I work quite a bit from home and in some regards it has been a transition for me. In the beginning days I would sometimes spend 10+ hours planted in front of the computer working. As long as I was working it felt good mentally. My foot was on the gas pedal all the way. After all, people who work hard get lucky right?
What I have learned is that working hard and working smart are two different things all together. I refused to admit that I could spend less hours working and get more done.
What I Have Discovered
I worked so much that I got to the point where things had to change. I was mentally exhausted and I even made too many outside commitments that made life even more difficult. I did not like what I was becoming. My kids began to make comments about Dad working all the time. This wasn’t what I signed up for.
Here is the deceiving thing: I was doing work that I really enjoyed. That can be deceptive if you are not careful. Finally, I learned an important lesson and gave it enough time to work in my life.
Focus Sessions + Real Breaks
Have you ever heard the principle of sharpening the saw? It is a simple analogy that speaks the truth. If you never take time to sharpen the saw, your blade gets dull. When your blade is dull, it takes you twice as long with twice as much effort to cut down the same tree.
Things that dull your blade:
- Working non-stop without taking breaks
- Sitting for long periods of time
- Not taking enough “real” breaks
- Being addicted to checking your email
- Working for someone else’s dream
- Not getting enough rest
- Not taking mental breaks from your work
I was a dull blade. In my trying harder I was getting less done. I didn’t make a major shift in what I was doing. It actually was a simple shift that also included me giving myself permission.
My New and Improved Working Schedule
Step #1: Work in 90 minute focus sessions
The first thing I did was to set 90 minute focus sessions in place during the day. My typical day looks like this.
8:00 – 9:30 Focus Session #1
9:30 – 10:00 Real Break
10:00 – 11:30 Focus Session #2
11:30 – 12:00 Real Break
12:00 – 1:30 Lunch
1:30 – 3:00 Focus Session #3
3:00 – 3:30 Real Break
3:30 – 5:00 Focus Session #4
The beauty of this schedule is that when I sit down for a 90 minute focus session my “saw” is sharp and ready to go. When I used to sit at the computer all day, I found myself wondering between working, reading, email, researching, and so on.
Now, I can really focus on working hard because after all I am up against the clock. I need to get as much done as I can before my next break. The next step is important and essential to this whole thing working.
Step #2: Learn to take “real” breaks
This was the minor shift that gave me big returns. I decided to take “real” breaks. A real break is not reading blog posts, checking email, or watching an educational video online. A “real” break for me is anything that is away from the computer.
Here are some of my favorite things to do during my break:
- Go on a walk with my wife
- Take the kids down to the park
- Read a book on the front porch swing
- Exercise by either jogging or riding a bike
- Take a short nap on the couch
In the past, I had a difficult time doing any of the above during the day. I saw them as “non-productive” activities. What I found was the opposite was true. I just never gave myself enough time to see the real benefits. The list above actually sharpens my saw.
First of all, I look forward to my breaks because I get to do something that I enjoy. It is also a welcomed mental break after 90 minutes of hard work.
Secondly, it reconnects one of the main reasons as to why I wanted to work from home in the first place. Hopefully, you can apply some of these principles to your situation. I hope to provide more insights as to how this is working in the days ahead.
- Benefits of an Early Morning Work Session (simplelifehabits.com)
- How to Improve Focus in 3 Simple Steps (simplelifehabits.com)
- 3 Easy Steps to Managing Distractions (simplelifehabits.com)
- The Pomodoro Technique For Time Management (realwaystoearnmoneyonline.com)