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7 Tools for Surviving and Thriving When Working From Home

Mar 23, 2020

Attractive woman working in office on laptop

If you're new to working from home, I get it. Even though I've worked from home for years, I have to say I liked it better when it was my idea. We'll get through this.

To help you stay healthy, hopeful, productive and energized, I wrote down this list of words you can reach for whenever times are tough -- at least one of these words is bound to make you feel better.

Work from Home Tool #1:
Perspective

"The manager has a short-range view; the leader has a long-range perspective."
Warren Bennis

Whether you're a CEO, a leader, manager or individual contributor, working from home is tough -- especially when you're not used to it.

But to broaden your perspective, go talk to people who don't have that luxury: hospital workers, for example, or retail owners and their employees whose financial future hangs in the balance.

On a personal note, the same day Governor Newsom issued the stay-at-home order for all of California, one of my loved ones came home from the hospital. How could I feel bad about having to stay home when I was just so happy he had made it home?  

Perspective makes problems easier to handle. What are the realities that give you perspective? 

Work from Home Tool #2:

Sleep

"If sleep is the foundation of all ... physical energy, sleep is the foundation of physical energy."
Tony Schwartz

We're not talking here about sleeping on the job. ;-)

But right now to stay healthy and sharp, you  probably need even more sleep than usual. You may also need more time at night to decompress from the day. Honor that. Set an alarm if necessary to remind you to get off screens, start dimming lights, and otherwise start winding down.

What are all the things you need to get a good night's rest? Make a list. If it's anything like mine, it's a long list. But having one means not having to reinvent the wheel each night -- or having to keep it all in your head. 

Work from Home Tool #3:

Structure

Without the usual office cues (face-to-face meetings, lunch breaks, etc.), it's up to you to come up with your own structure. For example, write down the top three things you want to accomplish before noon -- and the top tasks you want to accomplish in the afternoon. 

Dressing presentably can also add structure to the day. You need to be able to look yourself in the mirror each day and like/respect what you see. Which brings us to our next word.

Work from Home Tool #4:

Discipline

"Discipline equals freedom." 
t-shirt of a jogger I passed on my morning walk 

Staying focused (and optimistic) can take constant discipline. That's why it helps to make lists of what you want to get done. Another benefit: List-making and goal-setting will help you discipline your distractions. 

When the pull of what you want to accomplish outweighs your fears -- or the constant buzz of social media, for example -- it's easier to stay focused. Discipline makes it easier to end the day feeling productive and satisfied. More about this at the end.

Work from Home Tool #5

Breaks

Breaks should be part of your structure. Build them in.

If you don't step away from your desk and go get some fresh air now and then, you'll get what Anne Lamott called "this Edgar Allen Poe feeling of otherness." 

Other ways to refuel, in addition to getting outdoors: stretching, getting a glass of water, taking three deep breaths, and playing music. 

A friend of mine on the East coast, who's under the same protocols as California, said this about her family:

"We've commandeered different areas of the house to work from and gather at the kitchen island a few times during the day for 10-minute espresso, tea or meditation breaks.

What are the rituals that help you recharge? Incorporate them into your breaks. 

Work from Home Tool #6

Momentum

"One step at a time, one punch at a time, one round at a time."
Rocky Balboa in Creed

Working from home, you may find yourself getting stuck. Understatement of the day. Here's the cure: Break down your tasks into smaller steps -- if necessary, laughably small (as in "rewrite subject line, update url, write introductory paragraph").

This is what I've had to do to finish everything from writing books and articles to shooting videos to learning how to shoot videos to finishing this post.

The more steps you can cross off you list, the more you gain momentum. Please don't wait for someone to give you momentum -- or motivation. These are gifts you must give yourself.

Small steps are the solution. It also helps to set a timer, to give yourself small deadlines.

Work from Home Tool #7:

Laughter

"What's really funny is when you're alone with your best friend and you're fourteen, and something cracks you up that only the two of you understand."
Dave Barry

I was going to write "connection" just now instead of laughter, but somehow connection didn't seem to go far enough. Not all connections are life-giving. Most laughter is. There really is no substitute.

Anne Lamott called laughter "carbonated holiness." More like carbonated CPR.

Who are the people, at work or outside of work, who can always help you find the humor? Take time to talk with them regularly.

Laughter brings us back to where we started: perspective. This working-at-home business is a true test of character, not to mention work ethic.

You may find it all too easy to overestimate what you can get done in a day. Please don't beat yourself up. And if you're in charge of a team, please don't browbeat or beat them up.

Work hard? Of course. But I also encourage you to tape these seven words to your mirror or laptop: Whatever I get done today is enough. Because it is. And tomorrow is a brand new day. 

Finally, how are you doing with this crisis we're in? What are your tips for working from home? What words would you add to this list?

Leave a comment below 

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