Many people are finding themselves suddenly working from home mainly because of the global pandemic. How do we balance the expectation or need to get work done, with all the distractions of being at home can bring? Join Amber Hawley and Maureen Werrbach, as they discuss some strategies for staying productive and sane while being sequestered. Maureen is a therapist and a multiple business owner with a large team to lead and two kids at home. This episode was originally streamed to the My Biz Bestie YouTube channel and you can find the video there as well.
Strategies For Working From Home With Maureen Werrbach
I’m excited for this next chapter. The biggest change is a big benefit for you. There will no longer be a break between seasons, so you don’t have to wait around for more great episodes. On each of those episodes, you can expect the same great conversation and insights into creating a healthier, more joyful business in life. Starting with this episode where I have a great conversation with multiple business owners, Maureen Werrbach, where we discuss the struggles of working from home, as well as leadership and shifting business.
We’re going to be talking about how to stay productive while working at home with all the distractions. I have my good friend, Maureen Werrbach, with us. It’s also good to be able to connect to other people. This seems like a huge topic right now because many people were thrust into working from home. There are those few who are like, “This is great. This has been what I’ve been doing anyway.” Their life hasn’t changed much. For a lot of people, not only the people who enjoy having others around them and socializing with their coworkers but for people who thought, “I never thought I would be doing this,” it’s quite an adjustment.
It’s an interesting adjustment to make, especially as someone who has been used to being around 30, 40 people in my workplace, and having to make a large adjustment on the business end. Not for myself but for everyone else in the business. It has been an interesting adjustment. I’m seeing this as a fun challenge, which is I’m looking at this.
A big piece of it is the mindset. How are you approaching this in your mind that’s going to make a big difference? This is so overwhelming or like, “This could be fun. Let me see what happens here.”
Mike Michalowicz put out a PDF called something like Recession Proofing or something like that. It’s essentially this graph that showed people in this time with what’s happening business-wise and work-wise, dipping down to this space of despair. There’s this trickle-up effect where people get into this place of motivation and get to a place where they are done feeling bad about the position that they’re in of having all their whole life upheaved and shifted. They get to this place which you and I were talking about before. I have all these ideas now that I’m doing because I’m in this place motivated to see how to make this new shift work for me instead of having it put me down.
With anything, that can be a trauma or a challenge in life, it’s like finding the silver lining in it. That’s not to say that we don’t have rough days or that it’s not a challenge because it will be, and it is. At the same time, I do think on one hand it’s like having the perspective of yes, it’s a challenge working from home, but at least we get to continue working. If we have this opportunity because I know there are a lot of people out there that right now, they don’t have that opportunity. Either they’re having to go out because they’re frontline workers and they’re in healthcare, first responders or people like that or there are people who lost their jobs right now.
It is tricky, but there are upsides to it. We’ll talk about both of those. I do think it’s important too, especially if you’ve never thought about this before and this is all new to you. For a lot of people, they’re probably on week 1 or 2, depending on how fast their company or they themselves transitioned to online. They’re probably like, “You went through that. You’re saying that initial morning period.” It’s like, “Now what? I’ve got to figure out what’s going to be my routine for this next foreseeable piece of time.”
I feel like that’s where it gets for me, fun and interesting because essentially as a business owner, having to take all these policies that we had and procedures that we had that worked for an in-office, face-to-face business. In a week’s time, it’s fun to see how many businesses have done this. It takes a typical business six-plus months to make big shifts and we’ve all had to do it in a week’s time. It’s fun that we’re being able to do this and it’s going to help our businesses in the long run. That’s how I’m going to look at it. I see in my industry at least, how different it’s likely going to be from this point on. Even when all of this Coronavirus stuff has gone or managed, how we do our work is going to be very different from this point on.
It’s going to teach the businesses that continue after all of this hopefully it’s reached an end. It’s the flexibility. We’re learning a lot about being flexible and challenging some of the beliefs we have around how work is done or what’s the best delivery system. I know with my team, something that I talked about, we did some team meetings and I said, “We have a preference for something. That doesn’t make it better.” Even as somebody who transitioned to online work, I still was a lamenting like, “I love being in person with people,” but because I prefer that doesn’t mean that online wasn’t as valuable. The research supports that.
I forget who is talking about this, but we make decisions based on our emotions often. It’s how we run. It can’t be translated into business decisions because our businesses aren’t wired to our emotions. They’re separate entities. What you’re saying rings true because a lot of times we end up making business decisions that come from the emotional side of us versus seeing it as it’s this separate thing outside of who we are as a person. When we can do that, similar to what you were saying, that’s where a ton of creative freedom can happen, adjustments and growth, and all of that.
