Liz is a Project Manager with a passion for organization and efficiency. Where there is a timeline to be made or a task to be scheduled, she will be there. When she's not at work, Liz enjoys drinking excessive amounts of coffee, working to perfect the recipe for the chocolate chip cookie and hanging out with her adorable beagle, Oscar.
The workforce across the globe has made a drastic shift as many companies begin to follow the CDC’s recommendation of social distancing and are encouraging employees to work from home to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
For those who have the option to work from home, it may at first seem like a silver lining to all the chaos – decreased risk of catching the virus, cutting out the tedious commute, and the shining thought that maybe working from home will give you more time to focus and get things done. But as we’ll soon find out, working from home during a time of chaos has many unforeseen challenges – technology failing due to circuits crashing and households being loud and filled with more distractions now that the whole family is home.
In this article we’ll review some tips and best practices to remain focused and organized during this unprecedented time.
4 Tips to Stay Focused Through a Time of Chaos
1. Set Scheduled Time for “News Binging”
With all that is happening with COVID-19 updates, it can be difficult to ignore the urge to constantly watch the news and read updates online. At first you may feel that this helps you stay informed, but if you are doing this for hours on end it is not only making you unproductive at your teleworking job, but it is also heightening your anxiety.
Set two to three checkpoints during the day for ten to fifteen minutes to allow yourself to keep up-to-date. It’s also important to choose trustworthy news sources to ensure you are getting the best researched information. Try subscribing to breaking news updates to your personal email, that way you can check the updates on your terms, and you have already identified a trustworthy source.
2. Exercise At Least 3 Times a Week for a Minimum of 30 Minutes
This is something doctors tell us to do all the time but especially during times of high-stress like the COVID-19 outbreak. It is imperative to destress, and exercise is an excellent option to stay healthy and decrease anxiety. Try at-home workout videos, going on long walks or even running the steps in your house.
Here are some popular apps that are offering free 90-day trial periods:
Peloton– Cycling, strength, yoga, stretching
Nike Training Club -Strength, endurance, yoga and mobility
Centr - HIIT, boxing, yoga, strength training, MMA
3. Dress Like You are Going to the Office
Sounds ridiculous but keeping your routine as close to your in-office schedule as possible helps you get in the right mindset to work and focus. We are creatures of habit, so the motions of getting ready for work prepares our minds for the day ahead. This will also be helpful if you have to hop on a last-minute video conference call!
4. Avoid Working in “Relax Zones”
If you have the option of working somewhere that’s not a place you usually relax, like the kitchen table or the sofa, do it. Similar to the getting dressed for work mindset, this allows you to focus and not retreat to normal behaviors you associate with that part of your house. Remember it’s not so much the type of furniture in that room but your cognitive associations to that exact spot. So, if you have a dining room you hardly use, try working in there before you setup shop at your kitchen table where you eat every day.
4 Best Practices to Stay Over-Organized
Working remotely will require more communication. The whole world working remotely including your internal team and your customers requires over communication to the highest degree.
Here are some ways to prepare.
1. Reorder Your To-Do List so you are Not a Roadblock
Dedicate the first hour of your workday to ensure you are not a roadblock to your team. This means if you have information you need so distribute to them, do that first thing in the morning so that when they are starting their day they have everything the need and aren’t waiting on anything from you. Only then should you begin to tackle your personal task list.
2. Keep Your Calendar Up to Date
This includes blocking scheduled breaks and your to-do items. Use your calendar as an outline for your day to allow you to stay on target and to have full transparency with your team. Create subject line keys to keep everything straight – start the calendar title with the corresponding category: Work Block, Internal Meeting, Client Meeting, etc.
3. Create Calendar Reminders
Mark the meeting as “free” so it doesn’t block your entire day off and put reminders at the top of your calendar that you can review every morning and double check you’ve completed before end of day. Drag and drop related emails into the reminder so you know exactly to what conversation the reminder is referring.
4. When in Doubt, Communicate More
Send detailed follow-up emails to both internal team members and to your clients. This is a best practice but is crucial now that conference lines may be cutting in and out and people on the line could be missing important updates.
Remember, you can’t control what is happening with COVID-19, but you can control your reaction. Take purposeful news binge breaks, focus on staying healthy and make a conscious effort to over communicate and create a peaceful spot in your home to work and stay organized.