Tame the chaos: 6 Tips to Stay Productive Working from Home during Covid-19

Tips to stay productive when working from home

Coronavirus pandemic aside, working from home definitely has its advantages: no commute time, less distractions from the people “stopping by to chat” and a flexible dress code. But, the lack of dedicated office space, direct accountability and rhythm also means a total lack of structure and distractions everywhere you look. It’s easy to lose your focus before the day even starts.

How do you maintain, or even increase, your level of productivity and efficiency while working at home during the Covid-19 outbreak? Here are 6 tried and true strategies to help you get going, stay on task and telecommute like a pro.

1.   set up a designated “work” area and optimize your space.

Creating a defined workspace is essential to help you stay focused during the workday. Soon you may go back to your office, but for now, you need to establish a base camp to operate from. Don’t make that your bedroom or your kitchen.

→   Pick your new office wisely. If you have a home office, recreate your workspace to resemble work. If you don’t have one, set up shop in a space preferably away from high traffic like a guest bedroom or a dining room. The idea here is that you want your mind to associate that specific space with work. Whatever your poison (email, social media, Reddit or browsing) make a commitment to stay away when you are in that designated space. Take your breaks in a different room/area so the distinction in clear and the lines don’t get muddled.

→  Tackle your tech: 

  • If you can, remove your home computer from your office to limit distractions or if that’s not an option, turn it off to make “jumping on it for a minute” more inconvenient. Another idea is to create 2 different user accounts to create some separation. Some even go so far as partitioning their hard drive.
  • Reduce your browsing time: Whichever computer set up you use, consider installing an internet blocking tool like Cold turkey to help you stay away from the internet rabbit hole during working hours.
  • Clean up your desktop. It’s easy for your desktop to turn into a junk drawer over time. Put some order back and clear some space on your digital desk and in your head by removing anything you don’t need, or installing a desktop organizer to streamline your screen.

2.   Create a work routine and adopt habits to stay productive

→  Go to work. Physically go to your work space to start your workday. Close your office door if you have one and post a do not disturb sign. If you don’t have a door, use a stand alone partition. You can even be creative and rearrange the furniture to close off your space. Separate yourself from the rest of your home and then start.

→  Limit interruptions. Don’t come out unless absolutely necessary to limit “impromptu” conversations with family members. Set up clear breaks so when you do come out, you are present and available. Multitasking is not the way to go here.

→  Create BOTH a morning and evening routine. It’s one thing to decide you will start work at a certain time, but it’s another to set up a routine that primes your brain so that when you get to your desk in the morning, you are ready to start working and be productive.

For the morning, if you already have an effective ritual that starts off your work day stick with it. If not, now is a good time to set one up. Whether it’s getting a cup of coffee, spending a few moments with your kids at breakfast, walking the dog, or reviewing and writing your goals for the day, give your mind external cues that your workday is starting. Over time, the repetition will lower your internal resistance to this new set up to the point where it will be automatic.

Don’t underestimate the power of an evening routine. Separating your home life from your work life is exponentially more difficult when you work from home.  But especially amid the Coronavirus pandemic, you need that time away from work to recharge and it’s important to clearly signal to your brain that you are shifting gear. When the workday is done; turn off your computer, clean off your desk, write out your to-do list for the next day and close the door behind you (or walk away from your dining room table). Leave work means leave work!

3.   Prep for your day the night before

→  Communicate your schedule to spouse and children to set expectations for how the next day will go. Setting up ground rules about when you will be available for questions or to tackle domestic forest fires will help everyone keep a positive attitude and will reduce the tug of war between your personal and professional life.

→  Get clear on your outcomes for the next day. Now more than ever, having a plan ahead of time for what needs to be done is essential. If you wait until the next morning to figure out what you want to accomplish, you will lose precious time and increase your likelihood of getting distracted by low priority but seemingly urgent tasks.

→  Pretend like you ARE going to the office. Lay out your work clothes so you don’t end up “working in your pajamas.” While keeping it casual is one of the perks of working from home, keeping a professional standard of dress by always being “camera ready” for that impromptu video conference call is another cue for your brain that this is not the weekend.

