Up until eight months ago, people were optimistic about growth in 2020, be it business or personal.
But, the universe had other plans.
Once, an escape from workplace confrontations and tedious meetings, home is now the hub of all life's shenanigans as you work and generally spend most of your time there.
Your home is your personal space; it isn't a familiar environment for your brain to switch into work mode.
Are you feeling uncertain about job security and wondering if your work performance is optimal?
Maybe you're struggling to set boundaries between work and personal life and how to switch off from work.
The sad reality is, there are increasing reports of people still experiencing these anxieties and the mental health impact of COVID is described to be the "fourth wave."
If you're toying with motivation and how to prioritise your workload accordingly, you're not alone. From a productivity standpoint, this a challenging time.
I have an insightful exercise for you to help counteract the negativity circling the planet, hindering your ability to be your true self.
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You are not the voice of your mind, you are the one that hears it
When you first discovered that you were working from home, you probably felt a little excited.
Excited for sleep-ins, wearing your slippers to video-conferences, and eliminating a painful work commute. A holiday from the office.
Well, the honeymoon phase has indeed passed. Working from home is an ongoing reality for people still locked indoors and left questioning their mental health during their growing days in isolation.
Your mind can start to play tricks on you in a time like this, a constant little companion inside of us that never shuts up, it's called mental chatter.
Mental chatter runs rampant in your brain. Putting you down and prompting you to doubt yourself, destroying inspirational ideas like your next DIY project or a unique business model.
In the early stages of COVID, we propped ourselves up, telling others we're coping fine because naturally as humans, we crave happiness—a happy life, relationships and a job that gives us purpose.
But people lie about how they are doing all the time. According to a study done by Psychology Today, this is referred to as positivity bias. Positivity bias is when people believe they hold greater control over life's outcomes than they actually do.
This comes back to your "pal", mental chatter, which can be up to 70% negative, also known as negativity dominance.
Negativity dominance is a disconnect between how people respond when asked about how well they are doing, and how they really feel in their subconscious. Deep down, people are more self-critical and fearful than they let out to their peers.
The reality is, our emotions are magnified right now as we face these enormous life adjustments. It's okay to feel as though you're not experiencing peak productivity.
It isn't surprising that productivity has taken a dive this year. Data from Aternity found that in the US, there's been a 7.2% decline in productivity.
But, there are ways you can counter this decline.
Today's simple exercise is something I have consciously introduced into my routine and has brought sanity back into my days.
It's called HALT.
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Are you one of these?
The HALT method is simple. Ask yourself each morning if you are one or more of these distractions, hungry, angry, lonely or tired. If so, then you aren't setting yourself up for a productive day.
If you think about it, we've all experienced these distractions, battling with the attempt to get sh*t done with a growling stomach, or running on a lack of sleep.
So let's break down these distractions and discover how just one little change to your day can encourage you to feel as if you are making steady progress this week.
Are you hungry?
Have you ever made a poor lunch decision and spent the afternoon with brain fog and poor concentration?
The WHO reports that, * "Adequate nutrition can raise your productivity levels by 20%. You'll be better able to focus and accomplish tasks when you've eaten properly."*
The foods you eat determine what enters your bloodstream, impacting your health, therefore your productivity.
Foods are broken down into glucose (blood sugar), providing your body energy to accomplish physical tasks and keep you focused.
If you are hunting for ways to improve your productivity at home, consider improving your diet.
- Limit processed foods: Junk food, food deliveries and tacky frozen dinners have one thing in common (other than convenience), a temporary spike in blood sugar followed by a hard crash. Try batching your own meals on a Sunday afternoon for the week ahead.
- Eat energy-boosting foods: Berries, greens, nuts, fish, beef and whole grains can do wonders for increasing your energy levels and sustaining them throughout the day.
- Try intermittent fasting: Intermittent fasting isn't a diet, instead, a dieting pattern involving postponing breakfast, and consuming your daily food intake in a shorter window. It requires a little strategy and determination with an 8-hour feed window, followed by a 16 hour fast. A study suggests fasting can improve memory retention, concentration and productivity.
- Hydrate: A recent study found that drinking just 300ml of water can boost your attention by up to 25%. Tomorrow, grab your drink bottle, a pen and mark lines on your bottle for each hour of the day to help you stay on target.
- Keep healthy snacks on hand: While preparing this week's meals, why not make snacks like veggie sticks, pre-sliced fruit, nuts, or boiled eggs. Preparing your snacks encourages you to reach for one of these rather than a processed alternative.
Are you angry?
Anger is an emotion that can get us in trouble.
Someone cut you off in the car one morning, so you stewed on it all the way to the office.
Your boss has been flicking unrealistic deadlines, piling up your workload and leaving you to feel as if overtime is the only option.
