Laura Vanderkam: A Time Management Expert’s Top Ten Tips on How the most successful people work from home

Speaker 1:

So thinking about time, however, it is not the only way to manage life and to manage work. And I’ve been struck over the years as I look at how even very progressive workplaces often are structured. How important time is. I mean, there’s a time that people know to show up. There’s a time when it’s acceptable to leave. All meetings are 30 or 60 minutes. Not because everything can be decided in 30 or 60 minutes, but that’s because that’s how long meetings are. There’s a primacy put on responding quickly to things because that’s seen as, as a good thing, right? That being immediately responsive is a good in and of itself, whether the answer is what people are looking for or not. So the, you know, these things are still with us. I mean, certainly many organizations have had people check in on Slack at 9:00 AM just to make sure everyone’s at their desk, even though they’re virtual.

Speaker 1:

But I do think there is an opportunity here to, we think this and to focus more on what is getting done as opposed to being in a chair from nine to five every day. I love the question that you asked is to really understand what your, why is like, what should you actually be doing with both your time and your attention? Not necessarily clocking in at nine and clocking out at six. Yeah. I mean, what, what would make a good day? And when you get to the end of this day, what would make you say, Hey, I really won the day I did what I was supposed to do. I advance myself and my organization toward our goals by a good amount, a sustainable but challenging amount. And I think that that’s a question that we don’t really ask that as much. It’s much easier to say, is it five o’clock because that’s, that is very clear.

Speaker 1:

It is five o’clock or it is not whether you’ve done a good, honest day’s labor is an entirely different question, but over the long haul, I think it’s a better question to ask because when we achieved these small wins over and over again, we naturally feel very engaged in our work and feel a sense of progress. And that is incredibly motivational. I love this next tip. I actually sit down and plan my entire week on Sundays, but you’re a bigger fan of planning your week on Fridays. Why is that? Yeah, so I mean, Sundays can work two Sundays are great and other popular time is Monday morning. But I, I would suggest that Friday’s has something going forward. I’ll get to that in a sec. The important thing is to have a weekly planning time. And as you said, you have one on Sunday, you look at the week ahead, you say, well, what is important for me to accomplish?

Speaker 1:

What’s what are my top priorities professionally? What are my top priorities personally? Where can the steps toward those goals go like roughly, what am I doing each day? Get a real good sense of it. Now the reason I do Friday is because, well, first, Friday afternoon, a lot of people are not doing all that much. So it’s a good, low opportunity cost time that you can rescue what might’ve been very unproductive time. It allows you to think about the upcoming weekend if you haven’t done that already. So it’s a good time for thinking about that. It also allows you to hit Monday morning, knowing what you’re going to do, as opposed to not knowing or not knowing until Sunday night. And one of the reasons, sometimes people have a little bit of trepidation about work over the weekend is they don’t know exactly what’s waiting for them on Monday morning. So the earlier you can figure that out, the more you can give your brain permission to relax. And so if you know, on Friday, what you’re doing Monday morning, then you don’t have to think about it again until Monday morning. And that allows you to enjoy your weekend time a little bit more.

Speaker 2:

You brought up the thought about the 9:00 AM or 9:00 PM Slack notification that you get from a co a colleague. You know, one of the third points that you bring up here is to have the appropriate conversations about what’s an appropriate response time, especially if that, if that bang is coming after hours.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. And, and I think, you know, in many cases it’s not meant as any sort of like, let me check, is she available at 9:00 PM? And if she’s not like, Ooh, must be a slacker. Or, you know, if somebody answers something that they’re checking, like, are you willing to answer emails on weekends? Most of the time it’s just, people are just sending stuff. Cause it’s at a time that worked for them. You know, sometimes people who have childcare responsibilities have to work at unorthodox hours because that’s what works these days for them. Sometimes when people get days interrupted during the week, they’re like, well, I’m going to get caught up on Saturday. It’s not that they expect you to respond necessarily on Saturday. It’s just, it’s a time that worked for them. The issue is of course, many people don’t feel like they can push back on that and say, well, I’m going to respond on Monday.

Speaker 1:

I’ll respond at 9:00 AM. So it’s good to just get this all out in the open and say in general, unless we put, you know, emergency on it business hours, you know, we expect a response within a few hours if it’s sent between eight and six, if it is not sent with 10, eight and six, it can be done the next day or the next Workday. Maybe you’re in a business where that’s impossible. It does have to be done immediately, but most people’s work is not like that. I like that. You also said that as a leader

Speaker 2:

Or it’s okay to be a little less responsive because you want to be able to have the time and the space to be able to come back with a well thought out answer. Yeah, that is totally true. And this is,

Speaker 1:

I mean, this is true for everyone. It’s definitely true for leaders, but it is true for everyone that we think being instantly responsive is good. But the reason people are emailing you and calling you in the first place is they think you have important, interesting things to contribute. And by being immediately responsive, you kind of crowd out the space that is necessary for coming up with those ideas that make you the kind of person that people are emailing and calling for your ideas in the first place. So, you know, it’s good to be responsive, but it is not the only thing that is good in general, people would rather have the right answer in a little bit of extra time than the wrong answer right away, or an incomplete answer right away.

