To say that the first few months of 2020 have been… a little different…seems perhaps a little understated. But then again, every other sensational descriptive word seems a little overused at this point so… perhaps stating things plainly is enough for now.
Suddenly our lives look very different. Fortunately many of us are still able to work, albeit remotely. Amongst transitions such as these we can oftentimes feel a new brand of stress enter our lives. With May being Mental Health Awareness Month it seems fitting to take a moment to reflect on how we might respond to these new stressors in a way that leads to greater freedom and peace.
In these never-before-seen times, it’s good to remind ourselves that not everything needs to be seen. Staying informed is important, but a stream of endless news, social media, and entertainment — on top of a new work environment — can overwhelm us emotionally.
Before you begin your work for the day, take a moment to recollect yourself and bring to mind the reasons why you’re doing what you’re doing. It helps to remember why we’re still working — for our families, for our future, and for the greater good of our workplace. We’re not alone in this and it pays to be grateful for the opportunities we’ve been given. Having this focus can remind us why it’s important we need to do when we need to do it.
A few practical ways to keep a sharp focus:
- Find a place to work in your home that is separate from where you eat, sleep, and take time off. Having a physical boundary between your work-space and your life-space can help your mind adjust to what you are focusing on in those places.
- Take advantage of features available on your smart devices as well, such as Screen Time on iPhone to limit the use of certain social media or news apps that you find yourself on maybe a little too often. With most of these time-management services you can select how strict the limits can be, or even section off parts of the day to limit access to certain apps and websites.
- Consider writing down your main goal or task for the day and keeping it where you can see it. Try to make it simple, easily defined, and achievable. Having something you can check off at the end of the day (or sooner!) can be surprisingly motivating. And will give you a better sense that you’re getting something done and making progress with every day.
With our focus in mind, we can begin to put our nose to the grindstone. However, if even the thought of that phrase pricks the beginnings of anxiety in you, fear not, you’re in good company. As the classic saying goes, all work and no play makes Jack (and Jill) some dull kids. For the overworked/workaholics, however, it may be easy to forget the ‘work’ part of that saying. That’s why it’s important to practice the art of balance. To be the very best version of yourself you need both the work and the play. The struggle and the rest. It’s important to remember that these are very unusual circumstances. Stress from work is one thing but stress from an invisible threat that surrounds day-to-day activities? In the words of Marty McFly, that’s heavy. So in the spirit of balance, be light, be gentle with yourself.
Plan on adding levity with these practicalities:
- When there’s something you know you want to enjoy, write that down next to your goal for the day. Schedule a time after your work at which you get to take a break and enjoy it.
- If you’re struggling while working, take a moment to breathe and wander outside your work-space and get a drink of water or a breath of fresh air.
- Know your limits and have someone you can talk to about your successes and your struggles. You shouldn’t feel like you’re on an island. Do what you can to not isolate yourself and find someone you can talk about these things with.
Finding your rhythm
To put your focus and your balance together is to find a rhythm of work that works for you. And the the simplest rhythm you can make is taking one step after another. If in finding your balance you’ve learned you work better in the mornings, set a time to wake up each day and stick (or perhaps step) to it. If there’s a time of day where the sun hits your yard or your street just right, plan on taking a break to relax outside, take a walk or even a run. If one day you don’t meet your goal the way you had hoped, take it in stride and keep it flowing like smooth jazz. Whatever your beat, whatever your genre, find your rhythm and you can start to make the unpredictable a little bit more predictable.
A few metronomes to keep your rhythm going:
- Try tackling easier tasks first to build a sense of accomplishment.
- Be persistent in your goals and keeping your schedule.
- Be gentle and forgive yourself for shortcomings.
Depending on where you are, it seems that things may be slowly changing once again. With more businesses starting to allow people to return to offices and store fronts, we may be facing another period of transition soon. But then again, we will continue to evolve into the new “normal.” Having found a little focus, balance, and rhythm during these weeks at home will only help us find another rhythm to a new tempo as we reintegrate into the brick and mortar workforce.