Work from Home and Virtual School Fall Edition

4 tips for work from home and virtual school

 

We started work from home and virtual school this spring. Now it’s Fall and we are continuing to cocoon at home.  While we were surprised by these changes, now we can be certain that these work stations are a necessity for awhile longer.  Here are some tips for improving your productivity and surviving all the togetherness.

 

Design your ideal space

Start with the end in mind. This applies to designing your spaces to work for you and your students.  Look at what has worked well and assess obstacles.  See where your home has potential to add work space for the short and long term. Use your design skills to approach this with a fresh perspective. Assess your furniture and learn what you can repurpose. Are there opportunities to change up your furniture needs inexpensively? Cute counts when it comes to organizing.

 

Organize your work and school spaces

  • Stuff has built up in our spaces since we began our work from home.  Declutter and edit what you have experienced to be weighing you down.
  • Everyone needs a designated work space, including you and your students. With cooler weather outside, this can be a chair and table in your backyard (as long as your wifi connects where.) Separate spaces are great for everyone to work without distractions.
  • Set up easy access storage for materials and resources.  Carts move to where you and your students are located. Each person needs their own storage area for school supplies and related materials.  Use an accordion file or file box for papers you are printing for your students. Label the sections with the names of each subject.  Your student can file these papers each day to keep organized.
  • Zoom and video meetings continue to be requirement of work and school life right now.  Getting the right set up and lighting, as well as background enhance your meeting.  As you are establishing everyone’s work space, think about what others are seeing and eliminate background clutter.

 

Update your technology

Get your tech set.  Technology happens! Nothing is more frustrating than inadequate internet speed or coverage. Update and increase your internet speed by adding both range extenders and a mesh network system to provide coverage throughout your home.

Technology happens in a not good way too.  It’s very important to set boundaries on technology.  Have a common charging spot for all devices and computers overnight. You will be completely charged both on your devices and physically from an uninterrupted night’s sleep.

Use technology smartly.  Have a great set of headphone or air pods for everyone in your family. Label them with each person’s name so when these get lost, these are easily returned to their owner.

 

Set up routines supporting organization

The best systems require good routines. An organized work space is best supported with an end of work routine.  Model how to finish up your work day and your student’s school day with a closing routine. Reset all books and supplies to their places, tidy up your area with trash and push in your chair at your space.  Host a discussion on what your end of work routine includes so that everyone knows the value.

 

Setting up a great work space takes a little time, energy and creativity. Your newly updated space will help you be more organized, in control and less anxious.

 

 

 

 

6 Ways to Create a Home To Recharge and Re-energize

6 ways to create a home the re-energizes

 

Our homes continue to be our place for work and play. Since Spring we have been “safe at home” with COVID-19 and now we are home this summer more than ever with restricted travel. This summer is the time to create spaces in our homes for tranquility and vitality. Every family needs space in their home to recharge and re-energize.

 

Declutter first

Decluttering first gives us energy. Maybe you haven’t realized how much your stuff is weighing you down. When we edit and remove that which is not loved, used or needed, we open up space in our homes. Start in your family room and then move to your kitchen, then next to your bedroom.  In the family room decide which collectibles are still important to you.  Do you need to edit photos or add more recent photos? Are there books you can donate to the library book sale room?  Create a space that helps you gather together for games and family fun. In the kitchen, simplify what you use for preparation and storage. Have your extra dishes become more than you need? Are you ready to slim down your food storage containers (aka tupperware)? In these high traffic areas, look to simplify and create easy access for what is most frequently used.

 

Create Tranquility Zones

Set aside time each day for tranquility.  Comfy sofas and bedrooms are ideal for napping.  These spaces for tranquil rest are where we can renew with cool temperatures and the whirl of a fan.  Add a soft throw or coverlet and you will enjoy your short rest.

 

Create a Book Nook

We’re learning and reading more than ever. That reading includes audio books, paper books, kindles, devices and magazines.  Book and magazine storage can be a small basket beside your night stand or in the family room. You can create a family library by installing additional shelving in a hallway with low two shelf storage or tall five shelf storage that matches the wall color. Decide how much book storage you would like, set that as a boundary for the number of books you want and then donate books that won’t fit into your space.

