The digital age that we’re in has made it both easier and harder to work from home. While many jobs can still be accomplished thanks to technology, these advancements also mean there are plenty distractions that might lure you into the land of procrastination.
Licensed professional counsellor Linda Pogo says everybody works in a different way, so there isn’t just one system everyone should follow.
“As a therapist, I work with everybody individually to see what are the blocks, what’s getting in the way, and what’s the motivation for wanting to work in the first place, because bringing that to the forefront is really important,” Pogo says. For some, income is the most important reason why they work, therefore, focusing on the task may not be as important as focusing on the outcome.
But while people may have different visions and goals, there are still some general tips that can help propel each person on their road to being more productive.
Routine, set, go!
This is a pretty obvious one, but if you’ve been procrastinating the thought of creating a routine for yourself, here is some encouragement to do so.
For people who get bored by repetitive tasks, I feel you. It’s hard. However, it’s important to cultivate habits and create a system that works for you. Routines can help do that by putting you in a specific mindset. Having routines mean being accountable and self-disciplined.
It can be difficult to cope with fear & anxiety, changing daily routines, and a general sense of uncertainty about #COVID19. Although people respond to stressful situations in different ways, taking steps can help you manage stress. Visit https://t.co/U4L8e9kivh for more info. pic.twitter.com/Wnosxx9n0L— NIH (@NIH) April 1, 2020
Establishing a morning routine like making your bed, washing your face and putting on your work clothes can help set a tone for your mood and day.
Through (work) time and (work) space
You probably know you shouldn't work from bed, but it’s definitely worth mentioning. Your bed is a place of rest, so associating it with work isn’t good for your sleep habits either. Having a space where you specifically designate for work will up your productivity for the same reason.
Aisha Sultan, a columnist and feature writer, recommends finding different areas in your house where you feel comfortable working. "I know I have different places in the house where I get different types of work done," Sultan says. "So, it doesn't have to be the same space all day. It's okay to compartmentalize where different parts of your work can be done in your house."
For example, Sultan may conduct interviews at the kitchen table but move to the living room to write. "It gives me a way to get to a different mode of thinking by physically moving to a different space," she says.
Many people may not have a home office, so looking at the logistics and operations of working from home is an important aspect of being productive.
Harnessing the power of mindfulness
For Pogo, mindfulness and self-awareness are especially important in order to have a healthy lifestyle. When you're being mindful and noticing your progress and productivity, Pogo says you may actually feel better in your body and mind.
Pogo uses a technique with her clients called the RAIN technique to help them settle down and recognize what's going on in their body. RAIN stands for recognition, allowing or accepting, inquiry and non-identification or nurturing.
“So much of the flailing activity is trying to avoid being present,” Pogo says about allowing your body to be in the moment. When you let yourself accept what you are feeling instead of adding extra layers like 'I'm so stressed,' it can help your body settle down.
Pogo says the body has very here-and-now needs that are "reality based and not fear based," such as needing to breathe, needing to pause, needing water or just needing space. This is inquiry: asking your body what it needs.
Non-identification means stepping outside of yourself and giving yourself what you need. “We can have our own back, we can hold our own hand, we can develop an inner dialogue that is soothing and calming and compassionate, rather than fear based and catastrophizing and fear-mongering,” Pogo says.
The 'N' can also stand for nurturing, which means whether you are giving your body what it needs.
Sultan also uses some techniques to help her stay grounded. "I've just felt really irritable, angry, scared, anxious ... every terrible feeling is compounded," she says. "And I think it's okay to go through that a little bit and to allow yourself that, and then re-focusing on breathing, mindfulness techniques and all the other things you have to do." Sultan recommends the 4-4-8 breathing and scheduling 15-minute breaks from all technology so you don't have to feel like you're "constantly drowning."
Many other breathing techniques can help you destress too.
Let’s get physical
Staying active is a crucial component to maintaining your health and keeping you productive. According to the CDC, reduced short-term feelings of anxiety is an immediate benefit of physical activity. Regular physical activity can help you upkeep thinking, learning and judgement skills as you age while reducing your risk of depression and anxiety.
Keeping fit at home can be a challenge, but it’s definitely far from impossible. Many exercises can be done at home, such as planks and squats among several other exercises. Simply standing up after a long work session can help you stay physically active, too.
Staying on the same wavelength
Communication is a critical skill especially during this time. Many, like Sultan, have to share their workspace with their children and family members. While Sultan thinks identifying your goals is important, it's also necessary to share that information with the other people in your space.
"I have to tell my kids, 'By the way, I have this deadline today. I have this interview today,' and you're not used to doing that; that kind of communication becomes so much more important. Like, 'I need you to take care of dinner tonight' because I have XYZ to do," Sultan says.
She also says that it's especially crucial to communicate with your children or those living with you when you're giving them new responsibilities, including discussions on what your expectations are. Beside communicating with those in your physical space, it's also good to talk to those outside of it.
"I do think that this Zoom socializing is really important to work into your schedule at least once a week," Sultan says, giving an example of a Zoom date with the people you want to see. "When you go into crisis and stress, you need support; you don't want to feel isolated when you're socially distancing."
The resource of resourcefulness
There are plenty of resources out there right now that can help you stay on top of all your responsibilities, whether you're an office worker, a student, a parent or anything else. MU has pages where students can refer to in order to stay motivated and disciplined. There are numbers and emails you can contact for student, instructor and staff support too.
Additional resources about COVID-19 and specific assets that can help you in your work can all be easily found via Googling (or any other search engine) or by asking colleagues and friends. Don't be afraid to reach out.
Survival is key
Beyond trying to be productive during this time, simply staying afloat during this time is vital.
"Right now, the bar is set at survival," Sultan says. "Being healthy and alive and keeping the people around you healthy and alive ... that's where the bar is."
Before you jump into your work and responsibilities, make sure your body is cared for. Make sure you're hydrated, well-rested, supported and nurtured in order for you to be successfully and consistently productive.