Speaker 3:

Awesome

Speaker 1:

People. Aren’t starting a stopwatch. Like when they send an email to see like, when you’re going to respond, if you feel like you need to be right on top of it, challenge yourself to go an hour or so. You know, you could be doing anything for an hour that you couldn’t respond to something you’d be in another meeting on another call, but by consciously checking email, say once an hour for a few minutes, as opposed to every single minute, you’ll get so much more done. Cause you’ll have focus time. I’ve been training myself to only check email at 1130 and three now. And that’s the only time that I respond as well. And I made a little later list so that I like Mark it down, that I’m gonna respond to that person, but not till 11 or three. Yeah. That’s, that’s a great idea.

Speaker 1:

And people are like, well, I can’t do only 1,103. That’s fine. You can say, okay, 10, 12 to four. The point is not how many check-ins it is. The point is that they are designated times and that you’re not letting your inbox or your Slack messages fill all your time match important work with your most productive time. That’s your next tip? Oh yeah. Well, this is, this is important for everybody. It’s important when you’re working in an office it’s important when you’re working from home, it’s basically how people get stuff done. So we all have, you know, varying levels of energy through the day. Most people are more productive and disciplined and focused in the morning. You know, you have that first cup of coffee. You think you can take on the world. Mid-Afternoon not so much, you know, a lot of people feel like they needed a nap at 2:00 PM.

Speaker 1:

So these, these are just things to be aware of with your own energy cycles through the day. The problem is when people set work without regard to this, so they’re like, Oh, let’s have this, you know, check in status meeting at 9:00 AM. Okay, well that’s people’s best time. Like, do you really need to have this meeting? That’s really just like, yeah, we’re all doing our jobs at 9:00 AM. Well, no, I mean, you could have that at 2:30 PM. Cause people can be brainless and say, yep. You know, we did that report. You did that. Great. All good. Leave that, that chunk in the morning for like, okay, what are the three new clients we need to reach out to? I mean, that’s a conversation maybe you want to be having when your brains are freshest and also to use timers, you’re a big fan of the Pomodoro technique where you set your watch or you set your timer for 25 minutes or 50 minutes and you just do uninterrupted work means the phone’s in the other room, the email notifications are turned off on your desktop and you’re just focused.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. A lot of people swear by this technique. And I have to say, I don’t really set the timer cause I don’t, I don’t like timers. I feel like I get mad at timers. But some people find it more of a challenge and they enjoy it. So if that’s the, and you have a certain kind of work that would benefit from just continuing for a while without getting distracted set a timer and say, okay, when this goes off, then I can do other stuff. But let me try to focus on this for the extent that the timer is going. And because what often happens is that you hit a little bit of a roadblock, something that’s a little bit challenging and rather than persist, like, let me just check my inbox, let me just see what’s in there. Probably something came in and you’re directing your attention to that. And the problem is, of course, then you have to get back to the task you were doing eventually, but you’re not starting from where you were. You’re going to have to slide back in, get motivated, you know, get into the groove again. You waste all kinds of time. Whereas if you just persist through that little bit of challenge, you can keep going until you get to a more natural stopping point statistics,

Speaker 2:

Sick time, would it, how much productivity do you lose when you pivot away and then come back? Like how much time does it take for you to like refocus and get back into flow state?

Speaker 1:

You know, there’s different studies that have been done on this, but it’s definitely at least a couple minutes. Most people are not really in the groove until a few minutes after they come back to stuff. Which if you think about it, even, you know, if you got distracted four times an hour, you would be doing almost nothing. And many of us get distracted more than four times an hour for various reasons. So it’s something you really need to be careful about is so easy to get pulled away and then not be able to get back into what you were doing. So when you do have uninterrupted focus time, do your best to stick with it. I love how you said you were doing the later list and this is something I definitely recommend if you are doing focused work and all of a sudden a thought comes to you like, Hey, I bet my colleague had that good statistic in that email.

Speaker 1:

I should put in this report. Don’t go look for it. Right. But write it on the later list. And you can go once you’re done with the focused work. But as soon as you start checking your inbox for the messages from that colleague, you’ll be looking at everything else. And there, the time goes or working from home, same thing, you’re working away. And you’re like, wait, let me see if the meat made it out of the freezer for dinner. And then you go look and then you’re cleaning the kitchen and that time’s gone too. So put it on the later list. Go do it. When you are taking a scheduled break,

Speaker 2:

Since the day has really blurred, right? Like I have my morning ritual of how I get started, but I realized that the night can bleed into like six, seven, eight o’clock. Especially if you don’t have kids to pick up or you don’t have something that sort of demarcates the end of the day. So I love that you say you should have a ritual to signal the end of the day. What is that about justice?

Speaker 1:

You’re saying otherwise, how do you know when to stop? And in when you’re working in an office, this is more apparent. Like there is some point where it is acceptable to walk out the door and you know, you’re going to have to walk out the door at some point, cause you’re not sleeping there. So there will be an end, you know, wherever that happens to be for you, there is a lot less of this demarcation when you work from home. And many people have a very hard time ending because there’s always something else you could be doing. I mean, the work is never a hundred percent done. So, you know, one thing you can do is set an end of day ritual. Maybe you had something in the morning, like this is how I launched my day. So say, okay, five 30. I write quickly in my journal about what I accomplished for the day.

