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10 Things You Need to do to Successfully Work From Home

10 Things You Need to do to Successfully Work From Home

You’ve done it! Congratulations! You’ve finally escaped the clutches of everything you’ve been secretly plotting against for way too long. The grumpy boss. That sardine-like commute. The burning smell of the world’s worst instant coffee drifting from the kitchen. Office politics. Work that didn’t really matter to you.

But somehow it’s 6pm already. Another day has drifted past in a flash. Your feet are still bare because you didn’t feel the need to put socks on today. You’re in familiar surroundings and you don’t have to spend an hour getting home, but what have you really achieved?

Here are ten things you need to do in order to work from home like a boss.

1. Give yourself routine

If working from home is new to you this is going to take a little while to adapt, but the sooner you set parameters for the working day the better. Know where you’re going to work: this might change from morning to evening depending on how light shifts around your home office  –  let’s call it a hoffice. Make sure you’re at the desk by a set time and embrace getting up early, this is ok if you’re the one who decides you have to. Yep, you can play the snooze game, but boy it feels amazing to have nailed a ton of work before 10am.

Map your day according to how you think you’ll feel if you complete a certain set of challenges and let your measure of success revolve around tasks, not time.

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2. Get up, shower, put clothes on

Don’t work from bed. Beds are for sleeping and other kinds of magic, let them be precious and special in their purpose. Wash the night away before doing anything. Getting straight to work because you can, doesn’t mean you’re on fire, because after a while you’re going to start itching. A sweaty homeworker is a silently disgruntled homeworker.

Blast your head with water, get fresh and don’t forget that you’re still a human even if you don’t have to spend your day with others. Now, put some clothes on. Yes, there’s a temptation to wander around in the nude and make phone calls, because you can. But don’t. Wear what you like as long as it’s not pyjamas, but wear something. Now, you’re ready to get started…

3. Focus: read, don’t type over meals

This is about honing your focus and ability to juggle different actions. If one of your hands is holding a spoon or a fork or a knife or a jar or a mug or a piece of fruit, you simply can’t type properly. Stop trying to do everything at once, we’re trying to make you into the most efficient working-from-home-beast possible. Open up a couple of blogs, articles or news pieces and read –  this is stretching for your brain before you start doing cartwheels towards your own work.

4. Prioritise: Write a To Do list, yesterday…

Thinking ‘what do I do now?’ is the first step to potential boredom, and boredom kills dreams. Don’t be a dream killer.

To Do lists sound like they were invented by a cruel master, but they’re the key to self-motivation. This is your list and the summation of the day you’ve decided you’d like to have. Take ten minutes before you sleep every night to make the next day’s list  – give yourself something to be excited about. Prioritise no more than three biggish tasks, and don’t be afraid to have a secondary list on a different page with things that need to be done, but not necessarily tomorrow

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Know what you have to achieve and give yourself a timeframe to realistically do it well.

5. Set the musical mood

Your working environment is key. Be in a room with lots of light. Move your working space and direction around until you’re happy. Don’t have your back to the room, face it.

Working in silence is a distraction so get Spotify premium (other services are available) and find a Focus playlist. Vivaldi is scientifically proven to aid concentration but most classical music is perfect to start your working day (this isn’t about musical preference, it’s just clever ambience). If you’re writing don’t choose tunes with lyrics, you’ll only be tempted to sing along.

My personal favourite is Ludovico Einaudi  –  there’s something special about letting your mind switch off from everything other than what you’re focusing on  –  I’ve written three books to Einaudi, he never fails.

6. Destroy distraction

This is the difference between a good day and a bad day. Put your phone out of reach when you’re working or at the very least put it on Airplane Mode. A WhatsApp notification is distraction. So is a new match on Tinder. Or a new tweet or instagram or Facebook or advert or reminder. Stop it!

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Save direct messages for break time and give your focus a chance to be relentless. Struggling not to automatically click onto Facebook to see how many likes that video of a kitesurfing squirrel has now? There are a couple of self-control apps that will physically stop pages like Facebook opening during the times you choose.

Basically, if anything during the day takes your eyes off the prize at any give moment make sure that you find a way to stop it happening in the future.

7. Work on, work off

If you’re running for a whole day with no stops to refuel, drink or rest, the person who chooses to run for only 45 minutes each hour will go further than you. Be a tortoise and rest your way to victory.

There are a bunch of ways to do this, but here’s a starter: at the beginning of each work session set your phone timer to go off in 50 minutes. As soon as it beeps, stop working for ten minutes. Stand up, move around, drink water, breathe. Try not to look at a screen but if you must, this is your window to check and reply to WhatsApp. Then after ten minutes set the timer, and get going again. Three or four hour-long sessions might feel productive, but you’ll do more if you have multiple rests in that period. Be smart, not relentless.

