It’s dark, and wet. I’m carrying more things than my arms are comfortable carrying, grasping my house key between cold, numb fingers. Hunched against the cold, I open the front door prepared to step into a completely dark house… only to find that the entryway light is already on. Ah, lovely.
Then I remember that just a few days earlier I had created an IFTTT applet for this exact purpose. Don’t know what that means? Well, the short version is that through the magic of technology, my household lighting system knew I was coming home after dark and switched itself on as I approached the house.
It’s pronounced like “lift”
“IFTTT” stands for “If This, Then That”. The IFTTT app and website allow you to connect different apps and online services to take certain actions whenever a particular trigger occurs. In this case:
|IF my mobile phone comes within 50 meters of the house after sunset,||THEN turn on the entryway light.|
But you can use it for other things too. For example:
|IF I’m tagged in a photo on facebook,||THEN save a copy of that photo to my dropbox folder.|
|IF it’s going to rain tomorrow,||THEN send me an email.|
|IF I make a phone call,||THEN log that call on a spreadsheet.|
IFTTT is pretty cool. But why am I talking about it in a blog post about working from home?
Because your brain is pretty much one big IFTTT machine.
Like it or not, you are a creature of habit. Human brains rely on habit, and that’s great! Habit helps you get things done. Habit is what helps you get up, eat breakfast, hop in the shower, brush your teeth, and so on, every. single. day. without really having to think about it.
If you had to actively decide every little thing you do, you’d be out of mental energy well before lunchtime.
Lucky for you, your brain is really great at going on autopilot, so that you can save your focus and energy for the things that really matter.
But your IFTTT brain systems can be a little overreactive sometimes.
You buy yourself a hot jam donut as you leave a meeting one Friday. And then a few days later, as you leave another meeting, you walk past the same donut stall and think: Why not?
Next thing you know, you’re sitting in a meeting a few weeks later wondering: Why am I thinking about donuts?
Why you need a pre-work ritual
If you travel to a particular location for work every day, your brain has formed an IFTTT habit without you even realising it. Here’s the habit:
|IF I have just completed my commute,||THEN I will get started on work.|
When you work from home, you don’t have that trigger. So you need to give your brain the gift of an IFTTT. (See what I did there?) You need a pre-work ritual.
The ritual doesn’t need to be complicated. In fact, the ideal pre-work ritual is:
- Simple: Something that’s easy to do
- 10–30 minutes: Something that doesn’t take too much time out of your day
- Enjoyable: Something you actually want to do
These are important, because otherwise you’re likely to procrastinate on your pre-work ritual.
Here are some examples:
|IF I sit and read while drinking a cup of peppermint tea,||THEN I will get started on work.|
|IF I go for a 20-minute walk with the dog,||THEN I will get started on work.|
|IF I do my morning yoga,||THEN I will get started on work.|
|IF I do 10 minutes of mindfulness meditation,||THEN I will get started on work.|
Get started with your pre-work ritual in a week when you’re not feeling overwhelmed, sleepy, or otherwise low on energy. For those first few days, you’ll need a helping of willpower to move straight from your pre-work ritual into work.
But once the IFTTT habit takes hold, that’s when the magic happens. That’s when it becomes easy to get started on your work even when you’re feeling overwhelmed, sleepy, or low on energy.
No willpower required.
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You probably already know whether you're a "morning lark" or a "night owl".
So answer me this: Did you know that you can work with (instead of against) your personal daily rhythm by tweaking the work you do at different times of day?
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