Have you ever felt like one day blends into the next and there’s not much definition between them? Or that the months are flying by and you feel like you’re stuck in a scene from Groundhog Day? Or you can’t seem to escape from work, because it’s sitting on your dining table 24-7? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then welcome to the new remote reality.
Schedules are odd, days either fly by or take forever, and interruptions that you never dreamed of seem to spring up out of everywhere. (Who knew that your long-standing yard maintenance crew made so much noise at noon on Wednesdays?)
Finding, or Better Yet, CREATING Structure in Your Days and Habits Has Never Been More Important
If anyone had told you in January that you and your colleagues would be working from home full-time by March, you probably would’ve laughed. It’s amazing how nimbly we made this transition in a very short period of time. However, because we are trying to adjust, balance work and life, and still deliver excellent client service, chances are that if any part of the equation has been ignored, it’s ourselves.
How to Create a Work Environment That’s Productive, Yet Balanced
Time is your friend—or your enemy, if you aren’t managing it well
- Don’t let the day manage you—you are in charge. Divide your day into blocks of time allocated to each task. Schedule these blocks according to priority and do your best to stick to it.
- The absolutely, non-negotiable tasks
- The “need” to do’s
- The “nice” to do’s
- Plan your day as if you’re in the office
- Create your to-do list the day before
- Prepare for all of your meetings ahead of time. Don’t wing it. Virtual doesn’t mean informal.
- Ditch the pajamas. Get dressed first thing each morning, just as if you were leaving the house (granted, formal business attire may not be necessary).
- Consider how your attire makes you feel—oftentimes professional attire changes our mindset and can actually have a positive impact on the outcome of your meetings and calls.
Find Your “New Normal” and Stick With It
- Establish and maintain a healthy sleep schedule
- Set mealtimes and keep healthy food on hand. Consider preparing your breakfast and lunch the night before. This cuts down on impulse eating if your schedule is tight.
- Stay hydrated. Select a large cup, mug, or tumbler that you commit to refilling multiple times per day. If you don’t love water, drop a slice of citrus, ice, or even a drop of water flavoring in to make it more enticing.
- Move your body. Try quick stretching sessions or a short walk around the block during the day.
Communicate Your Day’s Schedule to Those You Live With
- Find a way to let your family, housemates, or anyone else sharing your space know when you can’t be interrupted. For example, put a sign on the door, lock your door, or send a text message to let them know.
- If you get interrupted, remind your housemates of your agreement
- Be patient and flexible with each other
- Working together on your schedule makes the most sense
- Ask them to hold you accountable to:
- Your meal schedule
- Your hydration
- Your midday walk, stretching, or whatever personal commitment you’ve made to movement
- Together, brainstorm creative ideas for helping you maintain your focus and balance each day. It’s amazing what multiple minds can come up with.
Assess Your Workspace
- Evaluate your home office
- What’s working well?
- What isn’t working so well?
- What can you change?
- Is it time to consider re-prioritizing work space over other spaces in your home? Determine the costs to create or upgrade your office space. Search the web (Google, Pinterest, etc.) to find creative ways others have solved the “work from home” space dilemma.
Set Your Workday Schedule
- Set a timeframe for working each day
- Reward yourself with a run, or walk, or family time at the end of the day (or any activity that brings you joy)
- Consider how you felt when you left the office for the day pre-pandemic. You probably secured your workspace, hopped in your car or on the bus, and started listening to your favorite podcast. That process signaled the end of the day. What’s your new signal to help you mentally switch from work mode to evening mode? Is it cleaning up your temporary office? Is it closing the door to your office for the night? Is it logging off your laptop and closing the top?
It’s Anyone’s Guess When, or Even if, We’ll Return to Our Pre-Pandemic Way of Working
In the meantime, many financial professionals tell me their days seem to blend together and they have yet to hit their stride when it comes to working from home, or whatever modified office schedule they’ve implemented. To help solve this problem, consider your current remote work situation and create new systems that can give you a sense of accomplishment, efficiency, and work-life balance. In doing so, when your dining room table switches from office desk to family eating space, it just might help your mind make the switch a little easier too. Just because your workspace, day, and schedule don’t look the same as they did at the beginning of the year, it doesn’t mean that you cannot successfully run a tight—and healthy—remote ship.
Choose three adjustments from the ideas above to make your workplace a tighter remote ship.