Paula Fendley, Ed.D.
paula@paulafendley.com

COVID 19 has changed our lives immeasurably. Our homes have become workplaces and for some, classrooms. Many of us now juggle two jobs: After setting up workstations, we’ve had to tackle learning online platforms and scheduling the school day. To remain productive, we’ve had to adapt. Case in point, did you ever have so many Zoom meetings before, or any at all? 

Different personality types are likely handling the changes differently and those who are most adaptable may be faring better than those who resist change and rely on the structure an office job provides. On the other hand, those who dislike structure may not be as productive because of a lack of accountability and the lure of distractions in the home. However, in these uncertain times, there are a number of strategies you can use to bring some sense of routine and normalcy to your workday. 

Create your day in a way that increases productivity and enhances your health and wellbeing. Besides scheduling time for work consider the following: 

1. Morning rituals matter. In  Miracle Morning Millionaires-What the Wealthy Do Before 8 AM That Will Make You Rich, the authors suggest creating and engaging in regular morning rituals such as taking a moment of silence, reading an inspirational passage or journaling. These practices can help you be more proactive, productive and playful and even give you more energy. In fact, setting your intention in the morning can set the tone for the day and you will be ready for whatever comes your way.

2. Get dressed and do a little grooming. It’s ok if you have dark roots or your beard has grown out of control, but fixing up a bit could have an impact on your overall level of motivation and well-being. Psychologists believe that when a person puts on an article of clothing they tend to adopt the characteristics associated with the clothing. Of course, comfort is important, and many people have already adopted a “nice top/comfy bottom” philosophy. Each workday, I do my hair and make-up and wear a professional top with comfortable bottoms. Thank goodness I stay seated during Zoom meetings!

3. Schedule breaks for yourself and takes them! For your body’s sake get up and move around frequently and stand to work when possible. Set a timer or reminders on your phone so you don’t miss these much-needed respites.

4. Keep moving through the day and make time for exercise daily. Dance to your favorite tunes or work out to yoga, Pilates or cardio video. Vary your types of exercise, if you wish, but do something that is fun. You are more likely to continue if you enjoy the movement! For example, I sponsored a “dance party” for my family over Zoom and it was a blast. Be sure to record it so you can get a good laugh later!

5. Reward yourself after accomplishing tasks. Set out a chunk of time to work and then upon completion, take a break and do something that brings you joy. How about an in-home personal spa day? You can curate your own afternoon of relaxation and fun.

Create a pleasing workspace. 

Although it may be tempting to grab your laptop and work from your bed, you will find that productivity often increases when you are working from a consistent space. Make sure your space is free of clutter and minimizes distractions. Fill it with your favorite scents and sounds. I usually burn a candle or use aromatherapy oils, and I find that not only is it pleasing, but some scents, like sweet orange and lavender, actually increase my focus and lower anxiety. 

Many research studies have explored the benefits of Baroque music and suggest playing it softly in the background increases concentration and stimulate the brain. I also use a variety of playlists depending on the task. Fountains and white noise have also been shown to assist in focusing during work.

Be certain you have comfortable ergonomic furniture and appropriate lighting. I prefer a darker space so I use natural lighting and lamps where others may like a bright work area. This is your chance to personalize your space so have fun with it and make it uniquely yours!

Try some stress busters! 

1. Go outside if at all possible. One Harvard study suggests that mood disorders can be lifted by spending more time outdoors. If you can’t get outdoors, try calming nature sounds, as these sounds have been proven to lower blood pressure as well as levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. 

2. Guided visualizations, meditation, and other mindfulness techniques can also be extremely helpful at reducing stress and anxiety. Meditation apps like Headspace and Omvana offer free tracks and subscription packages for relaxation, sleep, and weight loss, to name just a few.

3. Dance like nobody is watching. Music is healing so get up and move to the groove! I use Verv when I walk every morning and the music mixes put a pep in my step!

4. Did you know blowing bubbles can reduce stress? Check out this article,  50 Calm-Down Ideas to Try With Kids of All Ages for many ways to de-stress and have fun.

With so many people working from home, it is more important than ever to stay motivated and focused. Although having a coach dramatically increases success, self-motivation is the ultimate goal. Get to know what works for you. Maybe setting goals or planning more makes your life run more smoothly. Perhaps, getting outdoors and listening to music increases your productivity. As you raise your awareness and gain clarity of what motivates you, new skills are added to your personal “toolbox” and can accelerate your growth and success.