I have recently been spending time at my family’s house on the Jersey Shore. Alone. I am so lucky to have this opportunity for many reasons. I wish everyone could have this experience. I acknowledge the place of privilege this post is coming from. However, the basic point is universal.
Even if you don’t have a beachside retreat at your disposal, changing your environment can change YOU and how you spend your time.
My discovery is not original. There are tons of blog posts about the impact of environment on habits. This article by Gregory Ciotti in Psychology Today talks about changing one’s environment to change habits. He suggests, “Head to a local library or coffee shop and that place will become associated with ‘writing time’.”
Your brain has a muscle memory that snaps you back into habits when you are in a certain place that you have occupied in the past. Have you gone back to visit your parents in the home you grew up in, and found yourself behaving in ways you used to – drinking milk out of the carton or leaving the toilet seat up, which you never do in you own home? Do you turn on the TV and leave it on in a hotel room, when you never do this at home?
I have come to this get away “retreat” by myself for a few days for the past few years. Each time, I set a goal to learn something new or accomplish something I was unable to st my mind to at home. I feel like being away from home provides a “fresh start,” where I can be a person who stops working at 5pm and takes a walk or a break, which I never do at home. I am a little more relaxed, and yet more focused.
I have been trying to take more breaks and set limits at home without much success. I had a few weeks, though, where I took my laptop into the dining room in the morning and focused on writing. It really worked (until I stopped doing it)! Even if you are in the same house or office building, simply creating a rule for yourself that when you are in a new space, a different room, you will focus on a specific task.
Another aspect of my retreat is that I am alone. In fact, with my children grown and no longer living at home, and with a husband who works long hours, I am actually alone a lot. Being 100% alone is different.
I recently read that having an appointment scheduled at some point in the day reduces productivity, because you have that appointment on your mind and might not invest yourself in a project before it begins, and then when it ends you may be out of time. When you are all alone and have no one coming home for dinner and won’t see another person for days, it is very liberating! (It is also comforting to know that I will see my husband soon and that I can connect with friends and colleagues online!)
When my kids were younger, and before my business was developed, it was easier for me to turn off my work when they came home. They will tell you though, that as my business grew, I was terrible at ending my work day when they got home! Unless I had to leave to take them somewhere, I often went back to my work after they came home. I loved greeting them and spending a few minutes with them before they went off to their rooms to do homework and relax, but then I went back to my desk and kept working.
Home Is Where The Habit Is
I realize that I have developed a “non stop work” habit in my home. I spend 80% of my day in my office, and do little else than work at my computer. I do not apologize for this, although I know this is not healthy. I love what I do and that means the time flies by.
I love working from home and am grateful that I do not have a commute. However, I also realize the downside is that my home has become a place of constant work, and it is hard to relax there. Do you have a place in your home which is only for relaxing? If so, do you make a point of spending time in this place every day?
I am hoping that spending this time in a different environment will help me value the benefits of places as they relate to habits. When I go back home, I am determined to continue some of the mental/emotional habits I am working on while on my oceanside retreat. I will make my computer desktop image a photo of this place to channel the vibe and inspire peace and calm!