"SURVIVING WORKING FROM HOME" SERIES (4/4): TO BE PRODUCTIVE, YOU ALSO NEED TO REST. HERE IS HOW.
(Article en français ici 🇫🇷 )
After about 10 years working in different types of open spaces in a previous 'life' evolving in different marketing positions and now after 4 years being happily self-employed working in different places around the world also having a shared photography studio, I do know oh so well how overwhelming it can get to get things done in a 'non-office' environment.
So I decided to share all my favorite tips & 'no BS tricks', in this blog post series to help you go through, in the best possible way, the coming weeks!
This is one of a 4 articles series. Check out all the other ones HERE.
When working from home, you might realize that there is a challenge of separating "work time" to "non-working time". And I feel that there are 2 types of people:
The people who have a hard time to STOP: The ones who never take proper breaks, don't take proper lunch (great read for you there) and who might feel completely overwhelmed at some point of the day (Hello "6 pm break down drama time", I am looking at you)
The people who have a hard time to START: The ones who start to procrastinate right off the bat by doing some cleaning.. laundry (useful read for you there) who do take breaks that end up slowly swallowing the entire time available in the day and they end up super frustrated for not being able to do more (I happened to also have had those days as well.. nobody is perfect)
Here are 'tried & approved' techniques (after 4 years of home office experience) for both types of people.
FOR PEOPLE WHO HAVE A HARD TIME TO STOP
MAKE YOUR TO-DO & THEN TAKE OFF 3 THINGS 🎯
We have ALL heard: You are running a marathon, not a sprint, so manage your energy...
But still, I know some of us try to solve all their challenges & projects in one day and start their day making a massive to-do list, completely over-optimistic with their time. And we will then find those people completely overwhelmed and frustrated at 6 pm in the evening when just 1 item has been checked.
THE WINNING TRICK
Have you ever heard that quote by Coco Chanel to describe the French way of simplicity in fashion?
"Before you leave the house, take a look in the mirror and take one thing off."
Do the same with your to-do list.
Let yourself write that over-optimistic to-do list in the morning (you can't help it anyway) and then take away 3 things. By having a shorter/more focused to-do from scratch, it will help you feel better in the evening when you will see most of it crossed in the evening!
WHEN YOU DO TAKE A BREAK, TAKE REAL ONE 🌳
I used to be that kind of person who would tell myself "Ok, I take a break and while doing it I can read that article about whatever business thing or entrepreneurial other thing' or checking my pro social media accounts.
Nope. No no and BIG NO.
THE WINNING TRICK
When you take a break (see the 'Time Chunking technique' at the end of this article), do OFF SCREEN.
If you have a manual job, do something that doesn't require any manual activity ( for instance call your mum or your friends - Very trendy these days).
If you have a non-manual job, do something manual (Do some meal prep, a 30min online yoga class, etc..>>> a GREAT app for work out classes is Down Dog ).
BUT I DON'T HAVE THE TIME TO TAKE A BREAK!
When you feel you have a LOT to do, there is the feeling that you have NO TIME to waste on a break.
False. You will actually waste more time by not taking breaks.
By taking that 10min real break, you will be much more efficient and faster afterward on what you have to do (and not take 10hrs to 'tirely' write that email !).
Also, if you have a creative job, we all know that the best ideas (or problem's solutions) are found during time off.
THE ' 6PM NERVOUS BREAKDOWN' MASTERING TECHNIQUE:
It's 6 pm, You realize that most of what supposed to do is not done, because what you have been doing took 3x the time you allocated for it... and you have that daunting feeling that you are stuck not moving forward.
At that moment, you most probably also have the feeling that you are a failure anyway and that 'Who do you think you are to imagine that you will achieve whatever you want in your life anyway??!!!'
THE WINNING TRICK
As my kickboxing instructor would say 'STOP BABY-ING YOURSELF'.
So stop the 'poor me' thing happening and proceed :
1: When was the last time you drank water? 💦
More than 2 hours a?
DRINK a glass of water. NOW.
2: When was the last time you showered? Are you still in PJ? 🛁
Stop everything. Take a shower. Please. NOW. (You owe that to yourself.)
