5 Life-changing Productivity Hacks When Working From Home

I am fortunate to have a job that gives me flexibility to work from home when I want. While idealist may see working from as an excuse to stay in pajamas and have breakfast in bed, in reality, working from home is far from glamorous. It can be a challenge to completely switch into work mode in an environment where you usually are relaxing or catching up on chores. Below, are my tried and true productivity hacks to crush it on your work from home days.

  • Develop a ‘work day’ routine

It is important to try and create a ’normal’ work day routine as much as possible. Take the time to get ready in the morning. Washing your face and putting on real clothes helps tremendously to get you in the business mindset. Trust me, that extra effort makes all the difference.

One of the biggest hurdles when working from home is feeling lonely and detached from your team. The best way to combat this is to look at your team’s schedules and set up designated times to engage with your team. Whether it’s responding to slack messages, work emails, or setting up conference calls, it’s important to connect with your team throughout your work day.

 

  • Create an “office space”

Working from home is challenging because your work/life balance is compromised. Working from your bed can be very tempting, however, it can have a major impact on your sleep quality. According to The Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard, work shouldn’t happen where you sleep. They recommend, “Keeping computers, TVs, and work materials out of the room will strengthen the mental association between your bedroom and sleep.”

Meaning that working from your bed can make it harder for you to fall asleep, since your brain associates it as a place of work. When I work from home, I either work at my desk or create my “bootlegged” version of a standing desk, which essentially is a bunch of books stacked on my counter with my laptop on top of the stack (standing desks are ridiculously expensive so this works for me!) Creating my own “office space” allows me to set boundaries between work time and home time. Struggling to envision how to create an office space in your tiny apartment or home? This article gives great inspiration!

  • Put your phone in another room

Having your phone next to you during your work day is detrimental to your productivity. Recently, Harvard Business Study released the results from an 800 participant study on how smartphones affect people’s cognitive abilities. In one task, the participants had to memorize random letters and do math problems, in the other task, participants were shown an incomplete pattern and had to choose the photo that completed the pattern.

During the experiment, all participants were asked to turn their phones on silent and turn off all notifications. Participants were also instructed to either keep their phone on their desk, keep it in their pocket, or keep it in another room. The results? The people who had phones in the other room performed the best, followed by the people with phones in their pocket, and in last place were the people with phones on their desks.

During the work day, I turn off text notifications. I notify my family when I am going “dark”, and tell them to call me if there is an emergency. I put my phone in my kitchen so I have to walk to retrieve it. My calls still go through, so I know I’m not missing that important client call or that emergency call from my son’s school. It makes all the difference not having my phone next to me. I get so much more accomplished when I don’t have that temptation. Highly recommend you try this!

  • TIme blocking

I talked about this in my 3 Holy Grail Career Tools I Can’t Live Without but time blocking is a game-changer! Time blocking is the practice of scheduling appointments on your calendar when you’re going to work on a particular task or project. For example, if I have a sales presentation to complete, I will create a task on my calendar that says “Prepare sales presentation” for however long I think it will take to complete the task. During that allotted time, I am only working on my sales presentation. I’m not checking my emails or taking breaks to scroll through LinkedIn. I am head down only working on that designated project. I love this time blocking cube from Amazon which has the increments 5, 15, 30, and 60 minutes on its faces for this purpose.

The cube keeps me accountable and focused. Once the timer goes off, I am allowed to move to the next task. Time blocking makes large tasks seem more manageable and keeps me focused throughout my work day. I take time blocking a step further by trying to schedule similar tasks on specific days.

Let's say I have a client meeting in the morning on Wednesday.  I will try to schedule other meetings or conference calls on Wednesday because they are similar tasks. I wouldn’t schedule blog writing or campaign development on Wednesday, because it isn’t productivity switching back and forth between tasks that require different skill sets. It’s amazing just how much time and energy it takes to clean up one task and set up another. By doing similar tasks on the same day, I am able to seamlessly move between tasks because there isn’t the mental and physical ‘clean up’ required moving from one task to the next.

