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12 Ways to Stay Focused and Productive When You Work From Home

12 Ways to Stay Focused and Productive When You Work From Home

The work from home lifestyle is an attractive option for entrepreneurs and traditional employees alike. You can set your own hours, dress how you want and work in a way that maximizes your time and skillset. However, working in the comforts of home carries risks that many don’t consider before embarking on it. Working at home is filled with distractions – chores, errands, pets, family members, television and even the couch. A mid-day nap is pretty darn awesome! But when those distractions begin to dominate your time, energy and productivity, you’re in for real trouble on the work front.

Here are 12 ways to stay focused and productive when you work from home – and still enjoy the perks that come with it!

1. Be Honest

Is working at home REALLY the right choice for you? Are you prone to laziness, easily distracted or need other humans to keep you motivated and engaged? For some people, a home office is not a wise career move because their personal and professional habits, needs and wants aren’t in line with solo working.

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2. Designate a Space

Toting a laptop around and working on the couch, in bed or at the kitchen is part of the freedom of working at home. But sometimes when you scatter your work around, your thoughts, papers, ideas and productivity get scattered too. You can still move around, but choose a space in your home that will house your technology, files, tools and other work stuff that you can access quickly and easily.

3. Make It Pretty

Once you designate your space, bring it to life with your favorite photos, artwork, toys or organizational tools that will make you WANT to hang out here. This workspace is an extension of your life where you will spend many hours a day. Make it a pleasant place to spend your time.

4. Stick to a Schedule

The beauty of working at home is that you have the freedom to control when you work. However, we all have times when we are most productive and creative during the day and times we suck wind to type even one more word or make one more call. Identify YOUR best hours and work them consistently.

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5. Dress for Success

Sure it’s awesome to roll out of bed and over to the computer in your pajamas – another perk of working at home. But when you elevate your appearance even when it’s just you and your laptop, you will be more inspired and energized to do meaningful work. Wash your face, brush your teeth and get dressed as if you were going into an office.

6. Take Breaks

Grinding out work at all hours of the day and night isn’t healthy. We need to step away from our screens and refresh our minds to get re-energized in our work. Every hour step away from your desk or work area for a quick walk, some sit-ups or a coffee break.

7. Go Public

You must leave your home to stay engaged with other human beings. People buy from people so whether you’re an entrepreneur, author or employed by someone else, your customers aren’t living in your home with you. Get out into public and hang out where your customers hang out.

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8. Multi-Communicate

There are hundreds of ways to communicate these days – phone calls, texts, Facetime, email, Skype, G+, social media, mail and the list goes on. Learn how to use multiple modes of communication so that you can connect with others in a way that fits your and their preferred style of communication.

9. Be Human

Step away from your screens! Yes – I said it – step away from the screens. You must show up in person to create a stronger connection and engagement with customers, friends, family, co-workers, partners and fans. Hit up networking events, charitable events, co-working spaces, conferences and happy hours to keep your in-person presence memorable.

10. Create a Calendar

When you wake up in the morning, do you know what to focus on each day? If not, it’s time to create a calendar to keep you on task. If you’re an author it might be an editorial calendar. If you’re an online marketer, it might be a content creation or social media calendar. If you work for someone else, it could be your to-do list with more structure and priorities around it. Really hone in on what business tasks bring in more customers, money and fans so you aren’t wasting time on useless tactics.

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11. Find Your Tribe

Hang out with other people who do what you do – and this means leaving your home again! Entrepreneur groups, meet-ups, conferences and workshops are the perfect place to meet and brainstorm with like-minded folks who GET what you do and can help you grow.

12. Prioritize Right

Want to work less and play more whether you work at home or in an office? Create a system of prioritization that identifies the tasks that will make the most impact on your business,customers, co-workers and tribe. Ditch all that stuff that just fills time but doesn’t bring in any value. Write down every task you do daily, weekly, monthly, annually. For each one, note how these lead to financial growth for you or the company. If it doesn’t, then ditch it!

The key to successfully working from home is to create an environment and process that works for YOUR individual needs and preferences. Be open to experimentation to find your perfect work-at-home groove.

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS: What makes working from home easier and more fun? What strategies do you use to stay productive and engaged when you work from home?

Featured photo credit: ClipArt via clipart.com

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Published on November 12, 2020

5 Signs You Work in a Toxic Environment (And What To Do)

5 Signs You Work in a Toxic Environment (And What To Do)

What’s the most draining, miserable job you’ve ever had? Maybe you had a supervisor with unrealistic demands about your work output and schedule. Or perhaps, you worked under a bullying boss who frequently lost his temper with you and your colleagues, creating a toxic work environment.

Chances are, though, your terrible job experience was more all-encompassing than a negative experience with just one person. That’s because, in general, toxicity at work breeds an entire culture. Research shows abusive behavior by leaders can and often quickly spread through an entire organization.[1]

Unfortunately, working in a toxic environment doesn’t just make it miserable to show up to the office (or a Zoom meeting). This type of culture can have lasting negative effects, taking a toll on mental and physical health and even affecting workers’ personal lives and relationships.[2]

While it’s often all-encompassing, toxic culture isn’t always as blatant or clear-cut as abuse. Some of the evidence is more subtle—but it still warrants concern and action.

Have a feeling that your workplace is a toxic environment? Here are 5 surefire signs to look for.

