Earn Work-Life Balance

HerMoney Healthline: How To Keep Good Habits While Working From Home

Rebecca Cohen  |  March 31, 2020

The author of “The Power of Habit” and “Smarter Faster Better,” on how we can all rock the whole "working from home" thing.
This article is part of a new HerMoney Healthline series where we ask pros in a wide range of fields for their top tips on making it through the social and economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Browse past HerMoney Healthlines here.

If you’re anything like us, you’re finding yourself ignoring all of the work from home best practices that experts have been suggesting in recent weeks. Your sweatpants that are really pajamas are three days old at this point and your bed has a permanent imprint from you sitting in the same spot 20 hours a day. We needed a little inspiration to create better work from home habits, so we reached out to Charles Duhigg, Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and author of bestsellers, “The Power of Habit” and “Smarter Faster Better,” to guide us through. 

Duhigg, after feeling frustrated with his own bad habits he couldn’t break, created a career out of changing his and helping others to do the same. During these unprecedented times, he has dedicated himself to helping others who feel they are in a slump by providing insight into a better work from home life, without changing anything too drastically. His tips are sure to clear your head and get you on the right track to performing more effectively both as an employee and family member during a foreseeable future of self-quarantine and stay at home orders. Here’s what he had to say.

Do not expect too much of yourself.

“Every single American has one job — to stay healthy,” he says.

“Every other job is less important than that. It means keeping mentally healthy and keeping positive. We know our immune system is influenced by our stress. It is important to not get stressed out because you’re behind on your emails or you didn’t do the thing you thought you might get done right now. Try to think of it this way: If I made it through the day and I’m still healthy, I’ve not just done my job, but I’ve excelled!” Celebrating the small victories is difficult yet essential in a time when everything around us seems drab and negative. It’s what will get you through a bad day and keep you waking up positive for days to come. There is a light at the end of this tunnel, even if you can’t see it yet.

Make life more manageable.

Being isolated isn’t easy. For anyone. No matter the size of your home, it is important to establish boundaries and safe spaces for everyone living there right now, including yourself. It gives everyone the privacy they need during work hours and times of distress which makes communal areas available for movie nights and fun family games. “Have some area of your house you can retreat to that is private, that is yours, that you can control. It doesn’t even have to be behind a closed door, just a space that is exclusively yours. For humans to feel healthy, they have to feel like they are in control of their environment to some degree,” Duhigg says. 

Do not worry about good habits falling away.

You might be putting on weight or falling out of your normal training routine. Instead of stressing about what is lost (or gained), focus on what you can do and be proud of what you’re still accomplishing. Seriously, merely getting out of bed is a massive win in our opinion. “Habits are situationally dependent. If you used to exercise regularly, the gyms are all closed, as soon as this is over, those old habits will reestablish themselves,” Duhigg explains. Mind over matter is big here. Understand that you’re not hitting the gym because you physically can’t, and no one is blaming you for that. Instead, flip the narrative. Get excited for how good that first workout back will feel when the world returns to normal. 

Create new habits.

“The key to doing that is to give yourself rewards. If you want to start an exercise habit, put on your sneakers, take a walk around the block, do two push ups and five jumping jacks, then give yourself a reward right away – a long shower, something yummy for breakfast. What matters most is not the intensity of the workout, or the activity you’re doing, but the fact that you’re building a routine, then rewarding that. This is an opportunity to build the healthy habits you’ve always wanted to – and it’s going to pay off like crazy when this is over. And it’s going to be over,” Duhigg says. 

To hear Duhigg’s original HerMoney podcast about building better habits, listen in here.

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