Working from home is a lot like getting in shape. It sounds awesome at first, but once you get started, it becomes a little frustrating, very uncomfortable and increasingly hard to stay motivated. So, if you're like me, you've struggled to adjust to the work from home life. So here are some tips for how to stay motivated and focused. Plus a few for how to step away and keep a healthy work/ life balance. I hope you find these helpful!
1. How to Build Good Habits
- James Clear
Working from home is an opportunity to create some new habits for yourself. While the habits may only encapsulate minor changes, such as sitting up straighter, reducing snacking between meals, or switching to tea instead of coffee, it comes with the extra challenge of separating your work cues from your relaxation cues.
Building habits gets just a little bit easier if you understand the scientific process behind how they form (I highly recommend reading The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.) The first step in understanding how a habit is formed is to try and identify the 'cue.' Cues are a visual or physical trigger that initiate a habit. For example, if you want to go for a run in the morning, placing running shoes by your bedroom door every night would serve as a visual cue for when you wake up. The next step is to choose your desired action; the thing you want to build into a habit. Third, plan a reward for yourself; this triggers a release of endorphins, which is important for teaching your mind and body that this action results in some sort of payoff. It could be a some Netflix time at the end of a good run, or a piece of candy every time you finish that daily to-do list. The final step is to practice consistency. It doesn’t happen overnight! Failing a few times along the way is expected; tweak your cues and rotate rewards until you find the best routine for you!
2. Keep Regular Business Hours
Get up at the same time every day, perhaps even consider setting an alarm on the weekend. Establishing a set schedule of productivity and routine creates expectations and a sense of normalcy, while consistently getting a strong start in the morning helps maintain energy throughout the day. Our normal routine involves getting out of the house; going to work, the store, the gym. Being confined to our homes every day is a shock to this sense of pattern, to our sense of expectations.
To that end, don't forget to schedule a set time for when you're signing off for the day as well! If you would typically leave the office around 5/5:30, then try to stick as close to that schedule as possible. Let go of that project and come back to it tomorrow. It's important not to burn out, but it's also important to protect your sense of routine. That goes for communication with team members as well. In a world where home life and work life are now intertwined, make sure to check the time before you reach out to a colleague about a work question. Sometimes it can wait until tomorrow.
3. Don't Work in Bed
Again, routine. When you wake up, get out of your pajamas. Take a shower. Put on some nice clothes. Trim your beard or fix your hair. Sticking to consistent personal grooming habits and establishing expectations for how you prepare for work can not only help maintain energy levels, especially first thing in the morning, but strengthen our sense of routine as well. Not to mention, you look more professional when you're well groomed.
Your bed is where you sleep; and it should stay that way. Studies show that working from bed and engaging with screens not only leads to a decrease in the amount of quality REM sleep you receive, but also in the amount of melatonin your body releases at bed time. Lack of sleep inevitably leads to lack of productivity. Add in a lack of routine and before you know you're dozing off during the project proposal and having trouble falling asleep that night.
4. Set up a Station to Work from Home
One of the best ways to maintain routine while also ensuring you're not working from bed is to have a designated place that you can check into when 'office hours' start and check out of when they end. Having this area will help you maintain the delicate work/ life balance we currently find ourselves grappling with while also ensuring you still have a space within your home for relaxation. When setting up the ideal home work station, it's important to take a few factors into account.
- Maximizing the amount of external light you get throughout the day helps maintain energy levels, while working in well-lit spaces helps contribute to productivity
- If you're like me, your loading times and efficiency depend on how close you are to an internet source. If you're by yourself, consider setting up a station closer to the WiFi. If you live with other people, especially those that are also working from home or otherwise using the internet to stream something, WiFi speed can drop substantially. Setting up a personal hotspot and plugging your phone into the wall can help with this.
- Choosing an area of your home that can be considered the most quiet is ideal. Minimizing the distraction of external noise assists in remaining focused. While separating from those you live with while working helps to maintain that work life balance we've been harping on!
For more information on creating the ideal workstation, checkout the Mayo Clinic's guide to an ergonomic workstation here.
5. Turn on Video during your Virtual Meetings
We've all seen it. The person in the Google Meet or Zoom Conference that only has their audio turned on- a little black or grey avatar appearing where their face would be. Well we're here to say 'no more blank avatars!'
Studies show that not only does seeing human faces create a reaction in the brain indicative of socialization, but it maintains office chemistry. It's important to have healthy communication, especially with your coworkers, and stimulating both the visual and auditory senses increases the efficiency of communication- it allows you to pick up on important social cues, such as body posture, facial expressions, and even interest level. It will also force you to maintain those daily grooming habits we talked about!
There’s lots of free or inexpensive solutions for this - Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype, etc.
SIDE NOTE: Also keep in mind that you ARE on camera and people can see you. Don't be a Jennifer.
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