Welcome to Day 2 of the 5-day Work From Home Challenge. If you haven’t yet, make sure you check out and complete Day 1 before continuing with today’s challenge.
You want to start with the right mindset, and once you have it, today’s challenge is all about beating procrastination and setting yourself up for success.
Yesterday you took the first step towards the work from home mindset by completing Day 1, so now it is time to make it easy for you to work each day.
Help Your “Future You”
So it is getting to the end of the workday. You’ve spent the day fighting distractions and making the best of your work from home situation, and now it is time to start wrapping up.
What do you do?
You have two options:
- Leave things exactly as they are. Your desk, the applications and windows you have open on your computer, everything.
- Shut everything down, clean everything up, and do a “reset” so that everything is clean and clear for tomorrow.
By the title of this article, you have probably guessed that we are going to recommend option number 2, but I didn’t always think that way.
My thinking was: if I am in the middle of something, I should leave things exactly where they are. Leave my applications open. Leave my 15 browser tabs up. Have the 8 Finder or Windows File Explorer windows all over the screen. Then when I come in the next day, everything will be there for me ready to go.
Here’s the problem — leaving your desk and device cluttered is an invitation for procrastination. Theoretically leaving everything open should make it easier to get started, but here is what happens. When you roll up to your desk in the morning, you are blasted with a bunch of information that makes you triggered and distracted.
Plus, the activity you were working on at the end of the day may not be what you should be focusing on first thing in the morning. It may not be your most important task for the day, or it may conflict with your morning ritual.
For example, the first thing I do when I go to my computer in the morning is journal. Having a bunch of technical tools, browser tabs, and file windows open does not help me with that — starting with peace and clarity does.
We call this preparing-for-your-future-you concept Clearing To Neutral, and it is a powerful strategy to beat procrastination in the morning by eliminating friction.
Enter Your Daily Reset
The idea is to help your future you (aka, “tomorrow you”) and make it easy to hit the ground running with peace and clarity.
Here’s how it works:
- At the end of each day, close down your apps and browser tabs. If you need those tabs (for example, you’re in the middle of a research project), no problem. Your browser will have a function to bookmark the open tabs, or there are browser plugins that will let you save a group of tabs.
- Clear your desk. Put things away. Re-shelf books, recycle/shred random paper, put away dishes and soda cans.
- Look at your calendar and task manager for tomorrow. Is there anything you are going to need? Is there anything you can do now to make it easier for you to succeed tomorrow?
Working from home makes clearing to neutral even more important
Having a daily reset and clearing to neutral is a powerful strategy at any time, but it becomes even more helpful when you work from home. You may be working in a less-than-ideal situation, and depending on your location, you can only design your environment so much.
If due to space limitations, you’re forced to work in a shared family area, it becomes even more critical. If your “office” is the corner of the kitchen table or bedroom vanity, cleaning and clearing everything at the end of the day will make it more tolerable to live for you and your family members when you are not working.
The daily reset in action
As an example, here is my daily reset in action.
Here is my desk when I came down to my office in the morning. I understand that you may not be in a situation where you can have a room of your own to work in, but the concept is the same: desk is clean and clear, and my desktops are clear. I’m ready to get started with my day.
Just so I don’t give the impression of being some minimalist monk, here is my workspace right before typing these words.
You’ll see there are papers, books, devices, and even dirty dishes all over the place 🙈. You don’t see another browser window with about 20 tabs open (don’t get Thanh started about my tabs.)
That’s ok! We all need to do what we need to do to get things done.
End of Day
Now the magic. Here’s a picture I took as I was closing down for the night. You’ll see I put everything away (which again shows the importance of designing your environment,) and my computer is reset and back to neutral. When I sit down tomorrow morning, I’ll be ready to journal, have a quick meeting, and then tackle my “frog.”
What to do if things are a gong show now
You’ll notice that my desk is clear and organized, much to my wife’s shock. Let’s just say she did not think I would be able to keep this up.
If your workspace is not clean and clear, what do you do?
There are two strategies you can take
- Take a Day of Pain & Suffering. Set aside a day (or more) to tackle it all, clear it up, and then maintain it using your daily reset going forward.
- Schedule a daily or weekly “clutter clearing” session to chip away at it until it is clear. Then maintain using your daily reset.
Both can work, but I found myself procrastinating on #1, so I went with strategy #2. I had a daily time on my calendar for 15 minutes a day to clean up, and even though it took a few weeks, eventually I got there. I found it easier to carve out 15 minutes than a whole day. I certainly would have got there faster with #1, though.
Here we go, it’s time to put today’s lesson into action.
- Add time on your calendar and set a reminder to do your daily reset at the end of today, and every day. By the end of the day, you’ll be tired and won’t remember, so you need that reminder. You won’t feel like doing it, but once you establish the habit, it only takes a few minutes.
- If needed, schedule your “day of pain and suffering” or “clutter cleanup session.”
- Let us know in the comments when you’re done, and share when your daily reset time will be.
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Update: Day 3 is now live.