26 Apr Thriving from Home During COVID-19 Quarantine: Setting Boundaries and Work-Life Balance
In my second instalment of my “Thriving from Home During COVID-19” series, I discussed my top five tips for a productive morning routine. As stated throughout, the global effects of COVID-19 have not only challenged our healthcare system and altered our newfound sense of normalcy but likewise altered our preconceived notions of productivity, prioritization, and high-performance. Simply put, we appear to have more free time than ever to get our work done and be equally supportive of our loved ones, yet paradoxically many struggle to cope, often succumbing to the conscious guilt of an emerging ‘‘no excuses’ mentality.
As a result, productivity appears to be suffering for many and in an effort to play catch-up, quality time with loved ones often suffers, leaving many professionals feeling depleted and anxious. As a result, pressure and guilt continue to build daily, leaving many exhausted and unfulfilled as they fail to set boundaries and achieve work-life balance
However, there are ways to regain control! Whereas productivity has been painted up to this point as a combination of reducing to-do lists to the most impactful 3-5 tasks for the day, as well as creating winning morning routines that provide the utmost focus and clarity, setting healthy boundaries via an effective evening routine often provides the final and perhaps most important step in thriving from home during the pandemic. As a result, here are my top four tips to help create the perfect evening routine, as well as set healthy boundaries so that you too can regain a sense of control and fulfilment:
Have a Set Time When You Clock-Out
It sounds so simple, but it is important to never confuse ‘simple,’ with ‘easy.’ Just as the morning is won by rituals and routines, it is imperative that ‘you keep the main thing, the main thing,’ as stated by the late/great productivity expert Steve Covey. Hence, the same principles of productivity that guide you and set you up for success in the morning need to be harnessed and replicated in the evening in order to maximize effectiveness. The easiest way to do this is to have a set time when you finish your workday, just as you have a set time when you start your workday from home. This time needs to be consistent with each workday as well as fully ritualized. To illustrate, if you choose 5:30 PM as the end of your workday, once the clock strikes, power down all your electronics. I don’t mean sleep mode, but rather shut everything down! One of my favorite apps to help with this is ‘Freedom’ which likewise allows you to block a multitude of apps, websites, and e-mail browsers at self-selected times. In making things harder and much less obvious it becomes that much easier to inadvertently extend your workday! Finally, in the case of an emergency instruct your work colleagues to call you. Phones still work great, and you’ll know if the phone rings that it is indeed either urgent or important. Everything else can wait until tomorrow!
Create & Say Out-Loud a “Closing Day” Mantra
Although some might consider this all-important step a bit hokey, quietly telling yourself a mantra will help focus your mind on the most important things to come: spending time with your loved ones and/or de-stressing for the evening. If you’ve ever watched professional athletes like Roger Federer about to serve, or Michael Jordan take a free-throw in his heyday, you would often see these athletes speaking to themselves under their breath. What typically sets elite competitors these apart from their less successful counterparts is once again the quality of their routines. Hence every spoken mantra leads to an automatic, highly rehearsed response of set thoughts, patterns, and behaviours associated with success. By having a mantra that you speak to yourself, you too can harness the power of ritual, leading to calm and gratitude. Not sure where to start? Simply state “I am done for the day and I know I gave my best,” and modify accordingly!
Invest in a Pair of Blue-Blocking Glasses & Have A Screen Curfew
Even if your computer is off for the evening, many do like to wind down on the couch with a loved one and watch an episode of their favorite show. However, many devices including laptops and televisions emit high levels of ‘blue light.’ Although blue light isn’t inherently bad for you, countless research studies show that exposure to this spectrum of light is highly stimulating, which can prove problematic for many when it comes to healthy sleep hygiene. Specifically, blue light interferes with the human body’s circadian rhythm, interrupting both the quality and quantity of sleep. The solution is to invest in a pair of blue-blocking glasses which can block blue light. As a result, if you insist on using screens you can at least use them without interfering with your sleep quality. Finally, institute a hard ‘screen curfew’ where you make it a point to turn off all screens, including phones, laptops, and televisions. This nightly ‘digital detox’ will go a long way toward promoting, healthy, restful sleep which is a foundation of health and productivity.
Write your 3-5 Tasks for Tomorrow and Journal
As stated in my most recent forum post, it is important to remember that prioritizing the next day the evening before actually allows you to get a ‘head-start’ for tomorrow. By creating a list of your top priorities the night before, your subconscious mind actually begins working on them and solving them while your sleep! By following my earlier advice of performing a weekly time-audit and picking 3-5 things to focus upon the next day, you give yourself an all-important ‘head start’ so that you can get right to work in the morning, as opposed to wasting valuable time figuring out what to do. Given that decision-making ability and mental energy are at their highest in the morning, instead, use this evening downtime to plan so that tomorrow you can execute first thing! Finally, journaling before winding down for the evening provides you with the ideal platform to show gratitude. One product that streamlines this process is the ‘five-minute journal’ which helps make journaling habitual. However, in also flipping this concept on its head, another useful journaling tool is to actually write down the things that are bothering you. No matter how big or small and petty, committing these things to paper takes them out of your subconscious mind. This allows you to ‘mentally de-frag,’ so that once more you can awake with a positive, productive mindset.
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Read more: Boston based Holistic Nutritionist Jennifer Hanway shares her top tips for a healthy morning routine for COVID-19 quarantine.