The 3 Step Blueprint: How to Be Productive Working from Home During Coronavirus

coronavirus productivity time management work from home working from home with kids Mar 15, 2020

Coronavirus can be a gift to your productivity, if you play it right

Our world has changed dramatically because of the coronavirus.

So many of us are suddenly working from home full-time, with kids (who, by the way, we are now responsible for home-schooling).

I don't know about you, but homeschooling has never been on my bucket list of things to try. 😉

All of this change can feel overwhelming and impossible.

Or, it can be an incredible opportunity to

  • revisit,
  • re-frame and
  • refresh our routines and the way we do business.

We don't have to approach the next few weeks (or more) as survival mode.

Instead, these changes can be a time to improve productivity and efficiency.

Think of it as an experiment and time to trial and test what's working, what's not working and what you want to do differently.

With this in mind as the goal, here is the 3 Step Blueprint to Maximize Your Productivity Working from Home during Coronavirus (or really any time of the year).



Step 1: Set Yourself Up for Success

The first step to maximize your productivity working from home is to set yourself and your team up for success.

NOTE: for those of you who already work from home, take this as an opportunity to re-align with your leadership and your team. This can be the perfect time to reset expectations. This plan can be very useful for you as well.

This looks like:

  1. Create a plan for the next 2-3 weeks you'll be working from home
    • Write out the results you plan to deliver.
    • Think about how you'll maximize value for your company.
    • Think about obstacles that could get in your way and how you'll overcome them.
    • Write out the risks that you anticipate and the steps you'll take to mitigate them.
  2. Review the plan with your leadership and your team, to get their buy-in and to set expectations
    • Be proactive, to show that you're taking control during these changes.
    • Use this as an opportunity to show that you're not reactive.
  3. Set up your work space in a way that manages perceptions
    • Have a clean background without any clutter or view into people walking by.
    • Test out your camera, to make sure people can see and hear you clearly. You don't want to be just a talking head.
  4. Get ready each day 
    • Comb your hair, put on a professional attire (at least on the top), and do your make-up.
    • This is another easy way to manage perceptions that you're still dedicated to your work.
    • Get ready even if you won't be on video conference. This will help you to manage your subconscious to automatically show up as a businessperson. 
  5. And finally, think about what you want to accomplish outside of work. 
    • How are you going to be present in your off-hours?
    • What are your goals for yourself and your family?



Step 2: Schedule Your Plan

Now that you have defined a success plan, step two is to create a schedule that helps you achieve that success plan.

  1. Create a schedule that works for you, your team and your family.
  2. Put everything (meetings, action items, deliverables, lunch, etc) on your calendar
  3. For me, I have my daily calendar broken down in 30 minute increments with 2 columns 
    • Column 1 = my schedule on the left-hand side
    • Column 2  = my kid's schedule on the right hand side
    • I scheduled buffer time set aside each day, for anything I didn't finish or that came up unexpectedly.
    • I created my daily schedule for the entire week and adjust each evening for the next day, as needed
  4. Other examples of how to arrange your schedule:
    • Set aside a big block of time to work interrupted (e.g. 5am to 1pm), and then switch with your spouse or
    • Block out all of your meetings on your calendar, and then use gaps to spend time with the kids. Do the rest of your work early am or later in the evening.

Here's what NOT to do:

  1. Make a list of to-dos and hope they fit in somewhere during the day.
  2. This isn't the time to wing it, given all we're trying to manage right now.
  3. Skip the pre-planning.
    • For many of us, planning feels overwhelming, burdensome, and even restrictive.
    • If this is you too, I can relate. I resisted scheduling everything on my to-do list for a long-time. I loved just the list, but hated assigning each item to a time slot. It seemed unrealistic and that I was setting myself up for failure.
    • As soon as I decided to TRY this approach of scheduling everything down to the 30 minutes, I was SHOCKED
      • at how much more I got done and
      • how I was able to stop the cycle of putting too much on my list and constantly moving it from day to day to day.



Step 3: Follow Your Schedule

The last step is to follow your schedule.

Yes, I know "follow your schedule" sounds simple and obvious.

But, this is where most of us break down.

  • We let the day get away from us.
  • We let interruptions throw us off.
  • We change our focus.

In this time, the "reasons" can feel so valid for changing our plan:

  • "The kids need me."
  • "My boss interrupted me."
  • "An unscheduled meeting popped up."
  • "I'll try again to follow this schedule tomorrow."

Of course, unplanned things come up all the time.

Plan in advance to mitigate them as best as possible through techniques like:

  • Schedule a daily check in with your boss or your team to avoid impromptu calls/meetings
  • Set aside 10 minutes at the end of each hour to check emails, slacks, texts and chats
  • Include buffer time in case one of the kids interrupts you for 10 minutes, so that doesn't set you off course for the rest of the day.

And, most importantly, know that most of these "reasons" are really excuses.

Yes, excuses.

If we're honest with each other, you don't want to do most of the stuff on your calendar. None of us do.

Some, if not most of the items on your to-do list (and hopefully now on your schedule too), make you feel:

  • frustrated,
  • overwhelmed,
  • inadequate,
  • etc.

None of us want to feel bad.

This is human nature.

So, we find justifications and excuses not to do that thing on our calendar.

I get it, I used to do this 100% of the time too.

Now, I see the games my brain is playing with me and am able to honor my schedule despite the urge to procrastinate.

This is why I say that these Coronavirus schedule changes can be a gift to your productivity.

If you're able to

  1. Define what outcomes you want in advance, what success looks like
  2. Create a daily schedule that makes the most of the time you have each day, and
  3. Honor your schedule without allowing for excuses

You'll build a skill set that will serve you not only during this Coronavirus disruption but develop a skill that will serve you over the long run.

I'm excited to hear how this process goes for you. Send me an email at [email protected] with any questions or wins. I look forward to hearing from you.


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