Category Archives: Time Management

You Don’t Have to be Uptight to be Productive

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old-fashioned alarm clock sitting on desk.

What do you think of when you hear the word “productivity?” I think for most of us, we conjure images of someone focusing on a task so intensely that they’ve entered a zombie-like form of meditative state. You might think of the type A personalities in your life who overwhelm you with their ambition, planning, overachieving, and urgency. Or, worst of all, because they’re all work and no play, they eventually go all Jack Torrance from The Shining.

Here’s the truth with productivity. While it does involve self-discipline, organization, and focus, that doesn’t mean you have to uptight. There are plenty of ways to get stuff done while still enjoying your life, and dare I say, have some fun along the way.

Kick-off your day with a pump-up playlist.

Creating and sticking to a morning routine is a common trait among the most successful and productive people. While everyone has their own unique ritual, it usually includes activities like physical activity, eating a healthy breakfast, reading, journaling, and setting a daily intention.

What else should be included? How about a playlist that gets you amped for the day? Research suggests that athletes who listen to motivational music during sports activities and exercise increase risk-taking behavior. Moreover, music can reduce anxiety, blood pressure, and pain. It can also improve sleep quality, mood, mental alertness, and memory. And, according to researchers at John Hopkins, music can keep your brain young.

Besides your morning playlist, you may also want to have some music playing in the background while working.

Savor victories.

There’s a tendency to jump from one task to the next. I get it. With so much to do, you have to take moving forward. Like Short Round proclaimed in Temple of Doom, “Hey, Dr. Jones, No time for love!”

But, what happens if you just keep on going lie the Energizer bunny? Well, you’re eventually going to lose your passion. Instead of doing something because you love doing it, you’re just going through the motions. And, even worse, that will cause you to burn out.

Regardless of how big or small, always celebrate your accomplishments. After all, celebrating your achievements changes your physiology and psychology for the better, strengthens bonds and attracts more success.

Pat yourself on the back and treat yourself. You don’t have to go overboard. But, take a break and purchase a latte or purchase a new book you’ve wanted to read. As for team accomplishments, something as simple as handwritten thank-you notes — or an office party, to team outings are all effective ways to celebrate.

Make your workspace your own.

“Research suggests that we are more productive when we are working in spaces that reflect who we are. We feel more comfortable with familiarity,” wrote Max Palmer in a previous Calendar article.

“You know yourself best, so do what inspires you and sparks your creativity,” explains Max. “Start with functionality: You need a comfortable chair and a desk with enough space to spread out.” Personally, I’m all about standing desks. Even if you feel the same, then pair that desk with an ergonomic chair. Or, swap the chair out entirely for an exercise ball — which has been found to increase productivity.

Next, consider the form. “Maybe that means pictures of your friends and family, or perhaps it means Christmas lights and posters of your favorite ‘80s rock band,” Max adds. I’m also a fan of small plants and keeping my desk clean with the help of a basketball wastebasket. “Whatever it is, it should make you feel proud of your space and fresh well into the afternoon.”

Switch-up your environment.

Even if you love your workspace, spending too much time there can put you in a rut. So, whenever you feel like you need to kick yourself into high gear, work from somewhere else. At the time of this writing, that’s not possible because of COVID-19. But, if you’re working from home, consider setting up shop in a different part of your house or sitting outside.

Once we get through quarantine, consider working from a coworking space, coffee shop, or any other location that inspires you. It depends on your personality. If you need to be outside, work from a bench in a park. Prefer silence? Your local library is a great option? I’ve even heard of people who enjoy working in a hotel lobby or bar.

Dream of gamification.

To be clear, there are several ways that you can gamify your work. For starters, you could have a healthy competition with your colleagues. Using data visualization, you can track each other’s progress and display leaderboards.

Other ideas to gamify your life are:

  • Attaching rewards to lists, like taking a break about crossing off a to-do-list item.
  • Engaging in time-based challenges, such as giving you 60-minutes to finish a task.
  • Tapping into the element of surprise. You could send your team an unexpected gift or use dice to select your own reward randomly.
  • Making deals with friends or co-workers. Add accountability by challenging you and someone to complete several commitments by a specific deadline.
  • Using productivity apps. Download Habitica, Do-It-Now, Fitocracy, Productivity Challenger Timer, or Forest.

