Working From Home
Hi, I’m Dr. Roger Hall and this is part three of my Roger’s 2 Cents coronavirus update I typically in these segments read questions that people have sent me an answer spontaneously. And if they’re good answers you see them and if they’re lousy answers, they never see the light of day. In this third segment, in this Corona virus edition, I’m answering questions that I’m getting a lot of from my clients. I’m spending a lot of time talking to my clients about their fears, about how they’re trying to control those fears, their excessive use of information and how that’s freaking them out. But the third thing is because of the quarantine, many people are for the first time at home and working and they’re not doing really well. I’ve been home except for two trips to the grocery store for 20 days.
And I’ve worked at home for probably the last 10 or 15 years. So I understand working at home. So let me give you a couple things that I’ve learned about working at home. Number one, if you have small kids in the house, you’re going to have to find time when the kids are asleep to do your most productive work. What I call this is time and attention blocking. Every time you’re interrupted, if somebody says to you, Oh, this will only take a minute, it will take you 20 minutes to get your attention back to the level you were at when you’re in a deep level of concentration doing your work. So anytime somebody says, this will only take a minute, anytime an email pops up, anytime you get a phone call, all of that distracts you and it takes 20 minutes to get back on concentrated work.
So do everything you can. If you’ve got little ones while your kids are asleep, get up before they get up and, and get a couple hours of work in before they wake up. Because as soon as they wake up, it’s, it’s going to be interruption central. Now if you’re in a situation where you don’t have little ones at home, you’ve got to create an environment where you are working. And if it means setting up a, an ironing board in the laundry room and working and making that your standing desk and working from your ironing board, that’s great. But find those uninterrupted times of work. There’s a great book out called Daily Rituals. And the author is a journalist and he had a deadline a few hours away and he hadn’t done any research and he wasn’t doing anything to get his work done. And he found himself on the opposite side of the newsroom cleaning the Keurig machine.
And he wondered, do other people have trouble concentrating and getting their deadlines done? And so he started to research the daily rituals of world-class thinkers, philosophers, scientists, artists, writers. And so you’ll, you’ll find the daily rituals of people like Emily Dickinson, the daily rituals of Charles Darwin of, of great artists, great writers. You’ll, you’ll see all of these daily rituals. And having read that I had a couple big takeaways. The first big takeaway is that mathematics is largely dependent on caffeine. And amphetamine for many of its advances. Not that I recommend excessive use of caffeine or amphetamine, but you’ll see that the second observation I made is that those who have daily rituals where they sequester themselves away to do their work, tend to have much more long lasting, productive lives than those who don’t have daily rituals.
I think the example in the book that comes to mind is Toulouse-Lautrec who was drinking absinthe, taking drugs and doing his paintings at three in the morning and bordellos. He died at 37. Well, he didn’t really have very good daily rituals, but people like Emily Dickinson, she had daily rituals for her writing and so she had a long productive career. So, if you look at people who, who have been very, very productive, they have a ritual. Two writing examples. One, I would strongly encourage you to read if you’re in the creative space, is Stephen King’s book On Writing. Here’s a man whose books I don’t really enjoy. I do like some of his stories. I really don’t like horror. But this guy loves the written word. And he has a daily ritual. The next is, called the War of Art by Steven Pressfield and he’s also a writer of historical fiction.
And I strongly recommend that you read their books. If you want to learn about daily rituals, I also encourage you to read the book daily rituals. What I have found in watching the lives of these very creative, very productive people is they tend to only do two to three hours of productive work every day. The rest is emails, meetings, correspondence, whatever. If you, sorry, I’m being interrupted. Dive bombed by a bird. If you look at their lives, great authors from the 1800’s had correspondence and they had financial things and they had bills, all of which were interruptions and they’d have people come to visit them and, and they’d have a sort of meeting hours where they would, they would answer people’s questions. Those are the same things we have except that all of this happens now on our computers, but each of them spent two to three hours a day of uninterrupted time getting their most productive work done where they are not interrupted. That’s, that’s the most important thing. So if you’re working from home for the first time in your life, find a slot of time, two to three hours to your most productive work done, plow through it. And then as soon as you start answering emails and phone calls, then you’re going to be distracted. And every time somebody says, this will only take a minute. It’ll take 21 minutes to get back on task.
And that’s Roger’s 2 Cents.