8. Be email clever…

For years I had a thing: my inbox is my To Do list  – my work isn’t over unless it’s empty. At heart, this meant I got things done, but there was a downside because I never closed it. If you’re an inbox nazi just breathe. Every email you send out is potentially asking for another one back and if you’re in the swing of things you could spend all day on email without time for rest. A productive day is not a day spent online. An open email inbox is a destructive taunt and temptation, and the moment I tried a new technique I started getting more successful.

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So now I only check email at certain times. The first window is 10-10:30am, which gives me two hours on a typical work day to write, create and not get waylaid. Half an hour is enough time to reply to urgent messages and to get a feel for other work or opportunities, but don’t get sucked in. If there are pressing issues another half hour of email in the early afternoon is ok, but I save the bulk of my email clearing until after the working day for most people who email me is over. This way they’re not going to be replying immediately, letting me get on with other stuff.

If you have a remote team and use whatsapp, slack or a similar app to communicate, try not to let it take over your life. Treat it like email, or only engage with it every hour.

9. Group similar activities

Group your skypes, conference calls and in-person coffee meetings. Block out a couple of mornings or afternoons each week for chats and leave the rest free for unbounded, undisturbed work.

10. Get Outside

Don’t forget to exercise. You don’t get it done on your bike commute any more and now that you’re in charge of your own destiny there might be a feeling that if you stop working you’re harming your chances of success. Here’s a newsflash: getting pale and porky in your home office is just going to make you tired and, in the long run, ill. Get some vitamin D, ride a bike, go read on a park bench, smell fresh air. Spend at least one day a week out and about. Go and see real people and get inspired by conversation.

For all the freedoms of working from home, if you don’t make it count that freedom might one day have to get shelved. It doesn’t have to be this way. Be good to yourself, work smart, learn as well as do and base it all on creating a habit to get things done. If you try and cook an elephant every meal, you’ll end up never eating* so break down the big stuff into smaller chunks and tick off hundreds of little tasks a day. Build momentum, be nothing but a doer and when you finally get to bed at the end of the day, make sure that you’ve made it count.

* Never, ever cook an elephant…

Featured photo credit: Neourban Hipster Office/Markus Spiske via flickr.com

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Last Updated on February 11, 2021

10 Secrets of Making Every Presentation Fun, Engaging, and Enjoyable

10 Secrets of Making Every Presentation Fun, Engaging, and Enjoyable

Not a lot of people are good at public speaking. You could even say that virtually everyone needs to get some practice, and preferably good guidance, before they can learn to stay calm when facing a room full of people. Having all eyes on you is an uncomfortable experience and it takes time to get used to. However, even if you can manage to control your stage fright and stay focused, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your presentation won’t put people to sleep. This is usually the case with long presentations on a very dull subject, with the presenter speaking in a monotone voice and dimming the lights to play a PowerPoint presentation.

You have to work hard to develop the right skills

If you want to be remembered and actually get people engaged, you need to make your presentation fun and enjoyable, without coming off as corny or desperate to please. I know, it doesn’t sound that easy at all! A good presentation during a promotional event or given to an important client can be a game changer for your business, so it is easy to get stressed out and fail to perform all that well. Luckily, giving an interesting lecture is something that can be practiced and perfected. There is plenty of advice out there on the topic, but let’s look at the most important aspects of giving a memorable and fun presentation.

1. Make your presentation short and sweet

With very long, meandering speeches you tend to lose the audience pretty early on, and from then on out it’s just a test of endurance for the few bravest listeners. Not only will people’s attention start to drop rapidly after sitting and listening to you talk for 30 minutes, but you also risk watering down your core ideas and leaving your audience with little in the way of key phrases and important bits of information to take away from the whole ordeal. Famous speakers throughout history have known the importance of condensing the information by using well thought out sentences and short phrases loaded with meaning.

JFK’s famous: ”It’s not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” expresses so much in very few words and gets the audience thinking. Ancient Spartans, for example were famous for their quick, dry wit, often demolishing their opponent’s argument with a single word or phrase. You’ll want to channel that ancient spirit and be as concise as possible when preparing your presentation.

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2. Open up with a good ice breaker

At the beginning, you are new to the audience. There is no rapport, no trust and the atmosphere is fairly neutral. Even if some of the people there know you personally, the concept of you as an authority on a particular matter giving a speech will be foreign to them. The best way to encourage a warm and friendly atmosphere is to get some kind of emotional response out of the audience right at the beginning. It doesn’t matter what emotion it is, you just need to connect with them on a more personal level. It can be shock, curiosity, laughter, knowing smirks, nervousness – whatever gets them out of that initial feeling of indifference. There are different kinds of effective ice-breakers, but generally speaking, the most successful ones utilize one of these tactics:

  • Joking
  • Tugging on their heart strings
  • Dropping a bombastic statement
  • Telling an interesting and relevant anecdote
  • Using a metaphor or drawing comparisons

You can make a small, self-deprecating comment, stir the presentation one way and then suddenly surprise the audience, use sarcasm, open up with a short childhood story that taught you a lesson, quote a famous person and elaborate on it from personal experience, use an inspirational anecdote or hit them with a bit of nostalgia. Just remember to keep it short and move on once you’ve gotten a reaction.