Get the most out of your breaks.

As noted earlier, you can’t work nonstop. You need to take frequent breaks to refresh and recharge. The key is to use this downtime wisely. Examples could be finding a sense of calm by meditating, taking a nap, or finding a creative outlet like writing. These activities can help put your mind and body at ease while also keeping you in the present.

You could also use this time to take a walk outside, exercise, engage with a hobby, or play a game. All are effective ways to blow off some steam and clear your head.

Socialize with your team or co-workers more often.

If self-isolating has taught us anything, it’s the importance of spending time with others. I mean, we’re social creatures, so it’s good for us emotionally, mentally, and physically. There was even prior research that “people who have a ‘best friend at work’ are not only more likely to be happier and healthier, they are also seven times as likely to be engaged in their job.”

So, take the time to get to know your co-workers. Have lunch with them, go on breaks together, and collaborate on projects. When appropriate, have some fun, like challenging each to some sort of competition, like a dance-off or fantasy football, and participate in team-building activities. And, it wouldn’t hurt to socialize outside the workplace as well.

Bring-in your four-legged best friend.

As a dog owner, I was thrilled about this as one study found that office dogs can reduce stress, increase productivity, and improve communication among team members. Furthermore, studies conducted at Miami University of Ohio show “pet owners are happier and healthier, have better self-esteem, and suffer less depression than those who don’t own pets.” And, researchers from Central Michigan found “that dogs fostered trust and collaboration among colleagues.”

Have snacks on standby.

Perhaps one of the easiest ways to bring some joy into the workplace is through food. In fact, according to SnackNation, “67% of full-time employees with access to free food at work are ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ happy at their current job.” So. whether if it’s for your home office or for your entire team, have plenty of snacks available. Need some ideas? Well, here are 100 healthy snacks that will boost productivity.

Stop being productive and enjoy yourself.

“There’s too much emphasis these days on productivity, on hyper-efficiency, on squeezing the most production out of every last minute,” write Leo Babauta of Zen Habits.

As a consequence, we’ve “forgotten how to relax. How to be lazy. How to enjoy life.” So, Leo purposes that as opposed to increasing productivity, “it’s good to Get Less Done, to relax, to breathe,” occasionally — like when you can’t get motivated.

“Sure, we need to produce sometimes, especially if we have to pay the bills, but an obsession with productivity is unhealthy,” he explains. “When you can’t get yourself to be productive, relax” and enjoy yourself. “Let go of the need to be hyperefficient” and feeling guilty.

If that seems impossible, don’t worry about it. Just breathe and take it one step at a time. Some ideas would be to spend more time outside, allowing more time to complete tasks, and surrounding yourself with positive and supportive people.

“Step by step, learn to relax,” adds Leo. “Learn that productivity isn’t everything” and that “you don’t need to fill every second with work.” But, when it’s time to get stuff done, “get excited, pour yourself into it, work on important, high-impact tasks … and then relax.”

Should Your Startup Have Summer Hours?

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It happens every year as the weather gets warmer — employee productivity comes to a screeching halt. Employee productivity taking a slight dive at the beginning of summer isn’t breaking news. Business owners have noticed this trend for years. It’s said that when agencies in New York realized that employee productivity decreased in the summer, specifically on Fridays, they began to offer “Summer Fridays.”

More recently, studies show that productivity drops by 20 percent, attendance dips by 19 percent, and project turnaround times increase by 13 percent. Additionally, 45 percent admit that they get more distracted. In particular, 63 percent socialize more with coworkers, 51 percent take longer breaks, and 49 leave early a few days a week.

While there some ways to keep your team motivated throughout the dog days of summer like having meetings outside, providing refreshments, encouraging more frequent breaks, and rewarding proactive staff, is there something more useful than establishing summer hours?

Some research reports that having a shorter workweek is counterproductive because to leave earlier on Friday; people have to put in more time Monday through Friday. As a result, they become more stressed and less productive. At the same time, most people can work from home — which can improve their output.

So, before making a final decision, let’s go over the pros and cons of your startup having summer hours. And, if you think it will work for your business, I’ll throw in some pointers on how you can implement them.

The Benefits of Summer Hours

The main advantage of summer hours is that it grants employees a more flexible schedule so that they can maintain a healthy work-life balance. While this is important for year-round, this is especially true during the summer. For example, if you have children, you may want to work four days a week so that you can enjoy a three-day weekend with them. Or, you may have to adjust your hours so that you work when they’re not around.

