Well what a week this has been. Being made to stay home and not leave the house is most busy people’s idea of heaven, however the reality is very different.
When you imagine staying home with nothing to do, you perhaps envision a chilled online yoga session or long dog walk followed by breakfast in the garden then maybe a couple of jobs around the house with some meal prep for the evening, calls to friends or family – all those things you never have time to do. Fast forward to reality and every day is like any other. Staying up later, constant eating or snacking, hours of Netflix bingeing, not getting dressed or showering... scrolling for hours on social media and just generally being very unproductive. You would very much like to do all the things you thought you would but just can’t find the motivation. Well, before your primitive mind hijacks you into a feast of negativity let’s have a think about why it’s good to feel focused and motivated.
Our brains like routine; no routine or structure equals uncertainty which activates our Amygdala which is the flight, fight freeze area of the brain. When this part of the brain is activated we lose intellectual control which means we no longer make decisions based on a proper assessment of a situation and we can lose our positivity. This heightens feelings of fear and danger, so we can become anxious, stressed, worried or at the other end of the scale very depressed.
When our Amygdala is activated our mind goes into negative overdrive and can ruminate about events from the past which cannot be changed or, equally, things that may or may not happen in the future. This scenario is increased at the moment with the pandemic threatening the health and finances of our family and friends. Anxiety and stress are rife!
So, what can we do?
It’s important to generate a routine, not just to feel a sense of achievement but for your mental health too.
Many of us are doing different things at home right now. Some are being home schooled, some of us are working from home some are furloughed and are waiting for a green light to start working again and I’m sure there are many other scenarios. Whatever your personal situation try to schedule a daily routine. Set your alarm for the morning so that you get out of bed the same time each ‘working day’. Try to mimic the morning routine as if you are heading out to work/school etc... shower, dress appropriately – pjs may appeal but they won’t help you focus or achieve that sharp, work mode brain. Again, it’s about clear barriers between work and home life.
Set your working hours.
Decide what they are going to be and stick with them! Make sure your hours are realistic to you. It’s not about how many hours you work a day but about optimising your brain potential. If you are a morning bird, then start early, if you are more productive later in the day then set your hours later and do your jobs/workout/socialising before you start. Planning in your lunch and breaks will give you something to look forward to and reward you for your working time. Be strict with the work hours you set as this will prevent you getting distracted or procrastinating and will also prevent your work and home life running into each other.
Create a defined working area
While laying on your bed with your laptop propped on your knees might seem like a good idea at first, it is not conducive to a productive working environment. Find a space in the house away from the tv or your bed as these are distracting and will make you feel lethargic. Hijack the dining table or use the dressing table in your bedroom – find somewhere that will be YOUR space. Fill it with work ‘stuff’: notepads, desktop calendar, small plant, motivational quotes or mementos. Make sure you have everything you need to hand so that you can complete your work without running around the house looking for things through the working day.
Make a Plan
Whether you have a wall planner, white board, black board or just an A4 sheet stuck to the wall – write a daily plan on there. Planning out your work time is a huge stress reliever and gives you structure and a sense of achievement. One of my favourite things to do is to pack up 15 minutes early at the end of the day and write a to do list for the next day. I can then get started with purpose and have a clear sense of what I am doing when I start the next day. My other favourite thing is to set a timer for each job/task/project I am working on - (I have set 2 hours to do this blog). This helps me focus and I find I am far more productive by the end of the day. If you are going to do this, it’s really important that you keep the set times realistic to maintain your sense of achievement.
Take a break
At the moment we are allowed out for an hour’s exercise each day. So, maybe you like to walk or run at lunchtime or do some yoga, whatever you do to relax, a break is the time for you to focus on you! So, move into another room or take some fresh air. When you take a break, your mind clears, and you return to your desk feeling refreshed and energised. Taking a break away from your workspace also ensures your work/home boundaries are not blurred.
Other people in the house, phones, social media can be huge distractions. Let your family members know that you are working and are available at break times and for emergencies only. Maybe plan for you all to take the same lunch break and meet in the kitchen to catch-up. Turn notifications off from your social media, the constant floating of notifications onto your locked screen is distracting or just turn your phone upside down so that you can’t see them.
When you recognise that you have done some good work, take a minute to reward yourself. Whether you make a nice latte/cappuccino or have an extra break or call a colleague for a virtual high five – do something appropriate that equals positive feedback, ensuring you feel motivated and accomplished.
It’s important to develop your good habits now as we are unsure how long we will have to maintain this new way of living. While it might be hard to develop this new pattern of behaviour called working from home, it’s good to know that once you’ve repeated this new routine enough times the neurons you fire up in your brain to encourage this new behaviour pattern, will become stronger and the new daily routine will require less effort.
Remember that everyone works differently, and it may take a little while for you to find your balance and working from home mojo. We're looking for persistence not perfection.
Stay safe and good luck!
Clinical Hypnotherapist at Havisham Hypnotherapy, BL6 4EN
Senior Lecturer, CPHT Leeds
M: 07580 041394