 

Create a meditation or yoga space

More of us are using meditation and yoga for calm starts to our day.  Your family room can be divided into zones for a variety of uses including media and exercising. Place your yoga mat in a wicker basket for storage in a corner of your family room for easy access and room to exercise.

 

Invite your family outdoors

Time outside in the sun and the shade energizes us.  Getting our daily dose of vitamin D is important as well as fresh air.  Invite your family into the outdoors with a hammock between trees, an oversize Adirondack chair in the shade or a bistro table and two chairs for snacks outside.  New sports like pickelball and old sports like crochet are fun family activities to play throughout the summer.

Create a common charging station for everyone’s devices

Prioritize your family’s tranquility each evening with a common charging station in a common space. Each evening place all the devices in your home in the station to recharge.  Everyone will benefit with a better night’s rest.

 

Re-organizing your home this summer will re-energize everyone.  This boost will make a difference for summer fun and time together as a family.

COVID-19 How to Use This Time Purposefully

covid-19 how to use this time for purpose

 

There are many emotions and daily changes that are happening. Some days are better than others. It seems that the only constant is change with daily updates on how to live life, what’s next, and what is being put in place for our community. We are all cultivating resilience and courage, as well as learning more and more. Please know I am here to support you and be part of your Quaranteam.

 

We can use this time purposefully.  This pause has given us the gift of time in an unusual way and that hopefully we will never have again. We can be intentional with this time and give ourselves the gift of purpose. I have chosen two strategies to give purpose to each week. For me it is building new habits and giving back. These two elements have given me structure, focus and meaning.

 

Building new habits

Being at home more, I have the opportunity to build better habits that have been harder to develop.  There are many strategies to make habits stick. (Yes, certified professional organizers are a work in progress too.) Simple habits like exercising more and drinking more water have eluded me because I was not able to work these into a reliable time during the week. Early appointments and long days made it hard to get in enough steps.  Carrying a water bottle seemed cumbersome during the week. Time at home has given me an opening in the morning to accomplish my 10k steps a day. The benefit I imagined, such as improved sleeping and ongoing positivity, are reason enough to continue past the end of quarantine.  Drinking more water, with a sliced lemon, has become my beverage of choice through the day. Just adding these two simple parts of daily life are important to my well being, my work and my family.

I encourage you to choose one small, valued habit to make a difference during this time.  On top of my list would be a great sleep routine, next being healthy eating. These foundational self care elements help you live your best life!

 

Giving back to others

How to Help and Give Back is front page news on the Wall Street Journal. Research fully supports the value of helping others during times of stress. Helping others does not have to be big.  It’s in small acts and gifts. Thank you to everyone making masks. These contributions are already making a difference for everyone (especially as we are now required to wear masks.)

In addition, here are some amazing stories I am hearing. A friend brings Chick-fil-a to a “work from  home” family with 2 kids under 5 to brighten the day. A friend writes “I miss you” notes and tapes these to the her friends’ back yard gates. There are countless donations of gift cards to service industry professionals like nail salon workers, hair stylists and cleaning ladies. Do what you can with what you have to be a contributor.

There are big needs for our community too. These are links to needs local to Houston.

 

We have some bumpy roads ahead as we make our way through this dark time.  The time passes more quickly if we all have purposeful intentions and actions.  Comment below on how you are making a difference! I’d love to hear from you!

Win the day with Time Blocking

time blocking

 

Do you face too many choices of what to do and when to do it?  Do you get paralyzed without a plan?  Are you distracted rather than productive? There is a way to move to a more structured day to gain control of your time and be proactive about your tasks and projects. Time blocking is documented strategy to be productive and effective. It gives you the opportunity to prioritize.

 

Time blocking fundamentals

What is time blocking? Time blocking is a time management strategy where you divide your days and weeks into units of time. Each time block has an assigned tasks or project. It is useful at both work and home to assign rather than choose an activity at a specific time.  There are many uses for time blocking. It prioritizes completing specific work rather than chopping up your day with distractions. You can set aside time blocks at home to get your errands done. You can also use time blocks to establish transition time between meetings, activities and errands.  Time blocking establishes the “when” of your “what To Do” list.  You will be adding an assigned time to accomplish the tasks you have listed.  By minimizing distractions, you are setting up productivity success. As Cal Newport writes, “my goal is to make sure progress is being made on the right things at the right  pace for the relevant deadlines.”  You can have this success too!