Time blocking is a ‘no excuses’ way to get things done and achieve your goals. Want to try it? You can buy  the time blocking cube I suggest here: https://amzn.to/2C74Ur8

  • Getting fresh air

It is easy to feel cooped up and reclusive when working from home. I try to leave my home at least once throughout my day. Whether it’s eating lunch on my balcony, picking up a prescription, or taking a 30 minute walk on my lunch break, it is essential to get out of your home. Even if it’s rainy and you live in an apartment building, get up and walk up and down your building’s staircase for 15-20 minutes. It is important to get out of your bubble and connect with the outside world at least once during your work day. It will give you the mental clarity and the boost to finish your day strong.

I hope these productivity tips were helpful. Have any other great work from home hacks? Please leave them in the comment section below.

 

Ilana Golan's Journey to the Finish Line

Ilana is a serial entrepreneur, mother of 2, tech investor, and motivational speaker. To top off all those impressive credentials, she was the first woman to become an F-16 flight instructor commander in the Israeli Air Force simulator. During her keynote, Ilana shared wisdom about the importance of traveling alone for personal development, how to determine your audience when launching a business, and the importance of celebrating small wins.

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3 Holy Grail Career Tools I Can’t Live Without

Since I was little, I have loved the idea of desert island picks. The products or tools that people would choose to bring with them in order to to be the most functional, helpful, and handy versions of themselves in a time of crisis. I decided to take a little twist on that concept and apply it to my career. I narrowed it down to 3 tools I need in order to be my optimal self. Below are the top 3 tools I can’t live without and you shouldn’t either.

 

1. Time Blocking Cube

I first found this tip by reading a post on The Skinny Confidential and it’s been a game changer. I’m constantly seeking ways to be as efficient as humanly possible. Time blocking is essentially setting an intention and only doing one task for the allotted amount of time. I love this time blocking cube from Amazon, which has the increments 5, 15, 30, and 60 minutes on its faces for this purpose.

I use it every single day of my life for a multitude of tasks. Wasting too much time on social media? Set a time limit on your time block and only scroll for that allotted time. Need to finish that report at work? Set a 30 minute timer on your time blocking cube and work on it with no distractions. Need to do a closet clean out but keep putting it off because it seems too daunting? Set 15 minute increments Monday-Friday until the job is done.

Time blocking makes large tasks seem more manageable. It’s amazing what you can accomplish during a 5 minute clean up or a 15 minute editing session. Time blocking is a no excuses way to get things done and achieve your goals.  I think it’s important to note that it is essential to use a time blocking cube NOT the timer on your phone if you want to be efficient. Recently, Harvard Business Study released the results from an 800 participant study on how smartphones affect people’s cognitive abilities. In one task, the participants had to memorize random letters and do math problems, in the other task, participants were shown an incomplete pattern and had to choose the photo that completed the pattern.

During the experiment, participants were asked to turn their phones on silent and turn off all notifications. Participants were also instructed to either keep their phone on their desk, keep it in their pocket, or keep it in another room. The results? The people who had phones in the other room performed the best, followed by the people with phones in their pocket, and in last place were the people with phones on their desks. Having your phone on your desk affects your cognitive capacity. So invest the $19 bucks into a time blocking cube to get the most out of your work day. It’ll be well worth it.

You can buy  the time blocking cube here: https://amzn.to/2C74Ur8
 

2. Computer Glasses

I was blessed with 20/20 vision so wearing glasses every day was something I didn’t think would be my reality until my 40s. Unfortunately, desk job life has done a number on my eyes. Being a marketer, I spend 90% of my work day staring at a computer screen, writing, measuring analytics, designing templates, etc. I started noticing that by the middle of my work day, my eyes would be unbearably dry and I’d have a raging headache. I honestly thought that would always be my work week reality.

A year ago, I learned about the harmful effects of blue light on the body. According to a Harvard Health Study, blue light exposure distorts the body’s circadian rhythm and sleep patterns. Researchers have linked short sleep to increased risk for depression, as well as diabetes and cardiovascular problems. No thank you!

I discovered Pixel Eyewear through social media. I had been researching computer glasses for a while but the majority I found had ugly yellow/orange tinted lenses that looked very Zenon the Zequel adjacent. I love that Pixel glasses look like normal perscription glasses and came in a variety of styles.