Having a flexible schedule increases employee productivity since it prevents burnout, builds trust, and makes people happier. “Our policy is basically that if you need to leave early to get somewhere, you come in early to finish your work or make sure all of your responsibilities are handled before you leave,” David Heath, CEO, and Co-Founder of the sock company Bombas, told Entrepreneur. “It shows your team that you trust them to handle their own responsibilities.”

Consulting firm Adecco also found that shortened workweeks “increase employee morale and all the good things that go with that, such as higher retention, candidate attraction, and productivity.” Roy Cohen, author of “The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide,” tells CBS News that “A half-day on Friday motivates employees to work as hard as possible to get as much done as they can in four hours, and it is empowering.”

Finally, technology allows most of us to work whenever we want. Believe it or not, getting away from common workplace distractions, and changing up your routine can boost your productivity.

The Drawbacks of Summer Hours

Of course, there are some disadvantages to summer hours. Most prevalently, it’s the additional stress some of your team members may have. They may feel too much pressure to get as much done as possible in less time. Instead of having five days to complete all of their work, they’re done to three or four days.

Moreover, some people may use shortened workweeks as an excuse to slack off. It can also be more challenging to schedule meetings since employees aren’t in the office as much. And, it may be conducive for your specific business.

“Flexible schedules may not work with certain client-facing positions that are heavy on client service and which require the same employee to interface with the client,” Midge Seltzer, co-founder and executive vice president of Engage PEO told Business News Daily.

These types of schedules are also harsh on new business ventures. “Companies just starting need every minute of every day to ensure their success,” David Daneshgar, co-founder of BloomNation.com told Care.com. “We are a growing startup facing major competitors.” For his company, June through August is a summer hustle.

Types of Summer Hours Policies

As you weigh the pros and cons, you should also take into consideration the various types of summer hours models. These include:

  • Half-day Fridays. Here employees can leave work early, such as noon or 1 PM. To make-up, for these hours, they will have to put in an additional hour Monday – Thursday.
  • Early Friday dismissal. Another option is to let your team depart in the afternoon, such as around 3 PM. Having an early day allows them to wrap-up their priorities and still get out early.
  • Shorter hours on any day they chose. Having a few days where employees can decide a shorter day can be a win-win since it keeps your startup open five days a week while also allowing employees to enjoy their summer.
  • Every other Friday off. Another way to keep your business operating while also giving people Fridays off is to alter their schedules. The schedule means one employee works on Friday but will have off next week. Another employee is working when their colleague is off.
  • Every Friday off. You may wish to shut-down the shop every single Friday. Again, your team may have to put in more hours during the week. Or, you could be generous and give them unlimited time off.
  • Allow employees to work from home. Working from home doesn’t have to be on Fridays. For example, you may only need your team to come in three days a week. They can then work from home the other days.

Making Summer Hours Work For You

If you want to implement summer hours at your startup, there are a couple of final factors to consider. At the top should be knowing how flexible your business and specific jobs are. If you provide a service, you may need to have some technical support available as much as possible.

Additionally, you should be aware of deadlines, the stress level of your team, and whether or not they’re reliable. To get a better understanding of this, you may want to survey them to gather their feedback. You could also give the shortened hours a trail run and track your team’s progress.

If you do decide to go forward, make sure that you communicate the new policy and stay consistent with it. You don’t want to start off giving employees off every Friday to backtrack and implement half-days on Fridays. It’s confusing, and they may have already made plans.

And don’t forget to keep track of everyone’s hours. Depending on the state where you operate, you may have to pay overtime to employees if they work more then 8 hours per day — this is the case in California.

If your startup has summer hours, how have they worked out for you and your team?

Reclaim Your Time by Learning the Art of Saying No

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Regain Your Time by Learning the Art of Saying No

As a parent, there’s a two-letter word that drives you wild whenever you ask your kids to do something. And that word is the dreaded “no.” Anyone with young kids will relate to the beginnings of the “no” word at about two years old. But here is how you can reclaim your time by learning the art of saying “no.”

For as infuriating as that response can be, there are times when there’s a lesson you can learn from them. And, that’s the gentle art of saying no.

