May 31, 2021

Life Contexts - Cues To Differentiate Between Work And Home

Reading Time: 4 mins

As one of the many people now working from home, I found the process difficult at first.

I couldn’t switch my mind between my day job, my side-projects, and spending time with family.

Everything bled together which left me focusing at the wrong things at the wrong time.

Over time, I have learned to set up various “life contexts” to focus my mind to the work at hand.

These life contexts are made up of subtle and not so subtle cues that signify the type of work or activity I’m currently doing.

This allows me to focus on tasks when I’m at work. I can then switch my attention to friends and family when I’m done with work.

If the idea of life contexts sounds intriguing to you, please read on.

Different Computers For Work & Personal Contexts

One of the best ways to separate my work and personal mindset is to use different computers for each context.

I realize I’m quite lucky to be able to use multiple computers, so I’m sure to take advantage of this.

The difference between computers is made more obvious by the fact that one is Mac and one is Windows.

By sitting down and starting up one computer over another, my mind knows what mode I should be in and this helps me get my work done.

Different Desktop Wallpapers Signify Work & Personal Use

Another trick I picked up from CGP Grey is to change the desktop wallpapers on my computer to signify the current context.

This is a great tip if you use one computer but have different contexts like work or personal.

In my case, my work wallpaper is a simple geometric pattern in blue. My personal wallpaper is the same pattern but in purple.

Over time I’ve come to associate these colors; blue with work and purple for personal.

Now when I start up my computer on a work day, the blue color signifies to me that I’m about to start work.

Throughout the day, as I’m switching between tasks, the flash of the wallpaper reminds me that I’m still in work mode.

Create Playlists For Each Context

Music is also a powerful cue for signifying contexts and one I make use of regularly.

I’ve mentioned before how I like to listen to Lo-Fi beats on Spotify when I’m in writing mode. This type of music becomes like white noise to me and allows me to focus completely on writing.

When I’m working on low-impact, less cognitively demanding tasks, I bust out a different playlist full of vocals and catchy lyrics that I can sing along to. This also helps to boost my mood.

When I’m exercising, I also have a high-tempo motivating playlist ready to go.

If you’ve never tried it before, consider associating different playlists with different types of work.

If you’re not a fan of doing chores around the house, curate a playlist of high-energy uplifting songs to get you motivated.

There’s a lot you could do with this, I’ve only scratched the surface.

Wear Different Clothes To Signify The Context

This is one you’ve likely heard of in the “new world” of working from home.

We’re all encouraged to continue wearing formal clothes to keep us in the mindset that we’re still at work.

I wouldn’t go as far as to wear any “formal” clothing but I do make an effort on days that I’m working. Even if the effort is getting out of my PJs and combing my hair!

You could certainly take this a step further by wearing a certain jumper or pair of shoes or something when you’re working.

This routine will help you get ready for the workday.

Different Locations For Work & Personal Contexts

I’ve saved this one for last because, honestly, this isn’t something that I can do. I have my home office setup and that’s basically the only place I can get my work done outside of the office at work.

However, this tip can be useful if you have a little more space or if you don’t require a lot of space to work in.

Here’s the tip: create separate spaces for work and personal or work and side-hustle.

This way, you’ll create a physical separation that will make it easier for your mind to focus.

While I said this isn’t something I do, the fact that I have a dedicated office space in my house means that when I’m not in that room, I don’t really think about work tasks.

Once I’ve shut down my computer and closed the door, I’m done for the day.


I hope you found some value from reading this article. If you did, please let me know over on Twitter.