As we approach the year mark of the pandemic in the US, I want to share a few tips on managing remote work fatigue. I hope you find it helpful!
Managing Remote Work Fatigue a Year into COVID
If you’re lucky enough to be able to work from home during this pandemic, you may find yourself procrastinating, feeling unfocused, tired, inefficient, and/or working too many hours.
Without the structure of an office environment to keep you on task throughout the day (spontaneous check-ins, scheduled meetings, lunches with colleagues) it can be challenging to create an environment that is conducive to maximizing your work hours.
Here are a few tools to facilitate new positive habits and help you get more done in less time. The key is to be intentional about your time and energy. They’re your most valuable assets and even small changes in how you manage them can have a big impact on your quality of life.
1. Scrutinize Your To-do List to Properly Prioritize:
- Make a master list of all your action items.
- Create a document with three columns: “Do”, “Delegate”, “Drop”.
- Assign each task to a column and ask yourself three questions: Do you absolutely need to do this task this week? Can you delegate it to someone else? Can you drop it all together? (Considering dropping items that have been on the list for more than a month. They may no longer be priorities.) Don’t confuse hard choices with no choices.
- Enjoy more mental energy as you focus only on high-priority items.
2. Chunk Your Calendar for Better Time Management:
- Schedule meetings with yourself in 30-120 minute increments to tackle items in your “Do” column. Treat these meetings as sacred. If you have a shared calendar, mark your meetings as “do not schedule”.
- Be realistic: we tend to underestimate how long it takes to complete a task, so buffer in extra time. (If you think something will take a half hour, schedule an hour.)
- Schedule daily lunch and breaks: schedule a 15-minute break after every two-hour time chunk. You’ll return to work feeling re-energized which will allow you to be more efficient.
- Schedule a recurring one-hour time chunk at the end of each week to chunk your calendar for the following week.
3. Schedule Time to Manage Email:
- Schedule two or three 30-minute time chunks to manage email each day.
- Act on each email in the moment: as you open each email, decide to delete, unsubscribe, file, respond now or respond later if the message requires further thought or research.
- Keep only “respond later” emails in your inbox as a reminder to respond to them during your next email time chunk
4. Leverage Your Energy and Focus to Drive Your Work:
- Move your body in the morning: before you sit down at your desk, go for a quick walk around the block, do a few simple stretches, or try a more involved workout routine. You may find that exercise gets you out of your head and into your body and allows you to start your day feeling more present and focused.
- Schedule tasks based on energy: notice what time of day you have the most energy and schedule the most important “Do” item during this energy peak. Once you complete this item, anything else you accomplish feels like gravy.
- Minimize Distractions: when you’re in a meeting with yourself, treat it as if you’re in a meeting with your boss. Put a sign on your door. Close your email, turn off all notifications, close your web browsers, and silence your phone and texts.
5. Establish Work/Home Boundaries to Maintain Balance in Your Life:
- Create a start/end of workday ritual: before you open your computer in the morning, do something quick, easy and consistent to signify the start of your workday. Light a candle, take ten deep breathes or look out the window. After closing your computer at the end of the workday, repeat the same activity to signify the end of the workday.
- Commit to a bedtime routine: lay out your work/exercise clothes for the next morning, charge your devices in a room that’s not your bedroom (buy an inexpensive alarm clock, if needed), brush teeth/wash face, read, journal or listen to relaxing music.
6. Create Personal Accountability to Measure Success and Stay on Track:
- Be consistent for 21-days to create a new positive habit: take stock each week and assess which of these new practices work for you and which need tweaking. Adjust as needed.
- Enroll a friend, family member or coach to offer you support and help hold you accountable along the way.
- Be kind to yourself: appreciate what you’re doing well, recognize why you want to make changes and remember that these are strange, difficult and scary times. You’re doing better than you think.