Without sounding a little woo-woo, it’s like there’s this part of it where once you’ve decided in your mind that this could be a good thing and that it is going to work as well whatever your work may be, even your clients feel that. There’s this process of on some level it’s like they can sense when you’re not on board with it. There are small ways that you’re communicating that even when you’re unaware of it. I do think getting onboard yourself is helpful. We’re going to mourn these parts, we’re going to have the stresses on top of it all the uncertainty of everything that’s going on. I do think that our mindset has a huge impact on the work we’re doing and how well we adjust to working at home.
How are you adjusting in terms of staying organized and ensuring that you’re still productive now, especially with your group practice? I know you do a lot of your work from home as it is, but even with your employees and staff.
For me, interestingly enough, it lit a fire under me because I was in this place of complacency. I am concerned. I want to make sure that I’m responsible for other people being able to pay their bills. I want to make sure that that doesn’t change for them and so that they’re able to still support themselves. I had fallen out of a lot of the routines that when I was super productive. It forced me to go back to them. One example, although it was funny because I said to my husband, “I’m clearly on West Coast time again.” Somehow the time changed and everything that happened, all of a sudden I was on West Coast time because I was staying up until 1:00 in the morning and then sleeping until 9:00, which I know I have that luxury. I wasn’t sleeping that well. Everything felt disrupted and that’s part of that adjustment period, but it got bad. I had a rough day of no sleep and being off. I felt that struggle all day. I said, “I have to go back to East Coast time.”
I was up early and our kids are sleeping a little bit later than normal, so they were getting up at 7:00. It’s getting back into those routines, like having those rituals. The biggest thing I would say to people is it’s important to look at things. I would call them routines over schedules because schedule sometimes implies there’s no flexibility. Right now, we need to be as flexible as possible in how we’re approaching things. That doesn’t mean throw everything, don’t have a plan. You deemed to have a plan. We have the morning routine of what you do in the morning. That shifted because it used to be the gym and now, that’s not happening.
You do have a Peloton.
I know you’re going to say that. My husband said the same thing. I said to him, “I promise that will be part of the morning routine, getting on that stupid Peloton.” It’s not like I can avoid it much. It’s right there. I do have a Peloton but again, it was like I’m going to give myself some grace to adjust to that. I’m feeling so overwhelmed with everything that I’m like, “One piece at a time.” It was get up, have breakfast and start the morning routine. I know for me, I decided I’m going simple. What I did is I have this little thing that somebody had given me at some point. I have many different little lists and things that I’ve gotten from different people that I’ve worked with before or coaches I’ve followed.
I was like, “It’s super simple. The goal is to do afternoon to-do’s.” I’m writing what the major things are and no more than three that I want to get done. Making sure I build in and say like having a break, spending time with the kids, or something like that because I’m going to do more than those three things, but I want to make sure at the end of the day, that’s it. I could put so much pressure on myself that then I’m going to be in constant work mode, won’t be able to turn off. My brain will be super stressed out. For me, that was the big one. It’s setting what do I have to accomplish.
I don’t know if my business owner’s brain is going to get in here too much. I’m thinking of productivity around the time with what’s happening and businesses having a loss in income, loss of people coming, whatever business it is. I’ve shifted for myself but also for my team what productive looks like. I like what you’re saying of not looking at it as having a schedule because it does feel a little bit more rigid. Having an idea of either a checklist of a couple of things that you want to do throughout the day or a theme for what your morning, afternoon, and evening is going to be like. I want to touch on the business owner part of me that’s also looking at what it means to be productive right now. That has changed compared to what productive might’ve looked like before.
That’s the discussions I’ve been having with my team because most businesses have had some a loss related to what’s happening. How I’m looking at what is considered productive and that’ll change when we’re out of this crisis mode is what is the one thing that we need to be focusing on? Whether it’s sales, profit margins, or shifting our organizational structure because we’re now at home. What’s the one thing that we need to be focusing on that’ll keep us afloat throughout all of this so that we don’t get to a position where we’re in financial trouble or whatever as a business and as employees. We’ve made the shift of looking at every one on our team. What’s the one thing that needs to happen in our business right now so that we’re in a good place and based on the rules we have, how can each of us contribute to that thing?