Speaker 1:

I look at my to do list for tomorrow. I send an email to a colleague saying good night, like whatever it is, and then you walk out and that can be a way to signal to you that the day is done. If you think you’re not going to do this, then it helps to have some personal commitment that will force it on you. So many years ago, when I did not have kids and would working from home, I was, you know, half working all times of the night and I wound up joining three community choirs. And the reason is that then three nights a week, I had to stop work at six o’clock get ready, go to rehearsal and fill my evenings with that. And so it forced an end time to the work and made me much more efficient

Speaker 2:

Just as an addendum to that. And I love that you said that you, even if you don’t have summer Fridays anymore, because you’re working from home, you can create your own summer Friday by powering down at two o’clock and planning from that list that you have of things that you want to do that give you so much joy.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, exactly. I mean, we can, we have a lot more control of our time than we often think. And this is especially the case with working from home. So, you know, challenging people say, okay, this is a conscious end to the Workday. Here’s something fun I am going to do afterwards. And, and that way you are efficient while you’re working, because you want to get done and you take advantage of this leisure time that is available to you.

Speaker 2:

Important to make that list ahead of time. Don’t let it hit two o’clock and you’re like, Hmm, what am I going to do now? Like make that list ahead of time, right?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, because at two o’clock, you’re not going to feel like doing anything you’re to be like, eh, just go home and watch TV for a while. See what I feel like later, you’re not gonna feel like anything later or, you know, just rolling into your living room and sorta start scrolling through websites or whatever. If you want to have more purposeful fun, you often need to make plans for it. And you think about what it is so you can manage your energy in order to do it.

Speaker 2:

Navina and I were having this conversation earlier today in our mastermind about curiosity conversations. These are conversations that you use to stoke dialogue with people by virtue of which you expand your network, right?

Speaker 1:

It’s a curiosity conversation. Yeah. This is a great idea from producer Brian Grazer, who is written a couple of books called like face to face and a curious mind he’s known for being the producer on stuff like eight mile and a beautiful mind. And he writes about how one of his secrets of success is these curiosity conversations. So he’ll call up somebody, he thinks it’s fascinating and, you know, take them out to dinner and then talk about what ever right. And you know, obviously most of us cannot really sustain this swanky dinner habit or have M&M return our calls. Like he’s in his own little world there, but all of us can build our networks this way. Like who is somebody you would like to get to know better reach out to that person. And, you know, schedule copies, schedule a chat, schedule, a lunch, a virtual meeting, whatever it is.

Speaker 1:

And by doing this over and over again, you build discipline into your life of finding people to get to know. And most of these conversations are just going to be more interesting than useful. Like not everything is going to lead to a, you know, award winning movie, but some of them will and you’ll get to know cool people too. So it’s, if you do it over and over again, it’s just a numbers game. Eventually something cool comes out of it. And number eight is when you’re thinking big, I actually did a little post about this morning. It’s important to give yourself the time and the space to do that critical thinking. I think we talked about this a few minutes ago, but you know, when you want to scale and you want to have a bigger idea, you have to give it space to bubble up.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. And this is because our brains are really good about putting things together, but they don’t necessarily do it instantly. Like they needed to think about it, mull it over. It takes some time away from it, come back to it, get new inputs. And, and so you have to give yourself the space for that kind of thing. And people are really bad about this. Cause we, we fill every minute, like we’re like, Oh, I need to get through all these calls. I need to get down to inbox zero. And if I get through that, there’s all these other things I need to do. We don’t like to sort of take time away from all of that. But honestly, having a, you know, 20 minute walk in the middle of the day without your phone can, can give you space for thinking about these things. And you can also take bigger times to thinking about things too.

Speaker 1:

I say, if you’re working at home, that doesn’t mean you can’t still take a retreat somewhere, you know, go somewhere for two days and come with a list of questions that you hope to think about while you’re there. And then come back and start, start implementing them or join mastermind groups like you do. And talk with people about this, but give yourself space for that. This is not just these nice to do sort of things. It’s really how we keep our careers moving forward. And a key cornerstone to getting that space is saying no more often, but your agendum to that is to not just say, no, I don’t want to be on your podcast or your panel, but here’s somebody else that I recommend who can step in, in my place. So it’s a win, win, and you don’t disappoint the person making the ask.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. And one of the upsides of doing all those curiosity conversations is you’re going to know a lot of people doing a lot of different things and you know, you probably have somebody and it’s not that you’re passing off work that you don’t want to do. I says, if it’s not the right opportunity for you, you want to find somebody who would really appreciate the opportunity. So you’re really looking for win-win sort of situation. You know, I don’t, I’m not saying blanket, say notice stuff. We want to say yes to big stuff. I, and especially, you know, women in general, I think we often don’t say yes to really big stuff because we’re so busy with small stuff. And so we have to challenge ourselves to get better about saying no to smaller things so that we have kind of the mental capacity to dream big and take on these bigger speculative projects that could really lead to awesome stuff in the future.

