Many recent articles and blog posts seem to center around how to be productive while working remotely given the stay-at-home orders that have affected so many, and while that is important, your mental sanity is even more crucial to manage during this temporary new “normal." Without a healthy mind, being productive is simply not possible. Let’s face it, this is hard. Working remotely is new territory for many, and even if it’s not, when you add the fear and uncertainty that is prevalent given this pandemic, physical distancing, caring for children while attempting to work, and/or playing a new role as school teacher, rationing food and resources, along with all of the other variables and added stress based on your particular situation, it is enough to make you go a little mad. In an effort to manage all of this and remain mentally strong, and in turn, productive, here are a few things to keep in mind.
Make Virtual Human Interaction a Priority
While physical interaction isn’t possible, all of the amazing technology that we have today allows us to interact as if we are with one another physically. This interaction is key. Email, chat, texts are not enough. 93 percent of communication effectiveness is determined by non-verbal cues. When we aren’t actually seeing the individual on the other end, messages can be missed, or misinterpreted. Face-to-face interaction offers increased engagement and buy-in given the direct feedback that is possible, and because individuals aren’t able to hide behind their written words, accountability increases as well. Additionally, simply seeing an individual smile can have a dramatic impact. Each time you smile at a person, their brain coaxes them to return the favor and as a result it allows both of you to release feel-good chemicals in your brain, increasing your mood and overall happiness. Make it a point each day to replace some of your texts, emails and chats with video calls and meetings in order to reap these enormous benefits.
Practice Gratitude Every Single Day
It’s easy to get caught up in the stress and to complain given the circumstances and all of the sacrifices that need to be made each and every day, however it's important to remember that negative thinking defeats us; it dampens our enthusiasm and motivation and leads to indecision, procrastination and unhappiness. Gratitude on the other hand actually changes our brain and improves our mental health. This research notes that it releases us from unhealthy toxic emotions and points to the fact that so much of our time is spent pursuing things we don’t currently have but that gratitude reverses our priorities to help us appreciate everything we do have. Whether you physically write down, have a conversation with your family, friends or colleagues, or simply take time to think about and reflect upon what you are grateful for, making this a priority each day is a no-brainer.
Put Your Phone Down
As wonderful as technology is and as important as staying connected is, having your mobile phone at your fingertips every moment of the day can also have its disadvantages. Research has shown that Americans check their phones roughly 80 times a day, and given the current situation; the fears, confusion, isolation, boredom, etc., the suspicion is that this number will rise tremendously. This creates many opportunities to be interrupted and sucked into various content and conversations, many of which are not necessarily productive, inspiring or positive. Putting your phone down enables you to best remain focused on what matters, in addition to remaining positive. Constantly picking it up, scrolling through the same feeds only takes away from that. Attempt to devote specific time to catch up on news, your social media channels and the return of calls and texts. You will feel refreshed and much more in control.
Maintain a Routine
What is happening is not normal, so things are certainly going to be a little “off”, however maintaining some sort of routine is more important than ever. Do you normally get up and shower, get dressed and ready for your day? Great, do that! Do you normally wander into your kitchen and snack throughout the day when you are at work? Nope, OK, then don’t start that now. Sure, there is no need to get dressed into your best suit or put on a full face of makeup but if that’s when you feel your best, do that. There are many benefits to getting dressed as if you were headed in to the office including boosting your confidence, helping you stay focused and creating necessary boundaries; if you don’t get ready, and change out of your morning pajamas, when does work start and end? When these boundaries do not exist, work-life balance is compromised. While sticking to a rigid schedule is not feasible, especially during this time, having some normalcy in terms of a routine is important; routines reduce stress, cultivate healthy daily habits and contribute to better sleep; all important elements of remaining mentally healthy and productive.