4.   Use meetings and interactions with others to create structure and accountability.

→  Make it very difficult to procrastinate. Nothing like scheduling early morning meetings to create the leverage to get out of bed and resist the temptation to sleep in.

→  Schedule your lunch time just like you would if you were at work to create the sense of normalcy and that “escaping from the office” time. Working from home also means that the fridge and pantry are always within reach. Having a set time to stop and grab lunch, and meal prepping ahead of time if you can, will help you stay focused on work instead of making hourly runs to the kitchen to snack and distract yourself.

→  Stay on top of your communication with your colleagues. Review your schedule and outcomes periodically throughout the day. Remember, you know what you are doing but no one else does. Even less so now since the one-on-one office conversations that normally happen in the workplace are gone.

5. Use family time as leverage to stay on Task

Zig Ziglar used to say, “the problem with most sales people is when they are home, they are thinking about what they should have been doing at work and when at work, thinking about what they should have been doing from home.”

→  Commit (or re-commit) to family dinners, dedicated times with your kids and other family rituals. Committing to being available a certain time can be a powerful motivator to get things done. Explaining “I can’t spend time with you now, but I am all yours tonight from 6-7pm”, and then being true to your word, will help you create some leverage for yourself.

→  Maintain to your nightly routines with the kids. Working from home may mean that you have more flexibility with your schedule, but sticking to your normal family schedule will help reduce the chaos at a time when the constant uncertainty can make it difficult to stay centered.

→  Schedule your workout times and rest time. Decide ahead of time when you and your spouse can “tag team” with the kids so that everyone can have some time off and DON’T use your “time off” to work unless it’s a MUST or you have already gotten in your workout-recharge time. Part of being as productive as you can at work is about managing your energy. Whether it’s working out or meditating (ideally it’s both), now is not the time skimp on self-care.

6.   Resist the urge to multi-task and juggle your personal life and work life during your work day.

The mind will always take the path of least resistance, especially when no one is watching.

→  Be careful of small, quick distractions becoming large time wasters. For instance, throwing in a quick load of laundry which in your mind will take 2 or 3 minutes can result in a wasted 30 minutes getting your kids to bring theirs down, sorting, folding, etc.  Set a timer for your breaks, keep your eye on the clock, or schedule a conference call to force you to get back to business in a reasonable period of time.

→  Have a few minutes between conference calls? Maximize your time by keeping a small work “to-do” list of items of value that you can accomplish in tiny pieces of time. Have a 5, 10 or 20 minute Short List of items you need to get done. As an added benefit, getting these “little” things off your plate will also help you stay out of overwhelm.

→  Keep a running list of people to email, call, text or follow up with. Keeping business relationships strong during these tough times can pay long term benefits. Let your business colleagues /clients know you care and are thinking of them.

→  Make your commute time count. Reallocate your commute time to productive ends. Be intentional about how you spend that time. If you used to spend 30 minutes to and from work, you can use that 20-30 minutes to do some things you didn’t have time for before. Schedule that time to get a walk or a run in,  read a story to your kids, play a family game or sit down with your teen to watch a show, read, meditate, make that phone call to a family member or dedicate that time to that side business you always wanted.

The coronavirus and Covid-19 may have created an abundance of uncertainty and it might have upended your normal office word day, but you can make working from home work for you. It can be very rewarding even. Some things have changed, but some things have remained very much the same: you have control over your productivity and your time management. You are still in charge of creating the most effective strategies to stay on top of your game. Set yourself up for success at work and use the extra time to stay engaged with family, your health, and anything else that matters to you. Stay healthy!

Tips to increase productivity when working from home

Success in 5 minutes or less: Time Management that works!

Set your timers for 5 minutes and let’s get started! Successful people do several things to start their day right. They plot out in some way, shape or form where they want to be at the end of the day.

Follow these steps, and in less than 5 minutes, you too, will find success before bedtime!