3. Keep things simple and to the point

Once you’re done warming up the crowd you can ease them into the core concepts and important ideas that you will be presenting. Keep the same presentation style thoughout. If you’ve started off a bit ironic, using dry wit, you can’t just jump into a boring monologue. If you’ve started off with a bang, telling a couple of great little jokes and getting the crowd riled up, you have to keep them happy by throwing in little jokes here and there and being generally positive and energetic during the presentation. You need a certain structure that you won’t deviate too far from at any point. A good game plan consists of several important points that need to be addressed efficiently. This means moving on from one point to another in a logical manner, coming to a sound conclusion and making sure to accentuate the key information.

4. Use a healthy dose of humor

Some of the best speeches and presentations in the world, which have been heard and viewed by millions, all feature plenty of humor. No matter the subject, a great speaker will use natural charisma, humor and beautiful language to convey their points and get the crowd excited about what they are saying. A great example of building rapport with the audience through the use of humor is Barrack Obama talking about the government building Iron Man.

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It is silly and fun, and absolutely not something that you would expect from a man in a position of power speaking in such a serious setting – and it’s exactly why it works. The more serious the situation and the bigger the accent on proper social behavior, the harder your jokes will hit.

5. Try to tell a story instead of ranting

Some people can do all of the above things right and still manage to turn their short and fun little presentation into a chaotic mess of information. You don’t want your speech to look like you just threw a bunch of information in a blender in no particular order. To avoid rambling, create a strong structure. Start with the ice breaker, introduce the core concepts and your goals briefly, elaborate on the various points in a bit more detail, draw logical conclusions and leave your audience with a clear takeaway message. You want to flow naturally from one part to the next like you are telling a big story chapter by chapter.

6. Practice your delivery

Standing in front of the mirror and practicing a speech or presentation is a technique as old as mirrors – well, come to think of it, as old as human speech, since you can see yourself reflected in any clear and calm body of water – and that means that it is tried and true. The theory is incredibly simple, yet the real problem is actually putting in the effort day in and day out. Work on your posture, your tone of voice, accent, pauses between sentences and facial expressions. The most important thing is to talk slowly and loudly enough to be heard and understood clearly. Many famous speakers, such as Demosthenes and King George VI, overcame speech impediments through hard work.

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7. Move around and use your hands

Although you won’t instill confidence in your project if you are very jittery, moving around erratically, not knowing what to do with your hands and making fast movements, standing dead still can be just as bad. You shouldn’t be afraid to use your arms and hands when talking as it makes you seem more passionate and confident. The same goes for moving around and taking up some space. However, try to make slower, calculated and deliberate movements. You want your movements to seem powerful, yet effortless. You can achieve this through practice.

8. Engage the audience by making them relate

Sometimes you will lose the audience somewhat in techno-babble, numbers, graphs and abstract ideas. At that point it is important to reel them back in using some good, old-fashioned storytelling. Make comparisons to events from everyday life that most people are more than familiar with. By making things look simple, not only will you help your audience get a better understanding of the subject by enabling them to visualize the information more clearly, you will also draw a connection between you. After all, you are all just regular people with similar experience, you just happen to be performing different roles at the moment.

9. Use funny images in your slides

Although slides are not really necessary at all times, if you do need them to make your point and present your information more effectively, it’s best to liven them up. They say that facts aren’t always black and white, and your presentation should reflect this. Add a bit of color, make the information stand out and use an interesting animation to switch from slide to slide. You can use the slides to add some more humor, both in terms of the text and the images. An image that is used to elicit a positive response needs to be funny within the context of what you are discussing. For example, if you are discussing the topic of authority, an image of Eric Cartman from South Park in a police uniform, demanding that you respect his “authoritah,” is a nice way to have a bit of fun and lighten things up.

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10. End on a more serious note

When all is said and done you will want the audience to remember the core concepts and keep thinking about what you have said after the presentation is over. This is why you should let things naturally calm down and end with an important idea, quote or even a question. Plant a seed in their mind and make them think. Let us turn to Patrick Henry for a great way to end a speech: “Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.”

As you can see, there is quite a bit to learn when it comes to giving a good presentation, one that is both memorable and fun. Be sure to work on your skills tirelessly and follow in the footsteps of great orators.

Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

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