So many of us were forced into remote working at the start of the pandemic, and the abrupt shift led to over 40% of people reporting experiencing mental health challenges, as well as trouble focusing, feeling efficient, and setting boundaries with their working hours. But amidst all of the adjustments we had to make, we were ultimately able to learn some crucial lessons about how to optimize our productivity, creativity, and inspiration while at home.

We asked our Thrive community to share with us one meaningful takeaway they’ve learned from working smarter this year. Which of these lessons will you take with you into 2021?

How to optimize our environment 

“I learned how to adjust my physical environment, as I find it truly shapes the quality of work I do. For me, that meant having fresh flowers nearby, getting sunlight through the window, prioritizing good posture and ergonomic equipment, and taking breaks to connect with loved ones throughout the day. These small tweaks helped make me more joyful and focused while working from home.”

—CR, consultant, London, UK

How to combat Zoom fatigue

“I’ve learned to take a break after each of my Zoom meetings. I don’t go right into my next task, but rather, I move to another chair or a separate room in the house to decompress for a few minutes. It’s helped me recharge before joining my next meeting or starting my next task.”

—Charlese Latham, copywriter, Orange County, CA

How to be more flexible 

“This year made me realize that you can plan your time down to a T, but life happens. I’ve learned how to be ready to shift and be flexible, build extra time into my timelines, manage expectations, and communicate when things change. People are not separate from business, and the more I learn that, the more I am able to serve my clients and my family in ways that benefit all of us.”

—Lindsey Rowe Parker, marketing and PR for small businesses, Richmond, VA

How to plan for the unplanned

“In the past, I’d been so focused on prioritizing and planning ahead that I often forgot to plan for things that are unplanned. As a leader, part of my job is to be available for my team, but they were finding it hard to schedule time with me since my calendar was so full. When we started working from home, I found my rigid routine wasn’t serving me anymore, and I needed to make a change. Now, I ensure I leave some time every day to respond to things that I did not plan for. I am in better control over my time and I feel more productive than ever.”

—Jon Vassallo, director of partnerships and general manager, Toronto, ON

How to use time blocking

“This year, I learned that I could use smaller chunks of time — about 90 minutes — to really power through work before switching to helping my daughter learn from home. I had to give myself rest and recuperation instead of trying to catch up all of the time. Time blocking helped me prioritize time for work, and time for rest. The better quality rest, the better my output was.”

—Angharad Boyson, life and executive coach, Canberra, Australia 

How to set boundaries 

“This year, I had to change my daily routine and set boundaries for myself and my work. I decided to use the extra time from my commute in the mornings for exercising and yoga. I added a compulsory one-hour lunch walk to my schedule, and made sure that I didn’t check my messages and emails late in the evening. I also replaced my evening commute time with reading for one hour before going to sleep. The quality of sleep significantly improved when I stopped staring at a screen before going to bed, and it helped me feel much more energized and focused during the day.” 

—Anna Filatova, business and success coach, London, UK

How to carve out time to recharge

“I learned that you can be more productive at home by listening to your body. I’ve learned the importance of taking a break when you need a break, going for a walk when you cannot focus on your computer, and considering a short nap if you are sleepy after lunch. I realized that when my body feels great, creativity comes naturally and usually in moments of rest or fun.  Even if it may sound counterintuitive, taking time to disconnect and recharge will make you more productive in the long run.”

—Isabelle Bart, life coach, Orange County, CA

How to manage responsibilities with our partners

“Before the pandemic, my husband and I went to work each day and didn’t need to know each other’s exact schedules. But once the pandemic hit and both of our young children were at home with us while we were working, my husband and I had to find a new way of working. We started sharing our meeting calendars with each other so we can coordinate parenting duties, and we also set alarms and calendar invites for our son’s virtual learning schedule. These two things have helped us manage the day-to-day schedule with less stress and overwhelm.”

—Arivee V., lawyer, life and career coach, Boston, MA

What lesson did you learn from working from home this year? Share it with us in the comments!

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  • Marina Khidekel

    Chief Content Officer at Thrive

    Marina leads strategy, ideation and execution of Thrive's content company-wide, including cross-platform brand partnership and content marketing campaigns, curricula, and the voice of the Thrive platform. She's the author of Thrive's first book, Your Time to Thrive. In her role, Marina brings Thrive's audience actionable, science-backed tips for reducing stress and improving their physical and mental well-being, and shares those insights on panels and in national outlets like NBC's TODAY. Previously, Marina held senior editorial roles at Women's Health, Cosmopolitan, and Glamour, where she edited award-winning health and mental health features and spearheaded the campaigns and partnerships around them.