Staff Corner: From the remote desk of Cara Simon
Current location: New York, USA
I don’t know about all of you, but I definitely am finding some days more difficult than others to concentrate and not get distracted by household chores or animals needing attention. I mean how did I do it before? Oh yeah, I didn’t work from home ha! Let’s not even talk about when the weather is nice – I mean how do you do anything related to work when the outdoors is calling you? It takes all my willpower to stay focused and concentrate. Willpower and I aren’t really friends, so that’s fun. I just don’t know where the time goes.
Distractions abound when working from home.
I mean, don’t get me wrong, there are LOADS of benefits of being at home, but I also am one of those people who prefer routine and separation from work and home. I feel that when you are a hard worker and for myself, a business owner who loves my job, it’s easy to work all the time. So having clear lines of separation is invaluable for my work-life balance.
I don’t want to give anyone the wrong idea that I’m a total slacker, I just find that I personally was more productive in an office setting working within a set period of time, with a routine and concise work-hours. I now find that I work, then stop and do something else, then work, and sometimes I don’t finish work until the wee hours. It feels like I’m always “on” somehow.
I asked a friend about time management and if she had any tips. She does recruitment and is probably one of the most organised people I know. She recommended the Pomodoro Strategy… never heard of it. Then again, I’ve never really had to worry about time management before so this is all new stuff for me.
I did some Googling and found some fun articles about this. Essentially you start by making your to-do list. Then you set a timer for 25 minutes and focus on one task, and once you complete that task, take a five minute break. Try to do this four times in a row and then take a longer break of about 25-30 minutes. I tried this and, assuming I didn’t get a phone call or something else urgent to interrupt me, it kind of worked. This method lasted for about a week for me and then I got lazy. I should probably try this again… but maybe it’ll work for you!!
In one of my business classes in college, the professor talked about rocks. I called it The Rock Strategy for years, but I recently found that it’s actually called the Pickle Jar Strategy?? I don’t really get how the name correlates, but I’m not the genius here.
The theory is this, you’ve got sand, rocks and a jar – simple. Every day you write your to-do list, then you write what is the most important – these are your “rocks” and each day you only focus on the rocks. The rocks are the items that bring revenue and generate production within your business. Essentially you only focus on the time-sensitive, uber-important things, and the rest can wait. When you complete a rock, you get to celebrate and enjoy a beverage. (FYI, beverages aren’t mandatory but I enjoy them as a part of my celebration.)
Normally this strategy works well for me, however, we are short-staffed, which means nearly everything feels like a rock to me. It’s hard to prioritise and only focus on one or two items at the moment. But this might work for you, so give it a go.
I’ve also tried blocking time off of my calendar for certain tasks, or blocked out days so there were no meetings scheduled, almost like set office hours but on a remote basis. But, and there’s always a but, I found that I always got involved in other work, or interrupted, or answered questions that could probably wait but would then put someone else in a spot where they can’t move ahead with their own to-do list. So my rocks weren’t getting done. This strategy works really well for Michelle in our office. It’s like your to-do list is built into your calendar.
Current Strategy: Exercise and remote work
Right now, what is working for me and something I couldn’t really do before is incorporating exercise into my work schedule. I block off certain days in full, which are days for rocks. Then I have days set for meetings. This isn’t always possible, but generally I try to do this. Then, in all my days, I build in time to exercise. It can be a walk, a run, a video or whatever to get a little boost in energy and concentration. It also helps with mental health and just clearing the head, at least for me.
For readers, if you’re having trouble concentrating, just remember you’re not alone. Keep trying different ways and eventually one will click. If you want to share with me or post your tips on this blog for others, please do!