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  • Mariana Rojdev

Homework is Not Just For Children

Updated: Mar 24


Given current events, today we are working in an environment that is not designed for optimizing our productivity and minimizing distractions. Although necessary, this is not a normal way of living. You have been relegated to working from home, an environment that is entirely different than one which engenders effective and productive work. And this is completely reasonable and expected.


Your home is a place where you look forward to relaxing, playing with your children and unwinding with your family after a hard day of work. Your home is not a well-designed work environment that filters out the “noise” that we experience when working remotely from home. It’s a slippery slope being removed from this purposeful work-environment. Removing that filter can throw some of us completely off kilter and can cause unintended psychological consequences and a downward spiral.


When we are at work, there are cues that nudge us to tackle the difficult work. This could be seeing a colleague laser-focused on his or her work, or knowing another colleague is waiting for you to finish your part of a project so they can start on theirs. There is a ritual that we engage in every morning as we get ready for the workday. You get up at a certain time without the need for an alarm. You set your coffee making to be finished brewing at the same time. You select the appropriate dress code for the office and get the kids ready for school. Likewise, at the end of the day, the simple routine of closing your laptop or shutting down your computer signifies the end of the workday and the beginning of a time to be with your family or friends again. These markers indicate when work and family time both begin and end.


Commuting home, you experience both fatigue and satisfaction, all signs of a routine. Most importantly, they are symbols of your standards of excellence. They indicate whether you’ve achieved something for your efforts or missed something that needs to be adjusted.


Working from home

is an entirely different story and its impact on each of us is different. For some of us, working from home is a dream come true. For others, there is a different result.


Today, being quarantined can potentially make us feel justified in being a bit more distracted and, perhaps, permissive of our own personal underperformance. To be sure, we almost certainly can trick ourselves into adopting this mindset for a couple of days, but eventually our conscience kicks in.


After a few days of being distracted by all of the trappings of working remotely, we encounter this nagging feeling in our gut that just won’t go away. We may find ourselves eating more junk food or waking up in the middle of the night. We also notice that our energy fizzles out.


Eventually,

our thinking gravitates toward the negative and self-doubt and self-criticism settle further into our thinking. Finally, irritability and agitation ensue.


What we are experiencing here is the link between being productive and feeling of accomplishment being broken.


We are not being productive when we cannot get important, albeit difficult, work done. When our challenge to complete this important work is much greater than our resourcefulness to mobilize and complete the work, we begin to lose our sense of achievement and have little to feel good about. This accumulates over time and eventually the result is a loss of self-esteem and self-worth.


So,

are we just to accept that our remote working circumstances are the virtual end to our professional existence and will ultimately result in our plunge down to the depths of despair?


NO.

Reproduce the Work Environment at Home. As simple as the problem is, the solutions are equally simple.


Replicate Standards for Excellence

  • Ask yourself, at the end of your workday, what are two or three things that give you a sense of accomplishment? Use them as benchmarks while working at home.

  • Designate a place in your home as your workspace. Treat it like your office, even if it is just a corner of your bedroom and do not use it for anything else.

  • What cues from your “real” office help you concentrate? Reproduce them.

  • Keep a work appropriate dress code.

  • Have a start and end time.

  • Put an appropriate level of energy in your workday—Positive Mental Attitude. Check your mental attitude throughout the day. Is it positive or negative?

  • Set shorter blocks of time where you stay completely focused on the important work.

  • If you have to take a break set a specific time limit and return within the allotted time.

  • End work at the same time you would at your office. Close your computer and exit.


Foster Optimal Mental Concentration

  • Get into a similar routine as you would when going to the office.

  • Identify what you can and cannot control.

  • Set a morning and evening routine.

  • Identify and mitigate distractions that you would not normally have in your real office.


Be Accountable for Results

  • Create a plan and designate certain tasks that must be completed each day.

  • Set monthly goals.

  • Report to your manager and team the accomplishments against the plan.

  • Take ownership for missed deadlines and results and hold yourself accountable.


Celebrate

  • Reward yourself for achieving small milestones.

  • Create visual board where you share successes with teammates.

  • Schedule team hour to acknowledge achieving key milestones.


Performing “productive” work at home is not impossible.

Indeed, “productive” work does not mean just engaging in the motions of a particular task disconnected from your professional purpose. To the contrary, it means the intentional pursuit of a productive career in any area or endeavor, on any level of ability.


It requires the internal realization that our work is inextricably linked to our purpose and happiness, and some simple changes to recreate a work-like environment at home.

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