How To Get Stuff Done From a Home Office


So you have the option to work from home…but every time you go home to work you’re distracted by the mail, the dog, the messy kitchen, the laundry, the neighborhood drama, the tv, the dishes, the…you get the point.

How do you actually get stuff done from your home office? Is it possible to be at home and to not be focused on the things of home?

Yes I say!

I’ve been exclusively working out of a home office for about three years now and I believe that I get done in 1/3 to 1/2 a day what a lot of workers in offices get done in an 8-hour day. Of course the 20-second commute helps, but beyond that I've found some key aspects to make working from home work. 

Here are the elements of my work from home success:

1. Invoke a morning routine. I get up. I make the bed. I have breakfast. I go run. I shower. I’m at my desk. Same time every day. I don’t get distracted by morning television. I don’t decide each morning what I will do that day. I wake up. I invoke my routine. 

2. Ignore the doorbell. I can ignore texts, calls, emails, and other interruptions and a random sales person would never be able to interrupt my day at my desk on the 9th floor of a corporate office, so why should I let them interrupt my workflow in my home office? If I’m not expecting you at my front door, I will ignore you. 

3. Make a schedule and a to-do list the day before. In my work with Pursuant I make plans for the week ahead on Friday afternoons. I absolutely love this strategic planning. And each afternoon I take a look at the plans for the next day. That means I don’t waste precious brain power in the morning (when I’m thinking the most creatively and clear) figuring out how to order my day. 

4. Have a dedicated workspace. Whether it’s a corner of your bedroom or (better yet) an entire room that you can dedicate to your work, I encourage you to set aside a specific space that is just for work. When you enter that space your mind immediately clicks into “work mode.” And when you leave it, close the door, and enter other spaces in your home, you’ve mentally “left the office.”

5. Invest in a comfortable chair. You’re going to want to hop out of it non-stop throughout the day and head to other Rooms de Distraction if you don’t have a comfy spot to sit. So don’t go to Ikea and buy the cheapest thing. Trust me. Been there, did that. Learned my lesson. 

6. Make plans to get out of the house ahead of time. You’ll be most productive if you limit your offsite lunches to once a week or so. At the same time you need to connect socially, so prioritize getting friends and colleagues on the calendar. We all gotta eat, right? Determine ahead of time when you will go out to lunch and stick to that day of the week. It's easy to say "yes" to last minute offers that suck up our time when we don't have a plan in place.

7. Surround yourself with decor and office supplies that you enjoy. I have a framed print of Galatians 6:9 right above my desk. I love it. I also have Kate Spade office supplies for days and it makes me inexplicably happy. 

8. Listen to your body. You don’t always have to be rigid throughout the day with your breaks. For me, once I’m at my desk I don’t like to get up and take a break unless I’m leaving the house. So I don’t set a lunch time. I just go make lunch when I’m hungry and then I get back to my tasks. You’ll be more productive if you don’t ignore your need for mid-day sustenance.

9. Be intentional with social media. When you work from home you can keep literal tabs on social media all day. But that is a major distraction. If you need some support when it comes to ignoring Facebook I suggest the plugin Newsfeed Eradicator. I swear I got an hour back in my day when I installed it. 

10. Wear comfortable clothes but maybe not pajamas. Now this is controversial advice I give but I stand by it. For the past several months I have swapped my Pajamas And/Or Yoga Pants All Day uniform for comfy cotton sundresses. I swear I can attribute my energy and alertness in part to the fact that if a friend *did* drop by I wouldn’t be completely embarrassed to answer the door. Again, it’s a signal to yourself that you’re awake, you’re alert, and you’re at work. And don’t you just feel better when you’re a little bit put together? I know I do. 

These are my ten proven productive, successful work from home tips. I’m sure you’ve got your own tricks of the trade. Share em in the comments! 

How a new boss can win over existing employees

How to win over employees when you're a new boss
How to win over employees when you're a new boss

One of my favorite interviews I've ever done was with Yvette Donado, the chief administrative officer and senior vice president of people, process, and communications at Educational Testing Service (ETS). If you've ever sat face to face with the GRE, an AP exam, a CLEP test, PRAXIS, or the SAT then you've purchased an ETS product. Donado joined ETS in 2001 as the vice president of human resources. With a president at the helm who had business practices in mind, ETS turned to Donado, a graduate of the Harvard executive MBA program who also has certifications from Wharton, Cornell, and Boston University and experience as a human resources senior vice president with a booming technology start-up.

