How to Transition Between Work and Home Time

Working from home: While many of us enjoy the freedom it brings, that freedom comes at the price of structure.

Advice

How to Successfully Transition Between Work and Personal Time

Ever since COVID first hit, working from home has become more common than ever. While many of us enjoy the freedom it brings, that freedom comes at the price of structure. A structured work day, with built-in habits and routines, is helpful for most, and crucial for some – especially for those with ADHD. Whether you struggle with ADHD or not, though, here are a few ideas to help you shift between ‘work mode’ and ‘home mode,’ so that you can more easily focus when it’s time to work, and relax when you’re finished.

Build in a Virtual Commute

Remember when we had to drive to work? The traffic and stress may feel great to leave behind, but the commute to and from work also served an important mental function. It served as a transition period to help our brains gear up and get ready for work. And at the end of the day, we were able to literally leave work at the office, so our brains could down-shift into home, social, or relaxation time. Without that built-in transition, it’s easy to become stuck in one mode or another, especially when you don’t have the privilege of a separate office in your home. So, consider building in a virtual commute time before and after work. Here are a few ideas:

  • Take a 10-15 min walk
  • Drive around the block, or to a nearby coffee shop for your favorite drink.
  • ~If you can’t afford this every day, you can make your own and bring it with you
  • Take 10 minutes to do a light exercise, yoga, or stretching routine.
  • ~While you stretch, watch or listen to a video of cars in traffic, to remind your brain of that old transition time
  • Try making a specific going-to-work playlist, and going-home playlist, and only play those songs during transition times
  • Even if you don’t have a dress code, get dressed for work, and change into ‘home’ clothes after work.

Have a Starting Work Routine

This doesn’t have to be long or complicated. Even ten to fifteen minutes is enough. This is your chance to plan for the day, and put any lingering non-work thoughts aside. Planning and prioritizing your day can help with focus, as it reduces the amount of decision-making you have to make between tasks. It may also increase motivation, especially if you begin with a couple small, easy tasks for a quick win and burst of dopamine. Here are a couple more ideas.

  • Start with a few minutes of free-writing (also called a brain dump). Then, you can sort out any work-related thoughts into tangible tasks and prioritize them accordingly.
  • Have a five-minute accountability meeting with a co-worker, or even another work-from-home friend, then check in with each other at the end of the day to congratulate each other for what you accomplished.

Practice Compartmentalization

Compartmentalization is just one of the many ways to set boundaries with yourself around work. It’s often spoken about as a negative way to cope with stress or traumatic events, but when used intentionally, and in a healthy way, it can be a great tool for keeping work and home separate.

  • Keep your phone out of arms’ reach. Turn off notifications on any non-work related apps.
  • If you live with others, create a system to minimize interruptions. For example, a do-not-disturb sign on your office door, if you have one, or on the back of your chair if you don’t.
  • Keep a specific notebook handy for home-related thoughts that pop up while you’re working. Write it down, then incorporate those thoughts into your end-of-day routine to transition back into home time.

Have an End of Work Routine

Just like the getting-ready-for-work routine, this can be short and simple. Any of those routines can be repeated or modified for your end-of-day routine. Again, the idea is to give yourself ten to fifteen minutes to allow your brain to shift focus. Here are a few more suggestions.

  • Incorporate something relaxing – a short walk, meditation, a bath or shower, etc.
  • Take five minutes to do a work-related brain dump, then take that and put it in your office/work space to use in your pre-work planning session tomorrow.
  • Turn off notifications on any work-related apps on your phone.
  • Pay attention to your breathing. Stress tends to cause shorter, faster breathing. So, intentionally spend a few minutes taking slower, longer breaths, to help your body relax.

It isn’t always easy to create these routines and habits. There are a ton of legitimate reasons for some people not to do them; for example, taking a walk before and after work may not be a great idea for someone who lives in an area that’s very hot, or that doesn’t feel safe. For those of us who are disabled, it’s literally impossible. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t alternatives that can serve the same purpose. If you need a little help identifying them, or finding ways to stick to them, an ADHD coach could help.

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