Expert Tips On Avoiding Work At Home Burnout
Working from home can be such a wonderful experience; but it requires a lot of hard work, often without quick reward, which can lead to burnout. Just like going to the office day-in, day-out can wear a person down, doing the same things over and over at home can also lead to feeling uninspired and wrung out. This week we’ve asked our experts to share their tips for getting through burnout when working at home.
1. At the end of every workday, I pull up my calendar and my to do list and I plan out the next day by the hour. That includes tasks and projects, meetings, breaks, and things like when I’ll go to the gym or grab lunch. Such a tight plan for my workdays helps keep me focused and on track because I don’t have to sit around and decide well, what do I do next? After I complete a task. I know what’s next on the list and I can get straight to it!
2. Working at home 24/7 just doesn’t work for me — which is why I make use of my favorite coffee shop and a co-working space. Anytime I’m feeling unmotivated or stuck, I’ll try working from a different spot the next day.
3. I love using Focus At Will. It’s sort of like Spotify, but all the music on the platform is scientifically designed to promote focus and productivity. They even have a quiz to help you find the type of music that works best for you. And it really does work! Anytime I’m really struggling to get through something, I’ll pop in my headphones and pull at Focus At
Will, and that helps me settle into the work.
Schedule breaks in the day – it’s easy to get sucked into the computer screen when literally no one else is around to interrupt you. Those built-in breaks that occur when someone stops by in an office setting can be beneficial at times, but no one else will stop you from working when you’re at home alone, so you have to schedule them and adhere to them! You can take a walk, call a friend, read a book or whatever else relaxes you.
Get out of your PJ’s – I notice a huge shift in mindset when I actually prepare for the day as if I’m heading to an office. That means changing into real clothes (usually – sometimes I do wear PJ’s all day!) and getting ready just like I would if I was leaving the house. If you go too many days in the row ignoring personal upkeep, you’ll start to feel sloppy and your work will reflect that.
Decide what your working hours are – the drawback of working at home is that you never leave your office, so it’s important to create that mental separation. I have a home office that I’m only in when I’m working. When I’m finished working for the day, I shut the computer down completely. This keeps me from compulsively checking for new emails or following up with people outside of the hours I’ve set for myself. Without establishing those boundaries you’re basically on call 24/7 and will burn out quickly.
I prevent WAH burnout by waking up early and keeping a traditional work schedule. It can be tempting to sleep in a work late when working from home but I found that burnout occurred with odd working schedules. By keeping a regular schedule I am able to chat with colleagues over chat and set up a work experience that is less isolated that working late in the evening.
1. I give myself permission to take time off when I need to. An afternoon when I’m feeling burnt out will be better spent playing catch with my kids than trying to push through work unproductively.
2. Tap into like minded folks. It’s super motivating to hear how others are killing it in their WAH jobs.
3. Keep learning. Investing in your own growth is super important when you work from home. You may have to go out of your way to expose yourself to new concepts and experiences that will help to grow your skillset. I volunteer at a consumer advocacy website and try to attend local meetups and association meetings for my industry (digital marketing).
Lunch meetings — I get out of the home office 3-5 days a week which is a great way to shake up my routine and get going.
Taking breaks with exercise — I do something active every day to stay healthy and break up my day.
Practice gratitude — When listening to the morning news and hearing the traffic reports or in months like this where there have been several major storms wreaking havoc along the East Coast I am so grateful I can work productively with no commute or need to deal with all the issues I used to when I worked in an office outside my home..
1. Assign a start and end time for each important task. – Although we have 24 hours to perform our tasks every day, working from home tends to alter this perspective. Common thought patterns such as This can wait until later begin to emerge. Before you know it, you’ve skipped this, you spent too much time on that and now the three things you were supposed to do today have to wait until tomorrow. It’s amazing how an unfocused mind can extend this cycle. The advice here is not only to structure your day, but also to set a time limit for each task or project.
2. Take planned breaks – It’s so easy to get carried away and spend hours on a project without taking a break. While this is sometimes necessary, doing this all day and every day is a sure way to feel exhausted. Even if you can keep this rhythm for a month, it will eventually reach you. Instead of crashing and burning, take breaks every two to three hours. You don’t even need to leave the house, however, a walk of 10 or 20 minutes is a great way to disconnect for a while. This is the moment when you are giving yourself permission to lose focus and let your mind wander. This can be a quick nap, going out to buy lunch or even a short physical workout. Just do something that takes you away from the desk and the way you work. When you return to your scheduled task, you will see it with fresh eyes and a renewed focus.
3. Listen to the right music– Many people can’t stand most types of music when it comes to work, but finding the right kind of music really helps one focus on the current task. This works because music can help stimulate parts of your brain that would otherwise be vulnerable to distraction. There are playlists on Spotify and YouTube that are intended to help you concentrate and work. These tend to be composed of songs without lyrics that have a subtle rhythm. If this isn’t something that you enjoy, jazz or piano music also works very well.
Notes from Leslie:
I’ll be honest, burnout is a real issue for me at the end of the year. I’m not sure if it’s because it’s the end of the year or because it’s winter. This year has been particularly hard. Every year I work my way out of it, but I’ll admit sometimes it’s harder than others. Here are a few of my tricks:
- Identify the source of the burnout. While this can be work-related, it can also be other aspects of your life. I know that when I don’t get out or exercise, that I lose energy and enthusiasm. Sometimes committing to at least 30 minutes of movement, especially outside, is all I need to get out a funk. But sometimes it is something to do with my work, in which case I look at what is depressing me and what can I do about it. Sometimes there’s not much you can do but work through it, but some things I’ve been able to stop doing or delegate to someone else.
- Get excited. Do you remember when you first thought about your work-at-home career? Odds are you were excited about all the possibilities that working at home would bring. Unfortunately, the reality of working at home can make it hard to hold on to the enthusiasm. To get myself inspired and motivated, I like to listen to podcasts or read success oriented books. Putting knew ideas in my mind gets me thinking about all the things I can do to make my home based career be better, and that gets me excited. (Note to self, put together a list of podcasts to share with WAHS readers).
- Get moving. I already mentioned that exercise can help boost my spirits. Research shows that moving not only helps with mood, but with productivity as well. Take a walk, play tag with the kids, join an exercise group or recreational team, stretch or do yoga, or just put on music and dance.
- Keep track of the wins, big and small. Especially in the early days of working at home, you can begin to lose sight of progress you’re making because it feels like the goal is still far away. Get a journal or start a blog to chronically what’s working, what you’re greatful for, and how you plan to keep moving forward.
- Change your schedule and/or your surroundings. Just in the room I’m in now, my desk has been in 3 difference locations over the last few years. In the room before that, it was also in 3 different locations over the years. I don’t know why, but moving my desk feels like I’m in new surroundings, which perks me up. The same is true with my schedule. I don’t know the psychology of it, but I suspect that that routine is good, getting in a rut isn’t. Changing your environment and schedule is a way to get out of a rut.
- Keep swimmin’. My daughter bought me a little picture of Dory from Finding Nemo that says, “Just Keep Swimmin’.” I love that quote and all that it stands for. The only way to make progress is to keep moving. So even when I’m down and uninspired, I find a way to do something. Anything. Even if it’s small. The best way to break burnout is through action.