Taking care of yourself first is the best thing you can do for yourself right now.
But when the world suddenly becomes virtual and you have no choice but to connect remotely to get work done, get your emotional support and social connection, and even order toilet paper and other needed supplies, it can feel like screens are all we have.
After four years running a virtual consulting business, I’ve found that creating a workspace environment that is your level of zen, finding non-screen activities to indulge in, and minimizing distractions are great ways to creating balance. Here are a few things that have worked for me (but as always experiment and see what works for you too):
Check Your Surroundings
Do you look at your desk and surrounding area and say, “Yes, I want to sit there.”?
If it doesn’t, create a space that does. For me, my workspace inspires me with beauty: plants, a sunny view, and a touch of minimalism and order that gets me into work mode. Plus a dual-screen monitor that makes me productive.
But if you’re suddenly thrown into virtual work mode and have no dedicated desk or work area, what can you do?
Just like you would at work, personalize where you’re working to make it the “workspace” — whether that be the kitchen table, the basement, or living room couch. Your mind has to artificially create boundaries and know that this place means work.
Seek a Creative Non-Screen Reset
Corona is challenging people to get creative on what they can and cannot do. And the list of activities that we can engage in is really small.
But there are still options out there — and for me, gardening and wood-working are hobbies I’ve developed to get me away from a screen and working with my hands.
Other activities include crotchet, running, meditating, assembling a puzzle, even coloring!
The point is to reset the mind’s patterning and allow the body an opportunity to relax. We get so locked in, especially seated, that our ability to focus and be productive diminishes over time, especially if you’re new to virtual work.
Minimize Digital Distractions
All the pings, emails, Slack messages, and everything in between can take you away from actually doing work.
I recommend that those new to work-from-home download three apps:
- Freedom (blocks distracting websites and apps for a small fee)
- StayFocused (a Chrome extension that is free)
- Be Focused (free for IOS, helps you accomplish tasks through the Pomodoro Technique)
When faced with any large task or series of tasks, the Pomodoro Technique breaks the work down into short, timed intervals (called “Pomodoros”) that are spaced out by short breaks. This trains your brain to focus for short periods and helps you stay on top of deadlines or constantly-refilling inboxes.
Each app creates a digital, distraction-free zone. And the last one, especially, is great for re-training your mind and keeping you focused on the work that matters.
As with any advice, find what works for you.
Your circumstances may be different from mine — I for one am not a parent and do not have to keep track of little kiddies running around while I Zoom call a client. If you are a parent, I’d be curious to hear from you and see what works for you.
Stay safe and sane out there!
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