When I am working from home, which is all the time, I can find myself sucked deeper into situations than is good for me. Sat alone in my little office I can feel myself locked into a kind of tunnel vision. The screens, my headphones and the shenanigans they represent have become my sole attention.
There are times when this singlemindedness can be a powerful thing, the feeling of flow when I am in the zone is wonderful, but there are plenty of times when the tunnel is not a healthy place to be. Inside my head I am not flowing, I am watching the vortex of hundreds of things that I am supposed to be doing. Watching a whirlpool swirl around is mesmerizing, but not very productive. I need to break my gaze and switch my focus.
That’s when I look up and out of the window into the garden beyond. Here there is a bird feeder; around it the robust Great Tit is dancing with the flashy Goldfinch. On the fence the brightly coloured male Bullfinch is waiting in line behind his less brightly coloured but intricately dressed partners. The squirrel is contemplating how to extract some nutrition from the contraption before it marked “Squirrel Proof”. On the ground below a Dunnock is picking up the seeds rejected by the goldfinch. The Blue Tit makes a dash into the feeder, retreating just as quickly as it arrived. The squirrel dashes away followed by another, bigger, one. Meanwhile the Robin stands on the edge of the birdbath and makes sure that everyone is behaving themselves. Occasional visits from a Jay or Sparrow Hawk add extra delight.
A few moments watching the choreography and my brain has calmed enough for me to return my attention to the task-at-hand. My first task, list the tasks, then pick a task, before, doing a task.
When I worked in an office and met people in a room there was something cathartic about walking away from the room at the end of a meeting. It gave the opportunity for one set of thoughts to drain away before another set arrived. The move to home working and online meetings has created a situation where a day can be filled with more than ten 30 minutes meetings, back-to-back, without a break. Clicking on LEAVE isn’t the same as standing up and walking out of a meeting, it doesn’t have the same physical cues. Standing up at the end of a meeting, watching the birds for a few moments has become my end-of-meeting cue, especially useful when someone has generously given me “2 minutes back.”
Your thing might not be garden birds, I recognise that I am privileged to be looking out on a garden, my advice to you is to find something that lifts your focus up from the whirlpool and away from the battleground of the last five back-to-back meetings. It ought to be something that isn’t based on a screen, checking Facebook/TikTok/Instagram/Twitter doesn’t count. Something like a picture in your working space, a pet, a favourite object, or book, something that reminds you that this is just work. Having a perspective that it broader than your work is good for your work.
Header Image: This the Monastery of Saint George of Choziba in Wadi Qelt.
New to Graham’s WFH Tips? Here’s a handy list to help you catch up.
- Graham’s WFH Tips – Some Advice for a Changed World
- Graham’s WFH Tip #1 – Routine is your friend
- Graham’s WFH Tip #2 – Wear Work Clothes
- Graham’s WFH Tip #3 – Put your Superpowers to work (but don’t overuse them)
- Graham’s WFH Tip #4 – Thinking Music
- Graham’s WFH Tip #5 – Enjoy You Spaces
- Graham’s WFH Tip #6 – Plan your first day back before you leave
- Graham’s WFH Tip #7 – Make Time to Stand Up and Get Moving
- Graham’s WFH Tip #8 – Lighten Up – you need more than you think you do…
- Graham’s WFH Tip #9 – Find your Social – It doesn’t have to be about work all of the time
- Graham’s WFH Tip #10 – Lift Your Focus and Feed the Birds (this post)