Over the last months, the meaning of work has been turned upside down. The norms, expectations, and ideas of work culture are undergoing a massive shift – and the change is impacting everybody.
How is it impacting you?
If you’ve gone from managing members at an office to managing members at home – chances are your computer isn’t the only thing that’s come with you. Consciously or not, you’ve probably brought home a range of potentially harmful ideas about what work should look like. Let these ideas sit unexamined, and they can have a corrosive impact on not only your productivity but also your mental health.
To be truly productive at home, we’ve got to rethink what productivity means and understand how we can work in a healthy way. Here’s how:
1. Learn to Stop Working
Do you know when to ‘hang up your hat’ when you’re working at home?
If you’re like most who have transitioned to working from home, this can be extraordinarily difficult.
Working at the office, 9-5 hours gave us ready-made boundaries for ‘work’. Whether we had gotten a little or a lot done at the office, ‘quitting time’ gave us what we needed to psychologically transition from ‘work’ to ‘home’ mode.
When you’re working from home, ‘quitting time’ isn’t clear, and work time invades personal time. Things that would help you relax or have fun can suddenly inspire guilt as you feel you should be working.
When we can’t differentiate work time from personal time, all time suddenly feels like ‘work’ and mental health dissolves. With poor mental health, we’re incapable of being productive, leading to more guilt and a consistent sense of exhaustion.
This is why learning to stop working is such an important part of productivity. Rest and relaxation are required for productivity. Whether it be a personal ritual or simple time boundaries in your journal, finding ways to create and reinforce the boundaries between work and life cultivates the mental health needed to be truly productive.
2. Forget About Sprinting
Activity and productivity are not the same thing.
When we’re anxious – activity feels good. When the voice in our head tells us we’re not doing enough, we think that doing more will help silence it, and so we sprint every day. So long as we’ve always got our nose to the grindstone, we’re being productive, right?
Productivity requires work, but not all work is productive. When we think that sprinting all the time is the default mode of work, chances are most work isn’t productive. Frantically performing task after task keeps our minds off what’s stressing us, but doesn’t actually deal with it.
Productivity – especially when working from home – is a matter of pacing and organization.
Before you start working for the day, do you know exactly what you’re working on? Do you have a firm idea of what work – once completed today – will give you the feeling of a job well done? Without those things, a high-octane work routine might look productive, but would actually just be a matter of spinning your wheels. After exhausting yourself, you’d end up right where you were – stressed out and anxious.
At the start of every day, remind yourself that work is a marathon – not a sprint. Give yourself a realistic list of things to do that day, with plenty of room for error. Forget the nose-to-the-grindstone mentality, and approach your work with an appropriate pace. Consider blocking time as a technique to keep yourself on-task, and schedule plenty of breaks to reorient yourself.
3. Work on You
At work, we had water-cooler gossip, coffee runs, restaurants at lunch, and plenty of meetings to break up the daily drudgery of desk work.
These days runs to the fridge and yet another walk around the block just doesn’t seem to cut it. Breaks are an important part of staying productive, but finding activities that truly feel like fulfilling breaks is difficult.
This is why it’s so important to really think about what quality ‘you time’ means to you. Finding fulfilling activities to engage in while taking breaks is critical to coming back to work authentically rejuvenated.
Resist the urge to plop down on the couch and turn on Netflix when it’s time to take 5. Instead, consider how you can use breaks to:
Learn to Cook:
Cooking is a universally satisfying activity and a great way to stay healthy (and sane when stuck in the house). Pick a dish you’ve never made before, and spend your breaks preparing it. Take five minutes here to wash your veggies, ten minutes there to chop potatoes, and by lunchtime you’ll have an exciting, nutritious meal prepped and ready to cook!
Finding it difficult to be productive? Try leaving your workspace for a moment to get outside, stretch a bit, and do some light exercise. Take the bike out for a ride, do a few pushups, find a skipping rope – whatever you can do to get your heart rate up, even for a few moments, can have a significant impact on not only your state of mind but also your productivity when returning to work.
4. Be Compassionate
At the end of the workday, take a moment to imagine you’re your own boss and review how productive you’ve been that day.
Write down what your boss-self says about you that day. If the voice says you were productive, jot it down. If the voice says you were lazy, jot it down. Organized, messy, responsive, sluggish – whatever comes to mind, make notes!
After you’ve written a few thoughts, take a look at what you’ve got to say about yourself and ask:
Am I a nice boss, or a mean boss?
If you’re like most people, without even meaning to, your boss-self is not very friendly. This person expects near-robotic levels of efficiency and has little-to-no capacity for human compassion and understanding.
Now imagine that – instead of you – the things you wrote were actually about someone else that you dearly love and believe in. Perhaps your best friend, partner, or grandma. If this other person had your job, worked today exactly as you did, and gotten this evaluation, how would you feel about it?
If you feel like this evaluation was unfair – this is a good sign that you’re being unfair to yourself. If you can be called lazy, but won’t stand your friend/loved one being called the same, you’re not being compassionate to yourself, and are likely holding yourself to unreasonably high standards! Treat yourself as you would someone you love when evaluating your productivity, and you’ll find progress comes not from beating yourself up, but from authentically enjoying the product of your work!
More Productivity Tips
Want more insight into keeping productive while managing members remotely? Check our 10 tips and tricks to working remotely!