Working from Home without Losing Your Mind

COVID-19 has made working from home an inescapable reality, especially challenging for straphangers, rail riders, and road warriors who’ve made commuting to and working from an office part and parcel of their daily work life. The new distractions and absence of familiar job routines can be especially daunting. The alarm clock-to-office timespan has now been shortened to rolling out of bed right into your office. The key to dealing with this new reality is to create new behaviors that mimic your original routine. For example, I still set the alarm, exercise to online videos from 6am to 7am which was formerly my “Y” (not “Why?”) workout, shower, eat breakfast, get dressed for work (corporate casual-no pajamas and slippers), head to the (home) office, and begin my day, promptly at 8:30am.

Fundamental to formulating solid remote work habits is to have a dedicated work space free from any distractions. From 8:30am to 9am I review the filled slots I previously opened on Calendly for prospect calls and the materials needed for those upcoming calls or video chats. I perform work for clients during other hours I’ve blocked out to be sure I am exceeding their expectations. I now dedicate a half hour a day for keeping up with the latest online communication tools and home office technology and another half hour for professional development. I take one 15-minute break in the morning and another in the afternoon to walk the dog. From noon to 1pm I take the lunch I made the evening before and the coffee that’s timed to go off at noon and head for my car. I drive to a nearby parking lot for a change of scenery. Colleagues and friends sometimes join me but we arrange our parked cars reminiscent of circling the wagons in the old western cowboy movies to maintain social distancing.

From 4:30pm to 5pm I review my performance to the goals I set for the day and make new ones for tomorrow. Everything goes on my Google calendar. I track my daily food intake on a spreadsheet with my target calories, BMI, BMR, and performance-to-goal so that eating is diminished as a distraction. Putting some mileage between me and the frig is mandatory behavioral conditioning when working from home.

I diligently keep to my routine and let family know that I am available during my breaks. I sometimes meet them in the kitchen for a team lunch. I avoid the temptation to look at personal email except during breaks and lunch. Setting goals is my remote office insurance that I’ll have a clearly defined workload with measurable outcomes and that I am efficient at managing and organizing my time. End of the day self-accountability is important. Managing my work-life balance is imperative.

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