Disruptions

Yesterday we had a bit of a clear out at home and I dedicated the bottom drawer in my bedside table as a charging station. It is where all of my most used electronic devices now live (the ones which are used less often are in a plastic tub under the bed). Once I’d finished setting it up I started to think about what I was going to get out and when. Some of it is obvious: I will get my headphones out when I want to listen to music, but others not so much.

It occurred to me that the default was that I would have certain things with me all the time, or at least within easy reach. My phone being the main culprit there. But with a new default (the bottom drawer) I started to think about what that was going to mean when I was working. Which led me to realise how many potential disruptions I was surrounding myself with.

Old Count of disruptions at work

  1. Personal Phone: Messages
  2. Personal Phone: Phone calls
  3. Personal Phone: Whatsapp
  4. Apple Watch: Messages
  5. Apple Watch: Phone calls
  6. Apple Watch: Stand reminders
  7. Work Phone: Messages
  8. Work Phone: Phone calls
  9. Work Computer: Email
  10. Work Computer: Google Hangouts messages
  11. Work Computer: Google Hangouts calls
  12. Work Computer: Jabber

Which doesn’t even cover the things that might not send me messages to disrupt me but that I might just pick up and check on my phone. It’s a crazy amount of things that could be breaking my concentration.

A brief aside – I have been struggling to decide what to do with my Apple Watch for some time. It doesn’t really fit in with my lifestyle to have a small square strapped to my wrist. But at the same time it’s very useful for tracking my workouts and as a silent alarm so I don’t wake up the whole house in the morning. It seemed like a waste to only use it for those things while it was always out, but now it’s in a drawer I don’t feel the same responsibility to use it all the time.

There are some distractions that I can’t do anything about. My boss wants me to be available on instant messenger so I have to have that running, but I considered my options and came up with this:

New Count of disruptions at work

  1. Work Phone: Messages
  2. Work Phone: Phone calls
  3. Work Computer: Email – but I keep it paused using Boomerang so it’s not constantly disrupting me
  4. Work Computer: Google Hangouts messages
  5. Work Computer: Google Hangouts calls
  6. Work Computer: Jabber

This means that I am using my computer to listen to music, but that’s not a big problem and certainly worth doing to halve the number of disruptions I have to deal with in a day.

Working from Home

In the last few months I have been lucky enough to start working from home three days a week. Lucky, firstly, because otherwise I spend two hours driving to and from work every day, secondly because it involved moving into a job where I could work from home during the Coronavirus outbreak. My previous job would have made it less practical.

Having already transitioned to working from home some of the time meant that I had some experience when my company asked everyone who could work from home to do so. I can only imagine how difficult it must be for someone who has never had to work from home to suddenly find themselves in that position.

I can’t speak about the difficulty of not having co-workers around me. By nature I am an introvert so working in isolation feels more natural than in an open-plan-office. Although, having said that, as I am now into week two of full-time working from home, I do find myself more involved in conference calls which I used to take a back-seat in. But, on the whole, this aspect hasn’t been a struggle for me.

What I imagine will be a big struggle for some people (and still is on occasion for me) is the issue of motivation. Office life has its own structure and flow. You get in, make yourself a coffee and spend a few minutes catching up with co-workers. You do some work, you go for lunch, you do some more work and then start thinking about going home. You don’t give a lot of thought to these routines but if you look for them, they’re there. Then, suddenly, you find yourself at home with an eight hour block of time to manage and a pile of work to get done.

It can be daunting, and without a boss looking over your shoulder, it is easy to lose motivation. The key is to build your own routines.

This will take a bit of work. It’s likely that the routines of your office were there before you started and will be there long after you leave. You didn’t have to think about them, but when you’re working at home, you do.

Everyone is different, but this is what works for me:

  1. Get a notebook and create a plan
  2. Start by splitting your page in four (so three dividing lines)
  3. At the end of each section write breaklunch or finish as applicable
  4. Add your meetings into each quarter; we are aiming for four equal sections but meetings can be tricky so you need to be flexible
  5. Work out what times you will be taking a morning break, lunch, and afternoon break and then what time you will finish, add them to what you wrote for number three, so break @ 1045
  6. Fill in the other activities that you need to do in the appropriate quarter
  7. Add some other things in like drink water
  8. Stick to the plan as much as possible
  9. If something comes up that means you can’t stick to the original plan, such as an unexpected meeting, then, when you are next able to, adjust the written plan and try sticking to that

I have been using something similar to this for a few months now and it works well for me. It gives structure to my day and means that I get the most out of the time I am working.

A bonus tip if it’s possible for you:

10. When you finish work switch off your computer and phone