Blog Post by
Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
While doing development work for McCormick Seminary, I was deployed and worked remotely from my home in Madison Wisconsin for three years. As many of you are sheltering in place, I thought It would be prudent to talk about ways to be more productive, less frustrated, and maintain work-life balance during these stressful times.
With schools closing, and colleges using online courses, many households are full of loving, attention needing, disruptive little and big people! And I’m not even including the dogs and cats! In the midst of this fun and chaos, we are challenged to carve out a space for our work.
That’s why it’s so important to set boundaries of where and when you will work. That is the first principle of working from home. Make sure you have all of the work tools you will need including computer, printer, pens, paper, bookcase, etc. Next, set your hours. Determine when you will be available for work. It is tempting to just answer the phone, texts, and emails whenever they arrive. By setting hours you are setting boundaries (there’s that word again!) for yourself and your family.
Another idea is to develop a routine that prepares you for work. In a good article by Jill Duffy, “20 Tips for Working from Home” in PC Magazine, she writes about having a routine that gets you started in the day. “What in your morning routine indicates you’re about to start work? It might be making a cup of coffee. It might be returning home after a jog. It might be getting dressed (wearing pajama pants to work is a perk for some, but a bad strategy for others). A routine can be more powerful than a clock at helping you get started each day.” One way I know that I am NOT working that day, is that I break up my morning routine.
I also find it helpful to take frequent breaks. I often set a timer so that I know it is time to stand, walk around, and stretch. I take a lunch. I take timed TV or do other things as a break too.
During this time some of us may feel as though we are not working hard enough. We tend to make our boundaries porous and work morning, afternoon, evening, and night. (In the back of my mind I still hear my mother asking, “As a pastor, what do you do all week?!”) I have discovered that people who work hard often don’t perceived themselves as the workaholics they really are. So, this is a word of caution to all of us. Do not fall into the trap of overworking because you are working from home. Set your boundaries, create your space, make sure you have all of the office equipment you need, take your breaks, and continue to be productive to the glory of God.
I’m ending with a sentence of a prayer Karen Blanchard shared with me earlier this week (It is posted on the website).
God, help us to take time to sit still as the world around us swirls, and drink from the still waters of the love and peace that you offer to quench our thirst in both body and spirit. Amen.
Rev. Craig M. Howard