“If you look good, you feel good. If you feel good, you play good. If you play good, they pay good.” Deion Sanders
Today’s blog post is directed toward those working or job searching remotely, but there is plenty here for those who have returned to the office. Though we look to be inching toward a return to some level of normalcy regarding the reopening of offices, we think that the pandemic has forever changed how — and where — we work. Remote working, for many if not most of us, is here to stay in some form. So let’s explore how to make the most of your remote workday.
Where does a successful workday start? We think it starts the night before. We aren’t talking about laying out your work clothes the night before, though this isn’t a bad idea (remember, Deion says it’s important to look good) but rather, creating a plan of attack for the next day before you go to sleep at night. Write down — whether in a checklist or other format of your choosing — what you need to accomplish the next day, ideally in prioritized order. Note too many meetings, calls, or other obligations that you might have, which are also best kept organized in an electronic or old-school calendar/diary, just in case the “mental calendar” inevitably fails to remind you of an important event. Know what you need to get done the next day, and you’ll be able to hit the ground running.
So, you’ve crafted a dynamite plan of attack (or at least, a navigable roadmap) for what you need to get done. Now, you’ve woken up! That’s always a blessing. We are strong advocates of starting your day with a hot shower. A morning shower followed by putting on some “sharp” work clothes is a fairly bulletproof combination for starting your workday off right. We acknowledge that there are some night showerers out there but here’s a vote in favor of the morning shower, particularly when remote working means you have just *that* much more time to get ready for your workday. [Never let it be said that the LOA! team shies away from granular career advice!]
Now, for the workspace itself. This is critical, and we have touched upon it at some point over the past few months: do your best to carve out a quiet, separate workspace at home (or wherever you’re working remotely). This space should be free from spouses, noise, cats, dogs, ferrets, TV, and other distractions. Good coffee, strong Wi-Fi, and tasty snacks are important, at least to the LOA! writing team. Ensure that the space is truly your workspace, such that when you’re in it your mind will know it’s time to get down to business.
The LOA! team advocates for the “working lunch,” especially if that working lunch takes place at your favorite local Mexican place. Big chunks of our book were hashed out over chips and salsa, in fact. Whether you go out or not for lunch is inconsequential, of course — the greater point is that breaking up your workday, even if for only 45 minutes or so, can be great for your productivity. So even if you’re staying at home, take a short break from your work and from your screens if you can, whether it’s to grab lunch or not. One beautiful thing about working from home is that you can take a guilt-free lunch or mini-breaks throughout the day as you need them. If you’re so inclined, perhaps you can even knock out a midday workout.
I’ve always been jealous of those who could incorporate a workout into their lunch break. My first boss was able to fit a gym session — and shower — into fifty minutes, five days per week. This is in addition to arriving at the office at about 7 am every morning, and not leaving before 7 pm. Perhaps it was his Army training.
Many find that the afternoon hours, particularly those immediately following lunch, are especially challenging for productivity. Indeed, there are scientific studies that suggest the cause of these afternoon doldrums. One study, published in Psychology Today, posits that these afternoon struggles are due to the way our brain’s “reward system” is wired; without getting too deep into the science, the gist is that the part of the brain that controls our motivations takes a bit of a snooze during the middle of the day. What can you do to counter this? Of course, there’s always coffee, though that’s more of a band-aid than a real solution. Short exercise breaks can be effective, too. Another strategy: schedule to accommodate it! That is, schedule your most challenging stuff for the mornings when your brain — and motivation — is firing on all cylinders. A big-picture strategy for fighting off the afternoon doldrums is to seek out meaningful work that you enjoy, ideally for an organization and people that you respect. Of course, that won’t always be enough to fight off the post-lunch crash, but will perhaps inspire you to fight just a little bit harder against it.
So, with a nod to Deion, let’s recap the four-point “plan” that launched this blog post:
- Look good: Get your workday started the night before with an airtight plan of attack. Shower when you get up! Put on clothes that get your mind thinking: “it’s work time.”
- Feel good: Stay hydrated, stay fed, and stay caffeinated if need be. And craft a physical workspace that is comfortable and sets you up to do your best work.
- Play good: Do your best work, as always!
- Pay good: Lots of factors at play here, of course, but we feel confident in saying that if you are doing your best work, for an organization that challenges and nurtures you, in a field that you enjoy, then the rewards — financial and otherwise — will come.