For us, we were good with client retention. The phones are slow in terms of getting new people on board. That is our focus because long-term we need to have a certain amount of new people coming to our business. We’ve all looked at what role base off of who we are in the business, what role we play in the business, what is something I can focus on and each person can focus on while they’re at home that moves that needle forward. For me, I feel like that’s what productivity in a lot of ways looks like. You could be sending emails and doing some of the tasks that you’re supposed to do as part of your job description. If it’s not helping whatever is needing the most amount of help through this crisis, it’s not helpful anymore.
I love the way you articulated that because that’s what I was doing in my mind. First of all, I’m approaching everything as let’s do this as easy as possible because there is so much underlying stress that everyone’s dealing with. Even if you’re not actively worried that you’re going to get sick and die, there are still people you love and care about that are more susceptible. There are so much stress and so much uncertainty. Everything I’m choosing to do is with the idea of let’s be easeful in this. Those three things that I’m doing, I have a million things that I should be doing for my business and could be doing. What you’re saying is they’re all in service of, “What is my major role and task right now?”
Mine is about increasing visibility and getting calls. Everything is around that, making sure that we’re getting more calls in because we had people who didn’t want to transition to online. The numbers are down. How do we bring people in and offer them that support? That’s a good place looking at each employee. What is their one task that they should be doing and making sure that everything supports them in a healthy, useful way to do that?
I took from Mike Michalowicz’s Clockwork book, the queen bee role you talked about. What is your business queen bee role? I’m adjusting that because the queen bee role might not be the thing that’s struggling through this crisis. It could be, but I’m adjusting that. The whole idea of the queen bee role is maybe not a person, maybe it’s many people, but it’s one role that it is the glue that makes the business stay together. The idea is if the queen bee role is struggling, everyone else’s role needs to step to help support that queen bee role. I’m adjusting that idea to this time with my clinicians, my leadership team, my administrative team, and then my clinical director.
In each of those buckets, I’ve said, “What makes the most amount of sense for clinicians to do with regards to getting new clients?” I’ve said, “If you have kids and you have a pediatrician, call your pediatrician. Let them know you’re offering teletherapy.” With my leadership team, my supervisors, I said, “The thing that would be the most productive for you to be doing right now, aside from seeing your clients, is not so much leading your clinicians at this point. I prefer for you to instead of meeting one-on-one with people, get them in a group once a week so that you can condense your time and be able to have a little bit more time to support the need that we have of getting more clients in the door.”
I have supervisors at each location. They know that location is the neighborhood the best. They’ve been giving me that. My clinical director is the one that then reaches out to those places. I’m doing the online social media, digital marketing stuff related to it. My administrative team, talking about conversions. When a client does call, how do you now communicate with people that are calling and learning sales around teletherapy? They were converting clients to come to the office and are now very different. That’s how we’re looking at productivity. We’ve already seen from week one and through this period I feel like that’s how I’m going to know that we’re being productive and doing the work that’s most important right now. Looking at metrics, we’re on a 21% dip in overall sessions, clients being seen, in week one. We went up 8% or 9% points to a 14% loss. My goal is to close that gap each week. Those are the things that we’re doing. We’re starting to make a difference.
Also being focused and working on that goal. For people also working from home, we’re speaking a lot to the business owners, but something that stands out for me too that I have learned through since we moved. I went from being in the office and being in that position to doing all remote work. It was realizing something that I struggled with early on when my kids were babies that with all the flexibility, it can be easy not to prioritize things. To say like, “I’m going to take care of everything here at home in everyone and then I’ll save what I have to do for the end of the night.” I know for me, there are times where it’s like I hit that wall and I had nothing left to give, so it wouldn’t get done. My to-do list would start to build up because I was trying to take care of everybody else and be flexible for everyone else. A lot of women do that too.
We have a lot of flexibility and this is good. We need a flexible mindset so that we’re able to adapt and change because every day could be different. One day you have this great day. Especially if you have kids at home. Everything seems to click and then all of a sudden, the next day nobody’s having anything and it’s World War III. You realize like, “I have to adjust what I’m expecting of myself,” but that doesn’t mean all is lost. I know for some people I’ve heard they said they’ve been working for a few hours in the morning, being with their kids in the day and then a few hours at night. That’s great if you’re able to do that. I also want to say to people you have to figure out what schedule is going to work for who you are and your energy levels.
