In stressful, anxiety-filled times, sitting down to work can seem like the most exhausting and unproductive thing. Staying focused while kids are at home, news feeds are rampant and you’re still stressing about whether or not you washed your hands well after going to the grocery store is difficult, but thankfully there are ways you can use mindfulness to your advantage and learn to work smarter and increase productivity even when the conditions aren’t ideal.
Mindfulness at Work
Now that more people are working from home, the merits of mindfulness at work are becoming more and more relevant. As we’ve seen in previous posts, research in the last decade shows that mindfulness practices contribute to well-being at work and lead to happier, healthier and more productive employees. Because of this and the current state the world is in, more corporate leaders are jumping onboard the meditation train. Sharat Sharan, CEO, President & Co-Founder of ON24, a San Francisco-based marketing technology company, recognizes the necessity of meditation to stay calm in times of a global pandemic because personal health and mindset are passed down to your team: “After the great recession, I started meditating and now begin every day with 12 minutes of meditation. That routine has helped me stay mindful, pragmatic and put out positive energy. In the midst of a crisis, you need to personally embody the attitude that you want your team and your own business to demonstrate.”
Now more than ever, mindfulness at work is being put to the test of helping people maintain balance between kids running around and professional tasks. If you’re WFH, you might be struggling to keep that balance, whether you have kids or not!
So how can mindfulness help with your productivity at home?
In its simplest state, mindfulness is awareness- intentional awareness of what is happening in the present moment, right now. It involves bringing our full non-judgmental, compassionate attention to what we’re doing, how we’re feeling and what we’re thinking while we move through our daily schedule and routines.
With the lingering stress of the Coronavirus, so many people are struggling to be in the present moment. Instead of focusing on work, you get caught up ruminating and worrying about the past and future which hijacks your capacity to think and focus clearly on the professional tasks you need to get done and magnifies the issues you’re worrying about. In these instances, your mental health suffers and as a result, productivity goes out the window and you may be hard on yourself for not getting anything done at the end of the day- not a fun combination. However, by practicing mindfulness while working from home you can learn to navigate work with presence, clarity and self-compassion, avoiding burnout, increasing your productivity. You also learn when to close the laptop, mentally switch gears and be fully present in the moment- at dinner with your family, which is equally as important as being productive during working hours and can actually fuel your productivity.
Here are 10 ways to mindfully work smarter from home and increase productivity and work-life balance.
10 Mindful Tips to Help You Work Smarter from Home
1. Define your work space
Confining your work space to a specific area of the house can help you focus on work while there are different things going on in the house. If you don’t have a designated home office space, find an area with minimum traffic and only work there instead of replying to emails in front of the tv. By compartmentalizing work and leisure at home, you’ll have a higher chance of being productive.
2. Establish a Schedule and Stick to it
Give yourself a schedule that mimics your regular work schedule in the office and stick to it. Avoid sleeping in or lingering over a meal and treat your work space as if it’s your office across town, even though you might only be walking to a different room to get to it. Only go to this designated space when you need to complete a task and try to maintain the same hours you log at the office so you’re not constantly working at home.
3. Pace Yourself
Don’t forget to remind yourself to pace yourself- you don’t have to get everything on your to-do list done in one day. One of my favorite pandemic activities has been going to visit a group of turtles at a nearby pond in the mornings- they remind me to pace myself and slow down when I need to. Thanks turtle teachers.
4. Schedule Self-Care
When working at home, it’s easy to feel like you should constantly be working in order to be perceived as being productive but that goes against basic self-care (especially if you’re someone with a high proactivity score…) Remember to schedule time in your day to exercise, eat well and sleep. If you feel guilty about not constantly working, remember that pumping the brakes and taking time to rest and relax will give you the fuel to accomplish your goals.
5. Fight the Urge to Multitask
Studies show that multitasking isn’t the answer to getting more done, but instead that people who focus on one task at a time are calmer and more effective and productive. Fight the urge to multitask and be present with one task at a time.
6. Cultivate Self-Compassion
Right now, more than ever, some days are better than others. There are some days where my brain doesn’t want to work or write and instead I take a day to rest and recharge and I’m able to whip out the same project that was taking me hours the day before in half an hour the next day. Be compassionate with yourself on your low days, acknowledge what you need and encourage yourself with kind words like you would a child.
7. Say no & Set Boundaries.
Although you’re at home and it may feel like you have all the time in the world, you can’t commit to everything and sacrifice time to rest and relax. You also must set psychological boundaries that compartmentalize personal home tasks with work tasks so that you don’t get tempted to finish the laundry or organize your closet in the middle of a professional project. Instead, stick to your work schedule and only do work in that timeframe.
8. Take a Breather
Thinking back to the turtles, remind yourself to slow down throughout the day and schedule in breaks. Schedule time between appointments, take time to take a few deep breaths, eat a snack, go for a walk outside, look out your window, meditate or move around a bit.
9. Share the Load
You don’t have to do everything just because you’re doing everything in solitude at home. Ask for help when you need it and delegate tasks to both coworkers and family members.
10. Schedule Time for Family & Friends
Last, but certainly not least, don’t forget to schedule time for your family and friends. At the end of your workday, turn it off and be present with the people you care about. Spend the weekend doing something fun with them and integrate personal time into your day like going for a bike ride with your kid as often as you schedule work tasks.