Updated: May 14
Working from home is hard. There are no end of distractions – whether it’s the new series on Netflix you’ve been binging, the Pamela Reif workouts that everyone’s been doing, the bed upstairs (or possibly in your working room) that’s calling your name – and, I’m just talking about students and young professionals – I daren’t think how tough this situation is for parents. Staying focused and on track to tick off your to do list for the day appears near impossible to me at times. Not only do I find myself taking up leisurely breaks that last far longer than the allotted fifteen minutes, but even when I do sit down to work, my mind wanders off so quickly I can’t help but find myself aimlessly flicking through Instagram.
A friend of mind recently brought it to my attention that what I was missing is the daily satisfaction I get from interacting with the world around me. Quite simply, my mind and soul are very bored. A typical non-WFH Monday would begin with a quick spin class before uni before a very scrambled 40 minutes of getting ready and getting out the door. Then, I’d take some time deciding which form of public transport will get me into class on time with the least delays (“is it the short bus ride then the Victoria line, or a longer walk and Piccadilly that’ll do it today?”) – the ten minute rush from whatever tube eventually takes me into Central London; the flick of my ID card and morning nod to the security guard; the debate between taking the lift or facing the long climb up the stairs; remembering to wash my hands before I dive into my thermal flask of coffee; then, jumping straight into class I start my day surrounded by my classmates, with whatever wild stories they have to share from their weekends. All of these things, however, boring, tiring, thrilling, thought-provoking they are, set me up for a day of learning and working. It’s stimulation and I need it.
In contrast, WFH offers little to no interaction with the outside world apart from the few classes I have online. It is so much harder to get my head in gear without the world physically spinning around me as I try to navigate it. Instead, I find myself reaching for my phone, looking for that never-satisfying instant-gratification of Instagram, facebook or twitter. I have an unproductive, but long day, leaving me dissatisfied and behind on my schoolwork.
What can we all do about it? What do I do about it?
1. If you can, turn your phone off!
Understandably, this is not possible for everyone, particularly those whose work phones and personal phones are one in the same. However, if you can, not having that temptation to seek some instant (but ultimately time-wasting) satisfaction will genuinely help.
2. Stimulate yourself (don’t be cheeky)
Start your day with something stimulating and pack it full of stimulating things in between. I call some friends first thing in the morning (for a morning ‘conference call’) and follow it with a short walk before breakfast. Every day, I pause and see what flowers have grown, how the veg patch is doing, whether the ducks are on the pond this morning – take it all in. I add in a long walk at lunch and a workout after my day of uni. I make sure to add in at least one other non-uni related, but stimulating activity (reading, painting, cooking, fixing things around the house, cleaning).
3. Call a friend!
I know this is counter to the point about having your phone on and available, but having a chat is stimulating (it is not mindless scrolling). Maybe on your lunch time walk or at the end of your day, organise a call with a friend. I know we’ve only been enjoying our Zoom pub quizzes, but a call with one friend can be a little easier and more intimate than the boozy group call once a week.
4. Start your to do list with an easy task
Getting that first thing done can really set you up to tick off the rest.
5. Eat healthy, nutritious food and fuel yourself correctly
This goes for anyone, anywhere who wants to try and concentrate for long periods at a desk. A balanced diet with healthy fat, good source of protein and some (slow release is best) carbs will help you sit through the pain and suffering of a boring desk day. If you are wondering why you are so lethargic after lunch, maybe your meal was too high in sugar or carbs. Moreover, the fat and the protein are the real winners for keeping you satiated and alert (no more mid morning snacking). Added to that, I stick to coffee before lunch (two cups) and green tea after for any other caffeine fiends out there.
6. Work hard but not too hard.
It’s easy to be fooled into thinking that everyone is productive all the time. It’s hard not to compare yourself to someone that’s posting an insta story from their desk every hour, working away. In reality, few people need more than 8 hours a day to get their job done. If you are sitting there for longer - think about whether you are working hard, not smart. Don’t forget those regular stimulating breaks.