Right now, due to the Coronavirus pandemic, everyone is trying to figure out how to productively work from home. Here’s a simple mind hack that works for me. Others I’ve shared it with have also reported positive results.
Years ago when I was running my own design consulting business, I frequently worked from home. Like many others I struggled to focus and to avoid mental task-switching between work and home obligations. I came up with an idea I called the faux commute. Every morning after getting ready for the day, I would physically leave the house, visit a nearby smoothie shop, and return home. When I returned home, I didn’t allow myself to be in home mode; I was now at work. I’d purposefully go from the front door directly to my home office. If there were dishes in the sink, I would not worry about it. If I had forgotten to take out the garbage, I would avoid looking at entirely. In all ways I’d act as if I’d arrived at my office.
When you work in an office, you typically have a commute of some kind. During that time your brain starts to switch into work mode as you mentally run through your calendar or to-do list. When you’re working from home you don’t have that transition time. That’s where the faux commute comes in.
Under COVID-19 quarantine, my faux commute is now a walk around the block. You could also consider getting a coffee to support a local business, doing a brief meditation session, or even going to the garage to sit in your car for five minutes. The important part is to allow time and physical separation from your home to transition your mindset.
The ineffectiveness of multi-tasking is well documented; trying to multi-task across different life contexts compounds the problem. To the extent possible, it also helps to have a dedicated workspace that is mentally paired with your work mode as well as to set proper availability expectations with others living in your household.
The faux commute mind hack is an effective technique for me. If you have tips that work for you, I’d love to hear about it. If you’re one of many people who were accustomed to a commute and now don’t have one, try designing your own faux commute.