As coronavirus continues to impact our lives, millions of people around the world are working from home. For those experienced with remote work, our day to day feels familiar. For others that are new, transitioning to working from home can present some unique challenges. You can build resiliency through positive habits to help you grow as a remote worker.
Here are three things to be aware of as you adapt to working remotely from home due to COVID-19.
Willpower will inevitably fade away
Willpower is something that you use to help you get through each day. When you choose to drink water instead of a sugary drink such as soda, you’ve exercised your willpower. When you reach for a healthy snack like raw almonds instead of raiding your pantry for chocolate chip cookies, you’ve also tapped into your willpower.
Eventually, though, willpower will run out.
Imagine, you’ve started your day by having a healthy breakfast like spinach and eggs. Then a few hours later, around midway, something unexpected knocks you off track. Your willpower is already exhausted, and your day seems to spiral out of control. You end up on your couch with a family-sized bag of chips for dinner. And you are left wondering — how did this happen to me?
“Willpower isn’t just a skill. It’s a muscle, like the muscles in your arms or legs, and it gets tired as it works harder, so there’s less power left over for other things,” Charles Duhigg, a reporter at the New York Times, says.
Sure, you can practice strengthening your willpower, but that can feel like you’re spinning your wheels while stuck in place. Or you can choose a faster and better option to maintain control of your day by creating positive habits.
Change one habit at a time in a specific area of your life
Habits are behaviors that you do automatically. They don’t rely on willpower or motivation, and this makes them a powerful tool for lasting change. At the start of each year, we feel refreshed with a clean slate, and we eagerly create New Year’s resolutions. There is a flurry of activity for habits at the beginning of January.
You don’t have to wait until another new year to arrive to think about habits. Habits are flexible in that you can start working on them anytime. And today is a great time to explore habits to help you stay resilient even during tough times.
Dr. BJ Fogg, an author and behavior scientist at Stanford University, has a habit framework called The Anatomy of Tiny Habits.
- Anchor moment. An existing routine (like turning off your alarm in the morning) or an event that happens (such as getting an email). The anchor moment is your reminder to do the new tiny behavior.
- New tiny behavior. This is a small version of the new habit that you want, like doing two air squats. You do the tiny behavior right after the anchor moment.
- Instant celebration. Something you do to create positive emotions, like smiling or saying, “You’ve got this!” You celebrate immediately after doing the new tiny behavior.
To help you remember the framework, think of it as the ABC for tiny habits:
Anchor → Behavior → Celebration
Now let’s put this process into practice. Dr. Fogg recommends starting your day with the Maui habit. Here is how it works.
After your feet touch the floor in the morning, immediately say, “it’s going to be a great day.”
The Maui habit is simple, yet powerful because those seven words start your day on a positive note and can help you feel in control throughout your day. It only takes a few seconds in the morning and shows you that you can become the type of person that can change. This gives you the confidence to try out changes in other areas of your life.
To set yourself up for success, write the following habit recipe on a post-it note or a piece of paper. Then set it next to your bed so you’ll see it first thing in the morning.
After I wake up and put my feet on the floor, I will say, “it’s going to be a great day.”
Now it is time to talk about the mindset around change.
Treat change as an experiment to find out what works for you
Do you feel ambitious about changing your behavior? That can be a good thing. However, if you try to do too much at the same time, then you can become overwhelmed. That can cause you to get frustrated and quit. And if you’ve quit enough times, then you might hesitate to try changes in the future because you’ll think about the times that you gave up too early.
When you are trying to change a specific behavior, there is a tough period in the beginning. During this time, your confidence might be questioned as your mind plays tricks on you like a sort of crazy rollercoaster ride. For this reason, be realistic and experiment with a few changes at a time.
Over the years, I’ve learned that change is a process. Do you remember that old saying that talks about the journey instead of the destination? That is an excellent way to think about change because you are learning what works for you through your own experiences.
The best piece of advice that I share with people who are new to working from home is to choose a dedicated area of your home to work. It can be tempting to work from your couch one day and your kitchen table the next. Resist that temptation and choose one spot to work from each day. If you have a desk and a comfortable chair, then try to make it your workplace in your home. Here is a habit recipe to help you create a habit of working from a specific place like your desk.
After I sit down at my computer desk…I will wake up my computer. Then I’ll smile!
The first part for sitting at your desk is the anchor. The second for waking up your computer is the behavior. The third is the celebration, which helps your mind create a positive association with working from your desk.
Feel free to adjust the habit recipe above to your situation. Working from a specific area in your home helps your mind create a separation between productive work time and personal time. In doing so, you’ll avoid struggling with turning off when you are finished with work for the day.
You can create positive habits for remote work even during a pandemic like coronavirus by remembering:
- Willpower will inevitably fade away
- Change one habit at a time in a specific area of your life
- Treat change as an experiment to find out what works for you
Continue building your work from home skills by signing up for Remote AID 2020 today. Remote AID 2020 is an online workshop for anyone who works from home. During this one-day event, you’ll get complimentary expert coaching from remote work enthusiasts like David Heinemeier Hansson (co-founder & CTO of Basecamp), Lori McLeese (Global Head of HR at Automattic), Steli Efti (CEO and Co-founder of Close), and Taso Du Val (CEO of Toptal).
All funds from voluntary donations will benefit the Red Cross. Once the crisis eventually ends, remote work will still stay on the rise. Today, it’s no longer a perk; it’s clearly a life-saving necessity. Take one minute and register right now for Remote AID 2020, so you can level up your skills.