Tips for Working from a Home-Based Office

The current issue of Treasure Coast Parenting features an article I wrote about the “Top 10 Tips for Working from a Home-Based Office” . Read this article on page 36-37 of the magazine to learn how you can be productive and effective when working at home.

Can We Really Have it All?

Restore Balance

With an added flurry of activities to complete in preparation for the holiday season, it’s vitally important that you continually and consciously restore your sense of balance.

Here are a few places to start:

  • Set Realistic Goals – Establish goals for yourself based on your key priorities. For example, if being physically fit is highly important to you, then create an exercise plan and schedule time daily to honor it. Be sure your goals are positively-based (e.g., to be strong and healthy) vs. negatively-based (e.g., to lose 30 pounts). Avoid being all things to all people!
  • Minimize the Clutter  – Unfortunately, most of us have clutter some where in our lives, either in our office, our car, at home, or in our head!  Manage that clutter so that it doesn’t accumulate. Filter what comes in to your spaces.  Being in a clean, clutter-free zone will provide you with a sense of peace and the feeling of having some control over at least part of your environment. 
  • Detach regularly – Allow yourself some time to disconnect from the demands of work.  Avoid checking email, texts, instant messages at least every once in a while to give yourself a break and to differentiate the important from the urgent.
  • Set stronger boundaries – One of the most important things you can do to preserve your health and well-being while minimizing stress and overwhelm is to say “no” to demands placed upon you.  Realize that you don’t need to accept every invitiation, assignment, project, etc. offered to you.
  • Ask for help – Rather than suffering in silence, anger or frustration speak up and ask for help. Very often, famiy members, friends, neighbors or co-workers would be thrilled to help if they only knew you needed it. Anticipate whenever possible, so that you have help readily available before you have a meltdown!

Reality Hits the Road

You may have had some sort of training along the way that helped lead you to your success, organizing, time management, goal-setting, right?

This isn’t about the basic time management skills or stress management 101.  Take those principles you’ve learned like, (Covey’s) four quadrants, (Morgenstern’s) categorizing using the A, B, C’s for your task priorities, (Allen’s) integrated system of stress-free productivity and put them to the reality test.

What happens?

Unfortunately, many of these outstanding systems don’t work. Not because they’re not effective systems, but because people don’t fully implement them. Then, they give us and resort to their old ways, sometimes thinking that their situation is hopeless.

For instance, you start your day with a list or framework of what you are going to accomplish. You know what’s most important, you know what decisions need to be made but then, unfortunately, reality hits the road—

…the phone rings endlessly, the system goes down, your boss has a crisis that needs your immediate attention, you have some irate customers, a colleague plants themselves in the corner chair in your office to talk about her personal issues, you get an urgent message from the school that one of your kids has gotten hurt, etc.

The problem isn’t about managing time; it’s about managing all these interruptions. These distract you from accomplishing what you set out to do each day and if you don’t re-prioritize on a dime, ask questions to clarify importance and timeline, focus on what’s most important, delegate, be flexible (to a point), block out distractions, and say “no” when appropriate you may increase your stress, decrease your productivity and feel dissatisfied in what you’re able to accomplish on any given day.

How to Manage Your Inner Critic

Many of my clients and several audience members often remark that they feel somewhat like an imposter because they’re not as bright, capable or successful as others perceive them to be. They’re often afraid someone may find out. If you share this issue, this article interestingly helps you manage your inner critic. If you need more help, 1-1 coaching may be the solution to help you break through your blocks and be more confident and successful in your own eyes. Call or email me to discuss your needs. And, don’t worry, our conversations are strictly confidential!

View the Harvard Business Review article: How to Manage Your Inner Critic

Coping with a Job you Hate

Read my recent post at MyPath, powered by Manpower:
Welcome to MyPath: Full Plate: Coping with a Job you Hate

Put Down the BlackBerry and Pay Attention

Are you a SuperBusy Mother who can’t put down your BlackBerry??

I’m learning to put down the BlackBerry and pay attention – Busy Mama – The Olympian – Olympia, Washington

Un-Turbo Charge from Your Super Busy Life

August is the number one month for vacations, but I haven’t vacationed in August because I prefer to avoid crowds! This year our kids had the first week of November off from school and we took advantage of it. We spent a week at the beautiful islands of Turks and Caicos at the Beaches Family Resort. We had a ‘real’ vacation and as a result we came back relaxed and rejuvenated.