I also think the second piece to that is accountability because it’s easy to get stuck in what’s happening in the day. All of us can do work around holding ourselves accountable for being productive and doing what needs to be done while also being flexible. That would be my challenge to anyone who feels like there’s so much stuff going on in their houses. They get overwhelmed, tired, or by the end of the day have no energy left. It’s what can you control right now in your life and how can you hold yourself accountable despite the fact that there might be a lot of variables that you can’t control at this time.
That’s why I’ve been talking to people with different aspects as I thought about what are the things that impact us. I talked to a professional organizer because if our work environment or a home environment feels very chaotic, it’s even harder to focus and it drains your energy. Doing little things for yourself, that helps support that. I do think ultimately, it’s the accountability piece.
That’s why I get my car cleaned every week. People think I’m a goofball, but every Wednesday, I go get my car washed because I drive a lot to all my businesses. For me, my brain and body feel organized, calm, and ready to tackle a day when my car feels clean and organized.
I would say this to clients too. I said, “I have three places that I need to be.” I would probably add my office, but I didn’t say that. I have to clean out my purse once a week, my car and my bedroom. That way, when I go to bed and wake up, I’m in this clean environment, and frankly, there’s nothing in my bedroom besides clothing. I have it very organized because we are impacted. It’s the same thing. If you’re spending a lot of time in your car or at your dining room table, even if it’s at the end of the night, you have a routine with if you have other people in the house with you or children, you do something to clean it up so that you start fresh. It’s so draining to go in when it feels chaotic. If we’re talking about strategies for people about what are other ways to minimize those distractions when they’re trying to get work done. Do you have any suggestions that have been helpful for you since you’ve been home? Because I know you have two little ones at home as well.
There are distractions that I bring out myself. One tip is I turn my email off. I tend to be distracted. I know you mentioned kids and stuff, so you want tips around that. I feel like I tend to be the worst at distracting myself versus my kids or my partner. I don’t have Facebook on my phone. I will turn off my email on my desktop or my laptop when I’m trying to get work done so that I’m not distracted. On my computer, I have eleven tabs open. When I do focused work, I’ll pull one of the tabs up and put the page with the eight tabs down so I don’t see it. It doesn’t distract me. Moving to another tab like, “Let me work a little on this.”
The other thing that I do in terms of self-distraction is batch my time, which I know I’m sure you’ve talked about before with batching. I feel like now that we’re at home, it’s even more helpful to pick spans of time where we’re focusing on one thing so we can go deep in it versus emailing someone about our services and emailing someone in your business bag, getting on a chat. Doing this is having 1 or 2 hours at least where you’re diving deep into something that’s important work for you. That being said, that’s for my own distractions that I tend to impose on myself.
With regards to having other people around, I had a very frank conversation with my partner and said, “I need you to help me out.” We made a family schedule that allows me to be able to work in my bedroom where the door gets locked and that he keeps the kids on the first floor. Part of his schedule is that he has the kids doing two hours of schoolwork while I’m doing this so that they’re quiet. After he lets them play in their tablets for like two hours and then they play a board game or go for a walk for one hour and then I’m usually done by that point. We’ve made a schedule that works. He’s a teacher, so he’s got to have his time.
While they’re doing their homework, those two hours is me up here and he’s in the basement grading papers and doing videos and stuff now that they have to do. That has been the most helpful thing. It’s sitting down and saying how can you get your schedule, my schedule, and the kids’ schedules all to work in sync. The first week we didn’t have that and he would be knocking on the door and I’d be pushing him away because I’m in a video. Other times, he’d be texting me and I could see it lighting up and he’d be asking if he can come in to grab something. There were times where he thought, “It’s 2:00 in the afternoon. Are you almost done? What are you doing up there?” It was us sitting down and saying, “What do the kids need to do?” What does he need to do or what do I need to do and how do we incorporate some fun and family time in with that? We’d put a schedule together that works like as a family, all of us together. That’s been the biggest help. Literally, ten minutes before a meeting, he comes in, brings me a cup of water, which was so nice. He’ll lock the door and say, “I’ll see you at 3:00.”
That is probably the number one tip. I know everybody’s in different situations. I’m hearing from people who are working for others, the expectation is either to do as much work as they used to and sometimes even more because their companies are in panic mode. I still think you can have those conversations and talk about that. I know we’ve done something similar. My office is on the basement floor in the garage area off and right above me is the dining room. I said, “Please no stomping between 12:00 and 1:00 and they’re up there doing gymnastics routines.” I was like, “Clearly I need to put this on a board for them,” keep it off during my hours of recording. That was a conversation too. I try to keep my husband in the loop like, “This is what I’m doing each day and this is the time that I’m going to need quiet time. Go play outside.” I do think I need to write it down though because he does have ADHD as well. It feels like they go away for two hours while I’m by myself and then when I’ve started recording, they’re home. I’ve had clients where they said, “I’m going to do like the bulk of my work from 7:00 AM until 1:00,” and then they switch off who’s corralling the children when there are children involved and then the other person works from like 1:00 to 7:00 if they have that flexibility.
