We’re living in weird, wild times right now as COVID-19 takes hold of our nation. As a mom of two and entrepreneur with a home office, I’m here to tell you things are seriously weird! We don’t have our normal routines in any way, shape, or form, and as someone who thrives on structure and predictability, this throws me off balance, as I know it does for so many of you, as well.
With routines being rocked and rolled, it’s unnerving to us who work best with our predictable world intact. What’s particularly tough about this situation is that people have been forced to work from home without any time to plan: how to set up an office, stay organized, and minimize distractions. But despite this, we all know the show must go on. So as the Independent’s productivity coach, I wanted to share five things that will, I hope, be of help as you navigate through our current reality.
1. Wear what’s appropriate for your reality: When you go into a job, it provides immediate structure to your life. You’re forced to get dressed, be presentable, and brush your teeth (we hope). These normal activities help push you into a productive mindset. If you’re new to the working from home gig, it might feel appealing at first to stay in your pj’s. However, just the act of getting ready for the day (whatever that means to you) will help set you up for more success.
2. Keep a “chunky” schedule: Similar to getting dressed for the day, sticking with a familiar schedule will help get your mind in gear. Without clear timeframes throughout your work day, it’s easy to let minutes bleed into hours. Set up a chunky schedule for yourself. Make actual time blocks and set priorities so that you can hold yourself accountable. Each night, list your main priorities for the next day. End your day with order. Begin your day online and end it with a hard stop. Define those boundaries early on and stick with them!
3. Eat your frog(s) first! One of the simplest concepts and hardest to do is to eat your frog first in the morning … What this means is that you must identify (preferably the night before) what your frog or frogs are: What are the things (three max) that you absolutely HAVE to get done? Do them first. This will create momentum for the whole day, and even if it takes you all day to get those frogs eaten, it means that you did it. You didn’t put it off; you didn’t delay. At the onset of each day, ask yourself, “What’s my frog today?”
4. Be proactive with “others”: On top of learning to work from home, so many of us also now find ourselves in a new career: homeschool teacher. While there are some valuable, rewarding parenting aspects to this, I think everyone can agree, managing kids and getting work done is a major productivity killer. My suggestion is to use your chunky schedule to include specific “shifts” with kids. There is no way to do both at the same time, so if you are co-parenting, split the times up so each of you can have full focus while doing your work and full focus with your children. If no co-parent option to share the load, it will be rougher, but try to find a way to keep them occupied during your focused work. If you can, you will be able to hit both your work and your parenting priorities.
5. Find the bright spots and give yourself a break: Please believe that however you’re handling this massive, life-changing shift, you’re doing a great job. There is no right or wrong way. It will take a while to figure out what works best for you — in your business, with your partner, and as a parent. It’s so easy to get inundated with the negative, especially while the outside world is inundated with so many sad and scary stories. However, it is possible to find bright spots in your day.
At the dinner table, ask everyone to list a rose or thorn from their day (something positive/something they wish would have been better), and before going to bed, write down three things for which you are grateful. It is surprisingly easy, and it will focus you on the positive in a time when the negative can swallow us up.
We’re likely in this for a while, so my last tip is to put yourself on an eating/drinking schedule! Eating more than usual, snacking mindlessly, and drinking alcohol earlier in the day can quickly begin to feel normal when you’re working from home. It’s not. So stick to a schedule, eat your frogs, and if everyone is alive and happy at the end of the day, then your job is done, and your glass o’ vino awaits!
At the Santa Barbara Independent, our staff is working around the clock to cover every aspect of this crisis — sorting truth from rumor. Our reporters and editors are asking the tough questions of our public health officials and spreading the word about how we can all help one another. The community needs us — now more than ever — and we need you in order to keep doing the important work we do. Support the Independent by making a direct contribution or with a subscription to Indy+.