Life as we knew it has changed. The COVID-19 pandemic has created uncertainty in our work and family lives. With no clear end in sight, and with changes occurring daily, it can be difficult to adjust to this ‘new normal’.
Some people may find themselves in survival mode, gathering information and resources necessary to function. Others may be attempting to settle into their new routines. For some, this means trying to combat social isolation. For many, it means learning how to live (or re-live) with friends, family members, partners, or roommates, which is not always easy.
Life adjustments often come with a wide range of experiences and emotions.
MASTER YOUR PRODUCTIVITY
We need to train our brain to learn to work smarter rather than longer and keep the focus sharp. It appears that working in a series of bursts is the best way to keep yourself on track. Research also supports this method: rather than feeling like you have endless time, the sense of urgency switches your brain to be truly productive in the given time.
This is called “The Pomodoro Technique”. This popular time-management method can help you power through distractions, hyper-focus and get things done in short bursts, while taking frequent breaks to come up for air and relax. Best of all, it’s easy. If you have a busy job where you’re expected to produce, it’s a great way to get through your tasks.
Set a timer for 25-45-minute work intervals followed by 5-10-minute break, where you take your mind off the task by doing something relaxing or creative like fold origami. Knowing there is a break coming up, you’re more likely to stay focused and work with purpose.
TAKE A BREAK
Chaining yourself to a desk or scarfing down your lunch in your cubicle isn’t a recipe for success – it’s a recipe for disaster. Without taking adequate breaks from work, employee productivity, mental well-being and overall work performance begin to suffer. Taking breaks has been shown to be important in recovering from stress, which can, in turn, improve your performance. Recovering from work stress can restore energy and mental resources and decrease the development of fatigue, sleep disorders and cardiovascular disease.
Giving your brain time to rest and recharge – just as an athlete would allow their body to rest after a race or training session –will energize you for the next task ahead. At times when we feel stuck, we might be too ‘close’ to the problem.
A recent study has shown that thinking about abstract concepts or distant and large objects helps your brain see the bigger picture – so why not try some space travel right from your desk? Close your eyes and launch your mind into the unknown: think of the planets, stars and the vast intergalactic distances between them to reset your brain.
Take a walk and explore! Pay a lunchtime visit to a local gallery, stroll through the neighbourhood observing street art and urban design or just put headphones on to get lost in the music. Giving yourself the time to enjoy simple things and relax can actually restart your mind and creativity and your work will then be much more productive.
MAINTAIN YOUR NETWORK
A strong social network is one of the main conditions for our personal and professional success. Despite the social distances imposed by the new normal, human interactions hold huge power over our happiness and, therefore, creativity and productivity.
Catch up with a colleague in the office kitchen or set up a video call, give a compliment to a stranger at a café or ask your neighbour about their day. You never know when somebody’s insight, opinion or a smile can lead you onto the right track.
These past months have shown us that we don’t need to be in a specific location to fulfil our professional goals. However, to avoid “working from home” turning into “living in the office”, remember that work is something we do, not somewhere we go. That’s why staying flexible, setting your work hours and prioritising happiness might be the answer to the new – better – approach to our work.