It’s not that they can’t get work done on the other times. It’s knowing I’m responsible for making sure the kids are on task. We all know the requirements around like screen time and all of that jazz, but you have to give yourself a break. I talked to Pam Andrews and she talked about because she homeschooled all of her children where she didn’t do anything with them for months and she’s like, “They’re graduating college and they’re brilliant kids. They’re going to be okay.” They didn’t do anything for a little while. Ultimately, they’re all going to be fine. Also doing those things that keeps them occupied so that you can have that. I know certain kids are less amenable to that. They won’t be distracted. They’re like, “Mommy or daddy.” People are going to be understanding that that’s going to happen. People are having a lot more grace with each other as well. Normally, you wouldn’t consider something professional and you understand like we’re all stuck at home together and this is going to happen. If you do have a boss, having that conversation with your boss.
You mentioned that this is what happens when I’m not around for 32 minutes. Everyone needs me. You had mentioned that people or bosses are expecting more or expecting them to work at least the same amount of time or more during this time. There’s so much data out there that shows that most employees, 20% of the work they do account for most of the productive and important parts of the business, and there’s so much wasted time as is. I feel like this is a good opportunity for business owners and employees to talk to each other around time management, productivity, knowing what’s the most important thing to be doing right now. It’s very likely that most people can work less and be doing more for the companies they work for right now during this time.
I’m glad you mentioned that because it’s the Parkinson’s Law that time expands to fill the work allotted. When you’re not in the office, you’re not being interrupted by coworkers constantly. There are probably not as many distractions happening and these breaks that we naturally take and we don’t think about. If you say to yourself like, “I’m going to work from this time to this time,” and you stay focused and that’s the accountability part, you’re probably going to get it done. That’s the reality of it. If you say like, “I’ve got to work all day,” it feels like you’re in that place, you’re not being focused. You’re letting yourself get distracted. I absolutely do believe that. I think part of that is understanding you’re going to be a lot more efficient when you’re at home. If you do have somebody who the boss is like, “You’re done. Let me add something else,” having that discussion.
I’m going to use the example of kids because nothing else is coming up in my mind. You could have a partner who’s distracting as well, animals, or something. Being able to say, “I have a three-year-old who needs me, so I will definitely get these things done. What are my top priorities?” Even asking for that. If the company hasn’t had the conversation of, “These were all your responsibilities before, but right now these are the things that matter.” You’re like, “None of that stuff matters right now. Let’s focus on that.” If you need to, talk to them to get them on board so that you can call them your own anxiety. A lot of it too is people’s anxiety of like, “I need to be on.” Maybe not. Maybe you can finish that work in three hours and then be able to change it up.
It’ll be interesting to see how that part pans out after this pandemic settles down. The idea of how much work can get done in a certain period of time, not the productivity part, but the realization that with focus you can get more done or get things done in less time. It’ll be interesting to see how business owners take that information. Do they take it and then do what the US has always done, which is to tap eight billion hours of work into eight hours or go the Europe route of allowing people to work less? If you can get the important things done, then the rest of the time is yours.” It’ll be interesting to see how that plays out afterward. Depending on the business owner, that can go one way or another.
If we get into that, there’s so much research that supports these shorter workweeks as being better overall for people and when you do that, they are more productive. To that end, Christie de Leon posted about being realistic time boundaries are key. I agree, but it will be one of those things. It’s like saying, “Now I’ve got to take a break. Now I’ve got to have this time for myself.” When you do that, you give yourself the energy to be more focused. It will be interesting to see how the transition goes afterward if people support that and understand. If we want healthy work environments, we should pay attention to those things instead of saying, “I can work with three less people on my staff and have one person doing four times the amounts.”
I hope we don’t come into that space as business owners.
