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 is that when schedules are disrupted, successful systems and previously hard-wired habits can easily fall by the wayside. Work and life blur together. Many former routines that once provided structure and order to your day may no longer apply.
For example, that standing Monday afternoon team meeting may require a less predictable cadence based on your team’s suddenly asynchronous work schedule. Or you may need to set an alarm to remember to take regular breaks and stretch your legs.
Navigating a virtual work routine 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 it easier to be distracted, and harder to differentiate between work and home life. To boost your personal productivity, try:
- Spending 15 minutes each morning quietly mapping out your day, before diving into emails and meetings.
- Setting a schedule and sticking to it so that you have clear guidelines for both yourself and other members of your household.
- Removing distractions you can control: turn off phone and laptop notifications from social media and other feeds during work hours to maintain uninterrupted focus.
- Tidying up your workspace before signing off each day to help you mentally transition back into life at home.
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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.
- Look for training and learning opportunities. It can be easy to forget about your professional development but it’s important to continue advancing your skills.
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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.
- Take your sick days. It’s always tempting to power through illness, especially if you’re contracted or freelance, but illness takes away from your ability to be productive.
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Making small tweaks to your daily habits — even temporary ones — can have a big impact on promoting productivity, encouraging engagement, and helping you and your team thrive.