Tips and Tricks for Working from Home
Updated: Sep 1, 2020
Article by Behavioural Sassonomics
Humans weren’t designed to be online all day. For a start, it’s not awesome for your eyes; in the short term, it can cause computer vision syndrome, with symptoms like blurred vision and headaches. Long term exposure could lead to damaged retinal cells. Not only that, being online changes our behaviour, making us more anti-social online. Because there is little or no consequence to behaviour online, we now see the impact of digital trolls such that 40% of American adults have reported online abuse.
On the flip side, there are incredible benefits to our suddenly digital lives. Working virtually has benefits for accessibility, and it’s been highly effective at allowing many of us to keep working, albeit at home, to stay safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since we are looking at living in this digital world, it’s high time we figure out what works for you to keep you engaged and motivated in your virtual reality.
It can be tiring to pay attention for long periods of time
Stay Focused with Note-Taking.
Let’s face it, laptops are distracting. Taking notes on the computer might not even be possible while you are listening into a meeting or a Zoom lecture. Sorry, trees, I’m suggesting you follow note-taking best-practices and use the ol’ pen and paper. Try synthesizing the notes while you write them instead of taking down what your boss says verbatim. Organizing the words will help solidify dat? knowledge!
HOW EFFECTIVE IS IT?
Researchers have found that only half of students taking online courses even take notes (!!!) which is a huge problem, because even just rewatching lectures isn’t sufficient for knowledge intake and retention. Talk about throwing your university tuition down the drain…
Try to elevate your concentration
It’s hard to concentrate when you’re on Zoom all day (I frequently spend 6-8 hours a day on Skype or Zoom for work). There are a couple of things that you can do based on research that might boost your concentration.
A treadmill desk. It has been shown by one study to boost memory and concentration.
Doodling. A study found that doodling while listening boosted memory and retention of information.
Eliminating distractions. Is there a noisy neighbor outside? Find some headphones. Your personal phone too distracting? Put it in another room. Your roommate coming in for a chat when you need to focus? Close the door, put up a sign, communicate you need to focus.
Smartphones are distracting
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
Fidget spinners. Studies have shown they are useless. They don’t keep attention and might actually impede learning, with study participants faring worse on memory tests. Plus if you’re at university or working age, you’re too old for a fidget spinner anyway…
You can work on your focus and concentration! Start by assessing yourself – let’s be honest, are you able to concentrate easily? Try this little test: Your Focus Is Good If...
You find it easy to stay alert
You set goals and break tasks up into smaller parts
You take short breaks, then get back to work
Your Focus Needs Work If...
You daydream regularly
You can't tune out distractions
You lose track of your progress
If you are finding your concentration isn’t up to the task, try working on it. Maybe even try some mental puzzles!
This brain has legit turned into jelly
Think about how it feels to have to concentrate on a task with no end in sight. Feels bad, even just thinking of the idea. Now think about how it feels to say to yourself, okay, I’ll concentrate for the next hour. If that feels a bit easier to imagine, maybe it’s time to structure your concentration time a bit better. Limit how long you will concentrate for. If you know that this series of Zoom meetings will deplete your mental energy, schedule a workout afterwards, or a break. Have a particularly busy Tuesday coming your way? Try to block out some time so you don’t get extra meetings stuck in there where you know you will lose focus. Also, try focusing on one task at a time. It may improve your clarity of thought and get the task done faster and at a higher quality. Studies have found that always on leads to higher levels of stress, so do disconnect. It’ll help you focus better tomorrow.
Give yourself time to rest and recharge by going offline
Take Care of Your Body.
But like, actually do it. Getting enough sleep has sooooo many benefits. Sleep can improve concentration, productivity, cognitive functioning, and consequently your performance. It has even been shown to increase problem-solving skills and reduce the number of errors made. Not only is sleep linked to better health outcomes, not getting enough sleep has been linked to depression. So do yourself a favour… get organized to have a good sleep while you navigate this digital world (i.e., no phones before bed!). START YOUR DAY WHEN YOU’RE READY.
Learning and working from home might have some cognitive benefits because we can start when we’re good and ready, instead of when we’re still trying to wake up. A 2017 study found that starting the university learning day later (i.e. at 11am) resulted in better learning outcomes because of reduced impact of sleep deprivation’s negative relationship with cognition.
Additionally, getting some exercise can improve concentration and memory. And I’m not talking about a midday CrossFit class (unless that’s your thing)… just going for a walk and getting the heartrate up is helpful. Eating right is important too; for example, leafy greens have been linked to improved focus. I know it’s really easy not to do these things, but the cost of not doing them is having a bad time doing your online classes or meetings. So just do it.
Sometimes we struggle to concentrate because we’re dehydrated. So drink that water!
WATCH OUT FOR THOSE SWEETS!
Research has shown that high-sugar diets decrease short and long-term memory, problem-solving ability, and cognitive flexibility.
What Works Best For You?
Maybe you’re a night owl and starting later is the key. Maybe you’re addicted to soft drinks and getting off the sugar will help. Maybe you live in a noisy house and your solution is investing in a pair of good headphones. Whatever it is, make the effort now to figure it out to reduce the negative impacts later… your brain will thank you!