 

Establishing Time Blocks

Here is how to get started with the time block concept. During weekly planning time, choose your top 3 Most Important Tasks for the week. These are tasks that are required to be done, and may not be urgent and are important.  Project forward to see if any responsibilities are elevated to this level.  At home this might be personal taxes, upcoming travel, bill paying or administrative time. At work this might be upcoming reports, meetings, or any assigned project.

Set time blocks for the duration that works well for you. As you know about your best work, choose a block of 1 hour or 2 hours, or a specific day of the week. People with ADHD tend to like longer time blocks for 2-3 hours. For me, I like one hour blocks because my energy moves quickly in this time. I use several blocks over a week to complete my tasks. I am a morning person so my best work is in the morning.

Assign a task or project to your chosen block periods.

  • I also refer to this as a “power period” which is a time of single, intense focus for working on or completing a project.
  • Set aside a day to do a single focus (Money Monday, Marketing Monday, Training Tuesday)
  • Assign highest priorities with the best time block depending on what time of day you work best.
  • You may need to assign multiple blocks for completion of your task or project.
  • Set up your team to work with you too on these projects. Communicate your new strategy and coordinate working together to benefit from collaboration.

Work and home successes leads this strategic use of time.

Routines and time blocks

At home and at work there are necessary routines that need attention every week. Here are my favorite time blocks that are common at home and work.

  • Home: Paper management, Finances and Bills, and Family Meeting
  • Work: Email, Administrative, Financial, and Client

Check to see what is not being accomplished in a week and schedule a time block for this. By time blocking these priorities, you will have a greater sense of control and foundation.

 

Scheduling time blocks is the answer to your distracted, unproductive day. It helps you accomplish your goals and keep on target. Filling in when to accomplish a task means you are not at the mercy of decision making and paralysis. It’s the best solution for assigning your time and attention to your priorities.

 

COVID-19 Four Essential Tips for Work From Home Success

 

With COVID-19 we are quickly navigating a new normal, that of working from home during a global crisis. It is not the same as working at home over the long haul or working from home during a traditional time.  There are 4 essential tips to ensure your success as you continue to work, home school and more in the same space daily. Follow these tips to keep your sanity and work success.

 

Start with great self care

The pandemic requires a lot of emotional and physical well being.  Start prioritizing self care.  That means creating an environment that supports you and your family.

  • Create a night time and bed time routine to support rest.  In times of transition, we rely on routines to help us. A productive day starts the night before.  End work in order to have dinner together, spend time together, and get in bed for 8  hours of rest.
  • Include time outside in your work and school routines. A family walk or bike ride in the middle of the day helps everyone clear their head and get re-energized.
  • Boundaries are necessary with social media.  It’s tempting to spend time checking social media when you are feeling drained and unsure of your next priority. Help everyone, most especially your teens, by modeling and setting expectations.

 

Set up your space

By now you have been spending time at home adjusting to your new space. You know what is not working for you and your homeschooling.

  • Declutter and create space in your office to do real work. It’s a reality check to clear out what is unnecessary and edit your stuff. You will be glad you did!
  • Set up multiple spaces for your kids to work.  It can be unconventional like a hammock in the back yard or a make shift tent in a family room. Separate spaces are great for everyone to work without distractions. It also gives everyone a little space to decompress and focus in on work.
  • Video meetings are a requirement of work and school life right now.  These are the social connections we have during the pandemic too. Think of this area as you video studio.  Be sure you have reviewed best practices for you and your kids at a family meeting.
  • Check in with appropriate attire for your work day. Dress for the meetings as you would in real life unless otherwise noted by your employer.

 

Communication

Over-communication during this transition keeps everyone connected, up to date, and sure of next steps.

  • Discuss work hours with your employer, especially to the start and end of your work day.
  • Clarify expectations about tasks and projects.  Will there be daily check in? How will priorities be discussed? What will be the success metrics? Be sure everyone agrees and has this in writing as well as verbally.
  • Resolve challenges with a phone call. It is easy to misinterpret information and tone with text and email. A phone call makes it easy to clarify what has happened and how to rectify the situation.
  • Create a system for sharing documents. Agree to one online system that everyone can use and share. Use what’s easiest to access and be sure there is password protection.

