Working from home (WFH) can be stressful. Not only do you have to stay focused in a household full of distractions, but you also must tune out constant updates from the news and social media.
One way to stay more productive is perhaps counterintuitive: take more breaks. Being purposeful, and mindful about these breaks can actually help you stay more focused in the long run. Mindfulness, the term used for habits designed to center and ground you, can make you less stressed and better able to pay attention. It can also make you more empathetic.
The term “mindfulness” encompasses varying practices, many of which come from the Buddhist tradition. In Indian Buddhism, the term sati means awareness while vipassana refers to the wisdom through meditation. So, then, “mindfulness” can refer to different habits from breathing deeply to unplugging as you walk in the woods.
You might worry that integrating mindful practices into your life will distract you from tasks you need to complete. Or, you could worry that it is a selfish habit in times of turmoil.
In fact, Tara Branch, a psychologist and author of the book Radical Compassion, mindfulness makes you more connected to what’s important in your life. “It gives me a pathway back to steadiness that’s just immeasurably helpful,” she says.
Alternately, some professionals might not practice mindfulness because they think it’s only for hippies. However, there is nothing particularly New Age about mindfulness. Sharat Sharan, the CEO of ON24, a marketing technology company, meditates for 12 minutes every morning before starting his day.
“That routine has helped me stay mindful, pragmatic and put out positive energy. In the midst of a crisis, you need to personally embody the attitude that you want your team and your own business to demonstrate,” he notes in Forbes.
Here are nine mindfulness practices you can integrate into your WFH workday. Adding a few of these strategies to your workday will make you more productive, open-minded, and creative.
1. Breathe deeply
If you feel stressed or nervous, simple breathing can calm you down. Breathing engages your parasympathetic nervous system. Take at least three breaths, using a count of five to breathe in and a count of five to breathe out.
2. Use “RAIN” to let go of anxiety or stress
Branch has developed the RAIN method for confronting fear. These are the steps:
- Recognize that you’re feeling anxiety.
- Allow that feeling without trying to control or dismiss it.
- Investigate where that fear lives in your body.
- Nurture that fear by sending a message to yourself that considers how that fear is trying to protect you.
3. Regularly move for a few minutes throughout the day
WFH can make us even more sedentary than working in an office. So, build in regular breaks to stretch, walk around your home, or even take a quick jog around the block. Try a Pomodoro Timer where you work for 25 minutes and then take five minute breaks. After four of these “pomodoros,” the timer will give you a longer break where you could meditate or sit in your backyard in the sun.
4. Pay attention to small moments
One of the key tenets of mindfulness is appreciating the moment. If you’re always looking forward to the next thing, you may miss the best parts of your day. Take a moment to thank a colleague for her hard work. Stop to ponder an interesting question posed by someone else in the C-Suite. Training yourself to to be mindful of the small, significant moments can make your work more satisfying.
5. Turn off your computer
When you do take breaks – to eat lunch or walk or meditate – turn off your computer. If you have your computer in front of you, you’re more likely to be consumed by work, rather than taking a break like you intended.
6. Identify the bounds of your workspace
It can be tempting to make the rounds of your home throughout the workday. You might move to the kitchen table in the mid-morning and then to the couch in the afternoon. By the evening, you might have taken to your bed.
However, physical boundaries for work and play are important to your mental health. Create a calm, uncluttered space in your home office and stay there.
7. Create boundaries for work and play
Unfortunately, WFH can also break down boundaries between work and off-time. It can be hard to unplug from your job when your desk is beckoning you from across the house, rather than from across town.
So, you have to be even more careful to preserve your downtime. For example, if you’re walking in the woods or meditating before or after work, don’t have text notifications interrupting you. Or, if you’ve finished what you intended to do on a project one afternoon, don’t keep checking updates from your team.
8. Set a reasonable schedule
It’s important to set a schedule for yourself – and keep it. If you’ve said that you want to stop working at 5pm, be clear about these boundaries to your colleagues – and yourself.
9. Be kind to yourself
You are going to face setbacks, especially as you start WFH consistently for the first time. You may not always be as productive as you would have been in your physical office. Another important facet of mindfulness is compassion for everyone – and that includes yourself. Figure out what you can learn from your failures or your unproductivity – and make changes that help you improve.
When working from home, you can find yourself chained to your computer, growing ever more stressed and overwhelmed. Taking breaks, enjoying the small moments, and developing self-compassion can make WFH both productive and enjoyable.
Looking for more ways to improve your work from home routine? Check out our expert-led classes!