“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”
Tell me if this sounds familiar: pre-COVID, you said to friends and colleagues more than once, “I would love the flexibility to work from home.” Then the pandemic hit, and suddenly you HAD to work remotely …
Cue the sound of screeching brakes, because the result has been nothing like you imagined.
You thought you’d have more time without a commute, but now it feels like you have even less. You’re anxious about your productivity and performance at work, even though you may be working longer hours.
If you’re still struggling, cut yourself some slack.
Resistance is a very human reaction to change—and particularly any sudden and unexpected changes. The fact that you’ve been working remotely for a few months now doesn’t mean you should be an expert at it.
That’s just your perfectionism and some unreal expectations talking.
So, let go of that conversation, and follow these steps, starting with this.
I’m about to share with you the foundation for becoming a work-from-home master, and the key to making WFH productivity tactics effective.
MINDSET OVER TACTICS
If your goal is to master remote work, the primary thing you need to focus on is mindset. Without mindset, you can use every helpful WFH tactic in the world, and nothing will make a lasting difference.
Your old habits and feelings will kick back in.
That’s a “sorry, not sorry” bit of information.
Everything starts with your attitude, and how you approach your situation. Whether you like working remotely or not.
If you haven’t already, take a few minutes to simply sit with your current circumstances.
Taking a moment to be still with where you are now is key to accepting your current circumstances, and maybe even embracing them as an opportunity for growth..
Say what? I know, this might sound out there—or even impossible—especially if you’re sharing a workspace with your partner and some kind of interruption pops up every few minutes to wreak havoc on your workflow.
If there are other people around, ask your family for 2-3 minutes of quiet, shut the door, and just sit.
If you are alone, turn off all notifications (which you should do anyway), set this device down and just sit with the fact that you are where you are, and your reality is what it is.
You don’t have to like it. Just be with it.
It sounds counterintuitive, but the act of embracing what you can’t change—and that’s almost everything—is actually very freeing.
Next, while you’re focusing inward, take a few seconds to minutes and reflect on how you’re showing up to your reality right now.
Are you acting with intention, or reacting out of habit?
Tip: I often talk to myself as I’m framing an internal inquiry. I’ll say something like, “How am I doing with X? Do I like it, do I not like it? If I like it, what exactly am I enjoying or appreciating about it? If I don’t like it what about it am I unhappy or dissatisfied with?”
This usually kicks off the internal investigation— and yes I will often speak out loud … to myself. It works for me.
EVERYTHING IS A CHOICE
Things start to feel out of control when we let life’s current carry us along as though we’re adrift in a rushing river.
I know, I just said that almost everything is out of your control. And it’s true that you can’t change the current.
But you do have a paddle and CAN change yourself and how you respond to the current—that is where your agency lives and the control you do have
Let’s say working remotely makes you feel unproductive and listless. So you spend valuable time each day fantasizing about a return to the office and sending cranky GIFs to your colleagues.
A simple change in mindset can shift the same circumstances entirely. After all, while WFH might not be your choice, staying at your current job IS. Consider the benefits of work: security for yourself and your family, daily learning, work you enjoy, or anything else that comes to mind.
Change your mindset, and you change your reality.
With that frame, remote work is a choice. You do it because you choose to stay in your current position, and that means accepting some decisions that are out of your control.
Start thinking of your life as a series of choices, rather than a series of events. Life is not happening TO you, it’s happening WITH you.
Everything under your control is a choice. Apply your core philosophy to come up with answers when the right path is unclear.
And don’t waste time or energy struggling against or worse, complaining about the other stuff.
GRATITUDE ALWAYS HELPS
A simple gratitude list is another way to see clearly what is and cultivate appreciation for it.
I start each morning and end each day by saying thank you.
And throughout the day, if something crops up that frustrates or annoys me, a quick solution and easy way to shift my attitude is to just list three things in that moment that I’m grateful for.
It could be as simple as my health, indoor plumbing, and something inspiring to look at out my window.
It’s hard to be unhappy when you are expressing gratitude—smarter people than I am would probably say that it’s impossible.
Just as fear and faith can’t exist in the exact same moment, neither can gratitude and misery.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Mindset is the foundation for any successful change in our lives.
If that is wobbly or focused on what ISN’T working, we’ll end up reinforcing our resistance and struggle rather than our growth.
So if remote work is broken for you, fix the fundamental problem first, and change your mind.
You may not be able to control your circumstances, but you CAN control your responses.
And that’s pretty damn empowering.
The way you respond to anything—from a global pandemic to the hundredth interruption of the day to your partner’s packrat habits—is your choice.
Mindset is key, AND it helps to have step-by-step guidance on what to do. I provide both in our How To Stop Fighting Over Stuff class. If clutter is a source of stress in your relationships, I show you how to work it out, along with other tips and strategies. We’re running it for the last time in just a couple days. Hurry and join us—it’s not too late to enroll!
If you enjoyed this article, read Part 1 of this series on working remotely, which is all about how to boost your productivity.