 

Work life integration

Now let’s add back in the rest of the story – those kiddos are home too.

  • If your kids’ assignments arrive on Monday at 9 am, plan around that time. Allocating time to get the kids started will allow you to work more productively.
  • Share responsibilities and tag team if possible. Parents can share shifts of homeschooling.
  • Manage expectations of yourself and your kids’ assignments.  You are all learning resilience as well as math and reading.

 

There is a lot of “life learning”going on at this time. Be aware of nuances in you and your family’s transition to work from home.  It’s a great opportunity to give your family kudos.

 

COVID-19 Bingo Fun!

We are all taking this COVID-19 health situation seriously with the world wide pandemic.  It’s a scary time for us all. Research shows that laughter is the best medicine when it comes to difficult times. Not only does laughter help, being busy and productive helps too.  When we are productive, we know we are making a difference in our home and work.  With that in mind, download these free Bingo cards.

 

Self Care Bingo

The Self Care Bingo helps us keep perspective on what is most important; that being putting our own oxygen mask on first.  Self care is what makes the difference for immunity too.  According to Good Housekeeping research, following self care strategies improves your overall well being.

 

self care bingo

 

Declutter Bingo

The most common challenge to decluttering and organizing is time. We never have enough time to declutter. Because we think it will take a lot of time, we don’t get started decluttering. Now is the time.  Use this Declutter Bingo card to help you get started on closet, computers and small spaces.

 

declutter bingo

 

 

Enjoy these bingo games to help you feel accomplished and well taken care of during this tough time. These can be printed to use at home and keep you moving forward.

COVID-19 Home Schooling Resources for “Traditional School” Parents

 

 

CoviD-19 Home Schooling resources

 

“Been homeschooling a 6-year old and 8-year old for one hour and 11 minutes. Teachers deserve to make a billion dollars a year. Or a week.” – Shandra Rhimes

 

School is in session in homes across America. Parents are overwhelmed and underprepared for their new roles.  They are managing their work at home and “teaching” their kiddos.  Here are ideas and resources to help you navigate this new challenge.

 

Establishing routines

In the first few weeks, teachers are setting up virtual classrooms and getting prepared. Right now parents need to establish routines that promote learning.  It’s most important to set up daily routines like bedtimes and getting ready for the day.  Keep to your usual times for both your kiddos and you.  You will be better prepared to manage the ups and downs that come with new challenges.  Your kiddos will be more resilient to this change.

Here are some resources to reinforce your ideas about routines.

Leslie Josel and Order out of Chaos

Ann Dolan and Keeping Your Kids in Study Mode

Corona Schooling

Preparing for Online Learning

 

Learning online

Learning at home is a whole new element to you and your child.  Online learning can be positive because of fewer distractions and easier focus. Kiddos are drawn to computers.

  • Set up an environment for your child to keep focused. Creating multiples spots to sit comfortably with a laptop (not in bed) will make learning happen.
  • Comfortable headphones help with focus. These can be earbuds, airpods, or headphones.
  • Online learning could be consolidated with a single calendar such as Schoology.  Be sure your kiddo is looking at it daily like traditional school to keep up with assignments.

 

Acknowledge your child’s strengths

Parents know their kids strengths and challenges. Teachers often send different choices to do similar concepts. Distinguish what is required and what has options. Offer alternatives to assignments that are real life experiences. Baking with measurement or playing the Game of Life and being the banker are ways to experience math.

 

Along these lines, children with special needs and special education plans may need more diverse learning.  In this interim time with schooling, check in with Additudemag.com, Understood.org and your child’s teacher to learn more ways to teach a skill.

 

Always include downtime

Your new schedule will include recess twice a day. Take advantage of outside time for your kiddo to run and play. As the teacher, take this time for yourself too.

Individual work time can be time to read a book, time to work with crafts or time to work independently on a school related online resource. Independent work sets your child up to know more about their own strengths too.

 

Adjusting your expectations

Take the pressure off yourself as a parent during the COVID-19 outbreak.  You have been your child’s first teacher and continue to be successful doing the work of nurturing, supporting and educating.  You are doing amazing work so keep it up!

