Many of us have been working from home for a year now, and there’s still no clear end in sight. There have been difficulties, and we’ve found our way through them. But a year into lockdown, how can we maintain our productivity and positivity, to come out the other side of this as well as we went into it?
Upgrade your space
While this time last year might have been chaotic, with many thinking about temporary and short-term measures to maintain productivity, it seems now that we should look at making more permanent changes to adapt to our new ways of living and working. For many, having kids go back to school will be a big relief, but how do we adjust?
If you haven’t already, designate yourself a specific workspace, and make sure it’s fitted with more professional and long-lasting equipment and accessories. Maybe even invest in some attractive dividers to create a clear distinction between your home and office space. Home-working might be around for a lot longer yet, so put some real thought into it, or ask around to see how other people have done this.
In addition to having the right equipment like good lighting and a large computer monitor (or two!), the ergonomics of the workspace is critical. If possible, get hold of a professional office chair – hours a day on a dining chair won’t cut it in the long term. The more comfortable you are, the more productive you will be.
Manage your energy
The ability to manage your energy is crucial for maximum productivity. We all have different internal rhythms: some of us are night owls, while others are early birds. If you’re more focused early in the morning, schedule your major projects to align with that timeframe. One of the benefits of working from home is added flexibility, so think about what you can control and arrange your activities to take advantage of natural high and low energy times.
Set healthy boundaries
Recent research from Microsoft found that employees have been working an average of four more hours a week during lockdown.
To maintain a healthy work-life balance, create a schedule (including breaks) and end your workday at a specific time. Turn your computer off and disable work notifications on your phone so you can focus on personal time. You might even consider including your work hours in your email signature so clients and colleagues know when it’s appropriate to contact you. Also, make sure to enforce your new boundaries. Because if you don’t do it, no one else will.
Ultimately, it’s important to create a time management structure that works for the whole family. The more you focus on harnessing your time and energy now, the more likely you’ll emerge from this crisis with your relationships and happiness intact.
Maintaining a positive outlook
Positive thinking can be seen as quite wishy-washy and not the most applicable skill to professional life. It isn’t magic and it won’t make all of your problems disappear, but it will make each day seem more manageable and help you approach challenges in a more positive and productive way.
Focus on the good things
Challenging situations and obstacles are a part of life. When you’re faced with one, focus on the good things, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant they seem. If you look for it, you can always find the proverbial silver lining in every cloud — even if it’s not immediately obvious. For example, if someone cancels plans, focus on how it frees up time for you to catch up on a TV show or other activity you enjoy.
Practicing gratitude has been shown to reduce stress, improve self-esteem, and foster resilience even in very difficult times. Think of people, moments, or things that bring you some kind of comfort or happiness and try to express your gratitude at least once a day. This can be thanking a co-worker for helping with a project, a loved one for washing the dishes, or your dog for the unconditional love they give you. Even keeping a private journal of the little things you’re thankful for can make a big difference.
Spend time with positive people
Negativity and positivity have been shown to be contagious. Have you noticed how someone in a bad mood can bring down almost everyone in a room? A positive person has the opposite effect on others. Being around positive people has been shown to improve self-esteem and increase your chances of reaching goals. Get in touch with or look for those people who will lift you up and help you see the bright side.
Identify your areas of negativity
Take a good look at the different areas of your life and identify where you tend to be the most negative. Not sure? Ask a trusted friend or colleague. Chances are, they’ll be able to offer some insight. A co-worker might notice that you tend to be negative in team meetings. Your spouse may notice that you get especially negative while driving. Tackle one area at a time, and look for opportunity to turn each area into a positive.
Start every day on a positive note
Create a ritual by starting each day with something uplifting and positive. Either:
- Tell yourself that it’s going to be a great day, or some other positive affirmation or mantra.
- Listen to a happy and positive song or playlist.
- Share some positivity by giving a compliment or doing something nice for someone.
Maintaining positivity during dark times
Trying to be positive when you’re grieving or experiencing other serious distress can seem impossible. During these times, it’s important to take the pressure off of yourself to find a way through. Channel that energy into getting support from others. Be aware of what you need from another person, and think about what you would say if they came to you with a similar burden.
Positive thinking isn’t about burying every negative thought or emotion you have or avoiding difficult feelings. The lowest points in our lives are often the ones that motivate us to move on and make positive changes.
These dark days won’t last forever, and as the summer beckons, so does hope for a happier and healthier future.