Environmental Associations

Environmental Associations

Environmental associations are cues from your working environment that tell your brain "I'm in the office, so it must be time to work." Most of them are assimilated subconsciously (for example, your office space, the draft you always feel coming from the air duct next to your desk, and the view as you look out your office building's window.)

But when you work from home many of these associations are gone and your brain receives a confusing mix of "work time" and "relax time" cues.

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Environmental associations are cues from your working environment that tell your brain "it's time to work."

Most environmental associations are assimilated subconsciously.

For example:

  • Your desk and office chair.
  • The draft you always feel from your cubicle.
  • The view as you look out your office building's window.

When you work from home many of these associations are gone and your brain receives a confusing mix of "work time" and "relax time" cues.

Physical triggers are the literal actions you take that tell your brain "the work day is about to start." For example:

  • Spritzing a small amount of cologne on your wrist.
  • The sensation of picking up your keys and putting them in your pocket or purse.
  • The sound your car engine makes as you begin your morning commute.

It's hard to stay productive when you work from home because many of these physical triggers don't exist.

Fake a Commute to “Work”

Your commute is a very important physical trigger to your brain that your work day has begun. So, after you complete your morning routine, whatever it is, find a way to physically commute to your home… from your home.

Literally leave your house. Walk up and down the street or drive around the block to complete your "commute." When you're done working do the same commute but in reverse.

When you’re at work you probably have your own office or cubicle; this is an environmental association.

Pick one specific spot in your house to work from each day. Avoid areas that are already associated with relaxation like your bed.

Punch In and Out

This is perhaps the most important physical trigger for your work day association. It gives your brain a simple but very clear signal that it’s time to focus.

Even if you’re a salaried employee, get in the habit of punching / clocking in and out throughout the day using an app on your phone.

The "Double Whammy" refers to the practice of wearing earplugs and then noise canceling headphones on top.

Sustained focus is at a premium when you work from home, the double whammy ensures that you stay focused for as long as possible.

Create a To-Do List the Night Before

This is necessary because it helps you avoid mental fatigue and clutter. Ans more importantly, it helps you stay focused despite all of the "relaxation" and "non-work" environmental associations that you have within your home.

Whenever you feel yourself getting distracted, take a quick look at your to-do list and fervently tackle the next task.

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