When you're aggravated, your focus has been hijacked. Your mind enters fight-or-flight mode and becomes reactionary; hindering your ability to think clearly.
While it's natural (and healthy) to experience an emotion like anger, learning to manage your feelings in a constructive, professional way can help you channel your frustration into focus.
- * Don't fight it:* Sometimes you can't resist anger, and often we respond by blaming others or actively trying to calm ourselves. Anger is embedded into our evolutionary code; it's how we fend off danger or threats to ourselves. Discover some ways to release or disarm your anger. Tell yourself, * "What I am feeling is natural, but it doesn't serve me."* Take a walk, hit the gym or have DNM with a loved one. Accepting your reaction and avoiding fighting it will free you to focus on problem-solving.
- Focus on solutions: Don't dwell on what made you angry. It sucks time and energy which could be better spent on work. Think about what you learnt so you can move on productively, and ask yourself what you could do differently next time.
- Learn your trigger: Understanding what sparks anger is important for avoiding blow-ups. If a coworker is pushing your buttons, take a break and walk away from your desk. Give yourself the space to disrupt any boiling emotions. No one likes to be angry, so by identifying these triggers, you can stay the calm, collected person you are.
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Are you lonely?
Loneliness isn't easy to admit.
Wharton Professor Sigal Barsade said, " Loneliness is situational: it happens when an individual perceives that their social needs aren't being met in a particular environment."
Humans crave social contact, it helps us to cope with things like stress and significant life changes. Knowing that we are valued is an essential psychological factor in helping us to forget negative aspects and think positively about our environment.
Human contact isn't exactly easy right now, but there are some less conventional ways to achieve social interaction;
- Stop texting, start calling: Calling or video-calling your family and friends is better than a text where nonverbal cues can get lost. Taking the time to make a call shows you care about others and they're important to you.
- Send voice texts on social media: Similarly, Facebook and Instagram direct messages allow you to send a voice message. Whether it's a high school friend, you lost contact with or an Instagram friend you've never met. It's nice to open up your inbox and hear the voice of another person.
- Incorporate meaningful activities: Incorporating a meaningful activity into your day gives you a sense of purpose and identity. We want to feel like we belong and that our life has importance. Expand your learning with an online course, donate some food to a family in need or adopt a pet from your local shelter. Whatever it may be, make sure it is giving you a sense of purpose.
Are you tired?
Fatigue can affect your performance, impair memory, lower motivation and impact concentration. Fatigue is also related to mental health issues like depression, which can lead to a productivity decline.
We talked a lot about sleep issues and vivid dreams during isolation in a recent blog post.
The reality is, one night of good sleep isn't going to spin fatigue on its head. It requires fundamental changes to your lifestyle, like removing stressors or even taking a sick day to recoup.
Getting a good nights sleep is difficult with the negative vibes orbiting planet earth. But, there are easy and effective changes you can make to see positive results in your work habits.
- Remove distractions: When we're tired, our attention span decreases. It becomes harder to resist distractions. So, make your workspace as distraction-free as possible. Invest in some noise-cancelling earphones if you're working at home with the family, or try working in your local library for a day.
- Take a coffee nap: Many studies have shown that a simple 20-minute nap in the middle of the day can be very effective. But, an interesting study found that drinking coffee right before the nap was found to be most effective to increase performance levels. After a coffee, the caffeine level in our blood peaks 30 minutes after. Follow up with a 20-30 minute nap, and you will wake up for the caffeine to kick in along with the effects of sleep. Genius!
- Schedule breaks: Regular work breaks are essential to maintain your productivity. When you're feeling tired, your concentration span diminishes. Now, when I say breaks, I don't mean jump on Facebook for 5-10 minutes, I mean to step away from your computer. To help you take regular breaks, use the pomodoro technique. It allows you to work in 25-minute increments, with a 5-minute break after each. Our pomodoro app will even help you to automate it, give it a go here.
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We're surviving a pandemic, not a productivity contest
Unfortunately, there isn't enough room for us all on Space X's next shuttle out of here.
We are at a point where self-care should be on the top of everyone's list to give your body (and mind) time to rest, reset and reduce the symptoms of stress and anxiety.
Keep a journal of how you are feeling throughout the day. This may seem cheesy but, documenting your daily thoughts can encourage you to reflect and can result in personal growth or provide you with a positive outlook for tomorrow.
If you want to take pandemic productivity seriously, you need to get your priorities in order. Stay active, stay healthy. Reduce your screen time and bump up the quality time with friends and family in person (where possible) or over the phone. And most importantly, work smarter not harder by asking yourself the questions of the HALT method each morning.
Check-in with your friends and family but you should also check in with yourself too. You'll be surprised by the effects it has on your productivity.
Bookmark this article for later, and refer back to it on those mornings you can't seem to get your mood into gear.
And let us know in the comments, what has been your biggest struggle while working from home?