I’ve been doing time management coaching with clients for awhile addressing how to adjust to working from home, and now, a lot of people are suddenly finding themselves in this same situation...
While working from home can have a lot of advantages, sometimes, the stress can sneak up on you if you don’t create a clear and consistent structure and try to stick to it each work day.
Create a physical area that your brain associates with “work time”. Some people like to create two separate work areas and move between them throughout the day. This way, when you leave the area, your brain can switch out of “work” mode easier.
Create structure that works for you and keep it consistent. It is very easy when you’re not in an office to just keep working without getting up or taking breaks. Book some breaks and meals into your schedule and keep it consistent.
I use time blocking to help me focus on getting through tasks. Block off chunks of time to only focus on one task at a time.
Mini brain-breaks. This is where you stop working AND checking your phone to actually let your brain rest for short periods of time. Give yourself permission to take breaks. Your brain will thank you!
Establish a time when work is over, and then ACTUALLY stop working. This is the time where you can switch gears to be in the moment more either relaxing or being with your family. What time management tips help you work from home?
Your brain can change. Change the repetitive negative thoughts you think, change your mental patterns, change the way you think about yourself, change your negative story and you will change your brain.
Studies have shown that just 20 minutes of meditation a day actually changes your brain structure and adds gray matter to your hippocampus, improving your memory, attention span and emotional integration, while also decreasing stress and anxiety.
Other studies have shown that laughing more throughout the day not only changes your brain chemistry by lowering stress hormones and increasing endorphins, it also improves your memory.
Rewiring your brain and focusing more on positive self-talk throughout the day, laughing more, doing a few mini-meditations or mindful breath exercises each day, connecting with the present moment more, and making really deliberate choices about what you are choosing to feel, all of these things move you towards changing your brain in a positive direction. It takes daily work to undo old patterns of negativity, but it's worth it! Keep working on it a little every day and your little changes will really add up over time.
Imagine what it's going to feel like when feeling positive about yourself and about your life is the new normal setting. Imagine all the good that will do for your brain, too!
We often think we have to downplay our successes to avoid hurting people’s feelings or to avoid jealousy, or sometimes we were taught to not stand out too much, but as a result we never feel emotionally connected to our accomplishments and we don’t let ourselves fully enjoy them...
This might happen because you were raised to feel like you shouldn't draw attention to yourself or you learned that your friends would feel insecure if you did well in life. While it's good to feel empathy and concern for people, it's not healthy to not allow yourself to connect with your own happiness as a result. Downplaying your successes in your own head hinders your ability to connect with confidence and to feel proud of what you've done. It stops the positive self-talk from happening.
You have to decide to let yourself feel proud of the things you do. You don’t have to tell people if you don't want to. You don't have to associate feeling proud with bragging or being "obnoxious". However, you DO have to find a way to feel the happy feelings on your own. And you do have to give yourself permission to feel proud inside. Giving yourself permission means really sitting there, feeling happy about what you've done, feeling relieved, feeling like you made progress and did something you set out to do. Really sit with those feelings. For as long as you can. You would be surprised if you knew how hard this is for most people to do. Practice the feelings you want to feel so that you can feel them more often.
How many of you have trouble feeling proud of yourself or what you’ve done in life? Practice these feelings so you can connect with the happy moments in life more when they show up.
Saying thank you to your partner throughout the day is a powerful way to show your appreciation and gratitude. We take so many little things for granted, such as emptying the dishwasher, getting the kids to school, wiping down the table, folding the laundry, fixing a broken item, taking out the trash. Making a point each time to really notice the act of love and kindness that your partner is doing (even if they are doing it on auto-pilot) and to sincerely say, "Thank you for doing that,” really adds up over time!
If you can say thank you a dozen times throughout the day and really mean it, you'll find that your general level of stress will go down. When we put our attention and focus on positive little things that happen throughout the day, we realize how much is going right for us already. On a neuroscience level, gratitude does amazing things for your brain, so there’s that benefit as well.
Using MRIs, scientists recently discovered that expressing gratitude lights up the pleasure and arousal centers of the brain, as well as increases neural sensitivity in the prefrontal cortex (which they found triggers people to act more generously). Studies have also shown that a daily practice of gratitude helps your heart rate stay healthy too!
How many people can you thank today?
The Power of the Post-it:
Each week, I write down 3 goals I want to accomplish on a bright post-it and I stick it to a mirror. Every time, I see the post-it, I am mentally prepping my mind to do the goals. If you put it somewhere you pass by a lot, you are increasing this mental prep time by a lot, too. When I add in more positive self talk, I seem to accomplish my goals at a faster rate.
When I work with clients doing Goal Setting Coaching, we utilize the post-it technique with 3 goals each week, plus we add in a check-in where they report their progress. Most of the time, I’m finding that the post-it plus the check-in are really motivating people to finish things ahead of their own schedule at a consistent weekly rate.
It’s important to set goals that are doable and to not overwhelm yourself too quickly. Keep it simple and focus on doing a few micro-goals each week consistently. Also, sometimes all of us have challenging weeks where life happens and we can’t get a lot done. During these times, be kind to yourself, be positive with your self talk. You can always reset and try again next week. Don’t beat yourself up and you will reset faster.
My favorite metaphor to play around with is that thoughts are like actual trains. You can watch them go by and pick which one to get on.
Are you going to pick the stress train or the mellow train? Are you going to pick the happy memory train or the depressing memory train? Are you getting on the self-blame train or the self-acceptance one? You have a choice. If you get on a negative train of thought, you can always get off at the next platform and switch trains.
A mentor of mine told me that meditation is just sitting on the platform, watching all the trains go by, and not boarding one at all. When in doubt of which train to pick, wait it out at the platform...
Which thought trains have you been on recently?
Here are some time blocking tips from the time management coaching I do:
•Block off “chunks” of time on your daily calendar. Use different colors for different tasks.
•During this time chunk, ONLY focus on the task in front of you. Put away all other distractions, for ex. minimize checking your phone. I also tend to use music as a way to focus during each segment.
•Make sure the time chunk is reasonable according to your own ability to do that one task. For instance, personally, I can only focus on paperwork for two hours at a time so I don’t try to make myself do a four hour segment. Break it up into easier segments if it’s a longer task.
•Space out the time chunks with breaks of nothing in between. The point is to simplify, not overwhelm. It helps to get up, change locations and go outside to get your brain to shift gears.
•Keep the time chunks consistent throughout your week (for example, every Tuesday from 1-3, I write). This will help your brain get ready to do the task the day before.
This system of focusing your brain for consistent segments of time can increase your productivity, get you to focus on the present moment, and allows you to enjoy down time more. For anyone who is stressed out from constant multi-tasking, juggling multiple careers (and/or children), managing a business or working from home, I know how hectic that can feel. Creating structure in my day has made all the difference!
Therapist & Coach. Writer & Professor. Brain Trainer.