3: When was the last proper meal out of your computer you have had? 🥗
This morning for breakfast?
Please, save yourself: get away from your computer and have a proper meal OFF SCREEN.
4: When was the last time you spoke to a physical human being? (We know, Cookie your adorable pug is like a real person but still...) 🗣
Take 5min to quickly call a friend.
If not quarantined: Go and check on your neighbor. Go to your bodega to buy some fruits or whatever snack and small talk with people there.
5: When was the last time you were outside? ☀️
GO OUT. Even if for 5min but GO OUT.
(If you are reading that while in quarantine, you can still go for a 5min walk by yourself as a light exercise.)
NOW that the basics are covered, seat down, take that to-do list you are freaking over, and for each item on it:
1: Circle the ones which do have a deadline. A REAL one, not a self-imposed one (Yes, I am looking at you over-optimistic freelancers.)
2: Among those circled ones, which deadline is "by the end of today"?
3: Take only those items which REALLY need to be managed today and set yourself a 1h30 timer to just do those. If after 1h30 you are still not done, take a proper 30min break and then back at it for another 1h30.
At some point, you will see, you will be done for sure.
Your next thing to learn to avoid this situation in the future is 'Time Chunking', see at the end of this article.
4: ALL THE REST CAN WAIT. Take a step back my friend: EVERYBODY is in the same boat, trying to beat the time and the overwhelming to-do list. The world will not stop because you haven't done EVERYTHING in one day.
Your job here is to take baby step after baby step in the RIGHT direction and stop beating yourself. We ONLY have 2 real things in life: TIME & HEALTH. Let's stop wasting our time ruining our health with stress. It WILL kill us.
Oh, last thing, a quote that helped me a lot: "
"You are afraid of surrender because you don't want to loose control. But you actually never had control. All you had was anxiety".
If you ever find the author of it, please get in touch with me to add the proper credit.
FOR PEOPLE WHO HAVE A HARD TIME TO START
THE "ONLY 5 MINUTES" TECHNIQUE 🤗
In whichever working situation you are (employed or freelance or else), there are things we like to do and some... we don't like as much. Chances are those actually need to be done at some point. Usually, that's when the procrastination monster creeps in.
THE WINNING TRICK
When you don't feel like doing something, just tell yourself "Ok, I will just do it just for 5min and then I can keep doing whatever I prefer to do! Just 5min !"
And then do it. You don't have to put a timer.
What you will realize by doing that, is that after 5min you will be engaged in the task and you will actually unconsciously feel ok to keep working at it easily until the task is done, or at least moved forward.
The hardest in everything is to START. So tricking your brain with that 5min technique is something that works most of the time.
Worst case scenario, after 5min you DO realize that you are bored and that the 5min have passed so, as you promised yourself you can get back to your comfort zone activity... That's ok, you will do another 5min later in the day. Baby steps after baby steps, it's better than NOTHING.
CREATE REWARD. WHATEVER IT IS FOR YOU 🎁
I will use a real recent example here.
I have a great friend who has an OBSESSION with house plants. She could keep buying those forever. It makes her heart super happy to see plants in her beautiful apartment, get them some nice cute pots, etc.
And sometimes it's even her way to procrastinate and not doing the things she should be doing: To go and buy plants and pots.
THE WINNING TRICK
Realizing that this was her way to procrastinate, she used it to her advantage:
She can buy that super cute overpriced plant pot only when she will have finished some specific editing job she has to do. (Reward that would NOT work at all for me !).
Find what makes you happy and allow yourself to indulge in it only when you are done with one item on your to-do list.
HOW TO TAKE A NAP 😴
You might be like "what does she think? That I don't know how to take a nap ??! Like seriously ??"
Oh, don't worry, I know you know. And I am also an EXPERT on how to take a nap... a loooooong super nice nap that never.... ever.... ends.....
The thing though, even if taking a nap is a proven strategy to reset during your day and be more efficient.... I also know how HARD it is to stick to a SHORT POWER NAP. I am the ones that would end up having a 3hrs nap... and I am telling you, it doesn't help to get things done.
How the heck do people do to take what they call 'POWER NAP' ?
