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Welcome to Round Two of fighting for normalcy in the age of working from home! *Cue Rocky Theme* Today’s topic? The physical components.
Sweatpants on, you’ve got the mental game plan for a productive and structured work day… *Bell Dings* …but first you need a snack. Then just a quick peek out the window to stare at the neighbor’s cat. Oh yea, and watch that YouTube video again – *slaps knee* – man, that was hilarious. Also, your chair is so uncomfortable you end up on the floor, which you decide to vacuum. Which reminds you to add popcorn and chips to your grocery list. Maybe just one more little snack…and BOOM! K.Od! Suddenly it’s noon, and you’ve already lost the fight.
The variety of distractions while WFH is astounding. Without even noticing it, you’ve totally forgotten about a recurring meeting. I mean, who really knows what day it is anyway, right?
These moments of accidental Zen can be attributed to our shortened attention spans and the blurring line between our Work-selves and our Home-selves. Who could blame your Home-self from taking over when, well, you’re at home? Time to take on some intimidating new habits like organization and self-discipline. (Eww.)
So how do you cope and put your physical self more in balance?
Set the Mood
Start with a little spatial finessing. Making your workspace actually appealing can prevent you from unconsciously meandering away.
- Find a space that you like. Find the quiet area of the house with natural lighting or windows. Ideally this is away from the kitchen, the kids’ rooms, and the chaos.
- Assess your ergonomics. What is making you uncomfortable? Are you crouching over the coffee table? Is your laptop stacked on cereal boxes? Is your chair a Star Wars Lego set? Does your wrist ache at the end of the day?
- Now go out and get it. I can’t stress enough how essential ergonomic items are. Proper lumbar support, wrist pads, and standing desks can make a massive difference in your focus and long term-health. Unless you want your spine to be bent like a banana at 55-years young. (Who am I to judge? I love bananas.)
Detox the Space
Next is a Distraction Diet. Keep it simple! Eliminate the chaos you unknowingly avoid.
- Is your desk covered in knick-knacks? Ask yourself if you feel they add to your focus or inhibit it. Pens and pictures are one thing, but do you also have mini Jenga, a Rubik’s Cube, three notepads, five old coffee mugs, and a dog toy? Remove the clutter and streamline your focus.
- Ditch. The. Phone. Place it somewhere else in the room, turn it off, chuck it out the window for all I care. Keep it out of arm’s length and silent while you’re focusing. If you use your phone for work, enlist all settings you can to minimize non-work distractions. For example, Instagram has a timer in the app to prevent hours of needless scrolling.
- Repeat steps 1 & 2 for your laptop. No, not the throwing-it-out-the-window part (though tempting). The part about removing unnecessary clutter and creating boundaries for non-work distractions. This is progress!
Lunch ’N Breaks
Fewer decisions equals increased time actually being productive. Simplify everything, even your unpredictable eating habits.
- Plan your lunches, or spend 26 minutes being indecisive, then horking down a can of cold lentil soup before your next meeting. Choose your own adventure!
- Plan your snacks. Reserve a space at your desk for your daily snacks. You’ll be more likely to ration them carefully and spend less time walking off to get more.
- Take lunch away from your “office.” Go for a walk. Get away from your desk before you get sucked back in! Your brain needs the breathing room.
- Have a metaphorical toolbox. Things as simple as changing your headphones, music style, diffuser oils, the fruit in your water, your socks, or all of the above can boost focus in the second half of your day.
- Leave your laptop behind. Make sure you’re not letting your Work-Self take over your Home-Self. Leave your laptop in the “office.” Remember, balance!
Be at Your Best
A few easy tips for your physical health and presence when WFH.
- Work out. Dance, practice yoga, lift, stretch… do anything for your body to make up for sitting stagnant so many hours of the day. If you do nothing else, stretch your hamstrings, your eyes (look at far away, and non-screen things), and your neck daily.
- Take a lot of R&R. Do not underestimate the power of sleep and PTO. Your brain must be given the chance to de-clutter unnecessary details, file new things into your long-term memory, and reopen for creativity and absorption. Who are we kidding – you deserve it! Especially if you’re one of the working parents trying to homeschool and put in a productive workday, take your rest whenever you can get it.
- Zoom like a pro. Here is a quick checklist of all Zoom-essentials: good lighting, headphones, closed room, shut windows, make your bed. Have notes ready so you don’t risk getting up and exposing your boss to your Hello Kitty sweatpants. Close external apps to prevent them from pinging mid-presentation. Be mindful of looking like you’re daydreaming!
As obvious as some of these habits and rituals may be, committing successfully to them is a surprisingly big step. Changing your routine isn’t quick or easy, so go easy on yourself. The last thing you need to do is be your own nightmare co-worker, breathing down your own neck. Just try one little change every day or each week. Slowly and eventually, your fortitude of focus will be complete. Don’t worry, you’ll get there.