Tips to Boost Remote Work Productivity
If you've recently transitioned to remote work in response to the global pandemic of #coronavirus, you've likely had to contemplate and make some adjustments to the way you approach, execute, and complete your work. Adjustment is part of being flexible, but it can be hard to do #remotework when you are juggling changes in your professional, social, and personal routines while facing uncertainty and concern about the health and wellbeing of you and your loved ones.
Tip #1: Write it Down!
Research shows that writing down goals and accompanying action items helps clarify what's going on in your brain, declutter your thoughts, and create a memory associated with setting the goal (which you can later use for rewards - see #7). I use this technique a lot with individual therapy clients to get them to reflect on their behaviors and associated actions, and it helps not only clarify what's going on in their mind, but also what is and what isn't working in their behavior patterns. Personally, I find that writing something down is more effective than entering it into a reminder app on my smartphone (and more gratifying when I physically check it off!). And there's research out there to suggest the same.
Tip #2: Block it Out
Use a purposeful schedule system such as a block-schedule that works for you. It has to WORK, or you won't use it for your work, and it has to make sense for your life needs and demands! Need to respond to emails first thing in the morning? Or can that wait until mid-day (or week)? These and similar questions can guide you on deciding which schedule system is right for you. Block scheduling works great for me since I need blocks of times for different tasks (individual therapy clients, note writing, creating content for workshops, running errands, etc.) that require different cognitive demands, such as creativity, meticulousness, energy, and so on. By figuring out what you need to accomplish and writing it down (Tip #1!), you'll then be able to plug in those tasks to a schedule system that works for you.
Tip #3: Dress For Success
It may have seemed really convenient to show up for that initial virtual meeting with your coworkers in sweatpants, but I would encourage you to consider dressing as you normally would if you were going to the office (and hey, if you typically sport sweatpants at your workplace than kuddos!).
When you dress for work you're signaling yourself and those around you (i.e. family members, virtual co-workers) that you are ready to work, and are at work. This helps your mind stay on track, as you're likely to be more mindful about the fact that you find yourself trying to multitask at 2PM and wash dishes between meetings if you're likely to get a grease stain splattered on your work jacket. Try something tiny like putting on your favorite hair or cosmetic product, or even full-on power suite - because not only will dressing for work remind you that you are at work, but dressing for success will also make you feel successful, and you're likely to get more done as a result.
Tip #4: Mark the Spot
You may not have a dedicated remote office, and that's totally fine. The dining room may serve as your tele-conference room, your kids' virtual pre-school station, and the place you (and whoever lives with you) eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Therefore, 'marking the spot' in some way, such as changing the color of the mat under your laptop, can signal you and your household members that you are at work while remotely working. It can help you stay on track while you're 'in the office', much like your messaging status serves as a signal to others as to whether you are available or not.
Tip #5: Work it Out, Walk it Out
Depending on where you are in the U.S. or world, the topic of exercising outside can be a hot button issue at the moment due to #socialdistancing practices. That aside, exercise is super important for overall physical and mental health, especially for older folks. There are plenty of videos online for working out at home which you can easily find. Making it part of your morning routine can help to further signal your mind and body that you are 'on your way' to work, and the benefits of exercise can kickstart your productivity by circulating blood (read: oxygen) and releasing endorphins and energy molecules throughout your body and brain.
Tip #6: Sign Off and Unplug
Struggling with transitioning back into home life once you get offline at the end of the workday? Consider the way you wind down and sign off. Are you unplugging, or going from work email straight to personal email checking? Give yourself a technological time-out, or even better, a total shutdown for the night. Ring a small bell (ok, you can use a ringtone...!) to remind yourself that it is now 'me time' or 'recreational time', 'errands time', or whatever else you have on your schedule for the night. Have an alarm that goes off at a certain recurrent time (based on your schedule) that signals you to walk away from the computer, and start your wind-down time. If you wish to use the computer, try signing off of your account and creating a different username. You can create a different background such as pictures of your loved ones and can even take it a step further by adjusting the brightness/contrast settings for your web browsing or entertainment needs. All of these serve to remind you that you are shifting your attention to a different type of task, which requires a different type of energy and frame of mind.
Tip #7: Treat Yourself
Setting small and meaningful goals can be are inherently rewarding, but it can be hard to stay motivated as you take the next step when you feel like you're climbing a mountain, especially when it comes to remote working. Psychological research recommends that you celebrate success by treating yourself once you've achieved a goal. This could be as simple as taking a 10 minute break (or walk - see tip # 5), or a larger splurge, such as tallying up the goals you've accomplished and working towards a meaningful reward, purchase, and/or life experience.
Tip #8: Get Help
If you've tried implementing the tips above and find that you're still struggling to manage the overwhelm and chaos of this recent #covid life transition, or if you're looking for more individual help with managing stress and productivity, you may want to consider reaching out and connecting to a behavioral health coach, therapist, or psychologist, depending on your needs. Better Health Therapy proudly offers behavioral coaching for individuals looking to increase their work productivity, individual psychotherapy for those with executive functioning challenges, and general support around stress, anxiety, and health and wellness issues. You can find out more about our offerings by clicking here.