Working from home can be super exciting and new – for about a week. For some, it’s much better than working at the office. For others, it becomes something entirely different – very boring, super repetitive, and even painful. For some it can be pure hell.
If you find yourself struggling to focus on work and feel like the joy has been lost – and if you want to make more positive, incremental, and sustainable improvements – I have a time-tested formula that has worked well for me.
You see, as of mid-March, and primarily because of COVID-19, I’ve begun to work from home again too. It’s not the first time. For better or worse, it’s probably my 15th time that I’ve started and stopped working from home over my 20+ year career. Sometimes I do it out of necessity and other times it lands on me like a wet blanket.
Like the time I had a short-but-long-distance consulting engagement and Starbucks was always too loud. Or the time I was engaged as a Fractional CMO for a client but did not have an on-site office. Or all the times I thought I’d save money by working from home instead of getting a co-working space. Or the few times I got laid off or “downsized”. Or how about every time I start a new business (TalentSum is #7). The list goes on.
Point is, working from home is never easy, but I’ve figured out how to make it work. The hardest part is this – at some time during your work-from-home experience you might begin to feel the joy start to drain away. Or a fear or sense of helplessness creeps in. When this happens, just know this is completely normal. (Bookmark this post for that day).
Okay, ready? Here it is: Go deeper. Go more narrow. Be bold. Focus on process.
That’s it? Yes. The next time you are down or stuck at work and can’t seem to move forward give it a try. Here’s why it works:
- When we “deep practice” an activity or craft – meaning when we focus our attention and do the hard work without posturing for others and work hard to master each incremental moment – our level of joy increases and we achieve “flow”. It’s easy to forget that practice isn’t just practice. It’s serious stuff. (Examples: Focus on sentence structure when crafting an article; Reset SEO meta for all 300 blog posts in one week; Review 500 websites before reaching out to all of them with useful insights to improve their business) Deep practice makes you better at your craft.
- More positive outcomes tend to come more frequently when we narrow our focus (or niche) and then even narrow it some more. (Examples: The CEO that focuses on the few solutions that produce the best ROI; The brave executive who focuses their business around a simple idea; The marketer who focuses their marketing channel mix on the few areas where they can make the most impact.) Like a garden hose spraying water – when we squeeze the hose to narrow the aperture – water comes out more forcefully. Narrowing in helps us to focus our message, maintains our energy, gets us to “no” more often which in turn, can show us what’s most important.
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- When we go bold and “own it” – meaning when we focus in on what makes us unique without imagining an audience or judge – there does seem to be more energy, excitement, and interest that lasts much longer. (Example: The writer who knows they have a unique voice inside and finally decides to let it out.)
- When we focus on process (systems) but not goals – similar to aiming for a “true north” direction and focusing on the actual journey instead of some end destination – we’re usually able to produce better outcomes and have more fun. (Example: The person who wanted to loose a specific number of pounds decides instead to focus on eating healthy and doing some amount of exercise on odd or even days of the week.)
Give it a try: Go deeper. Go more narrow. Be bold. Focus on process.
I know that when I refocus my efforts around this formula, chaos starts to evaporate. My mind becomes hyper-focused and clear. I get into a flow. Joy reappears in my life. And more work gets done.
Eventually, a peace and awareness of self washes over me, and I find myself thinking “oh, there I am”.
CHRISTOPHER MENGEL helps business owners and talent leaders improve marketing and talent acquisition. Have a challenge you want to solve? Talk with him or connect with him on LinkedIn and Twitter or subscribe to his posts.