In my last installment “Thriving from Home During COVID-19” I discussed the impact of COVID-19 on productivity, as well as the fact that many of us fortunate enough to work from home are struggling to prioritize work and family commitments during this trying time. Paradoxically, this newfound abundance of perceived time is causing even higher levels of stress amongst home workers, as many feel that they must now accomplish even more in order to be productive. This ‘no excuses’ mentality, however, is causing more harm than good, which is why providing the right tools and systems to “win the day” is so vitally important. To this end, in building upon the foundations provided within my first installment, the morning is perhaps the most critical aspect of setting the stage for success.
Below are my top 5 tips for winning the morning and being productive while working at home.
Even though this post centers upon rituals and routines that will help you win the morning, it is important to remember that the evening before actually allows you to get a ‘head-start’ on the day to come. According to famed author, speaker, and entrepreneur, Jack Canfield, 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! Have you ever experienced that ‘eureka’ moment upon waking, taking a shower or going for a walk with a loved one? That’s your unconscious mind working for you in the background. 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 time to execute as opposed to planning!
Upon waking people’s first inclination is to check their phone and e-mails. DON’T! Although this appears to be ‘low hanging fruit’ for many, the truth is that nothing can so easily de-rail you as going down an Instagram scroll-hole or checking your e-mails first thing, only to potentially be met with a barrage of ‘fires’ to put out. Remember, productivity is all about reducing down your ‘to do’s’ to ONLY the most important and urgent items. E-mails often masquerade themselves as being both urgent and important, when, in fact, they are seldom important in the greater scheme of things. In this regard, taking on someone else’s problems first thing is a productivity killer! Instead, eliminate screen-time first thing and instead use this time upon waking, focus, meditate, or simply be present with your loved ones. Additionally, taking a few moments to practice gratefulness by journaling is is one of the most powerful things you can do to get in positive mind-frame.
Upon completing your morning routine of showering, eating breakfast, having your morning cup of coffee (if that’s your thing), get dressed in your work clothes. As appealing as it may be to work from the couch in your pajamas with Netflix on in the background, research shows that getting dressed professionally and feeling confident dramatically enhances productivity for those that traditionally work from home. Hence, if dressing business casual makes you feel smart and confident, do it! According to acclaimed authors Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz, what often separates elite performers from amateurs in both the sporting arena and the office is the ability to be fully engaged. Hence, just as athletes dress in their uniform in order to compete at the highest level, consider your work clothes your “uniform.” This will allow you to harness the power of full engagement.
Once you are dressed and feeling at your best, it’s time to “clock-in.” In this regard, clear a table or desk, or if possible, find a space that you can call your own in order to work. Set boundaries with your loved ones or roommates so that they know you are “now at work.” If you don’t have access to a spare room, still make every effort to mark-off a space that is your own ‘workspace.’ Headphones and music that will get you into a workflow can also help create mental space for those that may have to share a room. Finally, remove as much clutter from your surroundings and workspace as possible. Research shows that clutter actually diminishes attention and decision-making capabilities! Hence a clear space creates a clear mind while setting yourself up for the day.
Now that you’re ‘at work,’ it’s time to re-visit your list and the daily schedule you created the night before. Ask yourself: has anything changed? If so, update it! Your schedule is meant to serve as structure and scaffolding, not bound you! Hence if you planned to ‘be at work’ at 9:30 AM but you instead spent most of the morning helping out a family member, no problem! Simply pivot by moving things in your schedule by dragging and dropping them (for those that use digital calendars) or simply re-trace a new draft in your planner (for those that prefer paper and pencil). See what windows you still have available in your day and plan when you are going to do the things in your 3-5 task list. As mentioned in my last post, so long as you get your “One Thing” done, you will have the peace of mind knowing that you had the most impactful and productive day
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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.