 

 

COVID-19 Making Your Time at Home Productive and Peaceful

home productive and peaceful

 

With the self imposed or CDC required time at home, you are thinking you will be at home for a prolonged period of time.  We live day to day because there is so much information coming at us and there is not much that is certain right now.  Let’s take this time to take care of ourselves, those around us and our community.  Using our time at home wisely helps us feel positive and productive.

  • Think self care and putting your own oxygen mask on first.  That includes keeping your routines going well. That is going to bed early for rest, eating healthy, and exercising. Remember, if you are sick to stay home and take care of yourself.  Keep these routines going even after this crisis passes. It’s a jump start to what we all want for a healthy life. I am biking and walking daily to keep fit and keep calm.
  • Take time to relax and time to reset. There is a lot on our minds! We have long to do lists, anxiety about health and family and work, and many decisions to make each day.  Having time for prayer and meditation helps.  Spiritual reading or time for meditation daily helps you sort through what is on your mind and get a bigger picture. On your phone, you can check out Headspace or the Mindfulness app. Both are free for use on your devices. Research shows how stress affects our immunity to illness.
  • Organizing helps us love what we have and create serenity in our homes.  Start small with a spot in your home to declutter.  It might be your desk or a drawer in your home office where you are working from home.  I have been peeking into drawers and letting go of what is not necessary. If you are feeling ambitious, start sorting your digital photos.  It’s a project that will bring you joy.
  • Connecting makes a difference right now. Reach out by text, phone or email to say hello, thinking of you and check on your connections. Keep especially connected to our older friends and community members by reaching out and checking on them.  Drop off what they need and be of service.
  • Give your brain a boost. This is a great time to learn. There are learning opportunities everywhere from Coursera to podcasts.  Keeping cognitively active keeps us engaged and moving forward to our goals for this year.
  • Working from home and your kiddos are schooling at home? Set up times for work and breaks. Creating and posting a schedule helps everyone know the plan for the day.  Make it fun with a schedule that includes breaks for recess for everyone.
  • Allocate and adhere to screen time and social media time for yourself and your kiddos. Mindless surfing leads to negative emotions at times.  Keep a common charging spot where everyone charges during certain times.
  • Distract everyone with 60s style family fun. Host a family art day, family dance party and family game night.  Having a new way to engage with your family makes for tons of fun!  Our newest family games include charades and Sync Up
  • Remember Keep Calm and Carry On. We are a resilient, resourceful and smart community. Sharing that positivity and kindness are the hallmarks of these crisis.  We are all in this together.

Work From Home Productivity

 

There are times we can work at home regularly or periodically.  We may need to work at home to help your family activities, work at home to help stabilize finances with your small business, or work during an intense period of upheaval (think virus.) Working at the office or working at home works best when you have processes, policies and organization about your time. By setting up structure,  you are doing your best work.  Here are some ways to establish structure that keeps you on track.

  • Set hours for your office time. During this time, keep clear and established set ground rules for kids, pets and others in  your home.  Your work is your priority during these hours. Post your hours so that those around you know them. This un-distracted time helps you be more productive.
  • Give yourself the opportunity for breaks, including lunch. Take a few minutes for a walk around the block or fresh air with a short break. You will return to your desk ready to tackle anything.
  • Define what derails you.  Distractions can range from kids and pets to doing the laundry.  Its the little things that eat away at your day, so be sure you put the big things in first in your day.
  • Use a planner that shows you time blocks to accomplish priorities.  Having a time in the morning and afternoon with focused, big blocks for power periods helps you knock off the big projects in small manageable pieces.
  • Set up an established work space.  Working at home it’s easy to spread out in all sorts of spaces.  Establish where you work and what you need to arrange around you to work efficiently.  If you need paper, think about using a file cart for your paper management. If you are completely digital, keep your cords organized.
  • Define your work every day with a list and prioritizing.  Using the 3+3 method where you list 3 urgent items for the day and 3 bonus items can help you focus. Your list can be categorized by urgent, soon or later to keep your priorities uppermost.  Set a time for weekly planning to keep all your items on a list and assign deadlines too.    Ask yourself is this activity helping me reach my goal every day?
  • Use technology to stay connected. There is Join.me, Zoom and Free Conference Call to “see” your colleagues in real life.  Just seeing a face and reading body language will help you feel more connected that a phone call.

