problem is, like getting cosmetic surgery, we’ll wake up and be looking at the world through the same eyes. And we’ll be looking for our next fix.

But what if we took a different approach? What if we said – hey, this is what I am. Now how can I work with that? And I’m talking about working with our flaws, instead of against them.

Because if all we focus on is the bad stuff – the things we’re not – the less we’re going to get out and give things a go. The less we’re going to put ourselves out there… until we’re all fixed and perfect.

Think about a civil engineering team who have the task of building a road from A to B. Except between those two points are a mountain, a river and a floodplain… and lots of other hard stuff to contend with.

What do they do? Do they say… oh, there’s a mountain there, and that floodplain isn’t great. Let’s not bother. No, they sit down and identify all the issues – the realities. Then they find a way to work within those parameters, and figure out what they can do differently or better so they get that road built.

And when it comes to who we are, I reckon we have to do the same thing. Work in our strengths. Work on our weaknesses. Not throw up our hands and say I’m just not good enough, or pretty enough, or funny enough, or fit / wealthy / intelligent / creative / tall / young enough…

So face your life like you’d face a project. Work out exactly what your strengths and weaknesses are. Then ask: how can I work with what I am to get where I want to be? And when you’re on the way, and your confidence is building, start working on your weaknesses.

Because if you wait until you’re ‘just right’, life will have whooshed past you – faster than you’ve ever imagined.

And hey, if we all put ourselves out there, we’ll be among friends, and that’s got to be a good thing.

Okay, I’d love to hang around chatting all day. But I’ve got project work to do!

ciao for now

Lou

P.S. Take a look at incredible paralympians like Chinese amputee He Junquan, cyclist Barbara Buchan, and so many others. And when you think you can’t do something, think about a man with no arms who became an elite swimmer… now that’s inspiring.


We are all a ‘work in progress’. This post was originally published in our blog, the art of moi, in 2009. And the project continues…