How to Maintain Productivity While Working from Home

As we all navigate changes brought on by COVID-19, we have a few tips that our team uses to stay productive while working from home. As a team, we have emphasized just how much this time can be a separation factor when it comes to your business and if you maximize this extra time, you will find yourself in a better position to capitalize on opportunities available.

  1. Create a routine that you will actually follow: This is probably the most critical and foundational to becoming more productive during quarantine. Have a plan! For most people, their home is a place of unscheduled, and usually unproductive time. On a regular basis that is necessary in order to unwind and promote a relaxing environment. However, most people have found the lack of structure in their own home has provided a new problem as they try to accomplish tasks throughout the day. Developing structure and planning is a key to your success. Here’s what you need to do:
    • Set your priority list ahead of time – create a “Top 3” that have to be done the next day, and below it a list of other priorities that are a bonus if they were completed that day. Try to write out this priority list at the same time every day. This will help create the habit and make it easier to stick to your plans. 
    • Have your priority list where you can see it. This small and convenient reminder of what you should be accomplishing by the time the day is done. 
    • Create calendar invites for yourself on the application you use the most (if you don’t have one yet….it’s about time), use your work or personal calendar with adequate reminders and notifications. 
    • Schedule as much as possible in blocks of time. Include downtime such as meals, workouts, and even entertainment. This way, you will be able to “see” what your day looks like, and as plans change (as they inevitably will), you can easily move that “block” of time to another open space in your calendar. 
  2. Stimulate your body, inspire your mind: This is crucial to your productivity. As a health-conscious organization, we promote routine exercise. This helps clear your mind and makes the new living situation more bearable. This is where you need to know yourself – and if you need help, or accountability in this area, just schedule a time to do a Zoom workout together with a friend. There are many apps, trainers, and online videos that promote free content on a regular basis. If you don’t know where to start, YouTube can be your new best friend. We should also emphasize that if you are new to working out, make sure you start slow and manageable. This reduces the intimidation factor of creating a routine. If you can order some light weights or resistance bands online to increase the difficulty, even better. However, body weight will also work just fine. Just do something! Even designated time to stretch counts. Your body and mind will thank you. 
  3. Create a neat work space:
    • No matter what type of work you do from home, you need to create a designated work space. Ideally a place that is neat and quiet. If you don’t have a desk, you may want to consider getting one and create a space in your home that is ergonomic and comfortable so you can focus for extended periods of time without interruption from family, pets, roommates or other noise. We also recommend a computer with a good screen, or order an extra screen if needed. 
    • Remember, a cluttered workspace is a reflection of a cluttered mind. If you want to clear your head, start by clearing your space. After you clear your workspace, you may even consider other areas of your home. A great book for this is Marie Kondo’s “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.” 
  4. Reset frequently: This is based on personal preference, but you should definitely schedule frequent pit-stops according to Brendon Buchard, the author of High Performance Habits. This will allow you to reset and recharge, which will allow you to actually work for longer periods of time without being drained physically or mentally. It is also good to reset your eyes from looking at a computer screen so frequently. Our only caution is to ensure these breaks don’t develop bad habits or taking too many breaks for too long. If you really need some down time, take it, but set a scheduled time to get back to work. Have someone hold you accountable if needed.  
  5. Create limits for all media: Most of us, if we are being honest with ourselves, consume too much news, social media & entertainment from a variety of apps on our phones, computers, tablets or TV. In a time of great uncertainty, we should ensure we are limiting the negative or fear-based content we consume. The human mind is not productive or creative in a fearful mindset. We should be consciously aware of the type of media we consume and how often we consume it. One of the ways to limit this is to set limits through your devices or apps. Most of the media we consume is blatantly or subconsciously negative, and we can all use time apart from it. You can also decide to check your phone or text messages during your reset time and while you are working, have the screen of the device facing away. You can also log out of any social sites where people can interrupt your focus regularly if you must use your phone, tablet or computer. 

Most of these tips for productivity during quarantine are basic and we all know them, but nonetheless, essential. The motivation to implement them needs to come from an internal desire to elevate your game as a professional. One thing we have all learned through this unique time is that nothing is guaranteed. If  we focus on the things we can control, it can provide us a sense of security while we let go of the things we can’t. We should all be focused on making ourselves as valuable to the marketplace as possible, and productivity at home is a key part of that. This quarantine won’t last forever, but while we are adapting to this change in routine, we hope these tips provide you with as much value as it has for our team!