Speaker 2:

So Laura is, I traditionally do. Now I’m going to introduce everybody on the call individually, and they’re going to ask you their own questions so they can get some one on one coaching from you. I started with Susanna Mara who is with Francis financial. It’s a female led advisory. Sudana what is your question for, and thanks so much, Laura, all of that was so helpful was taking notes frantically. So thanks for being here. I guess my question has to do with really the times that we’re in a given COVID and how that’s affecting certain people and their families and their own feelings, emotions with it, even with the black lives matter movement. I know people can kind of go into a frenzy of just really taking a lot of that really personally, and that can also affect your productivity at home. So just what can we be doing? And even I think I speak to like supporting my team of recognizing that this is a very emotional time, but like how I can still help them focus and be productive on a day to day basis, even with everything going on in the world right now.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, no, I mean, there’s a lot going on in the world and a lot that people are anxious about and nervous about. And this is where leadership is, is really important that you want to keep talking to people like understand that it’s okay to have conversations. You don’t consider that to be a waste of time. Like the, the thing that we rushed through on our, you know, desire to get to this spreadsheet, we’re working on, like you can actually teams that have conversations feel better together as long as they are mutually respectful conversations, which if it ever drifts away from that, that’s when you have a little bit more of a challenge as manager, but you know that one thing we can do sort of for ourselves, and I’m not saying that you necessarily want to tell your employees to do this, but I have been trying to limit my news consumption and I find that I am okay with checking like once a day and I can be an informed citizen once a day, 10 minutes, I get the highlights and then put it aside for the rest of that.

Speaker 1:

And it’s not that horrible things aren’t going on. It’s just that I personally really can’t do a whole lot about them. So I’m better off focusing on what I can do and what I can try to do better in the world. As opposed to, I don’t know, the rising caseload in Texas that I, you know, there’s nothing I can do about it, right? So if it takes more of my mental energy that I could be directing to the things that I can improve in the world, then that’s a problem. So limit it as much as possible.

Speaker 2:

Sure. Laura, I had, I do a podcast once a week and we talked about, and this woman was a bread business strategist, but back in pre COVID, she would do a walk around where

Speaker 1:

She would essentially check in with each individual employee just to say, Hey, how you’re doing and nothing more than that. But she thought it was profound, how much she got out of each person, what their motivations were, how they were feeling just by checking in individually with people to see what’s going on. No, it’s always good to have conversations with anyone who’s reporting to you and it doesn’t have to be formal at all. And the interesting thing about working from home is there’s sort of less opportunity for that. Cause you’re not there in the office. You’re not, you know, stopping by somebody’s desk on the way to the bathroom, but you can mimic that by just calling everybody up, like just pick up the phone and you know, you don’t want to make it seem that weird and the way to not make it be weird is to do it all the time. Right? Like that. It’s not weird that my boss is calling me. Like I’m not in trouble. It’s just that, that’s what she does. So more communication is better. Super touchy area is a project manager with Merck. She is out in New Jersey. Sue, what is your question?

Speaker 4:

I don’t have any questions at the moment. Just one observation, like I work with outsourcing different projects that the port, the vaccines and, and oncology clinical trial programs. So one thing I’m seeing at different CRS and other organizations is there’s a lot of competing resources, especially with the labs that are working on COVID-19 vaccines, which should be everybody’s priority. But then the management of the expectations, like, you know, we still have to meet the timelines. We other projects still have to be delivered. So that’s becomes a little stressful. So I see like a lot of people are taking the approach where they do not for warn people about this could be the issue, but later on, if something happens and they say, this is something which is out of my control. So I was wondering, is that the best way to approach that kind of situation or is it better to kind of prepare and plan for it? I would, I would think the former, but I see like people are trying to be cautious and not convey their concerns because at the risk of appearing nervous or scared. So I was just wondering like what, what everybody else was doing or what’s the best way to approach the situation.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. Interesting. I mean, I think in general, we always want to hope for the best to prepare for the worst. And so it’s helpful, whatever you are setting your targets to also ask, well, what could go wrong? And let’s, let’s have an open dialogue about this and, you know, checking in frequently, are we on track? If we’re not, why, you know what, what’s going wrong here? Like, what do we think could go wrong? There there’s nothing being an optimist to me is about being you know, we can think positive because we know what we’ll do. If things don’t go that way that there’s a backup plan. And so we can have a little more faith that something good will happen because we’re not putting all our eggs in that basket. So yeah, I mean, I, I, I’m a fan of preparing for bad things. And then hoping they don’t happen to me. I have a scenario B,

Speaker 5:

I make sure I get it

Speaker 1:

To everybody, but make sure you have a scenario B and make sure you have a scenario C cause I know on the, on the go and ready to pull the trigger on in the event that scenario a isn’t working out.

Speaker 5:

Thank you.

Speaker 1:

Michelle alum is in Washington, DC. She works with a company called [inaudible] Michelle, what is your question?

Speaker 5:

Hi, Laura.

Speaker 1:

Thank you so much for the tips. I really appreciate them. You know, when you talk about time management, I definitely get caught up in tools like Slack or Gchat and it tends to throw me off, you know, off of my schedule is you’re talking about structured time or setting a timer to focus on things. What are your thoughts around the use of those tools? You know, you stated checking email like once an hour or once every couple of hours, what do you think about tools like Slack and G chat? So, I mean, I know that the whole upside of those is that they are instantaneous, right? Like that, you’re just trying to mimic like that. What would have happened when you walked to the bathroom and saw another colleague and you know, Hey, you know, what’s going on? Like, do you see what happened with the cheese on the cafeteria salad bar?

