I don’t know about you, but I am spending WAY TOO MUCH TIME working from home.

I’m doing a terrible job of creating space between my home office and my home life.

I find that when I acknowledge I’m not taking care of myself, then I catch myself in problematic behaviors more frequently and have a better chance of correcting them.

I’m sharing some tactics that can help create distance from work, when you’re stuck working from home. I hope the Think Tank helps keep me accountable!

Working remotely isn’t new to me. Working exclusively from home though, is a big change. Not having any of the breaks that naturally occur in an office during the work week mean I don’t tend to take breaks.

Historically, working from home meant I had a day of hyper productivity because I had a distraction free day. Then I’d go back to the office and be energized by the connections with people.

Working from home exclusively has shifted how I approach work in a problematic way. I get started in the morning and I don’t stop until late in the evening. I struggle to focus because there are no breaks. I find my productivity ebbs and flows, as does my creativity.

In an effort to bring back some sense of normalcy, I started looking into how others helped create distance from work when working from home.

Build a pre-work routine

Getting the right start in the morning can make a big difference in how you show up at work.

  • Try to wake up at the same time every day. Even if you don’t get up to work at the same time, creating a habit for waking up can help you with the transition to work.
  • Keep a morning maintenance routine. Taking a shower, getting dressed and eating breakfast are all recommended to help get you into the mindset of going to work.
  • Walk to work! Before you start your day, take a walk around the block to “walk to work.” Tell yourself you’re walking to work. It’ll get the blood flowing and will help set you up with the feeling of going out without actually making you go far.
  • About 15 minutes or so before starting your day, do a morning meditation to get in the mindset of work.

Build in breaks to your schedule

It always strikes me as counter-intuitive that you need to take breaks in order to focus. Even though I know the science backs this and we rarely can focus for more than an hour on one task at a time, I still think I can just power through my day without stopping.

  • Block out breaks in your calendar so you don’t get meeting scheduled over them. I try to schedule a lunch every day where I take a walk outside and eat. It gives my brain time to reset.
  • Set alarms to force you to take a break. Every hour or so, you should stand up, stretch and move around a bit. I don’t remember to do this so alarms are really helpful.
  • Add in little physical challenges for when you do take a break. Every time you go to the bathroom or grab a glass of water, do some jumping jacks or squats or high knees. This forces your brain to focus on something physical and gets your blood moving so you feel refreshed when you get back to your work.

As a side, social media breaks don’t really count as a break. If you want to surf the web or check Facebook, there’s no shame or judgement in that. However, if you’re not actually moving away from work, it likely is a distraction not a true break.

Create a work to home transition plan

Once the day is done and you’re ready to put that space between you and your computer, find ways to transition both physically and mentally.

  • If you have a separate work space like an office or a closet, turn off the light, close the door and put real distance between you and the work day.
  • If you don’t have a separate work space and you’re in a dining room or bedroom, close your computer down and say out loud, “I’m done working for today.” 
  • Add a “walk home” if you “walked to work” that morning.
  • Consider adding a post-work meditation to help separate you from the anxieties of work.
  • Change into comfy clothes (or workout clothes). Remember the days when you’d come home, kick your heels off, take off your bra and put on those baggy sweat pants? Recreate that when the work day is done.
  • Separate your devices. I bought a cheap chromebook to keep in my living room so I’m not tempted to work or check email when I need to get online for something. Consider having a “work” device and a “home” device so you can keep device distance.

Whether you end the day by pouring a glass of wine, going for a run or making popcorn and vegging out in front of the TV, be mindful in how you create “after” work activities that signal to your brain you’re done.

Shake it up a bit

I’ve found it helpful to create some variety in what after work means to me. Some nights it’s popcorn and wine with Netflix. Other nights it’s a healthy dinner and a good book on the couch. Some evenings it’s taking a walk and calling a friend or texting my mom. Having what I do after work lacking variety makes it harder for me to really shift out of the work mindset.

  • Make plans a couple nights a week. Virtual board games, virtual happy hours or switching up your evening workout. It doesn’t matter so long as you keep it shifting.
  • Change the music. I listen to this soothing jazz music a lot while at work because it helps me focus. Once the work day is over, it’s Michael Jackson, Brandie Carlile, Kelly Clarkson or Otis Redding. Anything to switch the sound of the day.
  • Change the lighting. I keep my office lights up pretty high during the day so at night, I switch to softer light. It helps the space feel different. Consider putting up white holiday lights or getting a tinted bulb. Anything to change the feel.
  • Make a meal. Knowing I have to cook has been really helpful in creating space, because I know once I eat, I won’t go back to work. The process of getting the meal prepared creates a great space to zone out without vegging out.
  • Veg out! There is nothing wrong with getting done for the day, putting on your PJ’s at 7pm and vegging out on a week night every now and then.

There are a million experts out there telling us how to productively work from home. But sometimes, you need to build the distance from work so you get a real break. Sometimes the distance from work is more effective than all of the working from home productivity hacks.

What are some of the tactics you’re using to create some distance?

Photo by Allie Smith on Unsplash