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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

10 Top Tips to Stay Motivated and Focused this week…

Stay motivated with these 10 motivational tips

Ever seem a little scattered? Do your business goals seem elusive and just out of reach? Are you frustrated at the end of the day because you never completed what you needed to? Are you so scattered that you don’t even have time to read this post? If so, then here are the Top Ten Tips to stay focused this week…

10. Answer the question, “What is the specific result I am focused on achieving this week?”

Without a clear destination you can’t get where you want to go. Imagine getting in a plane and just taking off to “go somewhere.” Use the SMART goals format to define your destination. Simple & Specific, Measurable & Meaningful, As if Now & Action oriented, Reasonable & Realistic, and Timed Towards what you desire. Specific is Success!

9. Get Motivated by Listing all the emotional reasons “WHY” you want to get to your destination.

When a goal is set in place…so are the obstacles that will be needed to be overcome. This will take energy and energy lies in generating the emotional “WHY” we want it. For ourselves, our kids, our spouse; dig down deep into that well of emotion and let it all gush forth. For extra credit, link up your life purpose to the goal and your identity to really get some power.

8. Find New People:

You are where you are, in part, due to the peer group you have around you. My workout buddy in the morning is the best. We both push each other. We are doing the Insanity workout and just this morning as we were completing our workout, he asked if I wanted to get in an additional 15 minute “pump” on the weights. He pushes me even when I’m tired and am ready to be done. I reciprocate by making sure I am at the gym every morning before he is. That way, he knows he has to bring the DVD’s or he will let me down by not showing up. We both add value to each other in different ways.

7. Clear Your Clutter

Get rid of anything that isn’t supporting your success. There needs to be emptiness in order for something new to come into your life. If a woman wants a man in her life but is sleeping at night with extra pillows and her pets…there’s no room for a man in her bed. If a guy doesn’t clean out 3/4 of his closet, get an extra toothbrush, have his/hers towels, and cleans out two dresser drawers, how will there be space for a woman to come into his life? Clear out your junk and make room!

6. Define & Master a Single Core Skill

Focus on changing one specific behavior that will move you towards your goal. You can prepare to walk/run all day with the right shoes, the music, playlists, weather, timing, treadmill or outside, determining your routes, estimating your time; but in the end all you have to master is putting one foot in front of the other for an extended period of time. Master taking one 8-10 inch step at a time with good form and posture.

5. Get comfortable with Being Uncomfortable

Let’s say a person wants to reduce their weight. They will need to get comfortable being uncomfortable. When they “FEEL” uncomfortable because their stomach grumbles and they would normally go for some food, how can they start to feel comfortable with that moment and appreciate it instead of dread it? (This leads to #4)

4. Find a new, more empowering belief

Using the example above, when the stomach rumbles and they start to “FEEL” uncomfortable, insert a new belief for the old one. If the normal process is: stomach rumbles, the person says, “I’m starving to death and gotta eat” interrupt that self talk with, “excellent, that means that I must be thirsty” and then take a new action and drink water. (Sounds silly but I did that when I lost 60 lbs over 20 years ago and it still serves me to this day!)

3. Create Small Reminders

If you have a bigger goal of a trip, weight loss, business goals, etc. remember that where your focus goes your energy flows. Change your passwords to reflect your goals: ToughMudderNov2018, StBarth2017, CollegePaidinFull, Beachretirement2035, and BE CREATIVE. Put pictures on your mirror, in the shower, above your bed, in the bathroom, dash of the car, create reminders everywhere. These small reminders will help you stay focused and on track.

2. Create Quiet time to Focus

I recently read an article stating the main reason most small businesses fail is because of lack of planning. Strategic, purposeful thinking can only be done in a quiet setting and it should be done consistently (preferably a block of time weekly and even daily!) In order to create this space…find somewhere outside of your normal office, etc. (I have a client who uses a study room at his local library, no one finds him there) This will avoid the trap of the business running the person instead of the person running the business. During this scheduled quiet time see point #1.

1. Master Fear Management

I don’t care if you are the CEO of a Fortune 50 or a small solopreneur. In today’s competitive market the need to be innovative, creative and flexible creates HUGE uncertainty. Uncertainty breeds FEAR. Fear can be present due to change happening in the negative, ie going bankrupt and also the positive, ie problems that arise from rapid growth and expansion. Master Your Fears. Embrace them everyday because if you succumb to FEAR it will only lead to low self confidence, being motivated by necessity instead of possibility and worst of all, create a scarcity mentality. MASTER FEAR by doing at least one specific task everyday that you fear the most in your business. Eat Uncertainty and Fear for Breakfast to earn your dessert after dinner.

BONUS TIP:

Get an unconditional form of support to keep you on track…like an Executive Business Coach. (You know I had to plug that in!) Regardless of whether it’s me or not, no one earns a Grammy, an Emmy or an Oscar and stands on the stage during the acceptance speech and says, “I DID IT ALL MYSELF!” They all have people to thank…people who believed in them, provided support in those troubled moments of doubt, uncertainty and FEAR and pushed them to stay focused on their dreams and goals.

FOCUS!

To your continued success,

James

Wanted: 3 Killers of Success in 2012

“Success in 2012” was pronounced “dead at the scene” today after police discovered his twisted and broken body at the bottom of a deep ravine. What was initially thought to be a suicide, was later classified as a homicide, as physical evidence at the crime scene pointed towards signs of a struggle.

Apparently, “Success in 2012” went for a walk at Looking Toward a Brighter Future Point. While admiring the sunset, 2012 was snuck up from behind by three suspects who robbed him blind. After a brief struggle, 2012 was pushed to his limits and went over the edge of the fiscal cliff.