Being in Silicon Valley for so long, they already do that sometimes. Especially in startup modes because they’re trying to maximize output, but it’s not long-term. It’s not sustainable. I love the idea of looking at how are we approaching our time, being realistic with it, and then understanding we probably can get way more done than we give ourselves credit. I keep thinking of the book. I read it a long time ago, The 4-Hour Workweek. He talked about the fact that there was one guy who was working for someone else, and he was able to streamline his job down to very little time and still get everything key that he needed to be done. There is more room to not put a burden on ourselves of having to put in the eight-hour day.
It’s a good book. I thought, “I should reread that one.” This is probably a good time for that. I took a couple of notes as far as things that I thought about definitely taking those breaks. Don’t sit at your desk and eat because that’s a great way to start burning yourself out. If you sit and you never get a break, you never stand up, you never get outside. Sometimes when I’ve suggested that to clients like, “Go take a walk around the block, even stand outside for five minutes and breathe fresh air,” they’re like, “That’s not going to change my life.” I’m like, “Often these tips, it’s not like I went out and took deep breaths and now my life has changed, but incrementally it lowers our stress levels.” Once we tip that threshold, then we’re in this high anxiety place and it’s stressful. If we can take down stress bit by bit, it starts to have a big impact. Are there other strategies that you can think about for people?
Getting creative with where you do your work can be good for not getting burnt out as well. It goes along the line with what you were saying, but there’s probably a lot of your work that you potentially can do with your headset on while walking around the block outside and getting some fresh air. If there are some calls that you need to make or some video chats that you do on your phone, you plug a headset in and maybe take a walk and get that done and get some fresh air while you’re doing it. That can be helpful in reducing burnout. Also, feeling like the workday isn’t dragging on forever.
It does break it up. I know part of my routine that I’ve been doing is going and doing lunch upstairs at the table, having a break, and then coming back down. It did allow me to focus. If you have the ability to go outside and do those calls. The change in scenery is helpful. I know I did try that because I had a rough sleep night. I tried working from my bedroom because I was like, “Maybe I need fresh air and sunshine.” It was horrible because I sat on my bed instead of sitting in the chair and it was the worst idea. I should’ve sat in the chair but I didn’t have my computer charged up. You’re going to experiment during this time and sometimes you’re going to be like, “That didn’t work.” That’s why I say it. It’s okay to experiment and then see like, “No, that made it worse.”
I always look at realizing that things didn’t work, failure, or anything like that as bringing me closer to where I need to be. Even in this a case, you sit on the bed and realize that was not very comfortable, you probably aren’t going to do it again and now you have one last place that you need to go to try out.
I love that mindset. It’s like, “I’m trying to experiment here. I’m going to try looking at things in a way that feels more like it’s exploring things as opposed to I can’t.” I can’t go to the office. I can’t go walk around my block because maybe where you live you can’t. I can’t do X, Y, Z. Instead of saying like, “Here are the ways that I can explore what I can do.” Sometimes it’s that small shift that helps the way you’re feeling.
What my team and I are having fun with because we use Google Chat and we have chat teams and stuff as a way to connect through this. One of the things I was doing was collecting pictures of other therapists’ home offices now because I know people were having a hard time figuring out, “Where should I do it? What’s the best way to feel like it’s a good space but also be productive and all this?” As a way to normalize that we all are trying to figure this out at the same time was I sent 15 or 20 that I collected of funny ones where there’s a dog in the background. They put up like a clothesline and hung some things to keep like their bed covered.
I felt like it was a way for people to remember that we’re all in this weird phase together of figuring out how to work from home effectively. Even the people who were working from home now likely have other people in their house working from home. It’s going to mess with their routine as well. I thought that was fun and people were laughing. They were sending pictures of their workstations and it normalized the situation. It reduced any anxiety or negative feelings that they were having about not being able to connect with their colleagues and be in that normal space that they were used to at the work at the office.
The two pieces of that are one, you’re facilitating the connection. You’re normalizing that we are all in this together. Everybody’s going through this. Everyone’s feeling concerned. I had a therapist who was very concerned because she is staying at her parents’ house with her husband because they live in an apartment and it was giving them more options as far as being able to go outside. She was concerned that the bed was there. I said, “Frankly, people are understanding that you’re having to work from a bedroom to give them privacy. If you’re sitting on the bed, probably not a good idea. It gives a different vibe.”
There are many pictures of people who put the laptop on the edge of the bed and then had a chair facing the bed.
That’s such a good idea and to be talking about it. I literally showed her some of the things I have done since being here. I said, “I have this pretty box and I put it under my laptop before I got a stand so that it could be at the right height and trying out different things.” I said, “Have other spaces prepared. You can’t sit for 6 or 8 hours or however many you’re doing in this one uncomfortable chair. You need to change it up for your body’s sake.” Staying connected with people as much as possible in those little fun ways that we are missing. Even if you’re an introvert, I know you’re missing it.