Maximize Your Time, Maximize Your Success

Most of us have way too many things to do and not enough time to do it. Even when we prioritize, there are still tedious tasks that need to get done and eat up a lot of our valuable time. This can include returning emails, paperwork, paying a bill, calling customer service, and the list goes on. We are all limited by time and we must find ways to maximize the time we have. Jason Selk has taught us the art of “time maximization” in his book “Organize Tomorrow Today.” 

“Most successful people already manage their time. to break into the ranks of the highly successful, learning how to manage time better isn’t going to change your life. even if you come up with the perfect way to stack all the pieces on your chessboard, you’re limited to the size of the chessboard. And more importantly, if you focus your attention on stacking these pieces and filling up the board, you’re not necessarily creating a system that helps you put the right value on each of the pieces– or assign them the right amount of time. Just because you have a lot of things to do and get them all done doesn’t mean that all those things were done the right way, or that you’re spending your time the way you want to be spending it…. Time maximization is very different. it is the search for both efficiency and productivity but also the act of prioritization at the same time. When you maximize your time, your creating more time to do the important things. you’re changing the size of the chessboard completely. It’s working the other side of the ledger.”

Write down a list of to-do’s that are under a threshold of time to complete (such as 15 minute tasks), that can be completed as time opens up during the day. We all have windows of time that inevitably open up that we can take advantage of. These moments tend to happen when we are between meetings or have cancellations, or just unexpected windows we haven’t accounted for. 
Most people use that time for entertainment, such as social media, personal email, reality shows, sports forums, news, google searches, and the list goes on. The people with the highest productivity in any industry have learned to use their schedule gaps to maximize their time by taking advantage of those open windows. This is what Jason Selk calls “attacking the open space.” The more successful you become, the smaller window or units of time you must think in. For most of us, it starts with 15 minutes, and works its way down to 5. If you have a window of time that opens up in your schedule as your “open space,” have a list of tasks handy (in order of priority) for you to accomplish that require that window. Creating this habit in your life will allow you to utilize the flow of any given day to your advantage, while making more space for the things you truly care about. 

Video Call Courtesy: 5 Tips for Professional Video Chats

We’ve all seen them and perhaps we’ve been them at one point or another…the people who look foolish in video calls and don’t know it! Amid these uncertain times, video chats have become a critical part of how business is being done. It’s critical for any young professional to start getting serious about how you look over video. Below are a few fun tips on how to manage your image when interacting over a business video call and some lessons learned from the myriad of amateur mistakes made during the COVID pandemic!  

1.     Appearance Matters!

  • Is it too much to ask for you to just act like you are meeting face-to-face and dress accordingly? For the gentlemen, even if you are tempted to go for business on the top and party on the bottom (shorts, sweats, etc), don’t risk it. There have been too many scenarios for error here and it really doesn’t take that much more effort to just complete the appropriate attire. You can forget the shoes, but for everyone’s sake, wear the proper lower-bottom attire! You never know when an angle can change or perhaps what you miss on your small screen on your computer, will show up on the BIG screen from a conference room you are dialing into. Trust us, we’ve seen it. For the ladies, depending on the camera angle, watch those skirts. If you are doing a video call on a couch, you may want to check all angles with your outfit prior to turning on that “video enabling” icon!
  •  If a call is longer than anticipated you can start to look oily or sweaty – ensure you have a damp cloth or at the very least, close your video and take a quick restroom break to refresh and not blind everyone with your forehead shine. For ladies, make-up counts even more in these scenarios, because your makeup can enhance your features or highlight your flaws in a video call. Take the time to see what lighting you will be in while on the call, and plan accordingly. Remember, makeup with spf tends to shine a lot more.

2.     Background (including Zoom Backgrounds)

  • Choose a background that communicates business. If you don’t have a bookshelf or office as a background, a blank wall is your best bet. Please, no bedroom backgrounds, no weird wall décor, and for goodness sake, avoid having an open background where roommates or significant others could walk by. If you are conducting the call at home or an open setting at work, the chances of an accidental cameo are high. Video-bombing is real, and it may be more embarrassing for you than funny. Ok…maybe a little funny. 
  • If you’re using Zoom, a virtual background might be a decent option. If you choose a virtual background, please pick one that looks professional! A QUALITY photo of a home office or regular office setting may work. Don’t choose settings that make you look like you are in outer space like Han Solo or about to sip a margarita on a beach after the call is over or something equally unprofessional. They look silly, and so do you. 

