Right now, everybody is experiencing an unprecedented change in the way we live our lives. Many of you now, for one reason or another, are working from home for the first time, or at least now every day.
When I first started working from home years ago, I have to admit it was a little rough. I was sitting at my desk upstairs in one of the bedrooms, and it was too easy for me to get sidetracked. I love to watch a good television show and I would find myself every once in awhile clicking it on in the middle of the day and getting sidetracked. So one of the first things I realized is that you have to be very selective on where you are going to work. Are you going to be working from your Home Office you already have or are you going to set one up? Are you going to be working at the kitchen table, dining, or coffee table? All of these environments serve up different ways to work with different temptations. Which temptations are you most susceptible to? Do you need lots of isolated space? Lots of natural light? Somewhere away from the sounds of news and Netflix? Is staring at the kitchen going to make you run for that next cup of coffee or something to nosh on? Establishing where you feel you can be most productive and distraction-free is step one.
You have to treat working from home like you do when you're at the office. That job where you got up in the morning and showered, got dressed, and got in your car and drove somewhere.
Everybody jokes about working from home in your sweatpants and a T-shirt (and I am not going to lie, I’m doing it right now!). And while this is okay once in a while, what you wear really does change your mentality. You need to prepare yourself for your day.
Don't start with the “it doesn't really matter because no one is going to see me” attitude because if you're not used to working from home, it changes your attitude and subsequently your performance. The ritual of all that you did going to your office psyches you up, and is still, if not even more, important to maintain. If you normally go to work at 8:00 o'clock, then do not change your pattern at home. It’s easy to get a false sense as of “I can do this from 9 to 10, then that from 2-4.” Now, with more time, you will start to understand your own rhythms better and can make more insightful decisions about how and when you can use your time, but in the beginning, stick to what has worked for you.
This biggest danger of working from home is being sidetracked. There are so many things that we face when we are working from home, I call them “shiny objects”: Watching YouTube videos, surfing Facebook, Instagram, that group chat, etc. Remember, these apps are designed to distract you, to suck away your attention. So turn them off! My Achilles heel is my email. So I developed this little process that I'm going to encourage you to think about it: I set the clock on my phone for about 30-45 minutes, depending on the project that I'm working on. I start it and then shut my email off. Blasphemy, I know! But it needs to be done. Trust me, if anybody really needs something so urgent they can’t wait an hour, they are going to call or text you. The goal is to minimize distractions, both virtual and physical (important papers, that new book, or to-do list on your desk).
Given the current environment, what’s unique about working from home now is that everyone is doing it. Your wife, your husband, your kids, your sister, mother, grandma, and third uncles could all be there at home with you. So now you’ll need to work hard to set up some clear boundaries, set some guidelines so you can focus on the job that you have to do now.
Another unique challenge and opportunity in this climate is in regard to activities like networking, which are best done in person. I’m a big networker, and go to at least a couple of networking events every week–but you can't do that now in this current environment. So we are all moving virtually. The tool for video conferencing is Zoom. No doubt you’ve heard of it, and I too am going to recommend it. So maybe there's that person you met at a conference two or three weeks or a month ago and you thought they would be a good person to network with, but you just didn't have the time because you're really busy. But now you have the time, and probably they do, too. So I encourage you then, through zoom, to send an invite like: a “hey Bob, hey Mary, we met a few weeks back at a conference. Hey, I'd love to really network with you. Do you have some time for a short chat via zoom so we get to know each other a little bit better? And given this current environment, is there anything I can do to help you?” Just because it’s virtual, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take the time to build a relationship.
In conclusion, this is a great time to pause and connect. While it’s understandable and easy to get discouraged or sad, try and stay positive. I’ll say it again, stay positive. As soon as you feel down, remember that this too will change. Like in the movie Jerry McGuire, Dicky Fox said, “I wake up every morning and clap my hands because this is going to be a great day.”
That's what I want you to do every morning when you get up. Clap your hands and think “this is going to be a great day!”