The police are currently looking for three suspects in the case. Be on the lookout for the following individual thoughts.

  1. The Ringleader of the gang is, “I’ll start tomorrow.” He is to be considered armed and very dangerous. You will find him lurking in the evening shadows of “No Energy” and along the “Path of Least Resistance.” He loves to sabotage success by blowing up any opportunity to do something different that will create change today. He loves finding reasons, excuses and justifications for not doing the things that matter most now. One of his favorite sayings is, “Why do today what you can put off until tomorrow?”
  2. His right hand man is, “I don’t know.” I don’t know is the child of “No Self-Confidence” and can usually be found whenever there is a decision to be made that may be unpopular. He is a great deflector of responsibility, creator of complacency and absolutely detests leadership. “I Don’t Know” eats “Taking Initiative, Being Creative and Building a Life” for breakfast. He is the arch enemy of Personal Truth and a Purposeful Life.
  3. Their last known accomplice is, “It’s no big deal.” If a person is lucky enough to get past “I’ll start tomorrow” & “I don’t know,” then “No Big Deal” shows up to steal Success right out from under your nose. He is the killer of celebrating a person’s ability to overcome adversity, take risk and feel a sense of achievement. When these three personal experiences are stolen, work no longer seems worth the reward and all Hope for a Brighter Future flies right out the door.

These three criminals are responsible for the murder of Success in 2012. They are facing life in prison for the crimes they have committed against Success in 2012 and must be apprehended. It is critical for the safety of “Success in 2013.” A reward of “An Amazing Life” has been posted for anyone with information leading to their whereabouts and arrest.  Call (919) 745-7569 Immediately to claim your reward!

Success in Three Minutes a Day… How To Stay Focused

Some of the most popular and famous self-help books are the ones that are short, simple and concise. Take James Allens’ classic book, “As a Man Thinketh.”  is powerful and insightful. Benjamin Franklin is remembered for his exercise around living 13 Core Values; the first ever self-help exercise.

Another short classic is a wonderful little book called, “It Works,” by RHJ. The Success Solution presented in the book is also simple, powerful and effective.

One of the greatest challenges any Executive or Entrepreneur faces when it comes to achieving goals is being focused. This process is designed to help you stay focused on achieving what you want in life and business.

 

Here are the simple steps. So, if you are ready, grab a clean journal and proceed.

1-  Write down everything you sincerely, earnestly and truthfully desire in your business and life. It is OK to have it shift from day to day or week to week as you work on figuring out what those items are. Have them be as specific as possible; use the SMART format when writing them.

2-  Go through the list at least three times a day: morning, noon and night

3-  Feel free to rewrite you list from time to time, rearrange and reprioritize it. Add and delete items as necessary. When your fears and doubts pop up in your mind, just pull out your list and reread it.

4-  Take action and don’t tell anyone what’s on your list.

5-  When items on your list start to appear, be sure and give a HUGE “THANK YOU” for them coming to fruition. Gratitude is important because it leads to true happiness in life.

6-  Repeat!

One final note, be sure that what you want will only bring on positive consequences. Remember that everything you put on the list will have both an upside and a downside that comes with it. It has to be good for you to have and also good for all of those around you.  Start with small items on your list and work your way up to the larger ones.

This simple exercise will test you to your limit because it is really an exercise in consistent, long term focus. I have to keep remembering to review, rewrite and update my list. It is fun and challenging, which means like most things that are worthwhile in life, the results will be amazing.

I would love to hear of your successes below and welcome your comments below!

If you would like more information on other classic short books that create profound results, visit: www.executivebooks.com

 

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50 Ways to Get Motivated to Go to Work

Do you remember the story of the Ugly Duckling? The swan egg gets mixed up in a nest of duck eggs. After the swan and ducks hatch, the gosling keeps comparing itself to the ducklings and all it sees is how it is different and believes it is ugly. Then, finally one day, the gosling becomes a swan, sees its reflection in the water and realized it is special and beautiful.

What does this have to do with being motivated to go to work? What you choose to focus on in life, and the meaning you attach to it, determines your experience.  Are you are happy , excited, and motivated to get to work each day? Perhaps you are focusing on something thinking it is ugly, when in reality, it is special and beautiful.

Did you open this email with the intention of seeing my 50 ways to be “Motivated to go to Work”?

It would not really be right to look at mine; after all, you are a swan, not a duck!

Here is how to develop your own 50 Ways to Get Motivated!

  1. Focus on 5 things you love about your drive to work.
  2. Sit in the parking lot at work and find 5 things that are wonderful from that vantage point.
  3. List 5 things you are going to be able to do this weekend as a direct result of earning money today.
  4. Sit at your desk and before you start work, think of 5 things you love about your workspace.
  5. Think of 5 benefits you are getting from your company today. (insurance, office supplies, computer?)
  6. Who are the 5 co-workers you are going to connect to today.
  7. Focus on 5 people who you will help solve problems for today. (clients or coworkers)
  8. Focus on 5 things you are going to learn today to grow.
  9. Focus on 5 Friendly Smiles you will give to someone you meet today because of work.
  10. Focus on 5 things you are looking forward to at work tomorrow.

There are your 50 Ways to Get Motivated to Go to Work! If you were not able to list 5 of each, keep building that muscle! Nothing changed for the goose except it switched its perspective from what it didn’t have to what it did have.

Too often we take the best things in life for granted. Remember how excited you were the first day you got the job offer? Changing your perspective might help you remember what you love about your job.

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