Faye Chapman. FayeNicola Fitness
If the last 18 months have taught us anything, it’s that we are adaptable. We have gone from working 9am-5pm in an office with others, to sometimes working 8am-9pm at home totally alone, and still checking our emails in bed.
Some people have found themselves being more productive, with less distractions and more time to concentrate, whilst others have had the joys of Zoom calls being invaded by pets or kids. Some of us, however, have just not been able to “switch on” or “switch off”, optimise productivity, or found ourselves at risk of burnout.
Want to optimise your performance and look after your mental health whilst working from home? Here are some simple strategies you can implement.
Have a separate workspace
Instead of your living room being your social spot, your workspace, and your evening relax area, separate the spaces. Your mind will associate the area in which you conduct work with the feelings you get during work, as well as the action of working. Meaning when you’re trying to relax in the evening, your mind will think about work because of its environment. Move your workspace to the spare room or the dining table, even changing the tablecloth during worktime can help.
Many people also find dressing for the office helps them get into the right frame of mind.
Some employees allow their remote workers to work flexibly, giving them freedom of times they work. This is an excellent opportunity to capitalise on. Typically, people will work better at different tasks at different times of the day. Some people have more focus in the morning, others in the evening. Take advantage of this focus by completing priority tasks during this time. Fall into an afternoon slump or can’t quite get going in the morning? Take this time to do tasks such as checking emails or booking meetings.
Enjoy the sun
Not having the work commute saves us time. Instead of spending more time in bed, take the opportunity to get up and get some sunlight. Getting 15 minutes of daylight in the morning can help boost your mood, decrease stress, and helps wake up the body. It also helps to regulate our circadian rhythm.
Make sure you take your breaks. It is very easy to get so wrapped up in work that you find it’s now 6pm, you haven’t moved all day, you’re 6 coffees in, and it’s finally time to roll over to the sofa and watch that Netflix series you’ve been thinking about all day.
Use 15 minutes in the morning to get some movement outdoors too. Take a short 15-minute walk. Do this again at lunchtime after you’ve eaten, and in the evening after dinner. Getting movement after eating can help the digestive process meaning less bloating and improved gut health, and just by taking these three walks, you have got in 45 minutes of gentle movement into your day. Not only does this help you physically, but walking outside also improves mental health, reduces stress, and lowers risk of chronic disease.
Eat the right diet at the right time
Reaching for the toast in the morning, snacking at 11am, having your sandwich, crisps and chocolate bar at lunch, snacking again during the countdown for dinner?
Many people think diets are only for those that want to lose weight but having a solid nutrition protocol can drastically improve your cognitive function. Carbohydrates increases serotonin release which is the body naturally releases before bedtime. It makes us tired, which is why many people have an afternoon slump. Protein decreases this release and is highly satiating. Meaning that by filling up on protein though the day and eating your carbs later on, you will want to snack less, have more energy during the working period and be more relaxed and ready for bed in the evening.
Try having a high protein breakfast such as bacon and eggs, a protein-based salad at lunch, loaded with a variety of veggies, and have your carb such as rice or pasta in the evening.
Fasting for cognitive function
Studies have shown that taking a break from eating can help people learn, remember, and perform better due to the digestive system not needing the additional blood flow. Working from home means that your colleagues can’t hear the rumbling tummy, so it is a good time to try this routine. Fasting can be a 24-hour period, or more commonly an 8-hour eating window. You choose 8 hours to eat within, and you eat nothing outside of this time.
Getting good sleep, and getting up on the right side of the bed
There’s nothing worse than being tired all day and having to do a full day of meetings or tasks that demand high performance. Prepare for this by ensuring you have a good bedtime and morning routine.
Evening routine –
- Go to bed the same time every night (within one hour) even on weekends.
- Make sure you get a solid 7.5-9 hours of sleep. Not just time in bed
- Turn off all electronics 1 hour before bed. This means no checking emails just as you tuck yourself in. The blue light from electronics convinces your body it is daytime, meaning a decrease in release of melatonin, the hormone which makes us feel drowsy.
- No caffeine 8 hours before bed. It can take 8 hours for your body to get rid of caffeine which means that when you go to sleep it can still be in your system. Switch to decaf in the afternoon and evening. There’s also caffeine hidden in a lot of soft drinks and even dark chocolate, so keep a watch for these.
- No work 3 hours before bed. You do not need to be thinking, worrying, or stressing about work at that time. Your cortisol (stress) levels will increase, which does not facilitate a good night’s sleep
- Keep your bedroom cool and dark. These are optimal conditions for a great night’s rest.
Morning routine –
- Wake your brain up with some brain training. Why not learn a language whilst out on your 15 min walk?
- Try some meditation to set you up for the day.
- Leave your coffee until midday, or at least 90 minutes after waking. When you wake up your cortisol levels are climbing. Caffeine will have little to no effect on you at this point. Instead, save it until midday when they start to decline and feel a totally new buzz.
We all want to do well in work, but we also need to prioritise spending time with family, looking after ourselves, and just switching off. Make sure you are switching off in the evenings and on weekends. It’s easy to take a peek at the inbox when spending time with your partner, or checking on a deadline when we should be enjoying time with the kids. This confusing cocktail of impulse and guilt takes time away from what means most to us in life and makes us less productive during work time. Make sure you have solid lines between work time and leisure time to look after your own mental health, relationships, and productivity.
Start embedding some of these actions into your daily routine to reach new levels of energy and performance. Before starting any nutrition or exercise routine it is always important to check whether it is suitable for you, and always seek the advice of your doctor.