Speaker 1:

You know, that’s the sort of thing that it’s set up for which is great, but you know, you can’t have those conversations all day or you’ll never get anything else done. What I’ve seen some organizations do is have kind of conversation hours and quiet hours. So you might decide that like, we’re all gonna do our focused individual work from say, I don’t know, eight 30 to 10 30, those are our quiet hours. Then, you know, we have more open hours from say 10 30 to one 30 or whatever it is. But that way, you know, everyone’s pretty much on during that time and having these conversations and they know to plan the work that requires more focus in times when you’re not doing it. Now that doesn’t mean you can’t call someone or email them during the quiet times, but it raises the bar. And it’s, if you, you know, if you get a message from a colleague during that time, you know, it’s probably important. Like it’s not about the cheese, you know, it’s, it’s about something that’s really critical going on. And so, you know, to actually look at it. Yes. Thank you. That’s great. Great tips. I mean, a child Bria is a graphic design artist. She’s an illustrator novena.

Speaker 5:

Hi, Laura. I was my question to you is if you plan your day, like on a Friday or Sunday, like Julia does

Speaker 1:

For a surprises, unexpected stuff that suddenly comes up and it kind of, that goes, you are

Speaker 5:

Disrupt your routine.

Speaker 1:

Well, here’s the thing is unexpected stuff is not really unexpected. Like you don’t know what it will be, but you can be pretty clear that something unexpected will happen as is the known unknowns, right. Schedule has, has known unknowns in it that something will come up. And so the best thing you can do is to leave open space to account for that. So you don’t want to you know, plan every minute of the day for stuff that absolutely has to happen at that particular time. You want to say plan some stuff and then leave maybe a two hour window in the afternoon where you are responding to stuff that has come in and the day or to things that have, you know, or that two hour block can be open so that if something goes horribly wrong in the morning during the time when you have planned stuff that can be rescheduled for the afternoon, when you had that open block you know, you can do this on a weekly basis.

Speaker 1:

I mean, depending on what your schedule is like, you can try to leave a day open so that it’s there for things that come up or, you know, to move work that has gotten bumped by other emergencies, or it can be a couple hours a day. It sort of depends on what your schedule looks like, but either of those options can work. I like your suggestion that you really only have like three tasks that you planned for the next day, so that you have that kind of buffer room and you still have the satisfaction that you finished, what you set out to do. Yeah. I mean, and it’s really hard to narrow it down, but it’s not that those are the only things in the universe you have going on. But if, if things were to go horribly wrong tomorrow, what three things would you still want to have had to happen? And if you know those and you get through those, then you know that you’ve had at least a minimally good day. And then you also have space for dealing with whatever comes up in the moment. Sorry. I’ll go. Patel is the CEO and founder of a startup called Spacey’s, which is taking legacy hotels and turning them into boutique destinations. I’ll put, what is your question?

Speaker 5:

Hi, thank you, Julia. Thank you for organizing this. My question is around, so I work a lot and some of the advice you gave was great. Like I respond to emails right away. I so I’m going to set aside some time, but sometimes I feel like, like, I feel like I have to respond to something because it’s like urgent. So like how would I kind of work around that? Like, it’s literally like, I need to get answer and I need to make that happen in like an hour. So if I set aside time for like, I block it out, like, how do I, how should I address those things?

Speaker 1:

The, the urgency of it. I mean, I think there’s still you can be responsive with having some time that is not responsive and, and your case. You’re no, you’re not going to be the person who’s checking email twice a day, but you can still say, all right, this is a 30 minute tasks that I need to focus on. And then I will be an interactive, responsive mode for 30 minutes. And then I will be focused for 30 minutes and then, you know, responsive for 30 minutes. Nobody would have to wait more than about half an hour in that scenario. Which, I mean, there, there are a million reasons that you might not get answer for half an hour. I mean, you could be driving somewhere. You could be, you know, I don’t know, in the shower, like there’s many reasons you would not respond to that. So I think it’s more that it’s weighing on us then that people are really expecting that. I mean, presumably people can also call you. So if somebody needed an answer, like truly instantly, like that is exists as, as an option for people to, and, and you might encourage people to think about that. And, and for whatever reason, it raises the barrier for people to like actually pick up the phone and call. And so then people are less likely to do it.

Speaker 5:

Did he attend them is a

Speaker 1:

Real estate investor. She’s in Buffalo, New York Vivia. What is your question?

Speaker 5:

My question is I have staff that worked for me in the field. We’re essential workers essential business. Sorry. and do you have any tips to give me about how do I manage people who are out in the field and how can I effectively manage like their productivity?

Speaker 1:

Yeah. And this is really a question that everyone is dealing with now that more people are working from home, right? That in the past a manager would be like, Hey, I have rows of busy looking people sitting in desks, like clearly stuff must be getting done, but the honest truth is you never actually knew that that stuff was getting done. I mean, people can sit in their chairs for all kinds of hours doing very little consequence. So you really need to, I mean, management is still management, wherever people are working, whether they’re in the field, whether they’re in an office, whether they’re working from home, you want to set very clear goals with your employees. Like, hopefully this is a mutual conversation where you’re setting the goals together. And then holding people accountable for them. And, and depending on the employee, it might be a daily check-in.