In this day in age, it’s nearly impossible to fully escape. I’d say that over 70% of your day is spent with your phone or computer. Whether or not your are using it, its there. You are thinking about it. Thinking about who might call you or text message you. And because you are thinking about it, you happen to break it out and read the news, send someone a message because your bored or worried about something, check Facebook, or surf the Net.

If you are planning a vacation, do yourself a favor and leave the work at home. You need to separate yourself from work if you are going to benefit from relaxing. Spending a week away from the office without my cell phone or laptop has truly given me the break I needed. Beings my husband couldn’t totally unplug, he brought along his laptop and checked in briefly just a couple of times a day. Having the laptop nearby gave me the opportunity to keep clearing out the junk in my inbox so that I could concentrate on the important items left in my email once I returned.

I had the opportunity to spend quality time with my husband although my kids ditched us to hang out with some new friends they met at the resort.
Everyone needs a little R&R from time-to-time. Whether you plan just a few hours away or a couple of days, weeks or more, taking a break will help you re-focus while reconnecting with yourself and your loved ones.

Vacations are also good for a number of other reasons, too:

•Encourage Creativity: A good vacation can help you to reconnect with yourself and promote your creativity.

•Help Prevent Burnout: Workers who take time to relax away from the office are less prone to experience burnout, making you more productive than your overworked, under-rested counterparts. Vacations increase your quality of work and life.

•Can Help keep you Healthy: A relaxing vacation decreases stress and increases your health and well-being.

•Can Strengthen Relationships: Spending time enjoying life with loved ones can keep relationships strong, helping you enjoy the good times more and helping you through the stress of the hard times. Likewise, spending time vacationing apart may also help strengthen relationships, too!

Enjoy life and your vacation on the beach or ski slopes, visiting museums, sightseeing, or simply relaxing in your own home or somewhere else, whatever you desire. Simply free your mind from the boundaries and pressure of your work while you can, and take advantage of what this world has to offer, before you realize its too late. In the long run it may prove to be a very advantageous way to spend your time.

The bottom line is that taking a some time away from the stresses of every day daily life can give you the break you need and deserve so that we can return to your regular life refreshed and better equipped to handle whatever comes your way.

De-Stress Your Holidays

The following tips can help diminish the stress and avert accompanying low energy levels that may lead to greater susceptibility to illness, feeling blue, fatigue, irritability, and generally a negative holiday experience.

Ruthlessly plan ahead. With Thanksgiving already behind us, Hanukkah in full swing and Christmas and Kwanza just ahead, there’s less time for planning, but continue planning as much as possible. Set specific days on your calendar for activities such as baking, shopping, wrapping, and visiting friends or relatives. Also, be sure to schedule some relaxation time for yourself. The holidays will feel more manageable if you are well-rested.

Determine Your True Priorities. Manage your time rather than letting it manage you. Decide what your priorities are regarding holiday events such as parties, family functions, gift buying, cooking, and all other related activities. Put them in order of priority and give yourself ample time for each thing. DO NOT wait until the last minute unless absolutely necessary, or it will be hard for you to not feel pressure and stress.

Define Your Limits. Learn when & how to say “no” so that when you say it you mean it. You only have so many days and hours to squeeze in family, friends, business get togethers, gift buying, food preparation, gift wrapping, traveling, packing, etc. If you have extra time and the desire to help others, fine. However, make sure you have completed or scheduled what’s most important to you first. Others can cross your boundaries if you allow them. Remember that you don’t have to attend every party or event you’re invited to and if you’re not feeling up to it, you may politely cancel. There’s also no need to take on everything yourself, holidays are a time to enjoy, ask for help when you need it!

Let go of the need for Perfection. For many it is tough to accept your own limitations. Think about what you really have to do, and really want to do. Then, think about what you realistically have adequate time and energy to do. Give up unrealistic expectations. Follow those guidelines and you will perhaps do less and not see as many people, write as many holiday cards, or cook as many cookies or pies, but you will be much less stressed and enjoy the holidays considerably more. Simple concept. Put it on paper and stick to it. Cut yourself some slack!

Pace Yourself. Prepare for events in stages. Save and re-use your recipes and shopping lists from year-to-year because traditional holiday dinners vary little. If you are going to be cooking for a large group on one or more occasions, shop early, and prepare what you can in advance, whether it is the day before or the night before. Many types of casseroles, baked goods and snacks can be made 1-2 days prior and kept fresh in a freezer or refrigerator in sealed containers or their own cooking dish. If you have 100 cards to be addressed and mailed, block off 15-30 minutes every day to work on them starting 2-3 weeks before they need to be mailed. Or, better yet, create a mailing list with labels you use annually. Look for possible gift ideas throughout the year, purchase items on sale and put them away until the holiday comes! This alone can save much time (and money)! Also, you avoid the holiday crowds in the stores and malls. Accomplishing a few tasks at a time rather than doing it all at once can cut your stress level by a large amount. Stay organized and focused!

