Yes, it’s another article about coping with COVID-19. We have all learned a few things about ourselves in the last several months, so I thought I’d share some insights that might make working from home, work a little easier.
While we may have gotten used to working from home (WFH), have any of us really mastered it? The challenges are well documented. According to Vault, a career advice firm, the top six challenges of working from home are as follows:
- Staying organized: When working and living spaces collide, it’s easy to get disorganized
- Managing your time: Making a schedule and sticking to it
- Remembering to take regular breaks: You might forget to take them because you’re at home, working in your sweatpants
- Switching off: The blurred line of when work begins and ends
- Collaborating: As in, it’s difficult to do when you can’t meet with your coworkers in-person
- Socially interacting: Actually, the lack of it
While in-person collaboration and lack of social interaction may be what I miss most about going to the office, I’d like to concentrate on managing your time and staying motivated.
Work Time vs. Your Time
Let’s be honest, working in our sweatpants was a pretty easy adjustment. Holding ourselves accountable for how we use our time is not as easy. The reality is, when we are at the office, it’s easier to stay on task because, presumably, our co-workers are all trying to do it too. The ability to roll out of bed five minutes before the workday starts may be very enticing, but it’s actually a terrible way to jump-start your brain.
During normal times (remember those?) my commute was about 40 minutes to work and 30 minutes home. So, with no commute I get an extra 70 minutes added to my day! What do you do with your commute time? Maybe you do what most people do, sleep later. Or maybe you are a model employee and you choose to start your workday earlier.
Take a Walk
Here’s an idea I’ve found to be very beneficial. I take that 30 or 40-minute morning commute time for myself. I walk a couple of miles every morning, and on days it’s just too hot, I read interesting articles or books. The Mayo Clinic says daily, brisk walks can improve your health in various ways including:
- Prevent or manage various conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes
- Strengthen your bones and muscles
- Improve your mood
That last one is very crucial to my wife, who now has to put up with me 24-7. The important thing is to take that time for yourself and use it to improve your body and brain.
Read a Book
If you want to concentrate on improving the muscle that sits on your shoulders, realsimple.com claims there is scientifically proven benefits of reading an old-fashioned, printed book. Just like a brisk walk exercises your body, reading regularly gives your brain a workout, and improves memory function. Other reasons for daily reading include:
- Increases empathy
- Builds vocabulary
- Prevents cognitive decline
- Aids sleep
- Alleviates depression
- Lengthens lifespan
Plus, the simple practice of reading actually has a calming effect. How much? A Sussex University study showed that reading may reduce stress by as much as 68%. Starting the day with less stress sounds like a good idea to me.
So, take your old commute time and give it to yourself. It’s an unexpected gift. Don’t give it to your pillow or even your job. Your boss will appreciate a less stressed, better rested, healthier and therefore more productive employee.
For many, working from home can be very comfortable and desirable. According to a recent survey, nearly half of the employees now working remotely want to continue working from home. Initial studies about productivity are very positive, but some economists believe that employees have been motivated the last five months purely out of fear of losing their job. While that is a pragmatic attitude, it hardly defines a great work culture.
How do we stay motivated to tackle the day-to-day drudgery with the same enthusiasm we have for the parts of our job we love? While our bosses will do their best to keep us on task through email, Slack, and Zoom, it’s up to us to stay self-motivated, and more importantly, self-disciplined.
One resource for self-motivation and discipline comes from Retired Navy Seal, motivational corporate speaker, and all-around badass, Jocko Willink. He has some strong opinions on how to keep the inner fire burning. In his book, Extreme Ownership How U.S. Navy Seals Lead and Win, Willink outlines the stern, but practical advice you’d expect from a gritty, self-disciplined war hero.
Here are a few samples of his tough love:
- Overcoming Procrastination: “Stop thinking about it. Stop Dreaming about it. Stop researching every aspect of it… Start doing it. Take that first step and make It happen. GET AFTER IT.”
- The Person You Can Control: “The only person you can control is you. So focus on making yourself who you want to be: Faster. Stronger. Smarter. More humble. Less ego.”
- The Way of Discipline: “THERE IS NO EASY WAY. There is only hard work, late nights, early mornings, practice, rehearsal, repetition, study, sweat, blood, toil, frustration, and discipline. DISCIPLINE.”
(Extreme Ownership How U.S. Navy Seals Lead and Win is required reading at Zion & Zion.)
Spot Your “Frog”
If that doesn’t jump start your inner type-A persona, listen to the advice of the great American author, Mark Twain. He once said, “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”
The act of “eating the frog” alludes to taking care of the least desirable chore first. Once that task is done, you’ll have momentum and a sense of accomplishment and the rest of the day will be easier. Try creating a daily to-do list. You’ll spot your “frogs” right away. So, fill out your expense forms, time sheets, and TPS reports first thing, and you’ll find the remainder of your day filled with more agreeable tasks.
The reality is that working from home (WFH) isn’t all comfy sweatpants and unlimited access to Nutella sandwiches. Sure, our pets get to see us all the time, but working remotely demands a high level of productivity, self-discipline, and maturity. It’s “on you” like never before. So feed your inner resolve with some of these essential tips.
Most of all, take care of yourself.