Speaker 1:

It might be a weekly check in. I mean, some people, you know, that they’re going gangbusters and you don’t have to worry about it. Like you might never have to check in, right? Like the money just comes rolling in from that person, like great. But, but most people need something a little bit more frequent than that. But you know, say, what do you intend to do today? They do it check in at the end of the day, did you do it? If not, what can I do to support you to, to make it more likely to happen? And if that check-in is frequent and, and people know that they are given some freedom, but also being held accountable then usually that combination can, can work. And if people are really, really struggling with it, then you might need to think if that person is in the right role or longterm, if this is something that needs to be redirected. I like that, that final question at the end of the day, it’s about how can I support you if it’s not getting done? Where’s the chinks in the armor and how can I help lift you up? Sorry, the VA, you are going to ask something else.

Speaker 5:

Yeah. That’s the constant problem I’m running into. People are defining their own hours and that’s fine, but I constantly remind people one or two days here and there that’s fine, but no, you don’t work from seven o’clock to three o’clock job. You know, I’m, I’m required for you to be there, pick up my phone call, anytime I call you between nine and five and I wouldn’t call you other than emergencies other than those hours. And I’m having a difficult time explaining it, although they’re getting their job done, but I’m having a difficult time explaining the work hours because, you know, things are more loose when people are working in the field and, you know, or work from home these days for that matter.

Speaker 1:

Well, that sounds, I mean, if you have a specific thing you want employees to do, then you need to be very clear and say that that is the expectation. I mean, one of the upsides of people working in the field of working from home, I would say is having more flexible hours. And it may be that somebody who’s really awesome is, is better able to work from seven to three. Like for whatever their family situation may be. You could decide that you were willing to take that, that you’d call somebody else from three to five, if you needed somebody immediately. But that’s something you could decide, but if you truly want somebody to observe certain hours, then you just need to be straightforward about that and say that this is my expectation. This job is about meeting that

Speaker 2:

We had another speaker back in November, who said, nobody acts out of malice. They only act out a bad direction. So being very clear and over-communicating can never can never disturb you. SRAM method is a contemporary artist. She also wears another hat and that she’s got a family diamond business. SRE, what is your question?

Speaker 5:

Hi. So one of my questions is

Speaker 1:

The Friday or the Sunday. Plenty of the week. Yeah.

Speaker 5:

I used to put regularly in a diary, write it down. Then I switched over to virtual, which ended up, you know, distracting me. Cause every time I checked my phone or I got a notification

Speaker 1:

Distracted me. So yeah.

Speaker 5:

Is there any hybrid option or is there any other, how do you plan your week?

Speaker 1:

You know, anything you can? Well, I actually, I mean, I use a paper planner. I actually use a paper calendar too that will not work for a lot of people who are working in larger organizations for obvious reasons, but you can still have one for yourself if you want. Especially if you want one that has, you know, both your personal life and your professional life in it that you don’t necessarily want to share with everyone else. I like the paper planner because it takes the process of planning offline. So you don’t get distracted while you’re doing it. So while I’m setting my goals for the week, I’m not actually engaged in my inbox. So I’m, I’m looking at, you know, what is coming up, what I think is important, what I would like to do. And I think there’s some, some benefit to that. You know, you can certainly use a virtual planner and turn off your notifications or something like that. But, but I do think that some element of planning is best done offline. So you’re not responding to things coming in. You’re actually taking yourself into this moment. That’s outside of your normal life.

Speaker 2:

I’ve taken, I’ve taken a turning on my do not disturb. So that

Speaker 1:

Thing is coming into my desktop in the way of notifications when I’m trying to do deep work. Mira Thomas is an interior designer. She has a company that bears her name. Mira. What is your question?

Speaker 5:

First Laura, thank you so much for all the awesome information. I did have a question about outsourcing, but through Michelle Alpine degree, I think you’ve answered those questions, but I, I came up with another question. So you know, with meetings and being outside and, you know, having lunches and doing all the networks, or do you suggest days and days out you know, like separate them in a way or do like half day in and half day at like, what is the best output you’d get for, for working that way out as when I say out as the meetings and site meetings or anything outside, you’re not.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. I mean, I think you have to kind of know yourself on, on this one because I don’t think there is a right answer. Some people like to have, you know, two things per day that get them out and about and have half the day for sort of interior focused work and half out and about some people really need to get into one mindset for all day. And so they really liked the idea of having nothing in the calendar. And so they just, you know, do their focus stuff all day and then the other day can be completely social. I think, you know, broadly as a lot of organizations transition back into their workplaces, we’re going to wind up with more of a hybrid model of people doing two to three days at home and two to three days in the workplace. And I think that that will be great because it’ll allow people to do the kind of work that is best suited for those days during those days.

Speaker 1:

So that the, you know, two, three days in the office can be very social. Like there’s less, you know, nobody’s trying to get anything done other than interacting with their colleagues and talking about the stuff that’s going on. Because they know that they’ve got the two to three days at home where they can just buckle down and get it all done. So, you know, probably that will be most efficient because commuting in the middle of the day is, you know, why would you go in someplace for, for four hours? But you know, if you’re doing like site visits places, that’s kind of a different matter. And so that’s more about personal knowledge of how you work best. I’m a bigger fan of batching tasks, right? If I had to do a bunch of phone calls, I’ll batch them in one hour. If I had to be out social, if I do batch those things.