Use Your Computer To Shop And Send Greetings. Take advantage of the technology sitting on your desk or resting in the palm of your hand. One way to save time and energy is to do some of your shopping for gifts online! Most of the major gift and department stores have a web site, and most also have their catalog or many items in many categories online (with photos often) from which to choose. You can use credit cards using a secure server to protect your card number, or in many cases, you can pay by check, phone order or fax. Just about everything from CD’s and videos to toys, jewelry, clothing, computers and computer accessories, and personal items, are available to order online. Use any of the major search engines to find the store address if you don’t know it. Virtual malls are also available through multiple sources. Additionally, you can use your computer to send virtual holiday cards, pictures, holiday newsletters, etc. to friends, business associates, and family online.

Help Others/Volunteer. This is especially good for the person who lives alone or is all alone as far as family and friends. There are many opportunities for you to create your own sense of “community” by being with people who are also alone and in most instances, far worse off than you physically and financially and perhaps emotionally, as well. You can volunteer your time to work at a food bank or soup kitchen where a holiday dinner is served and prepared; go to a local church or shelter to help feed the homeless and the poor; whatever, just be creative and look for opportunities you can contribute. The more you give, the more you will get back in blessings and good feelings yourself. It may not happen the same day or all at once, but it will happen. When you see that the best gift you can give is yourself, your spirits will rise and be reinforced with a warmth and strength which is better and longer lasting than any gift or holiday party.

Practice Patience & Good Deeds.
Keep repeating to yourself when feeling rushed “I have plenty of time.” Hurrying is a struggle against time—that’s unhealthy. Adopt a more relaxed attitude. Let others in front of you in line (especially when they seem distressed), hold the door open for the person exiting with a handful of packages, give up the parking space, drop off something thoughtful to someone special to you just to show your appreciation & thankfulness, find the acts of kindness that make you feel good and do them repeatedly.

Sing, Hum, etc. (it doesn’t have to be out loud). Experience the joys of the holiday season by hearing the music. Let the music help ease your tensions. Some suggestions: ‘Tis the season to be jolly (perfect if you’ve lost your sense of humor); Dashing through the Snow (helps you remember that although not everybody can dash through the snow, movement is absolutely essential to your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being); Making a list, checking it twice (Don’t expect your already overloaded mind to remember any more than your way home and the names of your immediate family members); you get the picture!

Exercise!! Yes, that’s right, even before the New Year’s resolutions! Having to park three miles away from any place peopled with shoppers gives you an excellent opportunity to squeeze in a little aerobic activity. Carrying your purchases back to that same location might be considered strength training. It’s amazing how many ways you can work in a workout. However, do more than the credit card wrist twist; the lugging of packages; the raising your arm to mouth and opening wide—do real cardiovascular exercises at least 3 times per week for 20 minutes or more. You’ll be amazed at all the extra energy you create!

Avoid Or Be Very Moderate With Alcohol, Sugary Foods, Caffeine. Most holiday gatherings include the sharing or offering of alcoholic beverages, coffee and cakes, cookies, etc. Since many people use alcohol, caffeine and sweets as a way to combat stress and even depression, it is wise to limit your intake if you wish to limit your stress. These items are only a temporary stress reducer. Keep in mind, the best stress reducers are laughter, listening to and/or singing music, helping others, being loved and sharing love, and for many, association with their church or faith through private or public ceremonies and events.

Women’s Health & Fitness

Today is national Women’s Health & Fitness Day! It’s the largest annual health promotion event for women of all ages. This unique national program — with participation by local organizations throughout the U.S. — focuses attention on the importance of regular physical activity and health awareness for women.

More than 1,000 groups across the country will host women’s health and fitness events at senior centers, hospitals, health clubs, park and recreation districts, local health and service organizations, schools, retirement communities, houses of worship, and other community locations today and also on the last Wednesday of every September to come. An estimated 40,000 to 50,000 women are expected to participate in these local activities.

Whether or not there’s a local event, do something for your health and fitness today! If life is too busy, click over to my website for a free article Top 10 Ways to Fit Fitness into Your ‘Too’-Busy Schedule.

Any activity, including walking, exercising, a health screening,
or even attending a health information workshop counts today! The goal of this special day is to encourage women to take control of their health: to learn the facts they need to make smart health choices, and to make time for regular physical activity. Don’t hesitate…do something now!

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