Your hOffice and you

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We are all familiar with the idea of a clean work environment being beneficial for our overall work efficiency, we are also remarkably familiar with the expression: out of sight – out of mind.

This was great in the pre-covid era, when we could leave that pile of laundry on the couch, the mud tracks on the carpet, the dishes in the dishwasher, head out to the office and the thought of it wouldn’t even enter our minds until we walked back in through the door again. Research has shown that having a clear work-environment, boosts our efficiency at work. It is a fact that having a disorganized, messy desk will trigger game changers such as procrastination and multi-tasking. 

In today’s world our office desk has morphed into our entire home: our hOffice*. Some of us are lucky enough to have a space to have a desk from which we can work and have our online meetings on, even luckier if you have a door to close where you’re not disturbed by the sounds of your dog barking, your partner working or children playing. One of our clients confessed that her desk was in her bedroom and every morning she’d clear the desk, dump it all on the bed, and at the end of the work day she’d close her laptop, then dump everything back on the desk again. Another proudly showed her kitchen table set-up, lifting her screen with the help of books and a baking sheet. A client, lucky enough to have a home office, had his wife popping in and out carrying boxes, because it also doubled as a store/pantry room, he was next to a box fort during his work day, yet another person described how in his home office he looked out of the window to the grass that needs mowing, and it would bother him all day.

It should be apparently clear, but it is not.

Are we capable of distinguishing between the two sets of tasks that need to get done? Can we really tell our brains to disassociate from one to-do list to focus on the other?

Well no, today, our home is our desk, and our desk is our home. That pile of laundry next to you while you have a meeting will not suddenly disappear because you are now focusing on work, it will distract you. Research has shown that too many distractions and your adrenaline increases, you have an inability to focus on a task for any length of time, and that purely the visual distraction of the dreaded task will drag you into the tar-pit of procrastination.

So how do we manage our new hOffice environment? How do we manage both to do lists and avoid distractions and multi-tasking?

Let me introduce you to Time-Batching

This is a time-management technique that groups together similar tasks, and has you set aside a block of time to get it done. In a typical office day an example of this would be to attend to your email, to make sales calls, to do focused work such as put together a presentation, even to meet with a person and discuss several things at once instead of experiencing the constant interruption encounters. 

Time-batching, also called time boxing or even time blocking, is not a new concept. It is not as simple as blocking off an hour to focus on work, it’s actually planning it into your agenda, and in turn your agenda is key in planning your day and managing your task list. 

Now that both of our to-do lists are essentially in the same space, to work at our most efficient it’s important to time-block your home tasks as well as your workday. How about Blocking off an hour in the morning before your meeting to sort out your immediate workspace, then blocking a time at the end of your day to get to vacuuming the floor? It sounds unnecessary, but the key here is that by giving it a spot, you are no longer thinking about it, it will no longer prickle you. 

So how do we use Time-batching?

Determine your Task: 

Before you begin to time-batch you need to determine what tasks you need to get done in the day/week/month. Both work and your personal workspace should be included here. The simplest way to do this is with a to-do list.

Batch your Tasks:

Now that you have an overview of what you need to get done, group the tasks. You can group them according to location in the home for example tasks in the kitchen get done in one time slot, clothes folding and putting away done in the bedroom, walking the dog can be grouped with daily exercise. Job related tasks of course will be time batched in for example checking and managing your inbox for an hour, but then when that time is up you focus on another task.

Evaluate Your Process:

After time-batching for a day, determine how it went. Were you able to complete what you needed to get done? Did you feel comfortable leaving one task when it was time to focus on another? Is your hOffice feeling more organized? Do you finish your workday with the ability to put aside your task list and focus on making dinner?

This process has many determining factors that are completely personal to you. What responsibilities you have, how you live, who you live with, how many meetings a day that you have. Use time-batching as a tool that is flexible to your personal situation. To recap, here are  4 benefits of time-batching:

  • Improves our focus: Focusing on one task at a time, with the peace of mind that all others will have their attention, allows us to get things done.
  • Saves us time: Batching all of our similar tasks together, keeps us in the same mind-frame, and we avoid loosing time, moving from one task to another and needing to re-focus.
  • Avoiding Multi-Tasking: This allows us to stay focused and calm our minds and get things done in double the time.
  • Relieves Stress: Big tasks can be daunting, and we naturally tend to avoid them, adding to our stress. By time-batching the dreaded task, it gets its focus in a practical way, and gets done.

Batched together the tasks will have their time and place and will get done.

Veruschka Magnusson, PEP® Consultant

*Urban Dictionary – Meaning: Short for “home office”

hOffice

PEP® is a registered trademark, owned and licensed by IBT Europe BV. 

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