Maybe you’re still working remotely full-time, or maybe you’re getting used to driving to your workplace part of each week. No matter what your current situation may be, you likely haven’t said goodbye completely to working from home. And, if you’re anything like me, you may find that it’s easy to get distracted, lose focus, or otherwise fail to operate at 100% efficiency.
Here are the top three lessons I’ve learned – albeit some the hard way – that may help you as you continue to create a new working environment:
Lesson #1: Get “Out”: Define your workspace and spend time away from it
One of the biggest challenges for many has been learning to mentally switch gears between work and “non-work” activities. For those of us who have transformed our bedrooms into offices, this can be especially difficult as we find ourselves behind the same closed door for most of the day.
It’s important to get away from the space you’ve designated as your work area at home. One of the simplest yet most powerful ways I’ve found to do this is through the practice of eating lunch outside in my backyard. And yes, I said practice. While this may sound a little dramatic, the absence of in-person interactions with our coworkers in a communal eating space can easily tempt us to take a “working lunch” in front of the computer screen, which usually means not actually taking a much-needed mental break or, even worse, skipping lunch altogether
Lesson #2: Get “Up”: Move away from the desk chair
Being enrolled in an MBA program during COVID has relegated classes to an online format this past year, which means more Zoom calls, screen time, headaches, and sitting in one place for hours upon hours each day. I found that even with a quality desk chair, I was starting to have problems with my feet not getting enough circulation and my legs cramping up by the time classes ended in the evening. To be fair, I’m on the brink of entering my 30s, so I’m sure this is one of the many hazards of growing old…
Toward the end of spring I finally took the plunge to buy a standing desk – one that moves up and down at the press of a button. For those of you who have already embraced the standing desk, you don’t need my convincing. But if you’re still skeptical, I’ve found that even 20-30 minutes of standing up 2-3 times during the workday can have a noticeable impact and keep me from feeling restless.
The other major ingredient to this recipe of a functional working environment is regular exercise. Don’t worry, I’m not going to try to prescribe a 4:00 am two-hour workout every day for the rest of your life. In my experience, spending even 10 minutes per day is all it takes to start noticing a difference in the way you feel overall. And what’s more, your exercise doesn’t have to include a one-mile run or reaching a new weightlifting personal record.
Start small. Set the bar low and clear it often. The best part about such a short time commitment is that you have no excuse to miss a day. Or, if (when) you do miss a day, you will be less inclined to tell yourself “well, this week is a loss, I’ll just wait until next week to get back on track.” Personally, I highly recommend spending those 10 minutes stretching, doing some simple yoga, or going for a short walk.
Lesson #3: Get “Well”: Pursue health beyond just physical fitness
The last, and arguably most important, lesson is one I’ve been learning for many years, but especially over the last year: In the pursuit of physical health we often overlook and neglect our own spiritual or mental health. This will look very different for each person. But the important thing is developing a network of people – family, friends, mentors, doctors, etc. – who will be able to support you and help you to practice making healthy, productive choices in each area of your life.
From my experience, it’s futile to expect that we can count on ourselves alone to provide all the energy, motivation, and direction we need to do our best work – and to grow both professionally and personally as we charge ahead into the rest of the year.
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