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Maximizing Productivity and Relationships While Working from Home

This is a guest article by Stephanie Bickel of Speak by Design

Working conditions have drastically changed at a rapid rate, but that doesn’t mean your productivity levels have to suffer. Keep yourself and others motivated by Planning Effectively,  Structuring Time Differently and Strengthening Team Connections.

1. Prepare for the following day

Make a list of all things that need to be done the night before each day. Cross out the things that you don’t really need to do. Put all things left on the calendar. Schedule rest and family time. Make a list of all communications that need to go out (giving updates, asking for meetings, delegating tasks).

2. Schedule time for the 3 F’s - Focus time, Family time, and Fitness time

Save the morning time for the top 3 priorities that need to be completed. Remove all distractions and obstacles to focus (e.g. put on an out of office note to help you focus, turn off WiFi, shut off smartphone notifications). Below is a sample schedule that can be adjusted to your situation.

  • 5:00-6:00 AM –LIVE LIKE A RETIREE (have coffee, read the news)
  • 6:00-8:00 AM – FOCUS TIME – Build 1-3 things
  • 8:00-10:00 AM – FREE (exercise, help your spouse, partner or children)
  • 10:00-12:00 – TEAM SUPPORT (calls, meetings, coaching, reviews)
  • 12:00-1:00 – FREE (Move around)
  • 1:00-5:00 – CLIENT CALLS
  • 5:00-6:00 – PLAN FOR NEXT DAY
  • 6:00-9:00 - FREE

3. Prioritize time spent on activities: 60-30-10 Rule

  • 60% - Must do
  • 30% - Should do
  • 10% - Nice to do

4. Set yourself up to have a “good” day

Don’t procrastinate by not doing the hard things. Get them done early in the day! Don’t go through your workday by just reacting to email. Set out a plan each day to build something, so you feel like you are making progress toward your goals (big or small).

5. Set timers on activities

Use the Pomodoro Technique. Choose your task and determine the total time to work on it. Set a timer and work on the task for 25 minutes. Avoid all distractions and urges to multi-task. Take a 5-minute break for energy renewal before starting the next Pomodoro. Take a 20-30 minute break after completing 4 Pomodoros.

6. Plan for reaction time to answer emails

Block 2-3 times throughout the day to check email. Only read each message once and decide what you want to do with it - reply, delete, forward, or archive.

7. Create checklists to monitor productivity

Create checklists to monitor each success. This is crucial at this time to make yourself feel productive. Write everything down. Keep a pen and paper handy or use your smartphone to capture tasks.

8. Make decisions faster

When team members ask questions on decisions that need to be made, quickly decide “yes”, “no” or “hold for now”. The sooner you make a decision, the less time it occupies your mind, and the quicker you are ready to move to a new task.

9. Have a designated workspace and dress for success

To separate yourself from work and home, make sure you create an established workspace. If you don’t have a designated “office”, use a space that is least used in the house that will get you away from other distractions. Get dressed for the day in more business-like attire. This will send a signal to your brain you are going into a working mode. Change back into more casual clothes when you transition to homelife mode.

10. Physical activity is essential to recharge your body and mind

Allow yourself to take 5-minute movement breaks (at least every hour) away from your desk to stretch, stand up, walk around, and get your blood flowing.  Get outside during longer breaks to enjoy the sunshine and force your mind to think about something other than work. This will help you recharge and reenergize.

11. Include time to transition to and from work life

Set expectations with your family upfront. Make sure they know your schedule for the day and when you have important phone calls and virtual meetings. At the end of the day, make sure you set aside time (15-30 minutes) to wind down and prepare yourself to be at home. This would normally be done during your commute home. Make a conscience decision to shut off “work” mode and turn on “home” mode. Immediately ask a family member, “How has your day been?”, to trigger your mind to make this transition.

12. Strengthen team connections with more frequent check-ins

Build in time to check-in with your teams and clients more often to deepen your relationships. Call them. Text them. Use virtual technology. Give team members updates throughout the week. Let team members know what others are doing that may impact them in the near term. Have designated personal check-ins.

By Planning Effectively and Structuring Time Differently

…you will come out of each day with a sense of accomplishment,

…and be ready to conquer whatever comes your way tomorrow!

Author Bio

Stephanie is the Founder and CEO of Speak by Design.  She created the Lead by Design methodology for all Speak by Design programming.  She recently launched Speak by Design University to help sustain the impact from their programs. Speak by Design has deep expertise launching new CEOs, coaching TED talks, preparing management team presentations to investors, and helping Sales professionals win new business.  

Their signature courses include: Presence, Presenting with Impact, Storylining, High Impact Meetings, 360 Leadership Communication, Handling Difficult Situations, and Trusted Advisor Training. Speak by Design help people become consistently compelling forces for their organizations.

Want to learn more about keeping yourself and your team productive at home?

See courses available from Stephanie and the rest of the Speak by Design Team and get in touch to find out how they can help you reach your goals!

Learn more

Last updated: 22 May 2020

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