As the world starts to get back to normal—albeit a new normal—it may be time to adopt new habits to be productive in a post-COVID world. However, some of the activities you put in place during the pandemic may be worth keeping, says Michelle Wax, the founder of American Happiness Project, which is a provider of corporate mental health programs.
“During the shutdown, we went from an emphasis on external factors, such as going to a job or attending events, to a more internal focus,” she says. “With more time at home, many of us had a shift in priorities. We reevaluated how we wanted to be present in day-to-day life.”
If you pay attention to your current routines, you’ll probably discover that you created strategies and habits that helped you work in slightly different ways. Some may still be useful if you are planning a return to the office or to a hybrid arrangement.
Starting Your Day With Intention
With no morning traffic and a commute that can be counted in steps instead of miles, many of us had time to ease into the day with a sense of reflection. “Mornings became more on your own terms,” says Wax.
Post-pandemic, Wax recommends keeping this habit by taking a minute or two to create a morning ritual that sets up the day for success. Start by asking yourself these three questions:
- What can I look forward to today? Make sure you have an activity during the day that fuels you. As more people are vaccinated, this might be something that involves socializing, since many of us are craving the energy that comes from groups, says Wax.
- What has the potential to stress me out and worry me? Know how you will handle potential stressors as they arrive. “When you feel an energy drain, you can choose how to respond,” says Wax. “Maybe it will be a news article or email. Recognize the trigger and then take back control. This allows you to decide how you will let it affect you.”
- How do I want to feel at the end of the day? Determine what you need to do or not do to make that a reality. “Identify a phrase, word, or emotion you want to feel when you’ve reached the end of the day,” says Wax. “At the beginning of the day, set out to reach that feeling.”
While working from home, it was often possible to take small breaks to get outside. Continuing this habit can help boost productivity. Maybe you took time to make an amazing lunch in the middle of day or fit in a quick workout? Even just a couple of jumping jacks can provide a remedy if you were feeling stressed mid-morning.
“Working from home gave us the flexibility to incorporate things in life that had been lacking or we didn’t have time to do, says Wax.
“The act of stepping away from the computer and phone and being able to be with nature for a five-minute walk around the block is a powerful mind and body reset,” she says. “You come back to work feeling rejuvenated to continue the day.”
Unplugging From the News Cycle
With so much happening in the world during the past year, such as the global health crisis and political and social unrest, news and social media became a constant bombardment of stress for many. Over the past couple of months, many of us audited our lives and found that these channels caused stress and lack of focus, says Wax.
“Some of us put a restraint on that bombardment by disabling notifications and social media and news apps on our phones,” she says. “This step helps you take back control and determine what you allow into your life.”
Continuing to unplug post-pandemic, either permanently or with small breaks, can continue to reduce the amount of stress you allow into your life.
Before the pandemic, it was easy to stay busy and be on the go all the time; slowing down gave us space to choose the track we want to be on going forward, says Wax. “The pandemic forced us to take a look in mirror and ask ourselves if we were finding joy and fulfillment,” she says. “The small tweaks and shifts you brought into your day-to-day life can bring the positive emotions you want to experience long term.”