On a coaching call recently, one of my clients asked me about how to handle working and exercising from home with limited space. Like many people I work with, he doesn't spend a lot of time at home normally and it's tough to establish a new routine.
Here are some of the things I suggested to him:
1. Change the physical configuration of your space for different activities
Try to find a place for work that isn't your bedroom or your living space, or at least create physical boundaries within your living space if you don't have a choice.
When you're exercising, put your laptop away, turn off your phone (or put it on silent if you listen to music while you workout), and reconfigure your space for exercise. Move the furniture around if you need to. Open up the windows to get sunlight and fresh air, try to feel connected with the outside world even if you can't go outside.
If you're with family, use this as a way of letting them know when you're working and when you're available, it will avoid a lot of conflict.
2. Bookend your time
Prioritise restful sleep and let your sleeping and waking times dictate when you start and finish your day.
Do your workouts in the morning before you start work and then take a break in the late morning or early afternoon for deep breathing, walking (if you're not locked down), stretching or whatever helps you relax.
If you like watching Netflix on your laptop in the evenings, make sure you're not getting any notifications about work while you wind down.
It's even more important to set boundaries between your work and personal life now, or you'll end up working for longer than you did before.
3. Listen to your body
If you're struggling to focus, take a break. Don't pretend you're still in an office. This is your time to find out what works best for you, not to conform to someone else's idea of what is productive.
Eat when you're genuinely hungry, not when you're on a designated break or when you're feeling bored or anxious.
If you're feeling tired and need more sleep, let it happen naturally.
With that said, I want to offer you a different perspective on routine now.
In "A Time to Keep Silence" the author Patrick Leigh Fermor describes his experiences at the Abbey of St. Wandrille, a Benedictine monastery in France:
“After initial spells of insomnia, nightmare and falling asleep by day, I found that my capacity for sleep was becoming more and more remarkable: till the hours I spent in or on my bed vastly outnumbered the hours I spent awake; and my sleep was so profound that I might have been under the influence of some hypnotic drug.
For two days, meals and the offices in the church — Mass, Vespers and Compline — were almost my only lucid moments.
Then began an extraordinary transformation: this extreme lassitude dwindled to nothing; night shrank to five hours of light, dreamless and perfect sleep, followed by awakenings full of energy and limpid freshness.
The explanation is simple enough: the desire for talk, movements and nervous expression that I had transported from Paris found, in this silent place, no response or foil, evoked no single echo; after miserably gesticulating for a while in a vacuum, it languished and finally died for lack of any stimulus or nourishment.
Then the tremendous accumulation of tiredness, which must be the common property of all our contemporaries, broke loose and swamped everything.
No demands, once I had emerged from that flood of sleep, were made upon my nervous energy: there were no automatic drains, such as conversation at meals, small talk, catching trains, or the hundred anxious trivialities that poison everyday life.
Even the major causes of guilt and anxiety had slid away into some distant limbo and not only failed to emerge in the small hours as tormentors but appeared to have lost their dragonish validity.”
Working from home certainly doesn't resemble a sojourn to a monastery, but you're going to experience a similar transition.
With social distancing and isolation there's:
- No morning rush to get ready for work No bustling commute
- No colleagues watching over your shoulder
- No tangible sense of when work begins or ends
- Nobody to tell you how to structure your time
With all of that gone, there's nothing to hook you into your old routine, and if you're living on your own you may start to feel that same nervous expression trying to find an echo.
But don't fight to fill the emptiness with fresh stimulus.
Embrace the uncertainty.
Understand that whatever fear or anxiety you're feeling is not something you need to run away from.
Use this time to face it, work through it, and emerge with a fresh perspective on your life and what's important to you.