I miss the fact that I can’t go where I want to go.
Sometimes I was like, “I could go for a Starbucks.” Financially, it’s been great not going anywhere.
It’s a sucker when it comes to the routines you had in your life.
We enjoy it. It’s figuring out, “What can I do to stay?” The other thing for people who are new to working at home, this is something that I would talk about with clients a lot. Because being in Silicon Valley, we already had a lot of remote workers and there’s the isolation piece. People would always talk about, “There’s this expectation of you can do the laundry, you can do the dishes, schedule things or be there for things.” That is a huge disruption in changing what your focus is. It’s important to time block that as well. That’s the best policy because I don’t know about you, but if I were like, “Let me clean up as I walk through the house.” I could spend all day cleaning my house because I have people undoing it right behind me.
I had this problem that happens to me. I had a webinar with Mike Michalowicz. I haven’t finished reading his book. I was like, “I’m going to finish reading his book.” My husband has Type 1 diabetes, so he’s not leaving the house for any reason. I needed to be the Katniss Everdeen and go to the grocery store. For whatever reason, I thought I’ll get it over within the morning. I ended up getting back an hour before the webinar, which was when my husband and my couple’s teletherapy session was. I ended up having zero time to prep. It goes to your statement, which is being flexible is important, having a routine is important but there’s a line that you can go to when it comes to flexibility.
I went past that line and ended up being anxious about not being as prepared as I want it to be all because I thought, “Let me get this grocery thing out of my way and not worrying about it,” when I should’ve not focused on it. It got in the way. It’s smart to say that, mixing up the middle of your day with doing some laundry or this or that. It might be good if you’re good at starting and stopping stuff. For most of us, it’s probably going to be a distraction that gets us in this wormhole of start doing another thing and doing another thing, and then all of a sudden, we realize we’re not being productive at work.
If you had the three things you needed to accomplish or the one thing. When you’re at work, you’re there. I go to work when I went to an office, I’m there so that my whole focus is on work. When you have this flexibility, you can say like, “I’ll pop in and do this,” without realistically thinking like, “How long does it take to go to the grocery store and do this?” Right now, everything’s not normal anyway. Things like that, I would love to check off my list because I love that sense of accomplishment. I can do that later in the day when my energy is lower. Remembering when is the best time that you work, that’s one of those things. There are those tasks where I need to have more focus and energy, so put those towards the start of the day.
There’s stuff like laundry or grocery shopping that’s mindless. I can do that later on. We have to continue to re-check in with ourselves. You had that experience, you probably won’t do that again. You’re like, “Yes, Katniss went out at night to get groceries. That is when I’m going.” I don’t know if you’ve had this, but I haven’t been out of the house for a while. Time is going so fast and slow. I was like, “I don’t want to go out on a Sunday to the grocery store because it’s typically very busy.” It’s like, “Almost everybody’s working from home. I don’t know that Sunday is still the same.”
I went early in the morning and it was a good time to go. I need to shift my work. In this instance, I had a scheduled appointment at noon I had to be home for a webinar. I could do it later. I went when it first opened at 8:00 in the morning and it was super empty. I didn’t have to feel creeped out by being by people. That being said, there were literally almost no groceries at the store and everything had a limit. Shampoo, one. Everything because I had gotten enough food for two weeks’ worth. It was the first time I’d gone out. Morning time seems to be a good time and maybe sleeping in more or they have to prep themselves mentally to go out. Maybe it takes them until later on in the day, but it’s pretty empty in the morning.
The last time I went out, it was later in the afternoon, and it was very quiet as well. I don’t know if because people are having more flexibility with when they can go, they weren’t driving home from work. It wasn’t like they were the 5:00 convergence. Being aware that some of the old patterns definitely have changed. It is taking it day by day and assessing like what are the priorities and having conversations. If you are lucky enough to have another adult in the house with you if you have children at home. Even if it is two adults because I’ve had people reach out that don’t have children but they didn’t communicate with their partner so they’re disturbing them during a peak time when they’re needing to focus. Having that conversation with the people inside your house is important and setting those times that work for you. I’ll give an example. Being creative is important. For me, what I decided, because I am trying to manage this feeling get into hustle mode and start being more proactive because this is a big deal, and at the same time not being stressed and overwhelmed.
