I hear you! Working from home can be awesome (PJs! Making your own schedule! Being in your own space! Running errands during the weekday!) It also has some downfalls (Making your own schedule. Dealing with imposter syndrome. Having to put on real clothes sometimes. More distractions at home which leads to procrastination.)
Feeling consumed by anxiety and work stuff is so common! Add procrastination and the anxiety just gets worse (hello, deadlines!), which leads to the crushing feeing of being overwhelmed…and wanting to procrastinate. It’s a vicious cycle.
When I hear anxiety and overwhelm are consuming, I envision a big, flashing warning sign from your body and mind that there need to be more boundaries around work because you’re headed down the road to burn out. (If you’re curious what I mean when I talk about boundaries, check out this short video with Brene Brown). Let’s unpack boundaries and procrastination to see if we can’t get to the bottom of this…
Indicators boundaries may be an issue:
- Work is one of (if not the biggest) ways you matter
- You think about work even if you’re off the clock
- Your colleagues have poor boundaries
- There is no clock (in other words, work happens 24/7)
- There are always fires to put out at work (EVERYTHING IS AN EMERGENCY ALL THE TIME!!!!!!!)
- Going above and beyond at work gets praise and feels good, but you’re left with very little energy to give at home
Some thoughts about procrastination:
- If you’re a procrastinator, you might have a habit of thriving on “crunch time.” Sometimes the adrenaline rush that comes from performing under chaotic or stressful situations becomes a habit. Not having a fire under your ass makes it easier to procrastinate. (In fact, there’s an actual theory out there, Parkinson’s law, that says, “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion,” i.e. unless there’s a short deadline, you’re going to take your sweet time getting things done).
- Perhaps, there’s little incentive to get things done early. If getting done early = more work you don’t want to do, then there’s your recipe for stalling.
- If you tend to be sensitive to others’ feedback and feelings or tend towards perfectionism, then it can make working harder feel more important…but negatively impact your sense of self-worth…and decrease your energy in the long run.
I’d say if you are starting to burn out, procrastination may be a small, rebellious effort to 1) create a boundary; 2) stick it to the man and 3) have more control of your time in a situation where you feel you don’t have a lot of control.
Some jobs require folks to be “on” a lot of the time. Even if they’re not, sometimes a person’s general temperament may make it harder to turn off work. It feels damn good to be needed…but, hate to break it to you, most of us (99% in fact) are replaceable in our jobs. Even if you’ve been there for a thousand years. Even if you’re the only one who knows the right way to get things unstuck from the printer or how to sweet talk your boss. You are still replaceable. I don’t say that to be an asshole, but to let you know that you really don’t have to care about your job as much as you think you do.
Yes. Do good work. But your good work is not going to be better if you’re burnt out.
So, take ’em or leave ’em, here’s a list of things to try:
- Create office hours. Let folks know you’ll be available those particular times with no guarantees that you’ll be reachable when the clock strikes the magic hour it becomes play time. (And stick to it! No answering your phone or emails outside of office hours; otherwise, you set a precedent that is very hard to keep.)
- Plan vacations ahead of time. Even if you don’t know when your family beach trip will be or if there’s going to be a last-minute deal on flights out of town, go ahead and stash away some vacation time. It gives you something to look forward to (and for highly sensitive folks, gives an “out” so that you’re guaranteed “me time”).
- Figure out what to do outside of work! I know. This can be a hard one. And really tempting to squander time on Instagram or stalking your old college classmate’s new boyfriend. But don’t do it! Try some new activities. (Explore the farmers market, take a hike, take a class or try something you have no idea how to do–pottery, fencing, a free yoga class, Meetup group at the art museum).
- Take breaks. Seriously. Set a timer and go for a walk around the block. Make a cup of tea. Stretch.
Energetic boundaries: You’ll know you need these when you start to feel kind of weird in certain interactions. For me, I know I need energetic boundaries (i.e. my personal head and heart space) when I get a phone call or in-person interaction that leaves me feeling amped up, dreading the next interaction, irritable, unable to concentrate on other things, and exhausted in my time outside of work. Google these strategies if they’re unfamiliar.
- Emotional Freedom Technique (aka EFT or “Tapping”)–a little New Age-y, but gets rave reviews for helping with anxiety
- Meditation (I love the Insight Timer app)
Boundaries around “work at home” stuff:
- Take your office away from your house. Find a new coffee shop where others are working and get to it. The buzz of others’ creative energy can actually help your brain get into work mode.
- Bring a “to-do” list with you. Keep it very short (1-2 items). Especially if you’re prone to perfectionism and/or procrastination, it’s best to build on small wins. Finish a task and call it a win. Stop after that task or go to another small win.
- Nanny yourself. That is, use any one of the many apps that keeps you off of Facebook, Instagram, and your other favorite websites. Eliminate distractions.
- Put your phone in a drawer. (This suggestion actually came from B as something that’s worked previously and I think it’s brilliant!). New research recently come out indicating that we tend to do worse on tasks when our phones are in the same room. It has something to do with our brain wiring to focus on things we believe hold importance. So, maybe put your phone in a drawer in a different room.
- Have a morning routine. Take a shower when you get up in the morning. Get dressed in regular clothes. The act of engaging in simple routines can help get your biological clock organized for the day (just like bedtime routines do at night).
- During breaks, physically leave your space and change the scenery–something as small as leaving the room or bigger, like a vacation to a different city.
Mental and emotional stuff:
- Find supports: friends, family, peers dealing with similar issues. Talk out your problems. Plan times to have fun. Social support is very important.
- Look into seeing a therapist if you’re feeling like an imposter, not good enough, and having difficulty in your relationships outside of work (or don’t have relationships beyond your work peers). They can help you manage the thoughts and feelings that might hold you back and keep you anxious.
- Try affirmations. If you’re dealing with low confidence or having trouble getting motivated, tell yourself some positive statements. Use present tense language to call in what you want in your life. For example, “I am confident.” “I get things done on time.” “I am important for more than my work.”
Thanks for reading this long response! Hope some of these suggestions help and good luck figuring out your gig working from home!
(P.S. I’m continuing to take questions about anxiety or eating disorders/diets/disordered eating, so please feel free to ask! Questions may make their way to the blog in this Q&A format. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or DM me on Instagram @counselorkate).