How To Disconnect From Work When Working From Home
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Screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan once remarked that being a writer equivalent to “having homework every night for the rest of your life.”
Kasdan’s homework is slightly different than mine.
I’m busy penning articles about “Director of Taco Relations” jobs while Kasdan is bringing those toys to life in movies like Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Force Awakens, and Solo: A Star Wars Story.
People think about work.
Detaching from work is healthier.
Research consistently concludes that people with the ability to psychologically disconnect from work are better off mentally and physically.
This disconnect is more natural for people who work in an office. They’re eventually allowed to go home.
Kasdan’s quote touches a nerve for many creatives, especially those both blessed and cursed with working from the comfort of their own living room, home office, or kitchen counter.
Working From Home
More people than ever now work right in their own home office, living room, and bedrooms. Working remotely might be the future for millions of people.
I’ve been working from home as a freelance writer and content creator for the last five years.
Working remotely obviously comes with fantastic perks. The commute time is zero, there’s more flexibility with when and how work gets done, and some days a person doesn’t even have to ditch their pajamas.
But for those individuals new to working from home comes the issue of maintaining a semblance of balance between work and home life.
When working from home, boundaries between your personal and professional life blur, and in an attempt to appear productive, a person might forget all about self-care and disconnecting from work.
There are plenty of perks attached to earning a living in your underwear, but a significant drawback is the inability to never, ever, leave the office.
Sure, I could leave the house and work remotely, but home is where I hang my hat — and where I have a bed — and the public library already has enough people crashing in the toilet stalls.
Working from home is my way of life, but I’ve slowly found ways to keep my job from dominating personal time.
Here are 6 simple ways to disconnect from work when your office is just a few steps away from your living room.
1. Practice Feng Shui (or ‘The Art Of Not Sleeping In Your Office’)
Moving into my new condo meant not only finding a spot for a couch I’d like to set on fire (outside on the curb, not in my living room) but for a home office that once had a door that closed or avoided entirely for days.
The new place doesn’t have much space, so the desk, computer, and books all landed in my bedroom.
Wake up in the morning, there’s the computer calling my name.
If I can’t sleep at night, I might as well get up and do some work.
I’m in a time crunch and need to eat lunch and finish a feature about the reason people need more than one savings account so I’m chowing down on leftovers one foot away from my bed.
I’m too old to live a life better suited for a dorm.
My rarely used farmhouse dining room table is now my daily control center.
Ask yourself if your work area is really in the best possible place in the house.
Is it too close to your bed? Is it too close to the family room? Is it too tempting to sit down at every moment of the day and “get some stuff done”, even when you don’t actually have a moment to get stuff done?
It might be time to do a little furniture arranging and put the office in a remote stop, preferably with a door that can close.
2. Make The Act Of Starting Work A Hassle
A famous hack in fiction writing is leaving off writing with a cliffhanger.
If an author stops working in the middle of a scene, or right in the middle of a sentence, it’s easier to get back into the frame of when sitting back down in front of the screen.
It’s easy to leave work incomplete. Some tasks are never quite finished, but once the assignment is wrapped up, a person will efficiently move on to the next.
But what if starting was much more complicated than clicking a computer off sleep mode?
To avoid doing work at all hours of the day, make it incredibly difficult to get started.
Turn off the computer and put all files inside a desk drawer to resist temptation.
Maybe even take batteries out of the mouse and stash them away or lock the laptop in a drawer.
Make the act of starting work a process.
3. Find A Passion Project
A fun way to disconnect from work while working remotely is to find a passion project.
A few months ago, I bought a harmonica. My reasons for the new instrument were numerous.
First, I’m long past the chance of joining a band since I can’t play guitar, don’t have the space for drums, and castrated cats sing better.
The harmonica is my only musical chance of joining a group unless there’s an opening for “really awful background dancer #3” on Beyonce’s next tour.
Harmonica uses a different side of my brain, forces my hands to do something other than type, and the repetitive process allows for less thinking.
It’s a passion project and runs distraction from sitting down to type more.
In emergency situations, I’ve left the harmonica on top of the keyboard as a reminder to work less and play a little more.
Yes, I still suck at harmonica.
Another idea is to become more dedicated to lifestyle changes, specifically those devoted to exercise. I’m currently on day 22 of the 75Hard program.
The time I would have spent logging on to get “a little more work done” is now dedicated to working out, reading, and chugging a lot of water all day. A LOT of water.
4. Crunch The Numbers
People love numbers. The only number I don’t like is the $0 in my checking account.
Other than that, numbers and I are amigos.
Numbers make things seem real.
The numbers on your paycheck are real.
The distance of an MLB home run is tangible.
Numbers can be impressive or depressing, especially when the calculations involve the amount of time spent on work.
Start tracking your work hours. Track your downtime. Track your sleep.
Keep a running tab on any project – work or leisure – that takes more than five minutes of your time.
At the end of one week, if the number of hours spent working far exceeds the hours spent with family, spent working out, or devoted to crushing it on “Harmonica Idol,” it’s time to shift focus and make all the numbers balance out.
5. Is This Actual Work or Fake Work?
Another way to disconnect from work when your office is under the same roof as your bed is to ask yourself this simple question, “Am I doing real, constructive work at this moment or just doing some fake work.”
“Fake work is classified as any activity that you’re convinced is useful, but it’s really just a way to avoid doing legit work.
Low-value tasks like cleaning out your email inbox, organizing your desk or files, counting every staple in the stapler, and any time killer that doesn’t help move your projects along.”
Fake work needs to stop, especially during your downtime.
If the work is real, budget your time better or just take on less work.
6. The Habit Of Ending
The final suggestion on how to disconnect from work for those people lucky enough to work remotely is getting in the habit of calling it a day.
In the book, Drive: The Surprising Truth about what Motivates Us, author Daniel Pink discusses disconnecting from work and offers this advice. “Create a ritual at the end of the day to help gain control.”
This ritual tells the brain “ok, work is done, go annoy neighbors with your awful harmonica playing.”
My suggestions are taking the advice from earlier in this piece (turn everything off) or maybe something as simple as screaming “I AM DONE WORKING!” and pushing away from the laptop.
I don’t advise doing that if you’re working remotely, especially in a loud coffee shop, quiet libraries, or in the office.
I hope these tips help you disconnect from your job and open up your time to new activities or at least less time doing the things you love. If you’ve got suggestions or your own tips, leave them in the comments section.