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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work-Life Balance

On the Move: How to Stay Productive at Work While Moving

Whether you’re moving to a different apartment across town or relocating to a whole new city, the process of packing your life into boxes, finding a place to live, and getting situated in your new digs can take over your life. First, you commandeer the hours formerly devoted to Mad Men and happy hours for scouring Craigslist. Next, you begin waking up earlier to get started packing. And then, well—the next most likely place to draw time and focus from is work.

I probably don’t have to tell you that taking long lunches to buy boxes and spending meetings detailing the pros and cons of the last apartment you saw isn’t a good idea—but, how do you keep your head in the game and stay productive while dealing with a stressful move? Here are the dos and don’ts to guide you through it.

Do: Talk About Your Move Around the Office

You know how the morning office chatter goes: “How are you?” “Fine, thanks, you?”

Well, loosen things up a little and talk about your move. I’m not suggesting screaming, “I’m losing my mind!” to everyone who walks by, but stepping outside of “great” and sharing a small moment from the moving process can strengthen the bond between you and your clients or colleagues. (Think: “I’m good. Though, after smelling the books in a box that was formerly salt and vinegar chips, I’ve decided against asking the grocery store for any more free boxes.”)

Moving is, after all, a common (terrible) experience we can all relate to. Not to mention, if you let your colleagues know that you’re feeling a little stressed about apartment hunting and packing, they’re more likely to take it easy on you for a couple weeks.

Don't: Fudge Your Hours

In the middle of a move, it’s tempting to maximize every moment of your day—an extra suitcase before work, an errand to the grocery store to get free boxes at lunch, whatever. And that’s fine, but if you’re supposed to be at work from 9 to 5, with an hour for lunch, don’t push it. Your boss and colleagues will notice if you’re sprinting to your desk after 80 minutes out of the office and then scarfing down lunch at your desk. Even stretching it a little—getting in at 9:10 and shutting your computer down at 4:55—leaves a bad impression.

So, commit to being at your desk for the hours you’ve, well, committed to be there. If you need more time (e.g., on moving day or for a massive apartment search) take a day or a half day off. It’ll keep you focused on your moving to-dos and ready to focus when you do get back to work.

Do: Keep Running-To Do Lists (One For Your Job and One For Your Move)

Whenever I have two major things I need to be focusing on, they sometimes like to play a little game whereby my best ideas for one come when I’m supposed to be thinking about the other. As in, I’m on a call and remember that my friends are headed over to help me pack, but I have no food in the house. I’ll need to go to the store and get—wait, what was my client just saying?

Your mind will inevitably wander at work, so keep a notepad near your desk where you can jot down moving notes or to-dos. Same goes if you begin thinking about a work project during the time you’ve carved out for packing. Write down your idea on your work list or email it to yourself, but don’t let yourself curl up to the computer. Again, part of having time and focus for your work during the workday is staying true to the move during “move time.”

Don't: Let Your Home Become a Mess

Yes, at first glance this is laughable. After all, you’re moving. But let’s be honest: Saying “it gets worse before it gets better” is an excuse, and it’s not helpful. Most of us need that moment when we come home at the end of the day to take a deep breath and unwind. And for those of us who work from home, enough said.

Sure, there are boxes, but don’t use that an excuse to cut back on your normal straightening. Do your dishes, put your laundry away, and take the extra step of assigning boxes and piles to a designated area, so the rest of your place still feels like a normal living space. Another tip I found helpful: Keep a donation box and find a local charity that will pick deliveries up from your home. I had the Vietnam Veterans of America come to my apartment at least three different Fridays in four weeks, and every time they took a giant box of clothing or housewares, I had a little more breathing room.

Do: Take Care of Yourself

During a move, it’s easy to cut out cooking, sleeping, and working out (since we’ve already accepted that work is a non-negotiable). But, believe me: There will come a time when your pots and dishes are packed, so why get started on the all-delivery-pizza-all-the-time diet a moment sooner? And cutting back your sleep to the point where you feel like a zombie at work just isn’t worth it.

Whether it’s committing to the minimum amount of sleep you need each night, having at least one healthy meal a day, or meditating or jump-roping for 15 minutes, take care of yourself. You’ll be more productive at work (and feel better in the long run).


Remember, in just a few short weeks, you’ll be moved. In the meantime, your job is to prevent this stressful time from bogging you down or taking you off track at work. Remind yourself to keep a good, focused attitude no matter what you’re doing—and you’ll get through it.

Photo of woman packing courtesy of Shutterstock.