Today, the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, ordered people to “go home and stay home.” In these surreal covid-19 times, you may be joining millions of people around the world who are now working or studying from their homes. Scouring recent articles on the subject, here are some of the best tips for well-being and productivity from your newly created home office.
#1 Create a work space where you can settle down and focus.. Ideally it is a quiet place where you can think clearly and focus on your tasks. If this is not a possibility in your world, find a corner where you can set up your computer and use head phones with relaxing music to block out other distractions.
#2 Stick to Morning Routines. Keep the same times as when you were going to work. Set the alarm, shower, have a good breakfast and get dressed. You don’t need to dress up as if you were going to the office, but street clothes give the message that you are serious about work (as opposed to lounging). For zoom or ms team meetings, you need to at least be dressed from the waist up!
#3 Write task lists – both long term and short term. I personally like to hand write my lists using the bullet journalling guidelines as I find that there is something physically compelling about writing things down and then seeing the items that are completed. However, there are also many on-line organizational tools.
Break down big goals into small task units. Crossing off things that are completed gives a sense of accomplishment and having your list always in front of you is an important way to bring your wandering mind back to the work at hand.
According to neuroscientists, a bullet journal helps you externalize thoughts. Put simply, this frees up mental space so you can think more clearly and concentrate better. You don’t have to waste valuable energy remembering everything.
Writing by hand engages multiple senses — visual, kinesthetic, and tactical — which helps commit tasks to memory. It also signals to your brain that your goals are important, making you more likely to follow through.–Bullet Journal for Beginners
#4 Schedule your day with 90 minute work blocks and 20 minute breaks. Productivity gurus say that our brain can focus best for 25-30 minutes. For more information on the neuro-science of time management check-out the pomodoro method. To fully engage your brain you need to put away your phone and discipline yourself not to look at e-mails or social media for 25 minute blocks of time. During five minute breaks using a timer! you can do some of the small tasks that need doing, but when the five minutes are up engage immediately with your work again. After three pomodoros or 90 minutes take a longer break.
#4 Schedule time for connecting with others. When you have a break – talk to someone or play with your kids or cat. Call your Mom or chat with a friend. This is the equivalent of coffee breaks at work where your brain gets a chance to rest and meet its needs for human connection. Through these times where we are shut away from our support systems, we need to find creative ways to care for each other.
#5 Schedule time to move your body. Somewhere in the day, find a few minutes to stretch, dance excercise or go for a walk in nature. Our minds work better and stress is reduced when we get some cardiovascular excersise that helps oxygenate the brain.
#6 Practice Gratitude. At the end of every day write down three things you are grateful for. It could be the taste of a piece of chocolate, or your child’s smile or the light on the mountains. We re-wire our brains when we focus on the things that we appreciate. It is not easy in these worrying times, but there are always slivers of beauty and kindness. Researchers have found that gratitude is a powerful antidote to fear.
#7 Forgive yourself if you get off track. You are learning new habits in difficult times. It is hard not to be obsessed with the news right now, but take media breaks to breathe, create healthy habits and each day is a new chance to figure out what works best for you!