(Second in a series on working from home.)
A day is precious; we can never get it back. Even if we live to be say, 80, we have less than 30,000 of them. A day is a story – given shape with a good beginning, a build towards resolution, a satisfying ending.
Everyone, but especially those of us who drive our own workday from home, need habits that give it shape, meaning and energy.
In the same way that bad habits sabotage us, good ones carry us effortlessly in the right direction. Formed within a few months, they serve us well the rest of our lives. Most of us can brush our teeth, for instance, without an agony of will or effort.
Given the choice, I would spend the greater part of each day in bed, alternately napping, reading novels and eating chocolates. Here are some habits that have led to other outcomes:
A Good Beginning:
Getting up at the same time each day is a really good idea. If you get up when others around you do, it takes less effort. My teenagers don’t need me in the morning any more, but it’s good to see them, join the bustle, ride their energy to get going.
Eating something that won’t cause you to die young is another good idea. More on food in another post.
Focusing mind and spirit on what’s good and true feeds our work as tangibly as our bowl of granola. As a Christian, I read a few pages of the Bible and then some other good book. Ann Voskamp’s “Broken Way” is my latest favorite. This is the best time of the day for me, taking in energy before the demands of the day kick in.
Goals for the Middle:
Everyone needs to walk the line between legalism and aimlessness when it comes to schedules. I hate routine, but without a list for the week and then a list for the day, I will literally stand in the middle of the room and pivot in circles – at home there is something to do everywhere you look.
Some people use fancy apps, some people put sticky notes on the wall, but the challenge is to pick a system and work it. Some need this to do enough work, others need it to make themselves stop.
Many professionals who work remotely tend to work themselves into the ground, equating hours put in with competence and success. Actually, after less than fifty hours a week, the returns sharply diminish. For years I set myself up for discouragement with lists that were just too long. That was dumb. Now I write lists I can finish and I feel like a rock star.
An Ending you can Live With:
I know a writer who finishes each day by reading out loud to his wife. Way to go, Mitch. An actress I tour with catches up with friends online till she starts to nod off. Another friend likes to play Spider Solitaire, whatever that is. She told me the other day she thinks she should be reading at night instead. I disagreed. I think we need to be able to look forward to doing whatever we want to do at the end of the day, provided that’s not injecting heroin, or eating 30 Twinkies – you know, something not destructive.
If my solitaire-loving friend thinks she should read more, then that is a discipline to be added to the work list, not something she should make herself do when she finally has a few minutes for herself.
Finally, as we close the book on the day, it really helps to review what we accomplished and what we’re grateful for. Those are great thoughts to sleep on.
2 thoughts on “Habits Give Shape to the Day”
“Good [habits] carry us effortlessly in the right direction.” Wise words, Colleen. I, too, have discovered the value of: rising early, beginning the day with the Bible and prayer, tackling a prioritized task list to use time efficiently, and ending with a pleasurable activity, preparatory to rest. ‘Had to smile at your reference to people who need a schedule to make themselves stop working. I needed that advice during my years as a teacher, with the continual stream of papers to grade, journals to read, records to keep, administrator-driven tasks to complete, etc. Workaholism is such an easy trap to fall into!
Hey, thanks for the shout-out, Colleen. Always love your stuff.