I’ve been wearing these for more than 4 months and I have to say they are worth every penny. I don’t get the headaches and dry eyes that I once did. Also, I have found through trial-and-error of using the glasses late at night when I am writing or scrolling through Instagram that these help me fall asleep easier. There have been a few times that I haven’t remember to put on my glasses while using the computer or other devices for long periods of time and each time, I’ve regretted it.

I wear the “Ventus” style frames which you can buy here: https://amzn.to/2NutNyx

 

3. Unroll Me

If you guys are anything like me, you get anxiety thinking about opening up your inbox. Monday mornings used to be filled with dread as I went through my mountain of never-ending emails. That’s where Unroll Me comes in. The email plugin analyzes your emails and allows you to sort through all of your subscription emails. You can easily unsubscribe from the emails you don’t want, and keep the ones you want in a simple, streamlined process. This tool also allows you to include the subscription emails you still want to receive into a “roll up”. Your “roll up” combines all your subscription emails into one. Instead of having 15-20 subscription emails sent to me a day, I now get one email that shows them all. I can click on the ones I want to read and ignore the rest. I’m not joking when I say that I spend 15 minutes less a day managing my inbox since using this plugin. Do yourself a favor and download it.

Join unroll me here: https://bit.ly/2PJL745

Have a career tip, trick, or tool that has changed your life? Please leave your response in the comments section below.

Why 'Renaissance Woman' is My Ultimate Career Goal

The following thoughts were inspired by LinkedIn's 15 birthday in May 2018 and the #WhenIWas15 social media trend that accompanied it. As a marketer, I loved following this social media hashtag and seeing everyone participate from college interns to Bill Gates! It was interesting witnessing people of all ages reflect back on what they were doing at 15, what career path they envisioned for themselves, and what they are doing now. These posts, with the dorky candids and high school yearbook pictures attached both humored me and inspired me. Below is my answer to #WhenIWas15. 

" When I was 15, I was asked, 'what do you want to be when you grow up?', by a classmate of mine. I answered without hesitation 'a Renaissance Woman.' I always knew that no matter what job I ended up doing, I wanted the ability to continuously learn, be challenged, and have creative freedom. When I look back at 15-year-old Al, I think she'd be happy with where I am today. Working at a small marketing agency gives me the ability to have my hands in a variety of different projects at all times.

I love that I get to work with unique clients ranging from lathe cut gasket manufacturing to advanced 3D metal printing and everything in between.  I had no exposure to business-to-business manufacturing prior to working at my current job and it has been a humbling experience working with the incredible manufacturers that play an integral role in our society and are often overlooked. Working in the manufacturing sector has given me a new appreciation for the everyday appliances, transportation, and devices that I previously took for granted. While I have much more I want to accomplish in my career, I am on the path to becoming the Renaissance Woman I desired to be at 15 and that brings me joy."

I thought it was important to share my response to #WhenIWas15 above because often times, it is easy to get caught in the day-to-day of life and what you have yet to achieve. It is true that most people's worst critics are themselves. I know it's definitely the case in my own life. Actually, the day before I wrote the paragraphs above, I was criticizing myself for not launching this blog, something I'd wanted to do for years. My crippling perfectionism was my biggest hindrance and I was frustrated with myself. I couldn’t see the big picture, all I could focus on is why I hadn’t accomplished my goal yet. 

By participating in the #WhenIWas15 movement, I learned that looking at yourself through the lens of your 15-year-old self is a powerful tool to assess yourself. It made me realize that my current job was allowing me to grow and learn new skills, which is exactly what I have always wanted from my career. #WhenIWas15 enabled me to look at myself with kindness and feel content with where I am today.

If you are struggling with self-doubt and feeling like you're not achieving your goals, ask yourself the following questions:

1. Are you actively trying to be your optimal self?

2 Are you doing something every day to work toward your goals?

3. Are you paying your bills?

If you answered 'yes' to all those questions, then your 15-year-old self would be proud of you! Unfortunately, sometimes your goals and milestones don't fit into the timeline you had envisioned. It's great to be laser-focused on creating your ideal future, but it is also important to take a moment and recognize what you are doing well currently. When you are frustrated with your life and the things that aren't happening for you, let your 15-year-old self be your voice of reason. She won't steer you wrong. Do you have a great #WhenIWas15 story? I would love to hear it in the comments section below.