To be fair, that doesn’t mean rejecting every time request — or just being defiant because you can. If so, you could be potentially missing out on opportunities. Besides, you don’t want to earn that reputation of being difficult.

The power of saying “no.”

Instead, it’s all about being more selective so that you aren’t wasting your valuable time. In turn, you’ll be able to improve your focus, performance, and productivity. And, most importantly, as Steve Jobs once said, “It’s only by saying NO that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.”

Furthermore, mastering the art of saying “no” gives you more control and lets you establish your own boundaries. If not, because you’re a people pleaser or just afraid to upset others, you’re giving up control to them. I mean, if you don’t respect your time, then why would anyone else?

“One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned is that no one will protect my time or prioritize my needs as vigilantly as me,” Damon Zahariades wrote in The Art Of Saying NO: How To Stand Your Ground, Reclaim Your Time And Energy, And Refuse To Be Taken For Granted. “That’s understandable. Most people act out of self-interest; they naturally put their own priorities ahead of others’ priorities,” Zahariades states. “But it means each of us is responsible for making sure our personal needs are met.”

“No one is going to do it for us,” adds Zahariades. “Moreover, it’s important that we attend to our own needs before attending to the needs of others.” Will this make you uncomfortable? Sure. “But allowing your needs to remain unaddressed while you continuously cater to others is the path toward resentment and bitterness. It can even become a health issue if you run yourself ragged.”

What you should say “no” to and how?

Most of you know that I write for Entrepreneur magazine — let’s quickly go over the things that you should say “no” to, courtesy of Matthew Toren in an Entrepreneur article.

    • Tasks that can be easily outsourced. Are you spending the bulk of your day on tedious activities that aren’t pushing you closer to your goals? I’m talking about administrative work, accounting, lead generation, HR, IT, or marketing as some common examples. If so, hire someone else to take on these tasks.
    • Actions that don’t match your vision. Before saying “yes,” ask one simple question; “does it match your vision?”
    • Things that distract you destroy your time. Whether if it’s smartphone notifications, chatty co-workers, meetings without an agenda, or unproductive uses of your downtime, identify these and eliminate them.
    • Unhealthy habits. Eating junk, not getting enough sleep, smoking, and toxic relationships can do serious harm to your health and well-being. And, when you spend time on unhealthy habits, you’re taking time away from more productive ways.
    • Things that aren’t up to you or in your control. “There are things in this life that are inevitably out of your control — lots of them, actually,” writes Toren. But, you do have a choice. “You can fret and freak out about things such as the government, the economy, your partner, the weather, or any other variable outside your power, or you can choose to say ‘no’ to the stress that comes from getting upset about things you can’t control.”

Practicing the art of saying “no.”

Now that you have an idea of what time requests to decline, how can you say “no” to them? Well, here are seven ways to achieve that goal effectively.

1. Saying no doesn’t mean you’re a terrible person.

So many of us struggle with saying no because we don’t want to offend others. After all, we don’t want others to believe that we’re selfish or unkind. But, in reality, that’s not the case.

As Chantalle Blikman perfectly explains over at Tiny Budha, this was something we were taught as children. “If you said no to your mom, dad, teacher, uncle, grandparents, and so on, you were most certainly considered to be being rude, and you would have probably been told off for it.” As such, “Saying no was off-limits, and yes was the polite and likable thing to say.”

But, as adults, we are “capable of making our own choices, as well as knowing the difference between wrong and right,” adds Blikman. “Therefore, no shouldn’t be an off-limits word, but rather something that we decide on ourselves, based on our own discretion.”

While this is still a challenge, the first thing you must do is realize that you should never feel guilty or ashamed of saying no. If you’re direct and honest, then others will respect and understand your decision. You will not believe how much your decisions to say no will up your productivity.

2. Plan your “no’s” in advance.

In my opinion, this will make saying “no” a breeze going forward mainly because it’s almost like creating an automatic response. For instance, if you have implemented a “No Meeting Wednesday” rule, and you have a meeting invite for a Wednesday, it’s much easier to turn down that request.

If you haven’t instituted such policies yet, then identify where you want to spend your time. Ideally, this will be based on your priorities. If you have to finish a task by the end of the day, then you can’t leave the office to play golf with a friend. Quality family time a priority? Then you would reserve Friday evenings as the night that your family spends together.

