The Mental Commute: Reclaiming Your Balance in the Work-From-Home World
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It’s no secret that the work place has changed quite a bit over the last few years. Many more people are working from home than ever before, even if just part time.
And while rolling out of bed and working in your pajamas was likely fun and exciting at first, it also might be getting old.
Maybe you’re missing in-person connection; casual chats about the weekend while sipping coffee; or gathering in the kitchen to sing Happy Birthday to your coworker.
I bet you never thought you’d miss in-person meetings!
Something else you might miss but not realize is your commute. Driving to and from work gave you time to both ramp up for the day and unwind before arriving home.
Now you just walk from your make-shift office to the kitchen at closing time.
The Good Old Days?
Remember when you used to groan at the morning alarm, hastily gulp down your coffee, and rush out the door to beat the traffic? Or those evening drives home when you’d crank up the radio and sing along to your favorite tunes, slowly letting go of the stresses of the day?
Whether it was a quiet time of reflection, a chance to catch up on podcasts, or a space to mentally prepare for the day ahead, it served a purpose.
But now, with remote work, a commute has shrunk to the few steps it takes to move from one room to another. It’s no surprise you’re missing that valuable transition time without even realizing it.
It Gets Easier with Time and Practice
As someone who has worked virtually since 2005, this is old hat to me but that wasn’t always the case. When I first started working virtually, we were living in a small apartment and it was tricky to let go of work completely. After all, my desktop computer was glaring at me from the corner of the room.
Because there were times during the traditional workday that I wasn’t working, it didn’t seem like a big deal to hop onto my computer at 7 PM for some “quick” emails. Two hours later Melissa would be calling from the other room, “Are you almost done?”
Time can sure get away from you when working from home!
While I still can jump in and out of work mode during the day, I have gotten much better with scheduling blocks of time to work on specific projects and tasks. And then I intentionally transition to my personal life.
I do that through the practice of something I call my “mental commute.”
Think of a mental commute as your brain’s gear shift. It’s a routine or ritual you create to help transition from office-mode to home-mode, even when “the office” is just your dining room table. Since you no longer have the benefit of driving time, you need to be quite intentional about the shift.
Something that signals my body and mind to it being closing time is when I leave my office and begin making dinner in the kitchen. Cooking is very much a “home-based” activity and I can feel my energy disconnect from work-related projects and move to “home Kerri.”
Or I might take a shower at the end of the work day to have some present-moment time under warm water to transition my brain from busy to quiet.
Tips to Master Your Mental Commute
As you design your mental commute, consider the following:
- Set Boundaries: Have a dedicated workspace and try to keep it just for work. This helps your brain switch off when you leave that area.
- Rituals Are Your Friends: Start and end your workday with a ritual. It could be a cup of joe, a quick walk, or a meditation session. This cues your brain to start up or wind down.
- Unplug: Keep work on your work tech. Mute those notifications during your personal time.
- Get Moving: A little exercise is a great way to mark the end of the workday. Plus, it’s good for you!
- Mindfulness Matters: Some meditation or journaling can help clear your mind and transition from work to home mode.
A mental commute is all about setting clear signposts for your brain that say, “Work’s over, time to chill.” It’s a handy tool to keep work stress from invading your downtime.
Yes, creating one is about better work-life balance, but it’s also a tool for maintaining healthy relationships and reclaiming a bit of what you lost when your physical commute went out the window.
There’s no right or wrong way to do it so try different strategies, see what clicks, and find your balance.
P.S. Every Monday in my secret society of trailblazers we not only plan our most productive weeks, but we do a Power POM together (a 25-minute round) on something we’d otherwise avoid. If you’d like to tap into this group support and accountability but aren’t yet a member of Clutter Clear Your Life, you can read all about it and join us here: ClutterClearYourLife.com. Hope to see you inside!
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