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Remote working is great for flexibility and comfort but can be very distracting to get things done. Surrounded by daily home-life, cooking, cleaning, laundry, family time, it can be very difficult to focus on work! Amalia Couzoff is a high performance and mindset coach, passionate about transforming performance and self-development for personal and business success!
During our coffee, Amalia shared lots of tips for getting the most out of working from home, and also the importance of staying emotionally effective. From how you show up, to how you organise your time, she gave us her best recommendations to survive and succeed while working from home. Enjoy!
BE EMOTIONALLY READY
Set boundaries, create a designated workplace, and take off your PJ’s!
Your physical environment influences how you feel. Prepare your workspace and get ready for the day as if going out to your usual workplace, and your mind will follow.
What is the importance of handling our emotions for effective productivity
Amalia: The emotional side is about putting boundaries in your environment – not just the way you interact with other people but also your environment. Create the best space around you to make your work as effective as possible. Working from the sofa might be fun but it’s not necessarily efficient and working from a lounge chair can lead to physical pains and strains from your body working in a compromised way. Our brain has also been trained to recognise the sofa as for relaxing, not for work.
Your impulse is telling your brain to relax but at the same time, you are trying to work! Maybe you can create new patterns so you can work from the sofa, and create the environment for that, but I put myself in work mode. I set a table with my computer and recreate a set up similar to what I have at the office. If you share a living space, establish your work area, and set schedules so you are not interrupted.
Apart from our environment, can we do something physical to prepare our mind to work?
Amalia: A really important part is how you show up! I can work in PJ’s and comfortable clothes and that is totally fine – if I don’t need to meet anyone! You don’t have to be at your best but the question is; if you are putting yourself in the comfy clothing, are you allowing yourself to feel laid back, lazy and relaxed? So dress for the occasion! Think, ‘what is today looking like, who am I meeting and what I am trying to achieve by the end of the day?’ If you were to meet a client face to face you would dress up more than if you were meeting your colleagues on a normal working day. When you were going into work you may have worn casual clothes – so do the same at home.
Structure your day, set time blocking and use meeting times effectively.
Review your daily tasks and set three things to achieve. Use time blocking to focus on a specific task and plan so meeting time stays effective.
Time; our biggest friend and worst enemy. How should we deal with it?
Amalia: Working from home we will struggle more than if we were at the office. Mainly because in the office our timetable is set and we are in an environment of people doing the same, so the environment feels natural for working. But when at home there are, as mentioned earlier, the distractions of the fridge, laundry, your mom calling and suddenly you lose track of time!
And what do you recommend to do?
✓Nº 1 Be disciplined on how you structure your day. First thing in the morning look at your daily tasks and prioritise three things you want to achieve by the end of the day, no negotiations! Set goals and, if you want, incorporate a micro-task in between the main activities.
✓Nº 2 Time Block to use your time effectively. Each time you sit down on your desk set a timer for up to 90 minutes. Think about what you can achieve in the next 90 minutes, for example, complete a presentation. Giving yourself a specific slot of time for completion means you don’t let the task drag out a whole day.
✓Nº 3 Multitasking reduces your attention by 25%! Every time you stop and do something else you lose 20 minutes trying to get your thoughts back onto the first activity! So definitely focus on one thing at a time and avoid multitasking!
✓Nº 4 Use your meeting time effectively. This is a personal preference, but I recommend putting meetings between tasks. This breaks up the tasks and the meetings also provide a social break, while still working. This stops time wasted for example taking extra long breaks as you seek interaction and a break from continued solitary tasks. So set a task, schedule in a meeting after that, then take a 5-10 minute break to go to the toilet, walk around the house, call your mom back, before starting the next task. You are giving yourself enough time for focused work, social interaction and a moment to rest away from your desk before moving to the next task.
What are your more productive days and hours?
Prioritise activities and set the best time for you to do it. Are you a morning person or most productive late at night after the noise of the day has gone? Make a schedule mindful of this, so you can be most effective.
I think it’s easier for people in big companies to work from home due to pre-established activities. In the case of entrepreneurs, we wear different hats and daily focus on very different tasks. How can we be more productive when switching between different activities?
Amalia: If you are an entrepreneur, prioritise an area of the business and identify the best day to focus on that. Section your business into finance, marketing, social media, sales, technology, product development, services, etc.The rule of thumb is to create days for different tasks. For example, on Monday mornings I will check finances, sales, and invoicing needs. Do I need to follow up with anyone? Are there any outstanding payments? Monday is also a good time for me to establish the business goals for the week and set KPIs to measure the success in achieving these goals. This will vary per person and business of course – you might like to do this on a Friday to wrap up the week.
Be conscious about how you structure your week to best organise your time and avoid distractions. Organise your meetings and connections with clients for a “Sales Day”, however, you may notice you can’t effectively have all the meetings into one day, so manage accordingly and set over a few days.If you have fewer meetings on a Tuesday let’s say, use these days to focus on a main activity. Create content, do videos, plan a podcast, or write your blog – then use that full day for that task without being interrupted.
When we are creating we need space to do that and if you have to jump into meetings it will remove focus. Wednesday I will do meetings and in between do micro tasks like send emails and respond to my team. It is about managing the in-between times as well, to be as effective as you can.
Understand what time you are at your most productive. Athletes call it ” when are you in the flow” or for developers, really ‘in the zone’! Be smart about how you use this time. I know I am best during the day, but not early in the morning! So early in the morning to do the basic stuff; exercise or cook my lunch – the things that need to be done but don’t need too much brainpower for it! Then around 10-11 am I feel, “ok, now I am all in, I am ready”.
Don’t try to force productivity. Creativity needs new environments to let ideas flow.
Program your work by time blocking and ensure you plan time off between tasks. Your brain needs a break, especially after complex activities.
I noticed I get in a habit of working all day, non-stop. After a week I was destroyed. How can we balance time?
Amalia: It is very important to schedule breaks in. Although we think that we are more productive when we are focusing for a long time, what actually happens is that the brain after approximately 90 minutes stops and can no longer focus! 90 mins is a long time so experts recommend taking a break after 45 or 50 mins. If you do need 90 mins to finish, that’s fine, just make sure you take 5-10 minutes to go away from your desk – don’t stay there to have your lunch or a drink – move away from your work environment.
It helps creativity as it helps your brain to rest. You know when we have a shower or go for a walk suddenly we became more creative? This doesn’t happen because we are showering or walking but because the brain is no longer stuck focused on a task but absorbing new stimuli, allowing ideas to come!
Play some music, but first, close the window!
What is your final recommendation?
Amalia: Have fun and make your day work for you. What will make your day better? Music? Close the window – we need to be mindful of the people around and put your headset on and play your music! Create a happy environment around you.
It’s important to have fun otherwise work becomes tiring and almost daunting and you won’t want to do it anymore. Make your work as enjoyable as possible!
I hope you enjoy reading the article and this can be useful for you. If you have questions or want to know more, Amalia is super friendly and always happy to help. She is currently running a member community called “At Your Best” for women who want to focus on their mindset, personal, and leadership development.