Speaker 1:

And sometimes I feel like that’s just working one part of my brain that’s already turned on, right? Because I’ve been doing that very same task Pooja agenda, 90 Janae is a special projects, director and partner, and a macaroon company called by. Whoops. It has a few brick and mortar locations here, but eCommerce is where she’s making her money now, who do, what is your question? Hi joy. Thank you for the intro. And Laura, this has been so helpful. I feel like time management is something that, you know, we all can get better at. My question was actually very similar to an Amenas. I, myself, I think maybe over estimating what I can do in a day. And so I’ll like, you know, block out the whole day and like, I won’t put like certain, you know, I wouldn’t phone put a buffer time, like you mentioned.

Speaker 1:

So then I feel like at the end of the day, I’ll like, look at my list and I’ll be like, okay, these four or five things weren’t done because there were surprises. Right? Like there’s always like something that comes up last minute. I just wanted to know if there’s like other tips or tricks that you recommend. You know, I know joy always says like just the three top things that you want to accomplish in the day. Just like ways. So you can, so you don’t feel like defeated at the end of the day. You’re not like, okay, well I only did six out of the 12 things I had on my life. Yeah. Well, I think it’s important to realize that there’s just no virtue putting something on a, to do list and then not doing it. Like it’s just as not done as if you never put it on the list in the first place, but now you feel bad.

Speaker 1:

Like you said, you feel defeated. So better to just never put it on the list if you’re not going to do it. So, you know, keep the list shorter. In, in my book, somebody gave an analogy, which I really like what she thinks of it as a Ferris wheel. So she’s got sort of three things on the top of it at any given point. Those are the three things she’s focusing on that day, the fierce Ferris wheel tilts. And then the next day you’ve got other things. And then the next day you’ve got other things. And so this answers the objection of like, well, I have more than three things going on in my life. Like, what do you mean? I can’t only focus on these small number of things it’s like, of course not, but it’s on the Ferris wheel. So it keeps going.

Speaker 1:

And once you address those three things, then the next three things can go and then the next, and then you’ll get to everything as opposed to this kind of practice, where you put everything on for one day, you don’t do all of it. You feel bad the next day you put everything on again, you don’t do all of it. You feel bad, I’m better to sort of keep cycle the cycle, going and turn. Thank you. Nina Patel is with Hermann, which is a big hospital system in Houston. She’s senior recruitment consultant there. He knew what is your question? Yeah. Thank you, Laura. I love everything you say. And I do live the Texas here right now. And we’re all doing well. I think many people think what is going on there, but we’re all trying to stay safe. At least some of my question to you is I love what everybody said.

Speaker 1:

I think they, you answered lots of my questions with everybody else, but how do you I read that you had five children and how do you balance that with them all being at home and also your yeah, well, I mean, it’s more challenging now with all of them home than it was during normal times when people were at school, for instance, during the day, which automatically created open space. My youngest, we have a nanny caring for him. You know, childcare is key. Like there’s, there’s no getting around that. And I know a lot of people have not been able to have their normal childcare arrangements for the past few months. But if this is going to continue longer, people are going to need to come up with a childcare arrangement that can work with the, the way things are.

Speaker 1:

So, you know, that is, that is what I have to say with that. So some sort of other adults in charge during the time that you are planning to work whether that’s a paid caregiver or your spouse or anything like that and you know, then trying to be intentional about family time along with work time. Like, so, you know, I plan my weeks on Fridays, I think through what are my most important professional priorities, but I also try to think through what are my most important family priorities, like, is there something that is, you know, needing to be addressed with any of the kids or something I’m concerned about, and then that can go on the list and make sure I deal with that too. So I think the mindfulness of how we spend our time works professionally, but it works personally as well.

Speaker 5:

And I think example that you gave in the book where, you know, one parent takes from seven 30 to like one, and then the other parent takes from one 30 to six where you’re splitting the day so that everybody gets some focused time to actually do their work. Not that it’s always possible, but with younger children, maybe it’s. So,

Speaker 1:

Yeah. And if you’re doing that, I mean, both parties can in fact work like 25 to 30 hours a week, and that may be enough to keep going along with the way things are now. I mean, longterm, it gets a little bit frustrating if you can never take morning meetings for instance. But you know, we’re in a crisis, people are doing what they have to do.

Speaker 5:

Manko with them. Jen Donnie is a business analyst. Make a, what is your question? I don’t think I have a specific question, but Laura, this has been super helpful. The tips of by practical. I really do appreciate that

Speaker 1:

That’s time management has always been, I think, a challenge and an opportunity for me. So thank you. Well, thank you very much.

Speaker 5:

A new bot is an art curator. The name of her company is the rural painter. I knew. What is your question? I, Laura. So my question as a solopreneur who’s not really answerable to anyone, is that managing my time is key and not being answerable to anyone, kind of lets things slip away. I do follow the weekly schedule where I do a brain dump, but I do schedule tasks on weeks when I’m a little tired. I don’t put six things down. I put three things down, so at least I have that sense of achievement. But I guess one thing that I’m struggling with is I’m just caught up with day to day tasks. And I find that I cannot focus on the big picture or the direction where I want to take my company and that’s falling on the wayside because I’m just busy with tasks every day that need to be done. Are there any tools?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I would recommend putting that sort of speculative big picture, thinking on your calendar first, like do it first thing in the day, maybe first thing Monday because you know, I’ve worked with people in the past that they have these sort of grand speculative ideas and they’re like, okay, well I’ll do it in a time. That’s left over. So I’ll get to it like Friday afternoon after I’ve done everything else. Okay. Not going to do it Friday afternoon. Like you’re done. Like, you’re not going to think about it. You’re going to be off, you know, into weekend mode already. Whereas if you carve out time on Monday morning, like that’s when you’re best able to focus, that is when it is going to happen. And, and the truth that you wouldn’t even have to start the rest of your work, all that late, like let’s say you’re going to devote 90 minutes to kind of thinking about big picture things.

