Going somewhere, feeling productive

IMG_0153It has been years since I worked in an office. My “commute” consists of going downstairs, starting the coffee, then sitting at my desk. Given how many time logs I see where people spend vast hours of their days simply getting to and from work, I know this is a wonderful thing.

That said, I do go into Philadelphia or NYC for meetings or events probably once a week. Today I left the house around 8:30 a.m. to drive to 30th St Station, then took the train into NYC for a speech. I got right back on the train to make a meeting in Philly in the afternoon. Then I fetched my car from the garage and drove home, arriving at 6:15 p.m. or so. Driving down my street and into the driveway, I felt like I was “done.” I had done a lot for the day, the day had been productive, it was time to relax.

Oddly enough, I almost never feel this way when I work in my home office. That is true even though objectively I accomplish much more when I am sitting at my desk. I have a sneaky suspicion that traveling somewhere makes us feel like we have done something, whether we have or not. I got a lot done today, but not nearly in proportion with my feeling of accomplishment.

There are two lessons to take from this. One is to guard against the illusion of productivity. Checking email and deleting unimportant messages feels productive, but it really is not. Likewise, going somewhere is not, in and of itself, accomplishing anything. What matters is what you do while you are there.

The second is that if you do work from home, it is OK to feel done. Maybe a short commute (a quick errand at 5 p.m.?) can help with this. I still need to figure out a transition ritual, but one of these days I will.

8 thoughts on “Going somewhere, feeling productive

  1. I’ve started stopping work and walking to the train station to meet my husband. I listen to audio books or pod casts during the walk and do laps of the carpark if necessary while waiting.

    This has meant I get my steps in and by the time I’m home I’m definitely in a ‘day is done’ mood. Makes it easier to swap to the next task on my list.

  2. Yep, this is hard. I feel like I always *could* do more since I work about 98% from home.

    A friend who also works remotely 100% solves this by having a very regular start and end time to her work day. I’ve started doing that (when it’s not crazy busy) and it really does help.

  3. Picking my kids up from school and daycare give me that same transition feeling. Otherwise, I would have a really hard time tearing myself away – seems like that hour always has the best second wind for me!

  4. Yes! I have to bite my tongue when my mom visits. She talks about how she can’t believe how much sitting around she’s doing at our house; she’d *never* sit around this much at home.

    …except for the two hours she spends commuting every day. And the fact that she has no little people who might eat God-knows-what off the floor if she didn’t sit and watch their every single move.

  5. I wonder if the “done” feeling varies by personality. I feel drained after a day of being out and about, but I wonder if some personalities feel energized by that.

    1. @Kristen – that could be. I definitely feel that being out and about consumes energy. That said, being home all day with little kids consumes more! I may be happiest at home all by myself, but that doesn’t happen that much.

  6. I also struggle with the transition since I work from home. I think part of this is the choppy hours I keep and working after the kids go to bed. There isn’t any time when work is unavailable so it is important for me to establish set hours when I’m not working. Usually this ends up being 2-7 with picking up kids, lessons/practices, and dinner.

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