THE WINNING TRICK
THE TA-DA MOMENT! (Almost...)
One day I was working on my computer in an airport, at my gate, where you have those small 'working' stations. At some point, the guy in front of me closed his computer, crossed his arms, put his head in there and slept for... 10-15min. After waking up, he opened back his computer again and hop' he was back working! I was like "HERE IS THE TRICK !!! TAKE A NAP AT YOUR DESK !!"
So here I am, trying the 'Nap on desk' technique.
However, I have quickly realized why it works: because it HURTS!
You wake up super super sore in your neck .. which kind of sets you not in the best mood...
But at least you reset a bit and you don't lose 3hrs of your day sleeping.
THE REAL TA-DA MOMENT!
I am a portrait photographer.
I tailor each and every shoot to each of my clients' needs so the average portrait shoot can be 2 to 3-4 hrs. I am all about giving a LOT of energy to make my clients feel super comfortable and at ease. So after one shoot, I am DRAINED.
That's why I usually organize only one photoshoot per day.
I recently moved to NYC (from Paris) and so just before my move, I had lots of Parisian clients "rushing at the gate" and asking to fit their shoot in my schedule before I flew (which made me actually take the decision now to keep going every 6-8 weeks in Paris).
Anyway, here I am having to handle my move while having a week where I would have 2 shoots per day and even one day with 3 PHOTOSHOOTS! I was really dreading that day big time, scared to mess up my last shoot and not create the great images my clients expected. So I thought: I will take a desk nap between each shoot and I will be fine.
What I didn't realize is that in the studio I rented for those portrait sessions, there was not a real table or desk per se.
So came the idea to take a nap lying on my back ON THE FLOOR.
Which is NOT COMFORTABLE, but at least doesn't HURT PER SE.
And the 'miracle' (in my world at least) happened: I fell asleep and after 10-15min (when you usually turn around on your sofa or bed to indulge into a 3hr nap) wanting to turn around on the floor and feeling it NOT comfortable, I woke up ... rested... no pain... and VOILÀ !!
AN ALL NO PAIN REAL 10-15 POWER NAP !!
TAKE A NAP, LYING ON THE FLOOR, ON YOUR BACK.
(NOPE: I can already see you using a yoga mat. NOPE. NO-THING. No pillow, nothing. And if you would happen to try that outside: NOT on the grass. Try on a hard floor, that's the major trick)
I usually (because now I have been using that technique successfully for months) don't even have to set an alarm but you definitely can set one if it relaxes you. Try it and tell me how it goes!
ONE GREAT TRICK FOR BOTH CATEGORY OF PEOPLE
TIME CHUNKING 💪🏻
It's becoming the latest time management buzzword: Time Chunking.
You set some time chunks per task.
Before I would organize my time per day (example: Monday marketing / Tuesday marketing / Wednesday Admin / Thursday through Sunday: Photoshoots). However each Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings I felt super stressed because even if I had moved forward on some projects during the day, I was stressing about the ones I had not moved forward. (example: When you are doing accounting, you are not answering your clients' emails, etc.)
THE WINNING TRICK I recently heard about time chucking and it changed my level of stress big time.
The trick though is to be disciplined but after few days you will start to feel the real benefit on your stress level.
Instead of dedicating one day per 'task', you dedicate daily time chunks.
Here is mine for instance, but create yours.
Every day (except Thursday through Sunday when I shoot), I have 5 chunks of 1h30 each (with 20-30min break between each) :
Business (client, leads management)
Editing & clients delivery
You finish the day having the great feeling to have moved forward on EVERYTHING even if you might not have had the time to FINISH everything. You will finish tomorrow!
Find also the time chunk length that works for you. I tried shorter chunks (45min) and I really didn't move forward enough to my taste. Then I tried 2hrs but I finished too drained. Feels what's right for you.
The FOREST app is excellent & fun to keep track of the time.
BONUS TRICK: THE TURBO HOUR ⚡️
You know that feeling when you have all those small tasks that don't really fit in any of your time chunks but still needs to be done and are kind of fast to manage?
Gather all of them and set what I call a 'Turbo hour':
One hour during which you do all those little tasks as fast as you can.
BEST FEELING EVER!