Coming off of the long Labor Day weekend and getting back into the swing of things always feels hard. And as I sat eating my breakfast and drinking my coffee this morning, believe me, the temptation to sit around and scroll through IG a little longer, get caught up with busy work around the house, or do a "quick" Target run was strong. But as I was scrolling IG (about to go down the dangerous "let's take another day off" path), I ran across this quote on Instagram from James Clear (the author of one of my favorite books, Atomic Habits):
It was as if the universe knew I was falling into dangerous water! Reading this quote from James' book reminded me that the habits we have in place are what keep us rolling on these days when it's hard to get motivated.
And he's right. You can do any hard thing, whether it be waking up early for a workout or meditation, starting a regular workout routine, eating healthier, or any other thing you want to do, as long as you arm yourself for success by putting good habits in place that make it easier to choose the habit you want to create.
"The less friction you face, the easier it is for your strong self to emerge," he says.
I believe getting dressed is an often over-looked way to increase your productivity and focus on any given day, but especially work days. It's one of the things I do to arm myself for success every day, without fail. I work from home exclusively now, and while I am on Zoom meetings most days, there are also days when I have no meetings at all. The temptation to not get dressed on those days is strong. "What's the point in getting dressed? No one will see me, so why does it even matter?"
I've learned the hard way that failing to get dressed doesn't go well for me... at least if I want any fighting chance at being productive.
Case in point - the early days of the pandemic.
Think circa March 2020. In those first few months, everything felt so chaotic and unstable, and I believe that many people found some small comfort in dressing comfy. Personally, I wore my slippers religiously and usually found myself lounging on the couch with my computer on my lap. It as fun at first working from home. It almost felt like it was a snow day where you get to cozy up and work in a new environment for a day or two. But then after a couple weeks, I felt myself lacking motivation to get through my work day. I was starting work later every day, shutting down earlier, and getting less done as compared to when I went into an office.
Then one day it hit me, not getting dressed or sitting upright at a desk was messing with my mojo!
So from that point on, I changed. I decided to put on something that made me feel good and more like my usual working self, even when it would have been easier to follow the crowd and show up on Zoom in my sweatpants, hoodie and hair pulled back in a pony. I moved from my comfy couch (which always made me feel like I wanted to take a nap) and dusted off a desk and chair in my basement where I could sit upright.
This habit of getting dressed daily literally saved me - more specifically, my mindset and motivation - during the pandemic.
This simple change, the act of getting dressed, gave me the push I needed every day to work productively, stay focused, and connect with others. (Because believe me, you're much more likely to reach out and call someone, turn on your Zoom camera, or set up a coffee meeting when you are dressed and feeling good!)
Our world is different from those early days of the pandemic, but in many ways, it's not all that different. Many more people are working from home exclusively or at least part-time. Working from home is a new reality many of us will have for quite a long time, or permanently. And long gone are the days when it's acceptable to show up in your pajamas on a Zoom call.
This new work reality makes it even more important to surround ourselves with productive cues to kickstart our working day and stay focused amongst the myriad of distractions. Imagine for a minute which of these two scenarios you believe would produce a better result in your working day:
1. You get out of bed and roll onto the couch without a shower, and still in your pajamas, power up your computer and start to work, perhaps with the TV on and kids flying around you.
2. You get out of bed, get showered and dressed in real clothes, do your hair and makeup, and go to a desk in a separate room from the general living space, sitting at an upright chair to work.
No question scenario #2 is going to give us a fighting chance at tackling our giant to-do list for the day! I know this is why we've seen such a spike in home office purchases over the past 18 months, as people know that environmental changes are linked to our levels of productivity and focus.
Even my kids' teachers have required that they eat a good breakfast, get dressed out of their pajamas and sit at an upright chair in a quiet room for their online Zoom classes. Educators know that without these routines in place, the kids will fall prey to distractions and won't be focused.
Furthermore, James Clear in Atomic Habits says that when creating a new habit to avoid mixing the context of one habit with another.
When you start mixing contexts, you'll start mixing habits - and the easier ones will usually win out. - James Clear, Atomic Habits
In the example mentioned above, wearing your pajamas and lounging on the couch is a cue that it's time for rest and relaxation. Getting dressed and sitting in a separate space devoted for work is a cue it's time for work and productivity. No wonder it's so hard to focus and complete your tasks when you don't cue to your brain it's time for work!
Have I convinced you that getting dressed is going to help you get a major leg up on your day? Ok, good.
So then you may be wondering, "How can I make getting dressed easier? I waste so much time in my closet figuring out what to wear!"
James' suggests in his book to follow the Two-Minute Rule when creating a new habit. The Two-Minute Rule states, "When you start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do." Following this suggestion, one tip that will help you begin the habit of getting dressed is to set out your clothes the night before. (Or set out two outfits if you are one who likes to have options!) Much like setting out your workout clothes and shoes the night before to motivate you to exercise, deciding what to wear the night before removes the friction of standing in your closet in the morning wasting time on deciding what to wear, or throwing up your hands and deciding to just wear yoga pants instead.
For my 1:1 Style Transformation clients, the decision about what to wear becomes really easy (easily less than 2 minutes!) because I've created hundreds of style boards for them, using their own clothes, that they can search for using an app on their phone. They literally don't have to think about a thing because I've already shown them what to pair with that blouse, and what shoes and accessories to put with it to look amazing. Talk about reducing the friction of getting dressed!
Another thing is to remember and further motivate you to create this habit is how you want to show up on the daily. The part of James' book that really struck me is that creating habits is about mastering the habit of showing up. Every time you start a new habit, even if it's the small step of wearing your favorite comfy hoodie with a pair of jeans at first, you are "casting votes for your new identity." So the questions to ask yourself are,
"How do I want to show up when I work every day, even if it's from the comfort of my own home?"
"How do I want to show up on Zoom calls, even if every one of my co-workers is choosing comfier options?"
"What would feel most like me, and the woman I want to become?"
So on days when you feel like doing nothing, but you know you have a pile of things to accomplish, try getting dressed. Try it one day this week. Then 2 days next week, and so on. It may just be the very thing to kick-start your day into a more productive one.
Are you ready to make getting dressed easier?
I'd love to help you make the process of getting dressed easier - and ultimately help you show up in a way that feels authentically you. I am currently booking clients for my 1:1 Style Transformation service this Fall, and I'd love for you to have one of those spots! My program includes help with figuring out what to keep and toss in your wardrobe, creating a personalized wardrobe checklist to fill in holes in your closet, curated online shopping and creating style boards so you never have to worry about what to wear again. And all accessible on your own personal style site, available 24/7 as an app on your phone. Learn more about this service, and if this is right for you by booking a free 30-minute style consult with me.
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