I don’t want to write this post. I want to start and end the day with chocolate, eat deep dish pizza for lunch and drink coffee all afternoon. I’m working at home, so it’s all right there for the taking, with no witnesses.
I would do this if I could get away with it. But we really can’t. All day long, we choose either the fuel of life, health and high functioning, or the Fuel of Death. When we eat and drink the Fuel of Death, we lose energy, motivation, stamina and clarity. We need little naps. We think negative, circular thoughts. We can’t sleep at night, furthering the downward spiral.
I’m not a physician or a dietitian, but here’s what I know for sure:
Too much coffee jitters and hypes us, affecting sleep hours after we drink it. I’ve had to switch to half decaf, and only two or three cups before noon.
- Too much food at once makes most of us super dopey. Big lunches especially slow us down. It helps to eat a few hundred calories late morning, then again mid-afternoon.
- Sugars and refined flour – the principal ingredients in all yummy food – give us nothing, tax our organs and load us up with unwanted weight. The harsh reality is that we were made to eat mostly plants that have not been messed with. You know: apples, carrots, salads, grainy brown bread with seeds in it, nuts. Anyone who has tried a few days of this stuff without the sugar and white flour knows how good it feels. Everything is easier because our bodies have what they need.
- Some protein with each meal or snack keeps our energy more even – an egg, some nuts, a few cubes of cheese, a little lean meat or fish. It also keeps us from getting hungry again too soon and grabbing handfuls of cheese puffs.
- Alcohol does not enhance work performance, or any performance. It doesn’t matter that lots of great artists were big drinkers. Most of them didn’t end well and we could have had decades of better work from them if they’d stayed sober.
- Drugs, illegal or misused, do not enhance work performance, no matter how brilliant we may feel for a time.
The statement of the obvious must be repeated until we really believe it; Good food leads to good work. Bad food leads to bad work. I know there are some people who code for twelve hours at a time on Monster drinks and donut holes, but it’s going to catch up with them.
Changing eating habits is really hard. I’ve worked on one at a time, and I’m still far from ideal. Drinking a lot of water is a good habit to start with. Only buying good food really helps. Measuring quantities helps. Planning the day’s food ahead helps.
However we do it, we will be sabotaging ourselves when we try to work without the fuel our bodies were made for.
(Third in a series of posts about working from home.)
Not everyone gets that working from home is still work. Many people who would never dream of bugging you at a corporate office or a factory floor won’t hesitate to call you for a chat at your home office, or expect you to reply to their texts right away.
It’s hard enough to keep ourselves on track when working at home; being derailed by family and friends can be overwhelming.
It’s also hard for those around us to know when we are or aren’t working, unless we give some clear signals. This whole area of setting boundaries is really key. How we do it differs with what our set up is and the kind of work we’re doing, but it’s really hard to work at home without boundaries. We can’t get stuff done, and we’re likely to take out our frustration on loved ones, which is not cool. Boundaries protect everyone. Here are some ideas to consider:
- 1. Having a defined physical work space helps; preferably behind doors that close. Then tell people that when the door’s closed, you need privacy. An open door can mean, “Talk to me if you need something, but not just for fun.” If you don’t have a private space, you can leave earphones on when you don’t want to be disturbed, or wear you ‘get lost’ hat, or whatever it takes.
- Set some regular work hours, then people can get into a habit of leaving you alone during those times. It’s also important to honor the times you set for being available, especially with kids. They’ll have an easier time getting used to your off-limits time if they know they can count on a game at lunch time, or an evening when you’re not constantly checking your phone.
- Consider separating your message and social media feeds, using some for work, the rest for private life. Then you’re not tempted to watch concert videos when you meant to check customer orders.
- Don’t tell everyone you work from home. Not everyone needs to know.
- Get used to missing out on some good moments. If you want your privacy to be taken seriously, you can’t jump ship every time you hear people laughing in the next room, or expect them to tell you when the movie starts.
- Don’t feel the need to be constantly responding to notifications, unless you’re a stockbroker or something. I told my kids if they really needed me, to phone rather than text, then gave them each their own ring tone. Then I could dive deep into a project and ignore everything, until I heard that Lord of the Rings theme, or the R2D2 bleeps. ( Zedge has fun ring tones.)
Lots of people swear they do just fine with multitasking, and mixing work with every other part of life, but more and more people are discovering that an interrupt-driven workday is less productive.
Over the long-haul, a defined work space, a set work time and some methods of reducing interruptions make working at home a lot more viable.