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One Minute to Feeling & Working Better

vase with pink flowers next to gold agenda and tortoise shell glasses

About a month ago, I managed to pull myself out a work-from-home funk. I often write about what I call “the work-from-home doldrums,” that haze that remote workers can fall into from the repetitiveness of the days, the lack of social connection, and the unending continuity between work and personal time that makes everything seem like a blur. This particular funk was strengthened by the vicissitudes of the pandemic, which exacerbated the sense of isolation and overwhelm that periodically sets in. I was aware that I was in it, and awareness is the first step for creating change. My warning signs are listlessness, difficulty focusing, and agitation at completing mundane tasks. If these sound like symptoms of depression and/or anxiety, that’s because they are. I am open about my experience with anxiety, and it definitely plays a role in the remote work funks to which I occasionally succumb. But I was still finding a deep joy in my work and my life, so I recognized these symptoms as evidence that I had slipped into the work-from-home doldrums.

Disclaimer: I am not a trained medical professional, and if you are experiencing symptoms that you think might be related to a medical or psychiatric condition, you should seek professional advice. The views expressed here are only related to my personal experience and are not intended to diagnose or treat medical conditions.

Now that we got the disclaimer out of the way—seriously: it’s important to seek professional help if you’re struggling—I want to share how I took back control of my workday. Prepare to make fun of me (one-year-ago me would definitely make fun of current me), but I was able to flip a mental switch during a Peloton workout. Those who know me know that I have become a huge Peloton evangelist. I originally downloaded the app to make my winter treadmill workouts more bearable, and I was hooked: the instructors are so amazing, so inspiring, and so helpful for training that I look forward to spending time with them every day. After years spent wavering on whether to purchase the Peloton Bike, wondering how I could justify the cost, I ended up splurging and ordering it in May (verdict: 100% worth it). If you want to try the Peloton Bike or Tread, here’s my referral code for $100 off: EBT8UB.

Anyway, during this particular workout, one of the instructors (I can’t remember which one) said that if we want something in life, whether that is progress in our physical fitness or in life, we need to create mental space for it and then commit to it. Sounds incredibly simple, right? The best advice usually is.

But for some reason, this one line recalibrated my perspective and inspired me to start approaching every task with a one-minute exercise:

  1. Identify/name the task at hand.

  2. Create the mental space to complete the task successfully. For me, this involved telling myself I had time for it, briefly visualizing myself completing it, and experiencing the feeling of satisfaction and peace that I received from completing it in my mind.

  3. Commit to complete it—right then and there.

This might sound eye-rollingly cliché, but let me tell you: it works.

This three-step process enabled me to make small changes that accumulated into a renewed sense of purpose, self-confidence, and control (which helps alleviate the stress generated by overwhelm and chaos). For example, I was able to:

  • create space for and commit to working out every morning before work.

  • create space for and commit to putting on makeup before work. (This might sound incredibly superficial, but for me, splashing on some foundation and mascara makes me feel put together in a way that translates into better work habits for the rest of the day.)

  • create space for and commit to sending a weekly update e-mail to my boss, which is one of those tasks that, although requiring next-to-no time or effort, has piqued my anxiety in a way that made it hard to sit down and hammer it out.

  • create space for and commit to maintaining a weekly writing schedule.

This strategy works for every task in work and in life. Anytime you’re facing something that you keep putting off or struggling with, try the steps outlined above: name it, create space for it, and commit to it. So many people view procrastination as a moral failing, but it is not. More often than not, it results not from laziness, but from overwhelm, anxiety, and a mental block that can be overcome by committing to small actions that aggregate into bigger results. This week, I encourage you to test out the “create and commit” technique—you’ll be amazed at how much momentum you’ll gain and how much better you’ll feel overall.

“Enclothed cognition” is a thing: what you wear affects how you feel and act