Though I can’t say I miss my morning commute to work. I will say that it was a key way to take some time to transition to work mode. Your space for work was waiting for you at the end of the anywhere from 15 minute to over an hour (with traffic) of travel time.
Your mind could benefit from the shift that happens when you flip that time for work switch. I have found that it is very important to get into work mode while working from home. Sometimes it can be challenging but here are a couple best practices for getting into the work flow and most importantly, keeping your home as a home, not just your office.
1. Create a Morning Routine
If you’re not the type of person that can flip a switch in your mind and instantly be ready to work, you’re in good company. Most of us aren’t. It’s okay to structure your day with 30 minutes of pre-work routine and 30 minutes of post-work routine that signal to your brain when it is time to start and stop working.
For some, this routine comes naturally as they take the kids to school and stop for a coffee and a donut. But for others, creating a morning routine needs to be intentional. Listen to your favorite podcast. Embrace a pen-and-paper planner and map out your day. Journal for a few minutes or go for a walk around the block. There is no right or wrong way to structure your routines as long as they suit your needs.
Think about how you used your commute time in your former life. Did you prefer to drive in silence? If so, journaling or meditation can be a good way to sit with your thoughts. Did you enjoy an uplifting podcast? Guess what? You don’t have to be in a car to tune in. Or did you use that time to return phone calls? Try out a new morning routine that mimics the activities that you would engage in during your morning commute.
You’ll find yourself settling into a productive workflow easier than you might think.
2. Separate Work and Life
Your dining room table might seem like as good of a place as any to set up shop. But depending on what else is going on in your home, it can be full of distraction that constantly blurs the lines between work and life. When you work from home, it can feel like you’re never fully in one place or the other.
Create a separate physical space for work activities.
Communicate clear boundaries with family members.
Choose a cut-ff time at the end of the day and stick to it.
When the demands of work begin to take over your life, take another look at your scheduling. The chances are that you are not enforcing clear boundaries about when and how you are working. It’s important to take time off, to be sick when you are sick, and to relax when you’re on vacation.
3. Use Music to Build Momentum or Change Modes
Our brains take in all kinds of information. And we can program them with subtle cues like music, lighting, and aromatherapy to influence our mood. If you’re inclined to use music when you work out or drive in the car, then creating playlists that signal to your brain when it is time to begin and stop working can help you manage your motivation to work.
During some tasks I find music with vocals and lyrics to be a potential distraction if I am studying for a certification, or if I need to keep my mind pretty ready. A calming playlist of piano or even something from a Post Rock band such as Mogwai or Codes in the Clouds can keep your mind engaged enough but still with enough focus to keep those studies or other items moving. Music is essentially an audible representation of energy. It can be calming or energizing, it can block distracting ambient noise, and it can make tedious tasks seem more interesting.
The Bottom Line on Transitioning to Work-Mode
If you’re working from home and finding it difficult to get into a groove, you’re not alone. Many of us unwittingly use our morning commutes as a psychological signal to prepare ourselves for work. Without that commute, we struggle to find the motivation to be productive. But the good news is that we can create the same effect by using routines, well-enforced boundaries, and mental cues like music to transition into the right mindset to begin working.