  1. Remember, successful people are very quick to make decisions and very slow to change them. Sometimes it is good to be a mule, engage stubbornness (after the decision is made) and not budge.
  2. In order to figure out what the right choice is, you need to engage your whole mind into the decision process! You can’t logically talk yourself into something and expect to be committed. Take time to meditate for 1-2 minutes on what is most important. Building rapport with the unconscious mind will allow you to “trust your gut” or “follow your intuition.” Successful people rely on their “gut.”
  3. Make sure you state decisions “the way you want it to be.” How many times do people talk about everything they don’t want? Keep your mind focused in the positive. Are you focused on winning, or not losing?
  4. Use powerful, simple language for conviction and congruency: “I am…., I commit to…, or I will…” There is no try, could, should, must, may, ought to, maybe, want to or wishing about it; either do or do not.
  5. And the best for last. Take out a 3×5 card and write down your Success List for the day. Take the top 3-5 specific things you have decided to do and don’t go to bed until they are completed. Write them down, commit to them, and say them out loud. Something changes inside when you speak your truth for the day.

These 5 steps shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes. Take 1-2 minutes to meditate on your priorities, commit with conviction and congruency to what you decide to complete, write and say it out loud, and then see what happens when you head hits the pillow and you feel that success you always dreamt of!  Time management doesn’t get any simpler than this!

Share with me your successes below!

5 Strategies To Deal With Holiday Stress

 

It’s starting already… there are Holiday decorations at the local stores!!! Fall is here and the change of seasons marks the beginning of a four month stretch of holidays and stress. Here are five solid tips on reducing your stress between Halloween and New Year’s.

 

1- Get Solid Sleep in Terms of Quantity & Quality

Your body needs proper sleep so that it can rejuvenate itself every night. Since a normal sleep cycle lasts about 90 minutes, keep your sleep in 90 minute intervals (6, 7.5 or 9 hours) so you can wake more refreshed every day.

Almost as important, give yourself a consistent bedtime. Your body has a natural rhythm. The more consistent you are at going to bed, the more rested you will be.

If falling asleep is an issue for you, there are other steps you can take to help. Beyond the obvious advice to avoid caffeine 4 to 6 hrs before bedtime, create a sleep routine for yourself, and give yourself some quiet time 20-30 minutes before bed. What you focus on during that time is what you will unconsciously think of all night. Similarly, don’t eat a large, heavy meal before bed and keep your bedroom relatively cool and well ventilated. On the nutrition side, you might want to try to have a light snack with protein (a glass of milk, sliced turkey on a rice cake) or a cup of chamomile tea to induce sleep.

 

2- Always take the healthiest eating choice

Stay away from telling yourself, “I can’t have that sweet,” it creates scarcity. An easier way to handle all of the treats, desserts, and drinks is to always take the healthiest choice. Instead of the double layer chocolate cake, take the chocolate chip cookie. Watch out for too much caffeine and sugars.

Keep your sanity and don’t diet during the holidays. Make it your goal to stay the same weight! There are so many treats, desserts, parties, and temptations. Eat and drink in moderation. Incidentally, there is a connection between overeating and being tired, so make sure you do get enough sleep, it’ll help you be in the frame of mind to make better choices.

 

3- Find a way to exercise, no excuses

Not only will it help you burn those extra calories you are bound to take in, but the body is made to move so we can feel better. Look for a way to physically move every day. You can find a 4-minute workout on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dXy3NjHtBSc&NR=1 It will boost your metabolism and help you feel better. Remember, where there is a will, there is a way. If you don’t make time for your body, your body will make you make time for it, in the way of colds, flu, and no energy.

 

4- Give yourself a Time-Out

Take a yoga class, learn to meditate, or put on that relaxing music for 5 minutes. When things get too crazy give yourself a time-out. There are many ways to do it. For some, taking a breather could mean taking a 15 minute walk around the block, giving yourself permission to sit and watch a specific TV show, or sneaking in 5-minutes of quiet time in your car in the parking lot. For others, it could mean making the commitment to “unplug” from all electronics for a night each week.

 

5- Plan ahead but stay flexible

Schedule your sleep, exercise, and time-outs for the next four months in your calendar right now, and make the commitment to stick to them. But, when things start to go crazy-busy, stay flexible in prioritizing the day. Don’t just let the scheduled de- stress time disappear. Immediately reschedule it. Stay proactive and flexible.

If you start feeling overwhelmed, “brain dump” everything that you need to do on a piece of paper and put a “label” on each line item. Decide if it’s “important and urgent”, “important but not urgent”, “urgent but not important” or “not urgent and not important”.

