I recently had the good fortune to spend time with an incredibly talented group of successful women lawyers. One common theme that came up was the difficulty of finding the balance between work and life.
Many of the women were able to work from home a few days a week, yet some confessed that it was hard to get as much billable work done when they were working from home as it was when they were at the office.
No surprise there. At home, it’s hard to forget about all of those household chores: dirty dishes in the sink, rugs that needs vacuuming, dog hair all over the stairs, laundry that needs to be done. When it is nice outside, there are even more distractions, especially when the garden is calling your name.
With women still doing the majority of the household tasks, it’s really no surprise that when we work from home we have a hard time getting “work” done.
When I left my job and opened up my own firm, I started off working from home. Although I loved working in my pajamas, I frequently found myself procrastinating work that I didn’t relish by doing all of the household chores. While I couldn’t find time to begin writing the brief that was due the next week, I always seemed to find time to take my dogs on a walk or clean out the garden.
I realized I had a problem when I found myself working in the evenings and weekends to make up for failing to get things done during the day. The whole reason I left my job was so that I could have my evenings and weekends free and get my life back.
Then, I experimented with a few different ways of working from home: setting up a designated workplace, leaving the house when I was too distracted by all of the housework, getting up earlier, and setting designated “work” hours.
The problem is, one of my favorite methods of procrastination is to clean up. I used to think it was just me, but I’ve discovered that this is a common procrastination method. There’s something cathartic about cleaning—you easily see the results of your work.
So I decided to make my procrastination method work for me rather than against me.
Now, I use my breaks from work to tackle some of my household chores. I work for 25 to 30 minutes, then do the dishes for 5 minutes. I work for another 25 to 30 minutes, then spend 5 minutes starting laundry. I work for another burst of 25 to 30 minutes, then take the dogs for a walk for 20 minutes (giving myself a longer break and a chance to get outside).
I get so much more work done (and my house gets cleaner too, double bonus).
Instead of trying to ignore all of your household tasks, make those distractions work for you: work in 25- to 30-minute increments and give yourself 5-minute breaks throughout the day.
- Set your kitchen timer to 25 minutes and sit down to work.
- When the timer goes off, set it for 5 minutes, and allow yourself to do some of those household tasks.
- When the timer goes off again, set it for 25 more minutes, and sit down to work.
- Rinse and repeat for a few cycles, but be sure to give yourself at least one longer break in the morning and afternoon.
Note: I highly recommend using a kitchen timer rather than your cell phone timer because most of us are too easily distracted by our cell phones. The kitchen timer is nice because it is loud enough to be heard throughout the house. That way, if you’re doing laundry down in your basement, you’ll still hear the timer.
This productive procrastination method helps you get hyper-focused, complete a lot of work in a short amount of time, and stay motivated. It prevents you from burning out by providing frequent breaks.
Taking breaks works with your body’s natural rhythms and provides your mind an opportunity to relax and reset. Regularly getting up from your desk will keep your body happier too: by getting up from your desk every 25 minutes, your back and neck won’t get stuck in a turtle-like or hunchback position.
Best of all, it’s easy to implement. All you need is a timer and you’re ready to go.
Give it a try and let me know whether it works for you.