Since the start of the pandemic, more people than ever have transitioned to working from home – and the trend probably won’t let up anytime soon. Though working from home has some great advantages, it is a significant adjustment. Fortunately, Laura Vanderkam has worked from home since the early 2000s, so she hosts The New Corner Office podcast to help share some of the strategies and tips she’s found most effective at managing her time, her productivity, and her home life. In these five episodes, she focuses on having more enjoyable virtual get-togethers, saving brainpower for what matters, and even makes a case for being a little less efficient. If you’ve got a work-from-home problem, Laura will solve it on The New Corner Office.
Since we can no longer share space with our colleagues, able to casually ask for feedback or get quick answers to small details, many of us are finding our workdays filling up with meetings. Laura suggests taking time out of your Monday morning to look at the meetings scheduled for the week ahead. Are there any that could be quick phone calls, instead? Any that require significant preparation time? Knowing this ahead of time can help us approach the week with a calm sense of clarity, perform better in meetings, and best of all, have less meetings overall.
The virtual happy hour got popular early on in the quarantine, but many of us quickly realized that no one can socialize on Zoom the same way we can in person. In person, we can break off into smaller groups and carry on side conversations; on Zoom, a dozen people are all trying to have the same conversation. “It’s bad Thanksgiving,” Laura concludes. Facilitating these get-togethers, perhaps around a mutual activity or learning experience like a book club or a workshop, may sound like a lot of work, but “facilitated social interactions can be really profound, if we’re willing to put in the effort.”
A phone call can be much more efficient than an email, but many of us have a lot of anxiety about using the phone. Laura wants to help us “get comfortable with dialing.” She suggests things like sending whomever you need to speak with an email an hour or two before you call, letting them know you’ll be reaching out and why. That way, they’re ready for your call, and you’ll find it harder to delay. Having a conversation starter ready is never a bad idea. And the old salesperson’s trick to “smile and dial” will relieve some anxiety, too.
Usually, Laura is a big proponent of optimizing the day, but she says sometimes it’s a great idea to run an errand in the middle of the work day. You don’t want to make it a habit, or allow anyone to expect it from you, but sometimes, if you feel stuck in a rut or need to mull something over, a quick errand can be a great psychological tool. “When we optimize every minute, it can trick our brains into thinking time is scarce,” she says. Consciously wasting a little time on an errand can make us feel more relaxed and see more possibilities, while still getting something important done.
This tip comes from Kendra Adachi’s book The Lazy Genius Way; in it, Kendra says that Mondays used to be very stressful – until she decided that every single Monday, she would wear a particular outfit and eat a particular meal. Now, instead of wondering what she’ll wear or make for breakfast or dinner, she can start her Mondays thinking about more important things. Laura suggests we try it, too. It can be any day of the week, but Mondays are a good choice, since it can be so difficult to get back into the swing of work after a weekend. “Decide once for Mondays,” she says, “and then you don’t have to decide again.” Get all these great tips and many more on The New Corner Office.
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