Classifying your to-dos, will help you decide what needs to be tackled right away or left on the schedule, and what can be pushed back or eliminated entirely.

 

The whole period around the holidays can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be something you dread. Stress is best managed by being proactive. It’s often a response to overwhelm and a general sense of lack of control –too many things coming at you and too little time to complete them.

So choose to take back that control and manage the holiday stress by being proactive in your planning and setting yourself up with the coping skills you need to enjoy the holiday season.

 

For more tips and strategies about increasing your motivation and personal effectiveness, boosting your self-confidence and developing a clearer focus go to http://www.evolutionforsuccess.com. James Murphy is a personal development expert and executive coach. He can be reached directly at 919-745-7569.

As Featured On EzineArticles

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Are you Any-body or some-body?

Are you Any-body or Some-body Special?

Being different in life is a great way to build your self confidence. The definition of self confidence is, “You decide to take a specific action so that you can earn and deserve the right to feel good about yourself.”

I was contemplating this last weekend on my long run and started to thing about the implications of the definition. I know I have covered this in previous thoughts but some things are so important, sometimes, they bear repeating.

Do you realize the amount of freedom we are blessed to have? In America, almost Any-body can do almost anything. That is the dream and the hope that has built this nation. The sad part about America is that although almost Any-body can do anything, most Any-body and Every-body tends to do what is easiest. We all tend to take the path of least resistance in life. We see this everyday in work, finances, health, and relationships.

Any-body can do something but it takes Some-body special to do what others are not willing too. It takes Some-body special to get up on a Saturday morning at 5am and go out on a training run for 17 miles. Any-body can sneak out of the office early on Friday to get to happy hour but it takes Some-body special to put in that little bit of extra time to get the job done right before leaving. Anybody can go out and get a credit card and get in debt by overspending but it takes a special Some-body to earn, save and actually own their home and car mortgage free. Anybody can put on that extra 20 pounds by sitting on the couch every night watching TV (one statistic I read stated the average child watches 22 hours of TV per week and adults average 8 hours per week—but they can not find time to exercise or spend quality family time). Anybody can go to work for somebody else, not pursue their dreams and put in their 8 hours and go home. It takes a Some-body special to understand their interests, strengths, and purpose in life, create their own business, and take on the risks of being an entrepreneur and providing jobs to others so they can feed their families. Any-body can not be invested in their community and not go out of their way to cultivate friendships outside of co-workers. It takes Some-body to find a meaningful pursuit that helps others less fortunate than them and invest their time building relationships with others. Do you get the point?

My question to you this week is, “In your life, where are you showing up an Any-body?” Where are you doing what Any-body and Every-body else is?” Where are you buying into the status quo of underachievement, living that unfulfilled meaningless life, and believing that you can’t do anything in the current economics to make your life better? Any-body can be an ant, following the ant in front of them, going to the same piece of food, taking your little piece and returning home. It takes a Some-body special ant to break away from the status quo and go find food itself. That is what builds up the self confidence of the ant and in the end benefits the entire community! Step up, face life’s challenges, commit to something different that Any-body COULD do, and be that Some-body special to ACTUALLY do it.

"Two Roads Converged…"

“Two Roads Converged…”

Last week, I had the distinct pleasure of taking Isabelle to school. As we came up to the stoplight leading out of our neighborhood, the line was very long and I guessed that it would take about 3 light changes before we would be able to turn left onto the main street. We were looking at a ten minute wait in line which meant she would be late for school.

Instinct took over and I quickly merged into the right hand lane. I drove past the long line of cars straight up to the light. At this point, the only way for us to go was the “wrong” way. We had to turn right instead of left, which took us farther away from her school. Isabelle immediately realized we were going the wrong direction and asked, “Daddy, why are we were going the “wrong” way?”

I turned right, drove 100 yards and turned around in a different neighborhood entrance. Almost immediately, I was able to make the left hand turn onto the main street going towards Isabelle’s school. As I drove, I explained to Isabelle that I was taking a “secret short cut” to school and even though it seemed like the “wrong” way, sometimes going the opposite way of everyone else was quicker. We would have to experiment and see if it was true. In this case, it was true, much to her delight. She even waved at the line of cars as we passed them, who were still waiting for the light to turn green.

