Lockdown 2.0: Your Guide to Readjust to the Not So New Normal
As of August 2020, we find ourselves in stage 4 lockdown in Melbourne, Victoria, due to COVID-19, diving head-on into the second wave of the global pandemic. Just like many other countries experiencing the same dilemma, while we were about to readjust to some of the pre-COVID normality, we find ourselves back to #WFH life!
By the way, #WFH = Work-From-Home. Just look it up on Instagram if in doubt, but caution to be sucked into the rabbit hole of home office inspiration!
We get it. As a 100% remotely operated company since 2008, way before remote work was even acceptable in our corporate culture (client: what do you mean I have to book a meeting online?), working from home is a bittersweet proposition.
It’s always fun in the beginning – a justifiable excuse to renovate the home office and buy some new furniture you’ve been eyeing off for the last 6 months and … work in your pyjamas! But, give it a few weeks and reality sinks in – no one to talk to, distractions everywhere you look, and you begin to feel demotivated.
It takes an enormous amount of discipline to do #WFH well for the long haul. And it looks like we’re in this for the long haul. At least the news says so.
Leaning on our accumulative experience of 12 years operating this way from all corners of the world (and bedrooms), here are a few tips we’ve picked up along the way, all to supercharge your productivity in this crazy 2020:
Set up a dedicated workspace
Don’t even think about – “I can just work on the lounge with the tv on”, you’ll soon realise you’ve ticked nothing off your to-do list. The human brain is not designed to multitask.
We can honestly say, some of our team learned it the hard way. It’s a receipt for disaster!
You need a separate space for work – a space that is not designed for entertainment and rest.
The obvious option is to convert a spare room into a functional, inspiring office. Buy a desk, a good ergonomic chair and some office décor that will inspire you and spur on productivity.
But if you don’t have the luxury of extra space, all you need is a dedicated desk or even a coffee table away from the TV, to at least tell your brain “this is where work happens”. Your little productivity dojo.
More on the brain in our next tip.
Send signals to your brain as to when to start and finish work
Humans are creatures of routine. When it comes to work, maximum productivity is achieved when the brain is constantly stimulated by clear signals to either activate or wind down. It’s basically building an on-off switch to your brain’s work department, and it’s going to become your superpower.
A catalyst to get the most out of your work brain is to have a startup and shutdown routine before you get into the thick of your workday, learning from Michael Hyatt’s Free to Focus and Full Focus Planner system.
Ask any elite athletes the secrets to their years of top performance, and they will tell you it’s all about warm-up and cool-down exercises. This method is to simply send your brain signals that it’s game time for work in the morning and to properly switch off at 5pm, for the sake of your sanity and a night of good sleep.
This is especially important with #WFH life, as our brain is mostly accustomed to associating home with relaxation and fun, we need to recalibrate it to insert productivity within the same physical space.
Startup routine: 15 minutes before you check your first email
- Brain dump all the lingering thoughts/tasks onto your notebook
- Look at today’s schedule for meetings or deadlines to anticipate
- Rearrange your to-do list so you don’t feel overwhelmed by midday
Shutdown routine: 10 minutes after you decide to call in the day
- Brain dump all unfinished tasks onto your notebook
- Shut down and put all your devices away (don’t fool yourself “I may need this later tonight”, you don’t)
- Stretch for 5 minutes
And your routines don’t have to be strictly work-related, it can be making a cup of perfectly brewed coffee, reading your life goals out loud, meditation, or some secret handshake with your spouse – just any consistent motion to get you into work mode.
But make it a religious exercise! Though we live in a world with a general push back on any rules, routines will do wonders to your productivity in this #WFH reality.
Given the brain is so powerful and associates different environmental spaces with different feelings and activities, there is one thing you must not do … you’ve been warned!
Don’t bring work into the bedroom
Just don’t do it. Big NO. Resist it like your life depends on it!
Not only will you disrupt your natural sleep cycle, but you’ll also end up over analysing everything.
Like it or not, we spend one-third of our lifespan sleeping. While driven professionals like you thrive to optimise everything in your waking hours, don’t overlook the importance of quality sleep by having no boundary between rest and work.
And if you’re one of those people who use the notion, “I will sleep when I’m dead”, whenever the topic of sleep comes up, do yourself a favour and give experts such as Shawn Stevenson and Matthew Walker (Bill Gate’s favourite) a chance to convince you otherwise.
Despite all the convenience and “work/life balance” (more on this) of #WFH life – it is also a tempting black hole to overwork, confuse your biological clock and reduce productivity.
Sleep studies show how we associate the bed with what you do BEFORE we go to sleep.
We all have our excuses – a quick “wind-down” scroll on Instagram, checking tomorrow’s appointments, one final look on your emails “just in case”, you’re now off down a rabbit hole. Next thing you know, It’s 2am.
Bring work into bed with you to “close communication loops” and you will be unable to turn your work brain off and get proper sleep, AKA the kind of sleep you need to do your job at peak performance!
Make sure you develop the discipline of getting into bed without any screens or work accompanying you. Besides, phones are awful at cuddling.
PROTIP: This is a great excuse to start setting your phone alarm somewhere across the room instead of beside your bed. This way when it goes off you have to get out of bed and start the day.
The snooze button is the killer of all productivity!
Realise time is cut short and give yourself grace
The reality of this COVID world is that there is only very little time allowance for daily tasks. Household chores, grocery shopping, masks, homeschooling, news updates, economic downturn, financial hardship, emotional issues – they are now all scrambled into one and it’s very hard to escape the constant bombardment of news.
Plus, most of us find ourselves doing it alone without any extended family support!
Have you ever found yourself still thinking about an email while playing monopoly with your kids? Tried to multitask between homeschooling and your to-do list and ended up achieving nothing? How about those extra hours in the supermarket trying to stock up as much as you can?
Now that we’re doing everything at home it can be so easy to just let work-life creep into personal-life and vice versa.
Do yourself a favour, give yourself some grace and learn to use the greatest word of all time – NO!
It’s time to set some hard boundaries with yourself.
Some of us are wearing many hats – the home teacher hat, work hat, husband hat, wife hat, mum hat, dad hat, friend hat – that it’s so easy to feel depleted by the end of the day, or in some cases before the day has even started!
This is why giving yourself grace and allowing yourself time to process and just be is so important.
Giving yourself grace could be as simple as taking time out to read your favourite book, brew your favourite tea or coffee, head to bed an hour earlier, practise meditation, go for a walk or indulge in a new hobby.
It doesn’t have to be extravagant!
Take time away from your laptop and do something for yourself, something that will leave you feeling refreshed and re-energised! You’ve been told!
Whatever it is that you choose to do, whether it be perfecting that homebrew you’ve always wanted to master, allow yourself time to process all the changes that have gone on during this COVID season – your body and mind will thank you!
So there you have our top 4 tips that have been well truly tested by our team to help supercharge your #WFH productivity in this season.
We know that this ‘new normal’ is far from easy, and the constant change can be overwhelming, but we’re in this together and we can boost productivity one tip at a time!