The virtues of taking work methods home
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There are, in general, two common approaches to the way people mix their professional and personal lives. Some people mix it completely and horribly. That is, they carry their work home, talk about nothing but work to their family and friends, and find it nearly impossible to isolate the miseries of their office from the pleasures (and miseries) of their home.
Then there are those, a rare few, who manage complete and total isolation. They leave their office behind as soon as they step out of the office. By the time they have reached home they are just dad or darling and not at all team lead or trainee engineer. Somehow, and it is a gift, they switch modes completely as soon as the working hour is past. I have some friends like this. Nobody really knows at all what they do for a living, whether they like their jobs, or what their work life is like. They simply don’t talk about it all.
In this week’s Untangler, I am going to extol the virtues of taking some work home. Close that spreadsheet this very moment! I don’t mean like that. What I mean to say is that you may find it worthwhile to implement some of your office methods to mitigate the chaos at home.
Have you ever noticed how many people, perhaps yourself included, are much better organized at work than they are at home? At work they, by which I mean you, are masterfully equipped with Post-it notes, notebooks, timelines, project management apps and so on and so forth. At any given moment, you know exactly what you are doing, what you’ve done, and what you are going to do. You are immaculately prepared for your meetings, your ability to get things done is legendary and you are the paragon of time management.
Get home, however, and somehow you instantly turn into a quagmire of inefficiency. Your left shoe is by the door, your right shoe is inside the microwave. You are still paying fees to a school your daughter transferred from two years ago. You were supposed to call a plumber last weekend but forgot and now the guest bedroom is a National Centre of Excellence in Spontaneous Water-borne Fungus. And when you walk into the living room, your spouse asks you whether you bought the Dhokla Mix from the supermarket like you promised, in a voice dripping with preemptive disappointment.
It does not have to be like this. In fact, many people could substantially reduce the stress in their domestic lives if they would take some of their workplace discipline home. But many of us don’t. Why not? Perhaps it is because we think home is where we unwind and get less professional. Or perhaps being professional at work is so exhausting that we just want to turn into useless slobs at home, where a spouse or domestic help can clean up after us.
Whatever the case, this duality can be counterproductive. So why not get a little more “professional” at home? For the last few months, I’ve been trying, for instance, to use the same notebook for both work and home tasks. It is somewhat weird to see a “Get a haircut” between two work tasks. But eventually I’ve just started forgetting tasks a lot less than I used to. There is also the added bonus of being able to knock off simple house chores when I get brief breaks from all the work.
We’ve also put up a blackboard at home where the missus and I constantly make notes and shopping lists, list weekend jobs and cooking schedules. This might sound a bit obsessive. But it makes good sense. Every time I see something in the fridge that is close to “going off”, I work it into a recipe and chalk it up on the blackboard.
Ultimately, this slightly professional approach to chores and household matters has helped in two ways. Firstly, it has helped the missus and me to respond to supply (free time) and demand (chores) much more dynamically.
Secondly, and this is central to all good productivity techniques, it has helped us free our brains from having to remember things. By the weekend, the brain can get pretty overloaded with bits and pieces of household matters. Buy bulbs, change tyres, pick up ironing… Adapt some of your office kung-fu to the home and you could be surprised at how much more orderly things become. Domestic chaos can be a wonderful part of everyday life. But too much of a bad thing can be bad for you.