I built my days so that on I take the weekends off. Unless there’s something like an emergency, I’m taking the weekends off to be family time. On Monday and Friday, I’m doing a lighter day. That way, I have more flexibility and it feels like I’m easing in, and I’m also balancing that with home stuff on those days. I’ll probably do my laundry or something so that it feels like not every day is this overwhelming rut or I have all these things that I have to do. My intensely focused longer days are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. I know I get to make that schedule. I’m not saying I don’t work on the other days, but it’s like those were definitely longer days where I was putting in ten-plus hours, but I did it in a way that felt good. That’s an important piece, to be challenging how we’re structuring our time right now. You can have flexibility with it. It doesn’t have to be that Monday through Friday. Mags wrote in, “Do you have any tips for what to do when you get distracted?”
I like to move to. If I’m feeling like I’m checking my phone, my kids are coming in or I’m not staying focused in the thing that I’m supposed to focus on, I’ll stop my work, put my shoes on and take the kids for a walk outside and get fresh air. For me, moving resets everything. I’ll take a half-hour and we’ll walk around the neighborhood or I’ll let them play in the backyard and blow bubbles while I hang out with them outside. For me, being outside definitely resets things. If I stay in my environment, which is the house, even if I’m in the bedroom working, the house feels like one enclosed space to me. Getting out definitely resets that. I come back and I feel refreshed and ready to start again.
Similarly, mine’s a little bit like that. I know for me this is where knowing yourself is important. If I did something else for 30 minutes, unless it’s the lunch hour because it’s a different thing, I’ve lost my focus to it. I can only do five minutes. Otherwise, I start to feel anxious about that. I’ll go walk into another room, walk outside, maybe I’ll make a cup of tea or something to break it up. I’m like, “Clearly I’m not focusing what’s going on.” Sometimes it’s like, “Am I hungry? Did I forget to eat lunch? Do I need a snack?”
I feel like the Hulk, hungry, anxious, lonely, tired of playing a role. If it is, what do you do if you’re hungry? You eat. What you do if you’re feeling lonely? Do a FaceTime with someone. If you’re anxious, what can you do? My daughter has anxiety and we have that that breathing triangle that expands and contracts. Looking at something like that or scheduling an appointment with a therapist. If you’re tired, take a twenty-minute nap. Hungry, anxious, lonely, tired typically plays a role in some way, shape or form when we’re feeling distracted or not 100%.
That’s probably the best piece of advice. Holly says she sets timers on her phone, so it reminds her to get back in going to breaks. that’s helpful. I love that you mentioned the loneliness piece too because sometimes we think like, “Right now I’m supposed to be in work mode,” but you are used to being around people usually. You can do a quick little video chat on your phone for most people or even a phone call. I’ve had people talk about they’re making real phone calls instead of texting. Sometimes you need to hear their voice.
Instead of sending an email, I put a Google Meetup and we pop up face-to-face on our computers or on our phones. I’ll ask my question that way. It sometimes gets us into a fifteen-minute roundabout into other things, but it’s a way that we’re connecting.
We have to remember to connect. Take that time for ourselves, but also to connect during all this. Thank you so much for coming on. I thought it was helpful to talk about it. It’s reassuring if you think like, “I’m doing some of these things. I’m on the right track. I’m going to keep doing them.” Hopefully, some people heard some good suggestions about what they should do. We can check off that connection piece and then we’ll go. Back to the work, people.
We’re not getting our GSD thing happening.
I’m not ready to say that. We’re not going to have that yet.
I know we were supposed to be going to Hilton Head in that suite that’s overlooking a beautiful ocean.
I feel like it’s not going to happen, but I was like, “No. There’s still a possibility.” I think the realistic part of me knows.
There’s a GIF of a guy on some roller coaster. I said, “That’s how I feel. We’ll be able to go.” “No, we’re not.” “It’s going to be fine.”
I think that’s how everything is, to remember that’s normal. I did something to make my hair absolutely insane. It is very normal to have those days like, “We got this.” I was saying, “This day is crap. This is horrible.” Remember, tomorrow is a new day and we’re going to ride this roller coaster together. Thank you so much again. I’m still going to hold out for Hilton Head.
Thank you. We have a lot to get done.
I hope you enjoyed the episode. If you would like more support in managing your stress and mood, head on over to MyBizBestie.com and download your freebie, You Do You, a personalized resource list for when life is a shit show. Remember that a healthy business starts with a healthy you.