With the current development of the Virus Which Must Not Be Named, many have been requested to work from home. It might sound like a dream come true (if only we could go out) but it can easily turn into a nightmare. Staying motivated, being productive and not feeling depressed can be a real challenge.
As a digital nomad who has been doing this for over three years, I want to share with you my story and how to overcome these hurdles. I will be telling you how I hit rock bottom while working from home and how I came back up.
I started home-based work in 2017. During the first months of the experience, I felt so fatigued that I would go to bed no later than 6 pm. The next morning, I would wake up just as tired as the day before, struggling to get anything done outside of work.
I took all sorts of blood tests, hoping I had a Vitamin D or B12 deficiency, or maybe anemia. Desperately, I was just hoping to find what was wrong with me. I also spent a lot on medical check-ups, only to find that my physical body was perfectly fine. Most people would be ecstatic about it. I wasn’t.
One day I finally accepted that it might all be in my mind. I started to analyse my behaviour and past experiences. Soon, I realised that I was always full of energy during my nomad months of travelling and working from different places around the world. Yet, when I was at home, I was so dull and tired, it almost felt like another person.
I decided to sign up for activities I enjoy right after work. Mondays and Wednesdays were for Latin dances, on Tuesdays and Thursdays I had boxing classes. Believe it or not, I was magically cured. In just two weeks I was convinced I was fully healthy, just extremely demotivated.
Looking back on it, I believe this comes down to self-love. I was not doing anything for myself, sleeping mindless hours to make time pass until my next travel. Still, I was fulfilling my professional duties because I had no opt-out from making a living. This shows I valued my promises to others more than my commitments to myself.
I did not figure out the solution right away. However, what I found is so powerful that it made me more vigorous, accomplished and content not only at work but also in life.
In a recent survey, over 30% of respondents said working from home had negatively affected their daily routine. As I said, it is all about self-love. So I decided to dedicate time to myself by following a morning routine before I would do anything for anyone else.
My goal was to take at least 30 mins for each activity to be “allowed” to mark it as “completed”. I did this consistently through January and February 2019, taking note of these and four other daily goals. In the beginning, I would have a success rate of 3-4 days a week. Fast-forward a year and I can safely say I get this done on 6 out of 7 days, doing yoga for 60-90 mins a day.
To be able to do this, I had to wake up early. The trick to being a “morning person” is going to bed early. As simple as. I know you will be tempted to sleep in. I promise you doing something you enjoy in the morning will make you feel more energetic than that “extra” hour of sleep. Plus, you don’t need that if you already went to bed on time. Something that helped me wake up right when I hear my alarm was some research findings that we cannot get to deep sleep between snoozes. Even though we are napping a little bit more, we are not waking up more rested. In short, snoozing is a waste.
My actual success rate is 7/7 on most weeks now. I also do not take any notes anymore. Doing yoga has become a habit and missing an asana practice feels like skipping a meal or a good-night sleep. Nevertheless, I think I have stayed consistent with my daily goals because I started small. I did not aim to create 15 new habits at once. Nor did I expect myself to do 2 hours of yoga a day when I had not been doing any so far. I set myself a realistic goal that, upon completion, gave me the confidence that I can do this. The problem with having too many goals or too much to change at once is that you only have limited focus and motivation.
With experience, I learned that self-love is a daily ritual. You don’t just stop loving yourself on the weekend, on vacation, or on bank holidays. This is why I follow a morning routine daily, waking up early regardless of the day. The more you do it, the more strength you build because self-discipline works like a muscle.
While we’re on the topic of good habits, I also want to mention the importance of dealing with toxic habits.
Now, let’s put my morning routine in a few actionable points:
Go to bed early to wake up early.
Dedicate the first hour of the day to yourself. You come before anyone or anything.
Spend that hour on activities you actually enjoy. Choose one to three things that are healthy and make you feel better, mentally and physically.
Keep yourself accountable. For me, it was through a checklist on a piece of paper. You can do it on your phone.
No cheat day, no rest day.
I know having a simple morning routine works like magic. Here are a few more ideas on what to add to it to make your home-office work more pleasant and worthwhile.
Try meditation by focusing on your breath for 5-10 minutes a day. This will help you feel more calm, steady, and concentrated.
Take regular breaks to stretch out, order something around the house, or have a short call with a friend. Working in isolation, when you’ve been used to the buzz of an office environment, can easily get you down. Plus, breaks help you keep your eyes and spine healthy.
If you did not do any physical activity in the morning, you need to. Changing your physical state is the fastest way to change your mental state. A few jumping jacks or a solo bachata dance can instantly lift your spirits.
Have a proper lunch break. No need to eat in front of the laptop. Sit at the table and eat in silence, appreciating every bite.
Besides a sound morning routine, in time, you can aim to create a simple yet effective evening routine. Making some small changes to your workspace can also help tremendously with stress management. Check out these home office ideas that can also help you increase productivity.