 

Setting up for success when you work at home makes your work more productive!

 

 

9 Tips on How to Conquer Email

9 tips to organize email

 

Email has become one of the most demanding, stressful and overwhelming parts of our day.  There’s email streaming in at all times and a torrent like a flood.  Add to that, there’s many important tasks and documents imbedded in the stream. Email has moved from a way to share information to a heavy chore to dread.  Here’s 9 tips on how to conquer email and feel good at the end of the day.

 

Folder Organization

We have had email overload for a while.  It’s time to take charge of how it is organized.

To file or not to file?  That’s a great question!  While our technology gives us the opportunity to never file, do we file what we what to find most easily?  The search tools work for anyone who does not want to file at all.  However, if you want to file, here’s the easiest way to set up your folders.  Think big categories! For home these categories are Financial, People, and Home. For work these are the different categories of work you do. Most likely it is Clients, Vendors, Marketing and more. The reason to think big is that you can gather information into these general files and not spend too much time on filing.  It also gives you a specific home for specific information.  Write out your categories before you begin to be sure you have a category for all the topics in your email.

 

Email subject lines

Universally the first line we see in email is the subject line. Make it a good one!  Be specific and short. Email is intended to inform, not discuss.  The best subject lines are short and sweet and to the point.  If you recieve one that is not, reply with a more appropriate line to keep your email on target.  If you decide you want to file this email, you can email yourself with a new subject line too to keep it relevant.

 

Signature lines

Signature lines share your contact information.  There’s a lot to keeping in touch with your contacts and also sharing who you are and what you do.  There’s great ways to write these to help your contacts and you stay in touch. That’s also where you should begin in keeping connected.  Add the information from the signature line to your contacts. It will cross over to all your devices to use when you want to email or call.

 

Detach documents

Documents are intended to be detached from email and kept in your Documents folders.  This is the way to make work happen.  If you are working together on a document, google docs is the way to go!

 

Tasks on your task list

The big reason we keep reviewing our email and keep our inboxes full is that there are many tasks in our email.  Those tasks range from a one minute acknowledgement we received something to multi-step projects to important responses to a client.   Can you apply the 3 minute rule to an email? If it takes 3 minute or less, just do it during your email work time. If it takes more, add it to your task list for completion later.  Just this simple rule will clear out your tasks and your email.

 

The same applies to dates and calendaring as well.  Dates that come in email should be added to your calendar and your online calendar as a reminder as needed.  Email is not the place to leave your calendar dates to search.

 

Separate shopping with it’s own email address

What’s cluttering our inboxes the most? It’s our shopping offers! We are reluctant to let go of these offers since we might use them.  Set up a separate shopping email to keep these offers together and segregated.  It’s going to save a lot of deleting and time.

 

Work your email and routines that make email disappear

Email is just like snail mail. Would you run up and down to the mailbox every hour to get your mail? Keep your email routines sharp.  Check email 3 times a day.  That way you always keep it in check and keep up to date on your work.  Set aside a work time for those detached documents.  That is a power hour when you do important work without distraction.

 

Email etiquette

Our email gets so overwhelming, we leave it for long periods of time.  Email gets lost as we open it on a device and then it’s buried in already read email. Determine your own email etiquette to keep communication flowing. Perhaps you consider your “turn around time” 48 hours and letting other’s know this is good.  Know who to respond to rather than respond to all.  Email etiquette shows your own professionalism. Your email is a reflection of you.

 

Consider the information, consider the communication

If you are receiving 10 emails about the same topic, it’s time to pick up the phone.  Email is not the tool to use instead of a meeting or if you have a crucial conversation to hold. There are times that a one on one phone conversation is required.  Know when it’s time to pick up the phone instead of use email for communication.

 

Email can be conquered with organization.  Get started with organizing, then add these tips to your email routine.  There’s hope for email organization as you take small steps to conquer this.

 

Bonus tip: Organize your email with tech tools.

With unroll.me, your subscriptions are organized into a list for you to read but not interfere with your work. Using Mailstrom you can group related mail and act on it as a group.  If you use gmail, there’s Boomerang to help you respond to email.  Check out one of these tech tools to get through your email overload.