Five ways to write yourself to a great day WFH!
Updated: Jan 13, 2021
Do you feel like you’re living at work, not working from home? Here are some free writing exercises to help you to create boundaries and headspace, get focused, and feel connected so you can be more productive and even enjoy your day! Absolutely no experience and no grammar are required.
1. Virtual commute
Instigating a virtual commute is one of the best ideas I’ve come across in the last six months to help create a boundary between your time and work time. Here’s my suggestion on how to use writing to mark the beginning and the end of your working day.
At the start of the work day, write on from one or more of these questions:
What’s on my mind?
How do I feel?
What’s the one thing I must get done today?
What am I avoiding?
Or just write from the prompt, ‘Today…’
At the end of the work day, write on from one or more of these questions:
How was today?
How do I feel?
What small wins were there (or big ones)?
What did I do well, enjoy, notice today?
Again, you could also just write from the prompt, ‘Today…’
Reflect on what’s on your mind, is there something that’s taking your headspace and zapping your energy that needs dealing with?
With free writing it can help to give yourself a time limit. I recommend around 5 minutes. With or without a time limit, try and keep your pen moving – don’t overthink or edit. If you start writing about something else, let it happen. If you come to a stand-still, just keep repeating the prompt.
2. Fantasy workplace
Whether you have a separate room to work in or not, this fun exercise can give you valuable clues as to how you could make small changes to your environment to make it more enjoyable and comfortable, giving you the best chance of having a great and productive day.
Write from the prompt: ‘My fantasy workplace…’
Really go large and don’t let reality hold you back. Would your office be by the sea, in the mountains? What kind of people would be there, if any? What would you be doing, do you live near-by or far away? How is the building (if it is a building) decorated and furnished? Is there a choice of restaurants (perhaps a full kitchen so you can cook your own food), a big library for relaxing, a Ted talk studio that’s open 24/7? Does it have tennis courts, a yoga room, a football pitch, all of these and more? Really let your imagination have fun.
Reflect on what you’ve created. What can you bring into your real space: More plants? Something visual that stimulates your creativity? More comfort? A picture of a view?
Further tip: If you don’t have a separate space, you can always delineate your home time/work time with lighting, pictures, music, how you dress etc. I like to use the big light for work, softer lighting/lamps for non-work.
3. Work day manifesto
Having good boundaries, routines and sometimes rules, can really help you to stay on track. I suggest writing a work day manifesto and sticking it up somewhere you can see it. In the first instance, just see what comes in response to this prompt which I suggest writing as a list.
Write a list from the prompt: ‘During my working day I will/will not…’
Repeat ‘I will’ or ‘I will not’ on each line. Just keep going for as long as you can (go beyond thinking you’ve finished at least once).
Reflect on what you’ve written, is there a theme?
You could do this as a family or with your team or both. Do the exercise above individually and then come together to agree on what is ‘work time’, times for booking meetings, communication rules (what/when/how), what you’ll celebrate (what/when/how) and anything else you can think of.
4. Whose agenda am I on?
The more connected we are to what we’re doing, the more motivated and focused we are. I suggest two writing exercises for this to really dig into to not only what helps you focus, but why you’re doing what you’re doing and for whom.
Here’s the first.
Write from the prompt: ‘Whose agenda am I on?...’
This goes beyond the company you work for – obviously to some degree you are on theirs if you aren’t working for yourself, but what about beyond that? An old boss said to me “If you’re not on your own agenda, you’ll be on someone else’s.” At the time I wasn’t on my agenda and realised I was on hers! This prompt has many layers (think parents, society), so you can come back to several times.
Reflect on how much you care about what you’re doing, or why you’re doing it. This can be something to explore further if you come up empty handed.
The second exercise is a classic coaching technique and is simply to remember what has previously helped you to focus.
Write from the prompt: ‘I was focused when…’
Think of an example of when you felt really focused. Write about it. Give as much detail as you can. If you were training for a marathon for example, what helped? Was it the medal, the team spirit if you trained with others, having a strict routine, a detailed plan, doing it in memory of someone, or was it just visualising the end goal, imagining yourself crossing the line?
Reflect on what you might be able to create to help you stay focused.
5. You’re never alone with a pen
There are plenty of ways you can feel connected when you’re on your own, even something as simple as reading a good book can do it. I recommend having a good old chat with yourself, on the page. Trust me, it works. Not only do you get a sense of connection to yourself, but you can use this technique to help overcome boundaries.
We don’t often allow the parts of us we perceive as negative (fear, anxiety, avoidance etc) to have their say, but ironically, not doing so can keep us stuck. It’s almost always the case that they’re just trying to protect us – even if the means can feel.. well.. mean, i.e. you’re not good enough to do ‘x’.
Think about something you’d like and the immediate thought that is stopping you. Now give that part of you a voice.
The prompt is: ‘I’m your fear, worry etc (pick one) and I want you to know…
Let this voice have its say. Again, 5 minutes or so would be great. You can respond and even get into a back and forth, as long as you let each other have your say – no interrupting. Be inquisitive and see what you can find out. This exercise can be incredibly insightful and is my favourite way to use writing.
Reflect on what’s coming up. Is the part of you that you chose trying to actually help protect you rather than hinder you for the sake of it? Once you get into conversation and understand the different parts of you, you can start negotiating with them and come together so you can do the things that you really want – work or otherwise - and have a more enjoyable life.
If you bump into any uncomfortable feelings whilst writing, focus on and write about those feelings – don’t prioritise the subject you’re writing about. This almost always leads you through the discomfort. If you have deeper issues to tackle, using writing alongside work with a therapist/counsellor can be extremely beneficial.
If you have any other tips, or have success with any of the suggestions, do share them in the comments!
If you’d like to hear more about how I can help you to find, come back to and express yourself through writing, book time for a chat or sign up to hear more at cpsdayoff.com or drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.