Separating Work And Home
productivity | stress
Lydia Lutsyshyna tracked the timing and location of her activities, then experimented with clearly separating studying and non-studying intervals to see if this simple delineation produced noticeable effects in her behavior.
Separating Work and Home
Hi, I’m Lydia. I go to Reed College and I’m a senior this year and I kind of got interested in this kind of stuff in Allan’s class, and Allen gave the talk yesterday morning about his experience teaching and self-experimentation. So this kind of started there.
So here’s a picture of me relaxing and eating pizza, so we will get to why that is significant shortly. So one of the things that Allan told us in the class that was kind of inspiring to me was that the experimental psychologist B. S. Skinner had this desk and when he sat in his chair at the desk it would turn on the light.
And when he was at the desk the light went on, he would just do work. And he could daydream, he could relax, and he could talk to people, but not in that chair. So he would get up and he would do it somewhere else and just like sort of establish what we call contexture control over this desk and chair and light, meaning that he was going to work there.
And I thought, wow that sound like a great way to get more efficient at something because I’m interested in not spending a lot of my energy in unnecessary ways. I kind of what to be conscious of what I’m taking in and putting out and being as effective as I can at it.
So by a show of hands, how many of you have ever sort of been half way doing a task and sort of half way doing another task and doing both of them badly?
So, that was my experience as well, and I would often just be at home on the couch, or god forbid in my bed trying to do work and feeling guilty and also probably not getting anything done within four hours, but also not really letting myself relax. And I realized this was an issue because I was neither getting my work done or relaxing, and all this time was passing and none of it was satisfying.
So, I decided for my project for Allan’s class to only do work in the morning in the library at school, and to never take any kind of form of work home at all.
So, when I started out my sot of average time that I was waking up was about 10:30 in the morning and the homework was kind of done reluctantly over not so much time and done really really fast as possibly at 1 AM at home.
I wasn’t eating enough I don’t think, and I wasn’t really doing any of my art or seeing my friends too often, and I wasn’t sleeping that much. I mean I’m young. I don’t know how to control all of these things yet. So, then I figured okay, let’s try this manipulation. So then working just at school started.
Here is sort of a chart of all these variables over sort of I think the month of April mostly. So, as you can see, active and creative pursuits increased and got much more varied over time. I was painting, I was playing more music, I was seeing friends pretty much every day and not in a homework context. My sleep time started to increase. My meals started to stabilize, and I think it was largely because establishing this control over where I was doing what also kind of forced me to get into a routine that I didn’t have otherwise. Because before I think, things were just getting done haphazardly whenever they could, but just like making one simple change kind of made everything else fall into line, which I didn’t really expect. And then by sort of the last stage of doing this, I was getting eight hours sleep every night. Pretty much eating three meals a day, and I feel like I didn’t even expect just doing work in the library to increase my health in so many different areas.
So what I learned was yeah, in modern life we do really have to reclaim our boundaries because work isn’t to life and like with the Internet and everything like that I think it’s really hard to not feel like you’re always sort of a line somewhere. Like you might be at home, but you could check your email, or you might be at home, but maybe you should be doing this, maybe you should be doing that. And I feel like it’s really hard to figure out where exactly those boundaries are between what we are doing and where, because it feels like we’re sort of doing everything all the time.
So, I found that living intentionally with something that I worked on a lot the summer after, sort of doing this experiment in the spring and just trying to figure out like every time I was doing something, like, why am I doing this? Why am I doing this now here, is this like the best use of my time? Is this the most effective thing to do?
And again, it doesn’t have to be massive life changes. Or like you know at first, I was like, oh I got to like make sure I go to bed at this time, and eat at this time, and do this. But actually, focusing on one thing can make a lot of things that you don’t expect to be related to it to fall into place to.
So yeah, when I created those associations, and those habits and those kind of rhythms I didn’t end up sitting around at home sort of trying to do work, sort of relax and feeling guilty about it. Instead, when I got home it was like, this is my time to chill and just hang out with my friends, and just do art. Before, I felt too much, oh but I should be doing this and then I just wouldn’t do anything.
So I think anything that anyone can do to sort of liberate themselves from the ‘should’ that’s hanging over them all the time by kind of drawing further boxes, and the things you do and where you do them can be really helpful in more ways than you could imagine. For example, right now I accidentally broke my phone and I have been living without a phone for a month. It’s awesome, so yeah.