3. Take baby steps.

“Choose some easy, low-risk situations in which to practice saying no,” recommends Peter Bregman for HBR. “Say no when a waiter offers you dessert” or “when someone tries to sell you something on the street,” Bregman writes. “Go into a room by yourself, shut the door, and say no out loud ten times.” While this may sound ridiculous, it’s a great way to build your no muscle without serious repercussions or guilty feelings.

4. Consult your calendar.

Unless it’s an extremely urgent matter, don’t feel pressured to say “yes” or “no” on the spot. Go ahead and respond with a phrase like, “Let me check my calendar and get back to you.” Obviously, you want to be respectful of the other person’s time. So, set a time limit, like by tomorrow or the end of the week.

The reason why this strategy works well is that it gives you time to pause and reflect. Maybe you weren’t gung-ho about the request initially. But, after sleeping on it, you decide it’s worth your time. So, you check your schedule and see when you’re available. But, I strongly suggest that you share your calendar with them so that they can know when you’re free.

There’s another variation to this. Let’s say that you get invited to a BBQ next weekend. Before committing, let them not that you have to speak with your family first to make sure that you don’t already have plans.

5. Be brief and polite, but firm.

“You don’t always have to explain yourself when telling someone no,” notes Daniel Potter over at Grammarly. “Still, it’s often more considerate to provide a straight-up no rather than a non-response, because leaving people wondering tends to read as thoughtless.”

At the same time, you don’t want to offer too brief of an explanation. As an example, instead of responding with “I can’t help with that,” try, “Sadly, I’m afraid I can’t help with that.” Using “sadly “shows you recognize the answer probably won’t thrill the recipient, and it brings you no joy to say so.”

Another example? “Thank you for thinking of me for this assignment. I can’t take more work on right now, but please keep in touch.” What makes this response work is that it shows your appreciation while also leaving the door open for possible work in the future.

What if they aren’t taking “no” for an answer? Bregman recommends being “just as pushy as they are” without being a jerk. You may also want to incorporate a little humor here as well.

6. Use the words “You are welcome to X. I am willing to Y.”

Here’s an example from the pages of Greg McKeown’s bookEssentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. A friend needs a lift to an important meeting, and their car is in the shop. You can say that you’re “welcome to borrow my car. I am willing to make sure the keys are here for you.”

Using this phrase lets them know, “I won’t be able to drive you.” McKeown explains, “saying what you will not do, but you are couching it in terms of what you are willing to do.” It’s an efficient “way to navigate a request you would like to support somewhat but cannot throw your full weight behind.”

“I particularly like this construct because it also expresses a respect for the other person’s ability to choose, as well as your own,” statesMcKeown. “It reminds both parties of the choices they have,” while setting reasonable boundaries.

7. Offer an alternative.

Let’s say your business partner wants to meet for lunch tomorrow. You already have plans. But, you suggest this Friday since you’re available. It turns out that this works for them as well. Crisis averted.

Another alternative could be referring them so someone else who has more experience, knowledge, or interest than you do. Or, let’s say that you have a team member who has volunteered to take on a new project. While this is encouraged if the project is time-sensitive and you’re concerned that you would have to micromanage them to ensure it’s completed on-time, suggest another project that has more leeway.

 

Don’t Let Vacation Season Dampen Team Productivity

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With summer on its way, you’re likely receiving more requests for time off. While you want your team to enjoy the season, you’re also worried: How will all the vacations affect productivity?

Even with a strong PTO policy, this can be difficult to manage. And as workers will point out, vacations can boost individual productivity. The wrinkle is, missing hands can slow down the rest of the team.

But before you deny those requests, beware: You don’t want to create a company culture in which people are afraid to take time off. Workers are already taking fewer days off out of fear of appearing “replaceable.”

You need to strike the right balance. Here’s how to keep your team strong while ensuring everyone gets a taste of summer:

1. Preview the season’s work.

Setting expectations before summer takes off is a great way to get team members to think about timing. If they know a major project will be due in early July, then you shouldn’t see a flood of PTO requests for the week before.

This is the kind of discussion to have at a team meeting. Plot out upcoming campaigns and talk through how much work each will take. Revisit the company’s mission, and explain how each campaign connects to it. 

If employees know what’s coming and why, they’ll plan ahead. There may be phases of a project that involve them less than others, during which workers can squeeze in a summer camping trip. 

