A thunderous COVID-19 cloud looms above us, threatening a motivation-depleting downpour at any moment. Entering the new year in a still unchanged virtual environment, the sky seems to be growing heavier each day. Follow these tips to hoist up an umbrella and keep your eyes on the prize for the rest of this virtual school, work, or overall year.
Routine Routine Routine
In a time filled with much uncertainty, it’s important to grasp onto what we know— the basics. Developing and sticking to a routine creates a sense of normalcy from day-to-day, helps us hone in on what we need to accomplish, and grounds us in a world that seems like it’s always spinning.
Research shows that 40% of our behaviors on any day are driven by habit. It’s our job to make sure we develop the right ones, and morning habits are especially crucial. Setting the tone for the day, the morning serves as a make-or-break; it determines success or failure. Include these practices in your morning routine to choose success:
1. Place your alarm out of reach. For many, the blaring sirens of a morning alarm are a cue to hit snooze and resume sleep. But if the device is located across the room, you’ll have to actually get out of bed in order to relieve your ears. Once you’re up, you’re up, and you’ve gotten through the hardest part of the day!
2. Get dressed. Actually dressed. Though those comfy sweats may be calling your name, it’s best to ignore the allure and wear your regular work/school attire. By wearing something you would actually wear out, you’ve given your day a sense of purpose. Who would put on a nice outfit to sit around and do nothing? Plus, you won’t be tempted to crawl back into bed in your pajamas.
3. Make your bed. It may seem a simple task, but it has grand effects. Making your bed gives you a small feat to start your day, and the sense of accomplishment is felt ongoing. In a survey by Best Mattress Brand of 1000 participants (500 regular bed-makers, 500 regular avoiders of the chore), ¾ of bed-makers felt accomplished at the end of the day, opposed to ½ of avoiders. Making your bed is the first domino in the sequence of victorious events throughout the day.
It’s hard to focus on specific tasks when faced with distractions; it’s just the way our brains work. Researchers from a Princeton University study found that the visual cortex—the part of your brain that processes visual information—gets easily overwhelmed by objects that are irrelevant to your task at hand. This makes it extremely difficult to pay attention to and efficiently carry out set tasks when distractions are present.
Conversely, an orderly environment cultivates an orderly mind. True of any time, organization is immensely important. During a pandemic full of stress and uncertainty, which prompts limitless factors for your mind to wander to, this significance only multiplies.
4. Declutter your workspace. If your desk looks like a tornado struck: notebooks sprawn across the surface, open books laying about, and papers askew, it’s time for a clean. Develop an organizational system using folders, bins, drawers, etc., that assigns everything to a specific place and minimizes the number of distractions in plain view.
5. Make lists. There is no deeper satisfaction than checking off the boxes of your long to-do list. Not only do lists provide this feeling of accomplishment, but they help keep your ducks in a row. Writing things down helps submit them to memory, and makes sure no task is left undone, no duckling is left behind!
Take Care of You
The saying goes: work hard, play hard. But these days it seems the first is the only one that gets any attention. Working from home blurs the line between the workplace and the home. Consequently, a mass of work responsibilities bleed into time usually reserved for personal life activities. And with the pandemic restricting our options to go out and “play,” most free time is filled with, you guessed it, more work.
But it’s time to reconstruct your definition of “play.” It doesn’t have to mean going around the town with friends, and can fit a quantity of other molds. One of the most important, especially during the Covid crisis, is self-care and relaxation. Setting aside time to refresh, have fun, and find peace during these stress-inducing and often overwhelming times is essential to maintaining a healthy mental state. It’s important to keep in mind that you’re not halting the progress of your vehicle on the way to success, but instead, taking a quick pit-stop to put
more fuel in the tank. And besides, you can’t do your best work without taking care of yourself first.
6. Take breaks. Studies show that taking breaks periodically vastly increases focus, and in turn, productivity and motivation. When you feel your concentration slipping, take a break from your work (and computer screen) and focus on an activity that makes you happy!
7. Unplug. Power off your computer and even your phone for a period of time after work/school each day. Yes, I really just suggested that. Research published in Journal of Occupational Health Psychology in 2011 found that unplugging after work can improve your quality of life, health, and happiness. They also found that people reported feeling fresher when beginning work the next day when they chose to stay away from work-related tasks following the work day. So instead of hibutally checking your work/school email, social media, or other apps in your phone, go on a walk, strike up a hobby, work on a craft, read a book, try out a new recipe—the possibilities of non-virtual activities are virtually endless.
Article by Layne Sheplee.
Sheplee is a staff writer for Independence High School’s The Prowl and is a student editor for Loudoun County Magazine.