So what was her strategy upon entering ETS as an outsider?

Donado set out to determine who had the greatest “pain points.” She proposed to serve them first. “Win them over and now you have an advocate. Success breeds success. You will eventually win over those people who are threatened by you. [It is a process of] developing trust and being impeccable with your word,” she says.

Donado’s first principle for transitioning into a new leadership position was to seek to understand the culture of the organization before making any changes. Her aim was to “be respectful of what is.” She advises new executives not to “jump to make many changes before understanding the culture and environment you’ve entered. Listen very carefully. Make changes that people will readily see as good.” Her approach to engaging departments that underperform would make Dale Carnegie proud. “Instead of creating conflict, I negotiated … instead of attacking I went with [an attitude of] service,” Donado says.

Donado leads with an attitude of service and respect. The prudence she exhibited in her early days at ETS has paid off. She began by managing a staff of 30; she now leads more than 500 employees and oversees marketing, public affairs, quality assurance, philanthropy, human resources, process management, government and community relations, and facilities. As part of her facilities oversight, she assures the effective management of ETS’s Chauncey Conference Center located on its 370-acre Princeton campus.

Have you had a great experience with a transition? I'd love to hear about it in the comments.

Read the full-length version of this article (originally published in Hispanic Executive) here.

The Secret Power of Nice

The Secret Power of Nice
The Secret Power of Nice

One of the most pleasant leaders I've ever interviewed is Ron Andrews, head of HR for Prudential Financial. Ron is one of those people who makes you feel like you have his full and undivided attention. Today I want to pull back the curtain on how Ron's "nice" personality led him to be the head of HR for a company that has more than $1.1 trillion in assets under management and approximately $3.5 trillion of gross life insurance in force worldwide.

Ron on consistency:

“I relate very effectively to the most senior people as well as people who take out the trash in my office. I can say things to leaders a lot of people can’t because I try to be very consistent. I don’t have a different persona or approach to different people. That adds to credibility."

How Ron stays connected: 

That accessibility has contributed to the horizontal sense of connectedness he focuses on implementing at Prudential. Andrews prioritizes staying connected with the HR leaders for all five major businesses within the company. Not only does he meet with them regularly, he also communicates with team members across the globe through a regularly updated blog and video messages. “It’s all designed to build a greater sense of connectedness,” he said.

The Secret Power of Nice

Andrews was not always sure that his personality would serve him in corporate America. Early in his career at Prudential, he encountered a group of cutthroat young professionals. “They were not nice. They had huge egos. And I wasn’t like that at all,” Andrews said. “I began to get concerned that I was out of place—that I would have to be like that if I was going to be successful. It worried me.”

The “cutthroat” colleagues made Andrews doubt his future at Prudential. Then he was charged with working with John Strangfeld, who now serves as Prudential’s Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President. Strangfeld was a breath of fresh air for Andrews.

“He was thoughtful, caring, low-key, and he was doing really well,” Andrews said. “That gave me hope that I could still be myself and be successful in this firm. I committed from that point on that I was not going to not be myself.”

Have you ever had doubts about your career because of your personality? I'd love to hear about how you overcame it or are working through it. Share in the comments! 

Enjoy the full-length version of this article here.

5 Ways to Get the Most Out of Linkedin

5 Ways to Get the Most Out of LinkedinOk show of hands. Who here is on Linkedin but doesn’t really get why? Anyone? Bueller?

Today I want to  explore the benefits of this career-focused social network and provide you with a few tips on how to get the most out of it.

Linkedin is a place to establish your credibility in your field. Whether your post-college career is launching in two months or if you’re entering your 4th decade in the workforce, Linkedin can be useful to you. It’s more than an online resume. Linkedin gives you the opportunity to make your accomplishments and expertise readily accessible to people in your network who need it.

So how can you get the most out of Linkedin?

1. Fully optimize your Linkedin profile. That means have a professional headshot as your profile photo, include a header image, give some thought to your headline, include descriptions for each position on your page and sprinkle in keywords. If someone was searching for someone with your expertise and experience which keywords would they be searching for? These are a dead giveaway. They need to be front and center.