2. Review your PTO policy.

During the same meeting when you preview the summer, bring up your company’s PTO policy. Often, violations occur when workers simply forget the rules. 

Explain how many consecutive days they can request off. Also, discuss how much prior notice employees must provide beforehand in order to get approval.

Be transparent about the approval process. There are a number of ways to decide who gets to take time off if requests conflict:

  • On a first-come, first-serve basis
  • A rotating vacation schedule
  • Based on seniority
  • Based on who took time off least recently

If you do have to deny someone’s request, work with them. Perhaps they get first dibs over another desirable slot, such as Labor Day weekend. 

3. Create a company vacation calendar.

A calendar that shows who’s taking time off when is an important organization tool. This can help cut down on overlapping vacations.

Make sure you have a system to separate pending from approved requests. Consider color-coding them, or perhaps you simply reply “Maybe” to requests you’ve seen but have yet to approve. That way, workers can be courteous of others’ vacations and rearrange their own schedules to stay productive.

4. Ask people to work ahead.

There’s no substitute for working ahead. Not only does it help the team member on vacation keep their mind off work, but it also minimizes dependencies. Otherwise, the rest of the team may have to wait for the worker to return. 

Before they go on vacation, help employees outline what they’ll accomplish before they leave. Encourage them to get a jump start on a project they’ll be expected to contribute to when they return.

Remember, this applies to leaders as well: If you were expecting their help on a project during their week off, you may have to put together the brief ahead of schedule. Model the behavior you want to see from your team.

5. Over-communicate.

It’s critical that nobody on the team is caught off guard by a vacation. A vacation calendar identifies who’ll be out when, but it’s not enough.

Before someone’s time off begins, initiate a conversation: What’s been done, and what’s left to do on projects that span the out-of-office period? That way, team members can plan to work around the missing person’s portion or pick up the slack when necessary.

If you need to cross-train an employee to handle the work, touch base with them before the other worker leaves. Encourage them to shadow the vacationer for a day to see how he or she works.

6. Promote working at peak vacation times. 

If you get an overwhelming number of requests at similar times — say, around the Fourth of July — consider rewarding employees who hold down the fort. Doing so can give those who really need a vacation more space while showing appreciation to the rest of the team.

Great ways to incentive working at peak times include:

  • Bonus pay
  • Gift cards
  • Additional time off to be used later
  • Free snacks or meals

Don’t buy them a yacht, but don’t worry too much about how much those incentives cost. A fully functional team is more than worth a catered lunch or a few Starbucks gift cards. 

Vacation season doesn’t have to mean making new hires or sacrificing productivity. If you plan ahead and prepare your team, everyone can enjoy the summer. You might even be able to take a vacation of your own. 

7 Before-Bed Steps to Prepare for Tomorrow

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You toss, you turn, and you toss some more: You just can’t seem to stop thinking about tomorrow long enough to fall asleep. 

A great way to put your worries to bed? Get a jump on the next day. Doing a little prep work in the evening can help you be more productive tomorrow.

Be proactive: Think through what parts of your morning routine you can do the evening beforehand. There are plenty of things to do before calling it a night. Here’s where to start:

1. Schedule Your Next Day

There’s something romantic about planning your schedule at the crack of dawn. But the morning isn’t the best time of day to get your schedule together. 

Before going to bed, figure out what you’re doing the following day. This activity can help you clear your mind. Scheduling becomes one less thing to do in the morning. 

When putting your schedule together, remember that the most productive people:

  • Focus on one task at a time.
  • Group similar tasks together.
  • Automate or delegate what they can.
  • Put their most difficult task first on their to-do list.

Spend five minutes each night putting together your plan of attack. That way, in the morning, all you need to do is refer to what you created the night before. 

2. Pack Your Lunch 

Preparing your lunch the night before work does a couple of things for you: First, the task doesn’t eat up your morning time. Second, you won’t waste time at work contemplating what to eat for lunch. 

Even better, you can prep your lunches for the whole week on Sunday night. You can also use the time to prepare lunch for your kids as well. If they’re old enough, they can even join in the preparation. 

Once you’re done, simply store the food containers in the fridge. Grab them on your way out the door, and you’re done. 