Speaker 1:

Start at like eight o’clock by nine 30, you can be on your daily tasks on Monday. Like you can’t tell me that starting at nine 30 on Monday is going to leave you horribly behind for everything else. But when you make time for that important, big picture thinking first, then it will actually happen. And then you can go from there. Thank you. And I love that. You’re you’re saying you schedule it because if you don’t schedule it, it won’t happen. No, it won’t happen. A redo condo wall is a business intelligence person. What is your question? Withdrew. Hi, Laura. Thanks for the great tips. My question is how do you differentiate critical work and less critical work? For example, morning times are great, but you have to do your exercise meditation, writing your thought leadership, listening to book podcast. So, you know so my towards like when the late morning as, Oh, I’ve not done this, I get on, you know, so how do you manage that?

Speaker 1:

Yes, it would be great if the mornings could be the whole day, right? Like how we feel in the mornings could continue for all this. And we could, we could do, you know, multi-hour morning routines and such. I think, you know, you can sort of spread it over the course of a week. So like Monday morning you do this thing that you love to do in the mornings. And, and that is important to you in Tuesday. You do this or you could shorten it too. I mean, you know, it’s not going to be 20 minutes of meditation. Maybe it’s just a couple of minutes, but you can incorporate that more regularly into the routine. You know, people have said, well, I want to exercise. I want to meditate. I want to write in the morning. How can I do all of those? Well, you know, maybe it’s that three mornings a week, you exercise and two, you write and two, you meditate and then all seven, you have it.

Speaker 1:

Or maybe you do two each day. You know, you exercise for 30 minutes, four days a week and you write for 30 minutes, three days a week. And then you meditate for a little bit after each on, on the other side. But by lowering the stakes on each of them, like taking them down a little bit, making them smaller, then you can fit it into your day as opposed to, you know, having these really long time consuming things where you’re trying to do everything every day. Thank you. Okay. I’ve gotten around to everybody. Sue. I know you had a follow up question. Do you want to ask that now, Sue? Nope. No, I’m good. Thank you. Okay. So Laura, I saved this last one for last because I am a big traveler and I’m really sad that I can’t get on a plane and go anywhere except according to the New York times, Ecuador and Kosovo.

Speaker 1:

So what your last point is plan many adventures given that we can’t travel anywhere right now. Can you explain? Yeah. So adventures make life more memorable. And part of feeling like we have, like time is more abundant is filling time with memorable things that can obviously a big vacation to Kosovo or Ecuador great locations. I’m sure. But it can also be smaller. And this is the upside of many adventures is that you can do them any given day and you should so think about what you could do today to make today different from other days, what will make today, stand out in your memory. So looking back, you’re like, Oh yeah, that’s what I did today. It, you know, brainstorm a list. It could be that you go walk in a different place that you call up somebody you’ve never spoken to before that you try a new cocktail recipe that you you know, if their museums are opening back up where you are, you go to a new one during, you know, what would be your lunch break?

Speaker 1:

These are all just little things. You can have a picnic breakfast, I don’t know, but all these things you can do in any given day that will make the day stand out. And when you have these many adventures, life feels more rich and full and the days don’t just blend into each other and you had that 100 dream or 100 wishlist. Yeah. So the list of a hundred dreams is just a long list of anything you want to spend more time doing. And these are particularly good for finding mini adventures. I mean, some are going to be, again, trips to Kosovo and Ecuador, but some are going to be smaller things like visiting a museum or going see a sculpture park in a nearby garden, or you know, cooking this recipe. You found somewhere that you’ve always wanted to try. And if you have a long list, then it answers the question of what could I do with my time often, what happens is we have time, but because we feel like we don’t have time, we don’t think about how we want to spend it. And so we spend it in the most effortless way as possible, which tends to be scrolling around online. Whereas if we have a list of the things we want to do, then we can pick something off there. Laura, thank you. Is anybody else have any last questions?

Speaker 1:

If anybody has any follow up questions for you, Laura, what’s the best way to get in touch with you? I know you’re on social media. Yeah. you can visit my website, Laura Vander, cam.com. And yeah, I’m on social media, usually at El Vander cam I Twitter, Instagram, all those places and your new book, the new corner office, how the most successful people work from home. When does that hit the market on Tuesday? So I would really appreciate if people might check it out or tell people about it, share about it on social media. If you thought any of these tips were useful, there’s a lot more where that came from and they’re so please help me spread the word. I would really appreciate it. And it’s not like a typical book. It’s an ebook. So it’s much shorter. It’s very easy to digest. Yeah. And reads quickly. Or you could listen to it. It’ll be available on audio book. So yeah, you hopefully learn something will make you say, Oh, I hadn’t thought of it that way before. And you could put the tips to practice that day. Laura. Thank you. I know I had to talk me for a solid 52 minutes. Thank you for all of your counsel today and we’ll see everybody soon. I’ll send out the recording as soon as I get it. All right. Thanks so much. You guys.

Speaker 1:

Okay.

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