Have you found your “zone” yet in remote work? 

According to one U.S. economic survey conducted in April,  42% of remote workers were new to remote work and reported difficulties with creativity, stress, and fatigue. And while some have found their pace or are re-entering their previous office environments, many remain at home, struggling to keep up. Worse, they fear sharing their struggles with colleagues and managers and don’t ask for help.

When this topic comes up with my coaching clients, we talk about this new normal. Yes, in many ways, our discomfort and anxiety are the new normal; they are natural responses to this ongoing, but temporary, crisis. 

Allowing ourselves to feel the feelings—to name it and claim it—are the first steps in finding a new pace. Second, developing a few key psychological skills can help us with self-management.

Remote Work Self-Management Skills

Think positively. While this sounds simplistic, our negative thoughts—call it either mind chatter or self-talk—erode our efficiency, happiness, and confidence. Notice when you are thinking negatively; when you frame a situation as a problem (and distort it into a much bigger catastrophe). Then, re-think, re-frame, and revise your thoughts to the positive possibilities.

Practice relaxation. Although it may seem counter-intuitive, make time for relaxation: a process that works for you to decrease the effects of stress. For example, I find guided meditation with a body scan to be very effective and helpful. Another technique is to imagine a peaceful setting—your happy place—and focus on your breath, or mentally scan your body from toe to head. Others find online yoga and Tai chi relaxing. Whatever works for you; the key is to make time for relaxation that is beneficial to you.

Create SMART goals. Most of us have goals at work, but do you have personal SMART goals that reflect your own interests and values? Personal SMART goals can help you stay focused on what truly matters to you, and identify the incremental steps you have taken to reach your goal.

Minimize distractions. Today, this is the most frequently reported challenge. Whether they are external (noises and interruptions) or internal (feelings and thoughts), here are two tips you can implement immediately to help protect your focus and concentration:

  • Use a 30-minute timer. We know that extended sitting is detrimental to our health (you can read findings from Mayo Clinic here); add to that tiring mental tasks, and it’s no wonder we are easily distracted and feel exhausted at the end of the day. According to a recent study published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology breaks from just one to nine minutes can help you bounce back from tiring tasks. So, get up, stretch, move around, and take a break. 
  • Re-think the need to meet. Sure, we may not have the option to decline a meeting invite, but before you say yes (or send out that meeting invite), consider the meeting purpose and time actually needed. For example,
    • INFORM: If the purpose is to share information, send the information via email.
    • DISCUSS: If your purpose is to have a conversation, send any relevant information via email along with an invitation to read it and request to discuss the subject on the phone.  
    • MEET: If your purpose truly requires a virtual (or in-person) meeting, create an agenda that includes: purpose/goals/outcomes, references (the pre-read resources), action items (a spreadsheet works best), and meeting agenda timeline. If you can keep the meeting under 30 minutes, schedule a 15-minute meeting.

So, what do you think? How do you optimize your remote work? Have you found your zone? I’d love to hear from you. You can reach me here [email protected] and on LinkedIn

Join me next month as we focus on “Returning to Work” and what to expect.