If you’re a digital nomad, you’re probably accustomed to flexibility when you work. As long as you’ve got a solid internet connection, you usually can pick and choose when and where you work. In fact, you might have gladly exchanged traditional workplace assets like a 401(k) or employer-sponsored health insurance for that kind of autonomy, which is one of the main perks of freelance and remote work.
So, it probably came as a rude awakening when COVID-19 came along and you were required, along with most of the world, to shelter in place and work only from home to help stem the spread of the virus. And now, several weeks into self-quarantine measures, you might be feeling the effects of working within the same four walls. You might feel yourself slipping into a workday rut as one day slides undistinguished into the next.
Career ruts, in general, can be dangerous places to stay. They can sap your motivation and leave you stagnant, unable to move forward. Fortunately, there are plenty of techniques to help you break out of your rut and preserve your mental health at home and at work (even if right now, those are one and the same). Here are five ways you can maintain or repair your motivation and fix your career rut.
1. Vary Your Routine — and End it on Time
Begin by making minor changes to help each day feel less monotonous. Try out different corners of your place to set up shop with your laptop; move from desk to couch to kitchen table, even to the kitchen counter if you’re the standing-desk type. Changing the order of your tasks also can give you a lift during a day.
Also: take breaks. They are imperative for maintaining mental health. Set a timer to remind yourself throughout the day, then get up, walk around, drink some water, do some pushups, take deep breaths, stretch, any kind of physical activity. Texting a loved one or spending a few minutes in meditation can also help you feel more calm and connected.
Ending the workday at a reasonable time is likewise extremely important for well-being, physically, mentally, and emotionally. When you power down for the day, try getting outside for an immediate change of scenery (appropriately masked and distanced, as necessary, of course). Take a bike ride, walk the dog, even go for a barefoot drive for an extra feeling of freedom!
2. Invest in Yourself
No matter the nature of your work, it’s vital to continuously keep learning. The COVID-19 crisis has reminded us that anything can happen, and sometimes with surprising speed. It’s important to stay on top of the latest news, techniques, strategies, and regulation so you can apply fresh knowledge to your work. So why not pursue a new skill or get a new certification?
Continuing your education can help reinvigorate your passion for your career. Look into virtual community college classes or find an online certification course in your field. Or go off-book completely and dig into something brand new that’s outside your field entirely. Besides stretching your mind and creating new synaptic pathways in your brain, mastering a foreign skill can bring you a new sense of confidence and hope.
3. Clean Up Your Finances
You’re still working, so that’s good news from the beginning. But nobody is going to be immune from the financial impact this pandemic is creating worldwide, so now is definitely the time to take a hard look at your financial situation.
Begin by creating a budget for your monthly income and expenditures, and diverting whatever amount you can afford into savings or an emergency fund. Next, look into your credit report and address any issues it contains, whether they’re missteps from the past or mistakes in reporting (both are likely to show up). Then, do whatever you can to boost your credit score. A good credit rating can result in better interest rates and an easier time borrowing money if you need to.
Whether you find your money is under control or you identify areas that need action, just knowing what your financial future looks like can help you feel more in control and informed. Then you can feel better about turning your thoughts back to the job at hand.
4. Restart Your Networking Game
If you’re exhausted by Zoom meetings and haven’t been doing any extra networking lately — well, it’s understandable under the circumstances. But a crisis can offer opportunities you didn’t previously have. For example, depending on your field, you might be consulting with new peers in far-flung places to share resources or gain important info on responding to the pandemic.
It can even help just to have a virtual lunch with a colleague and discuss your tribulations — they’ll almost certainly have their own experiences to share, maybe along with solutions you haven’t tried yet. Knowing you’re not alone in your struggles can be comforting in itself.
Foxhole bonding is a real phenomenon that can create valuable alliances. After the quarantine period passes, stay in touch with anyone you connected with during the crisis. Send a handwritten note to thank them for their support, and even include a pen branded with your logo to help them connect the dots. Once the world can even think about moving forward again, keep pushing yourself to do more interacting with others in your field.
5. Shift Your Focus
Sometimes all it takes is a global pandemic to shift your perspective and help you see what’s most important. If after days of staring at the same documents on the same laptop screen and the same scenery above it, you suddenly realize that this just isn’t what you want to be doing for the rest of your life, you’re not alone. There’s already a global shift in priorities happening as a result of this pandemic, the results of which won’t be clear for a while.
Take advantage of this time away from the regular world to consider what you really want once we can all re-emerge into the new normal. More intellectual engagement? More money? Less time on the computer? More time with your family? Whatever you identify as most important, spend some time pondering all the implications so that you’ll be ready to go after it when the world restarts.
Meanwhile, try these proactive steps to help keep yourself healthy and sane working from home during the remainder of the quarantine. Varying and reinvigorating your approach can help you maintain a love for the job you’ve spent so much time learning and training to do, or begin paving the way for the new one you’ll pursue. Either way, keep calm and carry on.
Written by Molly Barnes, owner of Digital Nomad Life
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