"How do you sit down to actually work?" is a question I get a lot. When so little time truly belongs to you, and so much depends on you, how do you get into the groove of work?
I found some shortcuts that work for me, although I still need reminders once in a while. It's easy to get bogged down in the setup, or open your laptop and start to scroll.
Find playlists that match your mood. Set them up in your shortcuts. Write “Play my Marketing Mix" or "Play my Spreadsheet Mix” in your planner so you remember. I need energetic tunes on some days and nature sounds on others. Enya works very well for my long stretches of writing or editing time.
2. Find podcasts that motivate you to work. When I need to research or write a newsletter, I listen to "CI to Eye" by Capacity Interactive. When I need to write and match images to social media posts, I play light talk shows like "Dear Hank and John" or "SyFy Girls." When I need to edit or work on a more thoughtful project, I let the dulcet tones of Neil Gaiman and Ursula K. LeGuin lectures rock me into a rhythm. If your kids are with you, turn it into learning time with "But Why, the podcast for curious kids," "Circle Round" or "Storynory."
3. Take your own commute/transition time. Sometimes I need to shower before I can work. Sometimes I just need to get dressed. If I'm lucky and this is a day with a babysitter, then I often walk to get coffee before I work. When you have no commute time, your brain may require a contrived one.
4. Use a planner that breaks down every half hour. Initially, this was the only way I wouldn't get frustrated. When I know my time is tightly scheduled and what I need to accomplish is right there in black and white, it's harder to get sidetracked.
5. Schedule a meeting early in your work time. It's harder to delay your work when someone gives you a ring. If you aren't sure that your toddler co-worker will be amenable to a phone or video call, make it a check-in over a text message. I was able to prioritize a lot of my remote work better with a quick morning chat. Extra tip: if you have a work phone call, try to talk to a friend for a few minutes beforehand as a warm-up. It’s not easy to go from poop talk to audience demographics and sound intelligent.
6. Set boundaries with housework. You can't ignore your home when you work in it, but you can't allow yourself to procrastinate on your deadlines. An example of boundaries: I have a pile of clean clothes waiting to be folded until I pass some big hurdles this week. I don't have time to fold them yet, but I do take a minute to keep the laundry cycle going so we don't get behind in what's clean. Also, when your workspace is also a playspace, you often need to clear room in order to be comfortable. I merged that cleaning time with my transition/fresh cup of coffee time, and then I couldn't wait to sit down with my planned work for the day.
7. Limit your social media. This was hard for me because I work directly in social media, but by using Pages Manager, I don't have to keep a Facebook tab open. By using Hootsuite or another scheduling platform, I won't be sidetracked by Twitter or Instagram feeds. Often a big part of my job is interacting online, but keyword notifications allow me to keep up with relevant uses and topics without losing my own train of thought.
8. Motivate yourself with treats after you get milestones. If I need to work after the kids' bedtime, I can't sit down with a glass of wine or I'll get tired too quickly and not finish. But I can sure as heck pour a glass when I'm done. If it was a particularly strong day, or I hit an important deadline, I put a sticker on that day in my planner. It sounds silly, but it's nice to see the sticker on those days when I feel down and need to remember that this can work, it is possible.
Do you have tricks to get into your groove?