1. People Often Say (or Imply) “That’s Not My Job”

When I first launched my company, I had a very small team. And back then, we all wore a lot of hats, simply because we had to. My colleagues and I worked tirelessly together to build, troubleshoot, and market our product, and nobody complained (at least most of the time).

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Because we were all in it together, with the same shared vision in mind, cooperation mattered so much more than job titles. Unfortunately, it’s not always that way.

In some workplaces, people adhere to their job descriptions to a fault:

  • Need help with an accounting problem? Sorry, that’s not my job.
  • Oh, you spilled your coffee in the break room? Too bad, I’m working.
  • Can’t figure out the new software? Ask IT.

While everyone has their own skillset—and time is often at a premium—cooperation is important in any workplace. An “it’s not my job” attitude is a sign of a toxic environment because it’s inherently selfish. It implies “I only care about me and what I have to get done” and that people aren’t concerned about the collective good or overall vision.[3] That type of perspective is not only bound to drain individual relationships; it also drains overall morale and productivity.

2. There’s a Lack of Diversity

Diversity is a vital part of a healthy work environment. We need the opinions and ideas of people who don’t see the world like us to move ahead. So, when leaders don’t prioritize diversity—or worse, they actively avoid it—I’m always suspicious about their character and values.

Limiting your workforce to one type of person is bound to prevent organizations from growing healthily. But even if your work environment is diverse in general, the management might prevent diverse individuals from rising to leadership positions, which only misses the point of having a diverse work environment in the first place.

Look around you. Who’s in leadership at your company? Who gets promotions and rewards most often? If the same type of people gets ahead while other individuals consistently get left behind, you might be working in a toxic environment.

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However it manifests in your workplace, keep in mind that a lack of diversity is a tell-tale sign that “bias is rampant and the wrong things are valued.”[4]

3. Feedback Isn’t Allowed

Just as individual growth hinges on being open to criticism, an organization’s well-being depends on workers’ ability to air their concerns and ideas. If management actively stifles feedback from employees, you’re probably working in a toxic environment.

But that definitely doesn’t mean nobody will air their feelings. One of the telltale signs of toxic leadership is when employees vent on the sidelines, out of management’s earshot. When I worked in a toxic environment, coworkers would often complain about higher-ups and company policies during work in private chats or after work hours.

It’s normal to get frustrated at work. That’s just a part of having a job. What isn’t normal is when dissent isn’t a part of or discouraged in the workplace. A workplace culture that suppresses constructive feedback will not be successful in the long run. It’s a sign that leadership isn’t open to new ideas, and that they’re more concerned about their own well-being than the health of the organization as a whole.

4. Quantifiable Measures Take Priority

Sales numbers, timelines, bottom lines—these metrics are, of course, important signs of how things are going in any business. But great leaders know that true success isn’t always measurable or quantifiable. More meaningful factors like workplace satisfaction, teamwork, and personal growth all contribute to and sustain these metrics.

Numbers don’t always tell the whole story, and they shouldn’t be the only concern. Measure-taking should always take a backseat to meaning-making—working together to contribute to a vision that improves people’s lives. If your workplace zones in on quantifiable measures of success, it’s probably not prioritizing what truly matters. And it’s probably also instilling a fear of failure among employees, which paralyzes employees instead of motivating them.

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5. The Policies and Rules Are Inconsistent

Every organization has its own set of unique policies and procedures. But often, unhealthy workplaces have inconsistent, unspoken “rules” that apply differently to different people. When one person gets in trouble for the same type of behavior that promotes another person, workers will feel like management plays favorites—which isn’t just unethical but also a quick way to drain morale and fuel tension in the office.[5] It only shows how incompetent the leadership is and indicates a toxic workplace.

For example, maybe there’s no “set” rule about work hours, but your manager expects certain people or departments to show up at 8 am while other individuals tend to roll in at 9 or 10 am with no real consequences. If that’s the case, then it’s likely that your organization’s leadership is more concerned with controlling people and exerting power rather than the overall good of their employees.

How to Deal With a Toxic Work Environment

The first thing to know if you’re stuck in a toxic work environment is that you’re not stuck. While it’s ultimately the company’s responsibility to make positive changes that prevent harmful actions to employees, you also have an opportunity to speak up about your concerns—or, if necessary, depart the role altogether.

If you suspect that you’re working in a toxic environment, think about how you can advocate for yourself. Start by raising your grievances about the culture in an appropriate setting, like a scheduled, one-on-one meeting with your supervisor.

Can’t imagine sitting down with your supervisor to air those problems on your own? Form some solidarity with like-minded colleagues. Approaching management might feel less overwhelming when you have a “team” who shares your views.

It doesn’t have to be an overtly confrontational discussion. Do your best to frame your concerns in a positive way by sharing with your supervisor that you want to be more productive at work, but certain problems sometimes get in the way.

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Final Thoughts

If your supervisor truly cares about the well-being of the organization, they will take your concerns seriously and actively take part in changing the toxic work environment into something more conducive to productivity.

If not, then it might be time to consider the cost of the job on your well-being and personal life. Is it worth staying just for your resume’s sake? Or could you consider a “bridge” job that allows you to exhale for a bit, even if it doesn’t “move you ahead” the way you planned?

It might not be the ideal situation, but your mental health and well-being are too important to ignore. And when you have the opportunity to refuel, you’ll be a far more valuable asset at whatever amazing job you land next.

More Tips on Dealing With a Toxic Work Environment

Featured photo credit: Campaign Creators via unsplash.com

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