There’s a popular neuroscience adage: “Neurons that fire together wire together.” That means the more you run a neural circuit in your brain, the stronger that circuit becomes. Applied practically, it’s why small habits practiced on a daily basis become “wired” into your brain and have the power to support behavior change and goal achievement.
Many successful small habits are also dependent on having certain systems in place; for example, you may set your alarm at a certain hour each day to ensure time for a morning workout. Or, perhaps you leave your cell phone in the kitchen rather than on the nightstand, to avoid getting inundated with emails before you’ve had time to map out your day.
The work-from-home challenges many of us are facing right now is that when schedules are disrupted, successful systems and previously hard-wired habits can easily fall by the wayside. Undoubtedly, as you’ve transitioned to a virtual workplace, many former routines that once provided structure and order to your day may no longer apply.
For example, a daily run before dropping your child at school may now be replaced with reviewing and organizing their online school curriculum before they roll out of bed. Or, that standing Monday afternoon team meeting may require a less predictable cadence based on your team’s suddenly asynchronous work schedule.
Navigating this new “not normal” will require an open-minded approach to establishing new habits and daily rituals. Here are a few suggestions you can put into practice now:
Today, we’re finding more distractions and even harder to differentiate between work and home life. To boost your personal productivity, try:
- Spend 15 minutes each morning quietly mapping out your day, before diving into emails and meetings.
- Remove distractions you can control: turn off phone and laptop notifications from social media and other feeds during work hours to maintain uninterrupted focus.
- Tidy up your workspace before signing off each day to help you mentally transition back into life at home.
Everyone processes challenging times in a different manner. With decreased face-to-face time, it’s even more important to encourage team engagement remotely:
- Pause to ask how everyone is doing at the start of each team meeting.
- Schedule a weekly virtual lunch. Open it up to the team and encourage people to drop in and out just to reconnect.
- Start a new team tradition. One example: a “Mindfulness Mondays” virtual meeting that everyone can collectively take a 5-minute break, and just be.
While we’re leading teams and taking care of family and friends, it’s easy to forget about self-care. Take a moment for yourself to refresh and refocus:
- Reward yourself with microbreaks. After tackling a tough project, take 15 minutes to watch a funny video, enjoy a short walk, or simply take a moment to yourself — working remotely does have perks!
- Schedule a real daily lunch break — away from your computer.
- Set “get up and move” alerts on your phone to avoid sitting for long periods of time.
Making small tweaks to your daily habits — even temporary ones — can have a big impact on how well you and your team adjust to working remotely. They can also promote productivity, encourage engagement, and help you and your team thrive.