Lessons from a life coach: Exhausted from working from home? How to stay engaged and productive

Once upon a time work was a welcome getaway from the responsibilities of home, and home was a place of respite where we retreated to escape the pressures of work. Now, what do we do when there is no separation between the two?


For many, boundaries between work, school, and home no longer exist. The perpetual indefiniteness of these blurred lines may substantially decrease our capacity for productivity and authentic engagement. This is why it’s more important than ever to be intentional about our mental and emotional well-being in order to sustain motivation while working from home.


Schedule spaciousness. In the absence of our morning or after-work commute, it is easy to fall into the exhausting pattern of starting work the moment we roll out of bed and attending virtual meetings back-to-back without any breaks for hours on end. Think about the mental rest that the movement between meetings made space for, even if it was a short walk to another office or conference room, or a drive to another building.


Reinvite that same reprieve by building in buffers between your meetings. I use scheduling software that automatically blocks off 10 to 30 minutes before and after each session booked by my coaching clients. Not only does this allow time for preparation and follow-up, it also helps with tending to basic human needs like hydration, meals, movement, and bathroom breaks. Beyond breaks, we need time to simply think, rest mentally and physically, and do the actual work, which is often behind schedule or left undone because of the inordinate amount of time we spend talking about it in meetings.


Finesse your flow. I think it’s finally safe to say that things will never be the same as they once were before the pandemic. Yet somehow, we still attempt to force this new way of being into old systems and structures that no longer make sense. You may be feeling exhausted and ready to check out because of the excessive amount of energy you are spending trying to force yourself into frameworks that are no longer relevant.


Working from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with 15-minute breaks every two hours and an hour off for lunch was once a general model for traditional employment. It made perfect sense when you were in an office building and your children were in school or day care. There also wasn’t national unrest and global disasters occupying major acreage in your headspace. Now, the best time to actually get work done is whatever time truly works best for you.


This is where I encourage you to flip your formulas. These days, you may only have the mental capacity for 15-minute work sessions and two-hour breaks, which is the exact opposite of the way things used to be. You may actually get more quality work done in those strategically placed shorter spurts instead of wasting two-hour work sessions battling distractions and trying to force focus at times when your brain is not at its finest.


Your best work times may be before everyone in your home wakes up, or after they have gone to sleep, which is highly unlikely to be between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Find your unique formula and flow for when you are mentally and physically at peak performance. At the end of the day, unless there is a strict deadline, the most important thing is that the work gets done, not how you do it or that you do it within old structures that may no longer serve you.


Permit space and grace. At the onset of the pandemic, I advised giving yourself grace for grief. That still applies, but now, we need grace and understanding for so much more. When you find yourself or others at capacity, both energetically and emotionally, turn up your capability for empathy. With all that we’ve endured this year, I am inspired by the fact that so many people are still able to get out of bed much less being capable of full functionality personally and professionally.


So, if you find yourself at that meeting where you didn’t accomplish what you’d hoped to in time, ask for space and grace. I’m certain that there is someone else who will not only understand but be inspired to ask for the same when they need it. This goes both ways. Give others the same patience as we are all trying to figure out how to navigate uncertainty and sustain productivity and engagement while working from home.


Remove the protective armor that you’ve sealed tightly over your vulnerability, ask for the help that you need, and invite others to do the same.

Monica Marie Jones is a life coach and contributor to Model D. Check out her previous guest column here and our profile on her.

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