The world is a crazy, scary place right now. There’s no hiding from the fact that life has changed and requires a completely different set of skills than the ‘normal’ we may know. Closures and physical distancing are creating new norms like home schooling, distance learning and remote working.
Working from home is a foreign concept for many individuals. And while it may feel freeing for some, it can feel untethered and distracting for others. Not to fear, though. With a few guidelines and some structure, you may even find you increase your productivity!
Don’t wake up and immediately check your emails in bed. While it may feel as though you are being extra proactive in doing this, it will end up hurting your overall performance. Think of it like warming up before you workout. You need a little time to wake up and adapt. Get out of bed and do something other than work—go for a walk; do a workout; listen to a podcast while sipping a cup of coffee; journal; eat your breakfast—something where you are entirely focused on the activity and not on work. Yet.
The Clothes Make the Man, or Woman
While it may be extremely tempting to crawl out of bed and stay in PJs all day while working from home, you’ll actually feel more focused if you maintain your morning routine. Shower, if that’s your preference and put on actual clothes. You don’t need to go full tilt and dress in your finest (unless, again, that helps you feel your best) but get out of the PJs and save them for bedtime. Being in your ‘real’ clothes will create a mentality in line with work, and put a stop on those distracting activities like cleaning the fridge or mopping the floors. These are far easier to slip into when you’re dressed for less than success.
Space for You
It may feel strange to not have your desk with its pencils just so and the stapler in the exact right spot. Carving out an ‘office’ for yourself can go a long way toward creating some normalcy. This may be the kitchen table for a certain block of time; or the garage or couch. Put in the effort to create a space that allows you to do the work you need to do. Invest in a ‘standing desk’ adapter (quite cheap on Amazon) if that helps; or an essential oil diffuser—whatever it is that will help you stay focused. And, you may need to communicate with your family regarding times when you need extra focus—it’s ok to shut the door. Maybe even lock it.
Siri, What’s on my Schedule Today
Create a schedule for yourself—it’s easy to get distracted by every email that comes in or every notification that hits your laptop or phone. Turn off notifications and block out your day into chunks. For example, choose three times during the day that are devoted to emails. Only check/send emails during those blocks. Make sure conference calls with your team are on the calendar as with any appointment. A routine will ensure top productivity and that workflow is smooth(ish)—and it helps when you get hit by a distraction. You’ll have a schedule to help you get back on task.
But, Be Flexible
Schedules are crucial, but flexibility is even more so. As is a change in perspective. Things will go wrong. Your cat will puke in the background of your call. Your child will toddle in during your Zoom conference (remember the BBC interview with Professor Robert Kelly?). Your day can get sidelined and not go as expected. But, keep your perspective loose and laugh about it—we are in strange times and a little grace and humor can go a long way.
It’s easy to fall down the rabbit hole and work all day without a break. But, your brain needs rest in order to be at its best. And your eyes need to focus on distances rather than your screen for a bit. Go for a walk around the block. Get outside and stretch. Chat with the neighbors from a safe distance. Physical distancing does not mean social distancing. Which leads to the final tip:
No Man is an Island
Working remotely can be isolating and lonely for many. Make sure to stay in contact with friends and co-workers. While we need to stay physically apart, there’s no reason to stay socially distant. Talk to others about your day. Watch Netflix movies with friends. Engage with others.
And I’ve neglected to discuss kids, but the same rules go—they need schedules, too! And socializing. Don’t shut yourself off from them completely during the workday. There are a number of resources out there for activities like obstacle courses, arts projects, virtual museum visits and so much more. Maybe they can even help with some of your work. But keep them in a routine as well, and engaged in both physical and relaxing activities. They might be picking up on your stress and feeling the anxiety you’re trying to hide. Family yoga, anyone?
Most importantly, stay safe and healthy out there!