Anxious. Stressed. Lonely.
We’ve all been battling with such feelings during the isolation we were induced to because of the pandemic.
While companies have transitioned to remote work, and it has been a savior during quarantine, the line between work and personal life has blurred. Professionals struggle with balancing the two, and it’s leading to psychological distress. No wonder Twitter found people increasingly talking about the taboo subject of “mental health.”
If you see your mental and physical well-being affected negatively, here are a few tech tools that can help.
Organize Your Work Projects With Trello
If you directly dive into emails and spreadsheets to start your workday, it can get messy. Managing tasks could quickly turn cumbersome.
Trello, a project management tool, does a great job of helping you manage projects with its boards, lists, and cards. And the free version of the software is superb and sufficient for most project management requirements.
It’s a collaborative tool, so you can add team members, assign tasks to them, use labels to organize your cards, and attach deadlines to every “card” as well. Oh, and viewing your tasks on a calendar is also available.
I’ve personalized Trello’s editorial calendar template to manage my workflow. But the best part is Trello has templates here for various use cases, which might be relevant for you. This daily task management template could come in handy if you want to plan your day.
A simple to-do list like the one above for the day might sound overly simplistic. It can eliminate the cognitive effects of unfulfilled goals, though, that you can use for other activities.
Enforce Boundaries With RescueTime
As my friend, Shreya Dalela, put it, “Now that you’re home all the time, there’s no boundary between work and leisure. There’s no physical boundary between office and home. There are no weekends.”
But you shouldn’t start working in your comfy pajamas any time of the day and week. As Parkinson’s law explains, “work expands to fill the time available for its completion.”
Here’s how to fix the time when your productivity levels are at a simmering six out of ten:
Don’t work at those times.
Always put your best foot forward, working in tandem with the circadian rhythm of your body. And this requires you to find out the times when you’re the most productive. I like using RescueTime to find out the same.
Having used it to monitor the time I’m spending on my laptop for the past few years, it analyzes my daily patterns and shows when I’m the most productive.
As visible in the screenshot below for the current month, afternoon and evenings from 3 pm to 10 pm seem to be my best friends.
Now my goal is to protect these times of the day during the weekdays. I can use its feature, FocusTime, to block distracting websites such as social media and even email for a couple of hours between 3 pm to 10 pm.
Indeed, you can also integrate RescueTime with Slack and set your status as ‘Away’ during your FocusTime sessions.
As for the rest of the day besides these hours?
- Plan a couple of important tasks for these peak productive hours,
- Check email and schedule meetings,
- Read, relax, and then some more!
Look, I don’t recommend that you become a productivity machine. I suggest you take breaks on the days you feel stressed.
But make small adjustments in your workday by protecting those times when you feel energized, and you’ll get an extraordinary amount of deep work done.
Schedule Analog Breaks On Your Calendar App
Remote work has meant that you’re always in focus mode—either trying to finish a task from your to-do list, collaborating with your co-workers over Zoom calls, or catching up with the latest notifications and digital distractions on your mobile phone.
The lost art of taking coffee breaks or a walk in the nearby park needs rekindling. You need to let your brain relax and wander, put it in the “diffused mode.” This is when you let your subconscious attack a difficult problem you’re dealing with at work and let creativity whips its magic to find a solution.
Make these breaks analog. Do not take your Smartphone along with you during these times and let it be a complete rest from screens.
Do such breaks feel like an indulgence and a waste of time?
Well, what if I tell you that Jeff Weiner, the executive chairman at LinkedIn, also used to “schedule nothing” in his calendar and calls it his “biggest productivity tool?”
“Use that buffer time to think big, catch up on the latest industry news, get out from under that pile of unread emails, or just take a walk,” he had quipped in a LinkedIn post a few years ago.
So, take out your Calendar and put “relax your brain and eyes” on the calendar every day for 15 minutes. With designated work hours that contain such breaks, you’ll have better clarity of thought.
Move That Body Every Day With Fitbit Coach
Gyms and studios might not be the safest places to visit right now, but your fitness can’t wait. Getting some movement and eventually converting it into a regular exercise habit for adapting with WFH is super important. It keeps your metabolism in check and ensures your energy levels don’t drop.
The Fitbit Coach is a great workout app that you can start your fitness training with (even if you don’t have a Fitbit.) The workout sessions contain video demonstrations and can be practiced where there’s some space available at your house.
For me, evenings are when I get some sunshine and use about 30-minute Yoga workout sessions in the Nike Training App. It invigorates my body, which otherwise remains physically inactive and feels stuck.
If you feel like you’re in a slump and exercising for long periods seems like a huge task, start small. Exercise for just 10 minutes, and try to build a streak of least a couple of weeks before you take it up a notch.
Regular workout sessions will make you feel refreshed and ready to attack that to-do list — don’t miss them!
Begin A New Creative Project
Alright, you’re already spending time exercising, taking breaks, and organizing your workday, according to your energy levels — now what?
How do you fill the remaining time and cure boredom?
If you’re someone who finds new projects exciting, then you can put those commute hours you’re saving to good use. Drawing, reading, learning a musical instrument, or writing are all cool. But you can also consider a creative project that helps your business, such as:
- Launch a podcast: If you’ve fancied the idea of getting people to listen to you, then now is a great time to start your podcast. The audio content landscape isn’t as crowded as textual blog posts, so your show could find its place quickly and help you grow your business as an entrepreneur.
- Create a course: Online education has become the default during the pandemic. Do you also like teaching? Then pick an online course platform, and create a curriculum around the pain points of your audience. Creatin such a course can help you become a thought leader in your industry!
- Start a blog: This one never gets old because people still love reading online — especially if you’ve interlaced your posts with personal experiences.
Use these ideas as springboards to find a creative project that interests you. Remember, the goal is finding something you’re passionate about outside of your work and relieving some stress through it.
Stay Mindful With a Notebook and Pen
There might be times in your day when you feel low on motivation and find difficulty in concentrating. The news, social media, and even an innocent Netflix web show won’t serve you positively; they’ll only further overwhelm and increase your anxiety.
This is where writing down how you’re feeling can help. Though you can use Trello to journal or any note-taking app for writing down your thoughts, I recommend taking it offline. Writing with a pen on paper slows you down and lets you dive into your stream of consciousness.
But, wait, what do you write about?
Just empty your mind on paper, pen what’s worrying you, confusing you, and occupying your mind space right now.
It’s indeed a morning routine of many artists and successful people to journal their thoughts. Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way, describes these “morning pages” as “three pages of longhand, a stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning.”
These “spiritual windshield wipers,” as touted by Cameron, are not meant to be even read by yourself. You’re using writing as a tool here to let your mind run wild — so that it can later be free. Tim Ferriss, author and entrepreneur, shared one of his morning pages on his blog, calling it the most cost-effective therapy.
You can also practice meditation every day by using an app such as Headspace which helps in inculcating mindfulness. I prefer entrepreneur Naval Ravikanth’s meditation, without apps and gadgets — just surrendering yourself to whatever happens for sixty minutes.
Let Qualitative Results Define Your Day!
As social and physical contact with others will remain scarce for a while, taking care of your mental health is important. Counting the number of hours you’ve worked, if you’re crushing your goals, or comparing your productivity score might not help in that regard on your bad days.
So, be compassionate to yourself and use qualitative data to deem your day a success. If you feel good even after what you had was a mediocre workday (by pre-pandemic standards,) then cut yourself some slack. Take some rest and come back to your workstation the next day.
How are you adjusting your expectations at work and taking care of your mental health? Let me know in the comments below.