3. Prepare Breakfast 

Why stop with lunch when you can do the same thing with breakfast? From egg cups to breakfast burritos, there are plenty of easy morning meals you can prepare at night.

Most importantly, get your coffee ready. If you have a fancy coffee maker, you can set it to brew when you wake up. If not, just add the grinds and the water. That way, you only need to flip a switch.

As with lunch, your kids can also join in on breakfast prep — but probably skip the coffee for them. 

4. Select Your Wardrobe

One of the more time-consuming morning tasks? Picking what to wear. If you have a lot of options to choose from, you might waste 15 minutes simply finding your favorite sweater.

If selecting clothes before bed is difficult, try simplifying your wardrobe. Use the 10-5 rule: 10 pairs of underwear, socks, and shirts; five pairs of shorts and pants. 

Fold your chosen clothes and put them next to your bed. Just like making your bed, keeping your clothes tidy can help you feel more put together. 

5. Do a Quick Clean-Up

Undone chores have a way of staring you down in the morning. Before going to bed at night, get some chores out of the way. 

You don’t have to do a full-on cleaning, but do tackle the things that are bothering you. A few priorities include:

  • Sweep or vacuum common areas.
  • Put dirty clothes in your laundry basket.
  • Organize your toiletries.
  • Wash your dishes. 

Cleaning is an underrated form of self-care. When you declutter the physical space you inhabit, you also declutter your mental space.

6. Hop in the Shower

We’ve all taken showers that were longer than they needed to be in the morning. Standing under warm water can make it more difficult to get started, especially when it’s cold outside. 

There are pros and cons to showering at night instead of in the morning. If you are looking to save some time, though, hitting the shower before bed might be right for you.

Showering before bed can help you sleep better and allow you to shower at your own pace. Showering at night is also a good hygiene option to keep your bed cleaner. 

7. Pack Your Essentials

At night, go ahead and pack up your work bag. Make sure you’ve got your laptop, folders, notebooks, and whatever else you need.

Be sure to also put things like your keys and wallet somewhere that won’t be easy to misplace. It’s a good idea to keep them in the same place all the time. Do so, and you won’t need to spend precious time searching for them when you’re trying to get out the door for work. 

Once you’ve started doing your next-day prep at night, it’s hard to imagine doing it all in the morning again. Make the switch: Mornings are not the time to cram, and bedtime is not the time to stress. 

The 10 Best Calendar Apps (What You Should Look For)

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8 Pieces of Productivity Tech to Add to Your Arsenal in 2020

Perhaps the number one reason why we’re addicted to smartphones is that they contain our entire lives in the device. You can check-in with friends, family, and clients, while booking a flight, running your business, and listening to a podcast. Here’s what you should look for in the ten best calendar apps.

But, they’re always useful in organizing our lives. Especially when you have the following ten calendar apps.

1. Calendar

Tired of those back-and-forth emails when scheduling a meeting or appointment? If so, then Calendar has got you covered.

This handy app lets you share your availability with others through an embedded link or email. This way, they can find a date and time that works for them. Once they do, the event is added to everyone’s online calendars.

Calendar can also harness the power of machine learning. Machine learning means that it uses previous data to make smart scheduling suggestions, such as when, where, and what types of meetings you should schedule.

You can also easily create an event using natural language, while the map view gives you a glance at your upcoming schedule.

2. Fantastical 2

This iPhone app has often be cited as the best calendar app for the iPhone. That’s because it’s packed with features, such as:

  • Multiple views including a list view in portrait mode by either week or month or a landscape mode for a week “block” view.
  • Supports multiple languages, like English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Japanese.
  • Ability to create event using natural language.
  • Also, it works with the iPad and Apple Watch.
  • The addition of the view widget — replaces the stock iOS Calendar widget. With this extension, you get a snapshot of your day without opening the app.

You will have to purchase Fantastical 2 for $4.99.

3. Google Calendar

While this stock calendar comes preinstalled in every Android device, Apple users can download it as well. They probably should go ahead and do that.

With a free account, this powerful app will events and schedules from your Google account. If you used your Gmail address to book a flight, hotel room, or doctor’s appointment, the date and time would be added to the calendar. You’ll then receive a reminder through a push notification on your phone when the event approaches.

When creating events, you can color-code your calendar so that you can quickly identify the various types of activities you have scheduled.

