Struggling to get to work used to mean fighting traffic, dealing with delays, or running late. Struggling to get to work now means fighting procrastination, dealing with interruptions, and running low on your ability to focus.
The current landscape has led us to a new, and hopefully temporary, normal as millions of workers attempt to do their best work from home. Being adaptable to ever-changing environments and staying productive is essential as we navigate through this uncertain season.
Yes, the way we worked has changed.
Yes, the way we collaborate has shifted.
Yes, our client communication and meetings have adjusted.
But no, we’re not going to let that stop us.
As I navigate The Superfan Company through this uncertain, stressful and critical time, our primary focus continues to be:
How do we stay adaptable and productive regardless of our circumstances?
Here are 5 of my favorite productivity hacks that we’ve learned the hard way.
Tip #1: Review visuals in real-time with screen sharing.
Working remotely can hamper any team, but it can especially affect discussions that require collaborating around heavy visuals and involve a lot of creativity. At The Superfan Company, we used to continually rely on our ability to “lean over a shoulder” to review artwork, social media graphics or website changes. As we moved over to working remotely, we found the close collaboration and back and forth was taking way too long over email.
We switched to screen sharing, and it’s made a world of difference in our work. Now our creative director, Abby, can simply say, “Do you like the graphic here or over to the right more?” and in real-time, we can see what she’s moving.
With this capability, we can “design” together regardless of where we physically are! By screen sharing, we are able to streamline our creative process and make decisions rapidly. It saves us massive amounts of time and allows us to tackle more projects on a given day.
Tip #2: Break your day into 1-hour or 30-minute blocks.
Working from home can be incredibly distracting with partners, children, and the temptation to snack and wander away from your work. Given the plethora of distractions, it’s more important now than ever before to streamline your work. You’d rather have a productive 8-hour workday than a 12-hour mildly productive day.
Creating time blocks in my calendar has allowed me to control how I’m spending my most productive hours.
For example, I put my deep thinking and high-concentration tasks in the morning as I know my focus lessens as the day wears on. Because my concentration levels decline in the afternoon, I schedule the majority of my virtual meetings and phone calls then.
Calls are easier for me and require less mental energy. Setting up designated time frames to work as well as to surf social media, walk around and step away from the computer has helped create a more productive workflow. Time blocking has truly helped me to protect my most precious hours as I navigate our new permanent work from home structure.
Tip #3: Create weekly goals with your team.
In a crisis like the one we are experiencing, news and updates are ever-changing, making long-term planning extremely difficult. Therefore, we started implementing weekly goals, whether that was the number of social posts, the amount of pitches sent out, or phone calls made to help keep us focused, on track and working together toward the same things.
These weekly goals help us to keep pushing our productivity forward because we know how close (or far!) we are from accomplishing the tasks at hand.
Think of it like running a race. When you know where the finish line is, it’s easier to pace yourself or push to the end. If you’re running a race with no finish line in sight, you’re more likely to lose focus and talk yourself out of making steady progress. Make sure you and your team are running at the same pace, towards the same goal each week.
Tip #4: Have your entire team collaborate in one file. Yes, one.
In March, when we first started working remotely, we would often fire off emails and go back and forth on “quick” changes to documents, client files, and internal memos. Not only was this not the most secure method of communication, but it was also massively confusing!
Endless questions of “Wait, what version is that?” “Does that have my changes?” or “Which document are we working off?” were commonplace in our meetings. To keep everything organized, we decided to eliminate email and collaborate by utilizing cloud-based documents where we can edit and make changes in real-time. This switch has been especially helpful for our team when we work on pitch presentations because we have multiple people working on the same project simultaneously.
Instead of worrying about version control with back-and-forth emails, which would be especially confusing while we’re not in the office together, we can make changes directly to the document, which are then updated automatically for everyone working on the project. Working on the same file, concurrently, has allowed us to work more quickly and has sped up our project deliveries.
The cloud’s file-sharing capabilities not only help keep these highly sensitive documents secure, but it also strengthened our collaboration, which helps us get more done in less time. A true win/win!
Tip #5: Eliminate physical temptation when working from home.
Working from home can be made less difficult if your physical surroundings set you up for success. For example, do not work within eyesight of the refrigerator, turn your phone screen side down, physically move away from other people, or hide the TV remote in a hard to access place during the day, so you aren’t tempted to use it.
The right working environment doesn’t magically happen – you must work hard to create it! I learned this the hard way.
When we all started working from home, my fiancé and I worked in the same room. I was so excited to see him now that we were working in the same place. However, I noticed myself chit-chatting with him more and more, becoming distracted easily by a question he asked or what he was working on rather than the tedious task in front of me.
I quickly realized that while it might be fun to work in the same room, it certainly wasn’t productive. To remedy this, I started isolating myself in another room. This physical distance helped me to stay focused on the task at hand.
Productivity = success
Staying productive is essential for employers and employees alike; however, during times of uncertainty, it’s more critical than ever before. The teams that can stay productive, no matter what is thrown at them, will be the teams that don’t just survive this storm but thrive during it. While every situation is unique, these universal productivity hacks can help set anyone up for success, whether working from home or back at the office.