A similar experience occurred at the Atlanta airport last Friday. I was waiting for my return flight and needed to stretch my legs one last time before boarding time. As I walked farther and farther down the terminal wing away from the main hub, I noticed that not only did the people traffic lighten up but the drink prices for Coke and water dropped with every store. It was also amazing that the Coke prices were lower than the water prices. Isn’t it ironic how what is better for you is sometimes more expensive and what seems easier, less expensive and more convenient is sometimes not as good for you?

In today’s world, with the media news, business forecasts, stock market news, and radio ads, you may need to get away from the mainstream, take a walk away from the mainstream to where it is not as crowded. It is good to notice where opportunity lies and more often than not, it will be away from popular idealism. Making a little bit better investment on what you are feeding your mind, body and spirit can make a big difference in your health. It can also provide you the edge that will make a small difference in your life today and a very BIG difference in your life in the long run. Make the investment in yourself that will yield results for you mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. If you take the initiative to walk a little farther away from the crowds you may be surprised at the deals you will find.

This morning Isabelle asked me if we were taking the “secret short cut” to school. It took me a moment to understand that she had changed her association from us going to school the “wrong” way to the “secret short cut” way. Separate yourself from the rest of the people who are waiting in line for something different to happen. That is the secret to getting ahead. All of the answers you need to overcome any challenge in your life right now are out there waiting for you. Be courageous, brave and try going the “wrong” way once in a while. We will see you at the “secret short cut” turnaround and we’ll be sure and wave “Hi!”

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Developing a plan!

Stop Thinking!

Many times in life we think about something that we would love to achieve or accomplish and then immediately talk ourselves out of it because the first thing that comes to mind is, “…but I don’t know how I will ever be able to do it.”

Most people take a great amount of certainty and security from “developing a plan” to achieve their goals. I am sure that you have heard the saying, “If you are failing to plan then you are planning to fail.” Waiting to take action until you have developed a plan sets up a perfect behavioral pattern for procrastination.

Many of the most fulfilling and rewarding goals I have achieved in life came from taking a bold, immediate action before I had a plan in place. Let me give you some examples:

• In 2007, I wanted to take a family trip to the Bahamas to visit friends, swim with dolphins and dive with sharks. Instead of waiting until I had the trip planned financially and logistically, I took the money I had saved and purchased the plane tickets. I had no clue how I was going to manage the time off work, get the family scuba certified, or make the rest of the money that would be needed for lodging. I let those parts of the plan develop after I made that first commitment. It was some great motivation to develop the plan and get it moving. We had a once-in-a-lifetime trip full of amazing memories.

• In June 2007, I had a goal to move to North Carolina. With the Phoenix housing market going downhill fast, I had to drop my tentative plan to sell my house and immediately put it up for sale. My final plan ended up including a double move with a 3 month stay in Colorado for a summer. One year later we closed on our new home in NC. If I hadn’t taken that first leap of faith, I might still be in Phoenix.

• In the back of my mind I have had a desire to run a 100 mile ultra-marathon this year since I just turned 40. You could call it the answer to my mid-life crisis. Instead of mapping out the six month training plan, core strength program, and eating regiment, I found a race that fit my needs, applied, and was accepted as one of the 250 runners of the race. Now, I have huge incentive and motivation to get my plan in place and have started running again. Wish me luck!

After you set your goals in life, sometimes it is best to sail to the new coast, burn your ship and then develop the rest of the plan on the fly. I understand this will cause a great amount of uncertainty, doubt, and fear. However, those emotions can be converted into actions and planning that will lead you to the desired end result.

If you are stuck in any of your goals, I urge you to find a way to put down the need to plan and instead take an immediate action that commits you to your goal. It is the immediate action that provides the motivation, activities, and opportunities that help you to develop the plan.

Your mind will be flooded with questions like:
• How am I going to pay for that?
• How can I make this work?
• What am I going to see and do there?
• How will I spend my time?

“Take action towards your plan NOW and you will naturally discover what needs to be planned for in the future.”

If you need some support developing a plan and taking action TODAY! Call TODAY for your evolution towards greater success. Commit to 3 or more coaching sessions in the month of October and receive 10% off!