3.     Distractions

  • This is hardest one to avoid, but it just takes a little bit of prep work. Distractions come in many forms. This could be:
    • Yourself – pay attention. If you are on video, the likelihood that someone is watching you is very high. If you have to go to the restroom, the professional thing to do is to excuse yourself (if applicable) and then turn your video AND sound off. Don’t just walk out of the video call, because it’s distracting and could be viewed as disrespectful. You wouldn’t walk out of a meeting in the office so don’t just walk out of a virtual meeting. Turning off video and sound prevents displaying any video or sound you don’t want to share with the group. 
    •  Others – let those around you know when your video call is taking place. Ask them to avoid noise during that time and be respectful of your meeting. If you can’t, you may want to make alternative arrangements to be in a secluded, quiet location. You may think it’s cute when your dog jumps in the screen but to everyone else… it’s a distraction!

4.     Angles

  •  Angles are key. They should be straight on and stable. If you are using a laptop, you may want to consider propping your screen on a few books for a straight-on angle, rather than the double chin angle you’ve been using. If you are using your phone, make sure you have a prop to hold it up (many inexpensive options online), and you are not holding it in your hand. If it’s in your hand, the angle is never flattering and you are likely to be moving it all over the place, which is also distracting and unprofessional. Your video should be stagnant, straight-facing and constant. 

5.     Lighting

  • Lighting does make a big difference. Most rooms are not lit well for video calls, even with natural light. You may want to buy an inexpensive camera light if you are frequently doing video calls, conducting them at a later time, or do not have natural light in the room you are using. A dark video does not communicate professionalism, so take the time to prep. The camera in your computer does make a difference, and if you plan to do a lot of online calls, you may want to look into the best computer cameras for this purpose. 

Hopefully these tips will help you as we all start to navigate this new journey of business online and personal interactions with video. I know we all have made these mistakes at one time or another, but with a little attention to detail and preparation we can all master this new professional avenue! 

Top 5 Books to Read in Quarantine

As the Coronavirus pandemic continues and most of us are stuck at home, it is important to take advantage of this extended downtime. We hope you make this downtime as productive as possible, because these are the times that separate you from the rest of the world! While you have some additional time to yourself outside of your normal routine, our team suggests you pick up some books that may challenge you to think bigger, reflect, and look at the world from a new perspective. See below for our quarantine reading list! Stay safe and happy reading!

LH Strategies Top Reading List:

Alibaba – The House that Jack Ma Built by Duncan Clark

A story of how a regular English teacher built the second largest internet company in the world. Amazon’s Chinese competition if you will. A great book for anyone that loves to learn about the early stages of building a company, its culture, and the team around them. You won’t find this book on Amazon though! Find it at Barnes & Noble or any major book retailer.

Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if Your Life Depended On It by Chris Voss

A dramatic version of how one of the world’s best hostage negotiators teaches you how to navigate the complicated world of human emotion, through his intense experience as an FBI hostage negotiator. It’s as thrilling as it is practical for daily living. All of us have to negotiate, your results depend on how good you are! This is a great book for those who want to learn how to take control of emotionally charged situations and turn them to your favor by learning the art of strategic empathy. 

Atomic Habits by James Clear

Working towards new goals during these challenging times? This book is for you! James Clear artfully puts together the building blocks of the tiniest habits that have the greatest impact on your life. Similar to the atom, though small and seemingly insignificant, the habits you form are elements that create the atomic results in your life! Clear teaches you how to set up a habit from beginning to end so it sticks with you for the long term. This book is great for anyone who has ever set a goal and didn’t achieve it. You will learn how to set yourself up for success with the habits that will build the results you are looking for.  

Awaken the Giant Within by Tony Robbins

A classic and LIFE-CHANGING book that has been one of the most recognized self-help books in the world from the one and only, Anthony Robbins. Tony has learned so many keys to human behavior to help you learn about yourself, why you do certain things, and how to harness the POWER of pain and pleasure to direct your thoughts, feelings and emotions into one that steer you toward your own personal greatness! A must read!

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck

A foundation book to look at two very different perspectives on learning, growth and fixed mindset. After decades of research, world-renowned Stanford University psychologist Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D., discovered a simple but groundbreaking idea: the power of mindset. In this brilliant book, she shows how success in school, work, sports, the arts, and almost every area of human endeavor can be dramatically influenced by how we think about our talents and abilities. People with a fixed mindset—those who believe that abilities are fixed—are less likely to flourish than those with a growth mindset—those who believe that abilities can be developed. Mindset reveals how you can understand the potential change your own mindset that will serve you best in the years to come!