By Lauren Rahill
Anyone who knows me knows I thrive on routine and live by a constant to-do list. So for me, the lack of normalcy in recent weeks has been one of the most difficult parts of COVID-19 quarantine.
In these unprecedented times, the ability to be flexible, take things as they come and capitalize on new ideas as opportunities arise is critical for all of us. However, the need for flexibility doesn’t mean we can’t create structure.
So how does one go back to a routine when things are anything but?
First things first, set short-term goals. As things change, adapt accordingly. Create accountability by letting someone else know what you’re trying to accomplish. Having written goals will show your boss that you’re still focused on getting things done.
Even though our to-do lists could be upended, I also recommend developing an ongoing schedule, which should be reviewed and revised daily. As you think about your daily “calendar,” set aside time blocks for:
Regular tasks (like checking and responding to emails)
Requests that come in throughout the day (to be replaced by other items on your list if requests don’t come in)
Standing call times
Webinar/meetings you plan to join
Breaks for lunch, coffee refills, stretching, etc.
I'm happy to report that the lack of structure that horrified me a few weeks ago has led to the development of a new kind of normal. Below are a few more tips for breaking up your day and building some structure:
1. Give yourself a few extra minutes of sleep.
Unless you’re a Kardashian and you live in a mansion, your “commute” from the bedroom to your designated workspace probably takes less than a minute, so give yourself a break and start out rested.
2. Make your bed.
As Admiral William H. McRaven eloquently put it during his 2014 commencement speech for the University of Texas, “If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed. If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride. And it will encourage you to do another task.” And bonus, you’re ready for any unexpected Zoom invites.
3. Don’t just roll out of bed.
Designate a few minutes to “get ready.” I know I feel more equipped to take on the day with teeth brushed, face washed and different (although still comfy) clothing than what I slept in.
4. Assign another activity to replace your “morning commute.”
Take a walk, do a quick workout, listen to a podcast or do some stretches to start your day off in a normal-ish way and get some oxygen flowing to your brain.
5. Prepare for the day.
Leave yourself a few extra minutes before your workday begins to get your coffee, check some emails and review your to-do list for the day.
6. Be transparent.
Put calls, webinars and focus time on your calendar so your team knows when you’re otherwise occupied.
7. Leave your designated workspace while you eat lunch.
We all need a change of scenery throughout the day to make up for the time we usually spend at the office grabbing coffee or catching up with co-workers. Take a few minutes for yourself to recharge.
8. Stay active.
Stand, stretch, do a minute plank, do a minute of squats or jog in place. While you’re on calls, if you don’t have to be actively taking notes, stand up or walk around while you talk. Doing things that get your blood pumping throughout the day will help you be productive and stay focused.
9. Set boundaries.
While it’s important to remain flexible and responsive in non-work hours, try to separate your work life from your home life. When working from home, the two can very easily blend together. Where possible, accomplish your work during business hours and save your personal activities for evenings and weekends. As an added tip, clear away (or box up) all of your work-related items at the end of each day to make your space feel like home again.
10. Focus on hobbies after work.
Get back to something you’ve been neglecting or take up something new. Read a new book, plant some flowers, try out a new recipe or take a free online class. This will help get away from the monotony of staying in one place.
11. Set a goal to talk to one non-work contact every day.
Talk to a friend or family member and catch up. Make sure it’s someone you’re not already quarantined with!
12. At the end of each day, prep for the next day.
Review the day’s accomplishments, make a to-do list and goals for the following day and clean up your workspace. Doing little things the night before to prepare will make your mornings easier.
Like it or not, this appears to be our lifestyle for our immediate future. Take any or all of these tips (or create your own) to make sure you continue to stay as productive as possible in the coming weeks with a schedule that works for you!
Have you baked enough bread for an army yet? How many 1,000-piece puzzles have you completed so far? Are you a color-coded chore chart person? Email me your ideas for staying productive (while having a little fun) at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lauren Rahill oversees Sagac's account management and new business group. As Marketing Director, she brings to her role nearly a decade of experience planning and executing public affairs campaigns for pro-business political committees and managing the strategic planning aspects of Sagac’s public affairs clientele.