2. Publish posts on Linkedin. Linkedin publishing has not been around long. Now is an excellent time to begin publishing content here. You’ll reach an audience who won’t necessarily frequent your blog or other article links you may be posting.

3. Write recommendations for others. You have the option to write a recommendation for every person you have a connection with on Linkedin. Why not take five minutes and write a kind review on someone’s profile who has impressed you or given you excellent customer service? This is an opportunity to add value. And kind words are not quickly forgotten.

4. Include a personal note when you request a connection. If you’re really seeking to invest in a relationship by connecting with someone on Linkedin, what better way than including a brief message in your invitation? What a simple way to begin to build a bridge.

5. Remember that most users do not log on to Linkedin every day. Perhaps you post content more frequently because you are reaching different people on different days. Perhaps this means you use Linkedin as a resource to find further contact information for a connection rather than just sending a message through Linkedin. Draw your own conclusions on how this impacts your use of this social tool. 

Linkedin is a useful tool for professionals who run the gamut. If you’re a stay at home mom who is taking a few years off from your profession, a fully optimized Linkedin profile reminds the world of your expertise and experience. If you’re a freelancer it’s a constant source of clients. If you’re an early career professional looking for an internship, your industry-related post could impress someone who decides you’re worth taking on as an intern or entry-level employee.

Bottom line: Linkedin is a free tool that can help your career today and potentially years down the road. Why not take a few minutes and use it well?

5 Tips to Maximize the Discipline of Creativity

“The one thing that creative souls around the world have in common is that they all have to practice to maintain their skills. Art is a vast democracy of habit.” -Twyla Tharp

Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit is one of my favorite books. Even in the title, it lets you in on a little secret: creativity does not come in bursts of inspiration, it comes in daily discipline and habits.

Today I want to focus on five tips I learned on the preparation and inspiration of creativity from Tharp’s book.

5 Tips to Maximize the Discipline of Creativity

1. Learn from the greats. 

Mozart said: “People err who think my art comes easily to me. I assure you, dear friend, nobody has devoted so much time and thought to composition as I. There is not a famous master whose music I have not industriously studied through many times.”

Read biographies of people who you'd like emulate. What are they reading? What are the trends in your industry? Pay attention to the work of people you admire.

2. Implement a morning ritual that you can count on to ignite your creativity and focus. 

“Although he was not physically fit, Beethoven would start each day with the same ritual: a morning walk during which he would scribble into a pocket sketchbook the first rough notes of whatever musical idea inevitably entered his head. Having done that, having limbered up his mind and transported himself into his version of a trance zone during the walk, he would return to his room and get to work.”

What do you need to do to maximize your creativity each day? Eat breakfast before you work? Listen to a certain style of music? Take a quick stroll around the block? Determine what you need to do to focus and open your mind to what you need to create today.

3. Keep a notebook with you (or the notes app on your iPhone) to jot down ideas when they come to you.

“I’m often asked, ‘Where do you get your ideas?’ This happens to anyone who is willing to stand in front of an audience and talk about his or her work. The short answer is: everywhere. It’s like asking 'Where do you find the air you breathe?' Ideas are all around you.”

Always be ready for new ideas to come together. And never trust your memory. Write it down, write it down, write it down.

4. Prepare daily. And make peace with your lack of control.

"Habitually creative people are, in E.B. White’s phrase, 'prepared to be lucky.' The keywords here are 'prepared' and 'lucky.' They’re inseparable. You don’t get lucky without preparation, and there’s no sense in being prepared if you’re not open to the possibility of a glorious accident...Some people resent the idea of luck. Accepting the role of chance in our lives suggests that our creations and triumphs are not entirely our own, and that in some way we’re undeserving of our success. I say, Get over it. This is how the world works. In creative endeavors luck is a skill."

Tharp said this on trusting too much in planning every detail:

“There’s an emotional lie to overplanning; it creates a security blanket that lets you assume you have things under control, that you are further along than you really are, that you’re home free when you haven’t even walked out the door yet.”

5. Put in the work every day.

“80% of success in show business is showing up.” -Woody Allen

The same is true in all creative fields. Put the time in. Do your due diligence. Wrack up your 10,000 hours. Be consistent and the reward will come.

Have you received any advice on creativity and work that has stuck with you? Share it in the comments.

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