4. Calendars 5

If you’re curious, this is the fifth version of Readdle’s Calendars app. That explains why it’s called Calendars 5. It also means that the developers had plenty of opportunities to make this iPhone app as high as possible.

Calendars 5 comes with features like several view options; list view, day view, week view, and month view, as well as an integrated task manager and ability to enter events using natural language. Additional features include being able to create custom alerts, recurring events, and sharing your tasks and activities with others.

5. Microsoft Calendar

For business owners, it’s tough to find a better suite of tools than Microsoft Office 365 — although Google is pretty much right at the top as well. That’s because this app combines your emails, calendar, and much more into one convenient location.

The calendar itself is loaded with functions like being able to import or export to other calendars and share your calendar with others. You can also personalize your calendar using add-ons, like getting a weather report, automating responses to invites, receiving reminders, and receiving an agenda in your email every morning.

6. Tiny Calendar

If you want a simple calendar app that’s available for either Android or iOS, then look no further. Tiny Calendar is a straightforward calendar app where you can view multiple layouts. You can create emails or push notification reminders, and make edits offline. You can even use your device’s GPS to add specific locations to events, and it syncs with other calendars, such as Google Calendar.

The free version should be enough if you need the basics. The paid version — which is $7 — comes with additional features like accepting and sending invites. It also exports other calendars and can create recurring events.

7. Jorte Calendar

Jorte isn’t just another calendar app. It’s also an organizer where you can take notes and manage tasks. It also integrates with Google Calendar, Evernote, and Microsoft Office to make your life run a bit smoother. And, it works for Android and iOS.

As for the calendar itself, it’s pretty solid. There are daily, weekly, or monthly views, the ability to create recurring events, and there are even countdown features that let you know how much time is remaining for a specific event.

For the more robust features, you’ll have to select the Jorte Premium option at $3 per month or $30 for the year.

8. SolCalendar

SolCalendar is known for being one of the most well-designed calendar apps on the market. Some people claim that it’s more of a life management tool than just your standard calendar app.

This app comes with a widget so that you receive a summary of your most important activities. There are stickers and emojis for marking select dates. You can also receive weather reports, share your calendar with others, and integrates with Google Tasks.

Best of all? It’s free for Android users to download.

9. TimeTree

Do you need an app to keep your family or team on the same page? Then download this free app for both Android and Apple users.

With TimeTree, you can share everything from work schedules to tasks to notes. This way, your team knows when you away on travel while your family knows when your flight arrives. It also ensures that every family or team member stays on-top of assigned tasks. You can also send reminders to others.

10. 24me

Finally, there’s this handy personal assistant that comes equipped with a calendar, to-do list, and notes. This way, you can automate everything from paying bills to wishing a happy friend’s birthday. It has reminders — like calling a client or scheduling appointments — by linking to your contacts. You can link to Facebook, TaskRabbit, and your bank account.

Put, if you want to stay on top of your bills, remember birthdays, schedule events, and manage your to-do list, this is the app for you.

The free app is available for Android and iOS.

Criteria for an Amazing Calendar App

What makes these apps considered the best? It’s because they fit the following criteria:

  • Can easily and quickly view appointments — preferably in a click or two.
  • Can easily add, edit, or search for appointments, like being able to use natural language.
  • Integrates with the apps you use daily, such as Calendar or Google Calendar.
  • It is compatible with all of the devices you use. For example, if you have all Apple products, then go with Fantastical 2. If you have a Samsung phone and iPad, then you’ll want an app that works on both Android and iOS.
  • Comes with a clean and contemporary design.
  • Integrates with your email — not a problem if using Calendar, Google Calendar or Microsoft Outlook.
  • Allows you to schedule an unlimited amount of appointments.
  • Has the features you need. If you work with a team, for example, then you need to be able to share your calendar with others. If not pre-installed, then look for an app that can be customized to meet your needs.

What criteria do you look for when choosing a calendar app?

What’s Your Most Productive Work Time? Here’s How You Can Find Out

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Beach at sunrise

Whether you call them your golden hours or peak work times, or biological prime times, these are when we have the most concentration and energy. As such, we shouldn’t waste these hours. Instead, we should spend them on our most important and challenging tasks. But, before we get there, we first need to identify when you’re actually the most productive.

The most productive hour, day, week, and month of the year.

You likely already know when your most productive time is. For example, I’m a morning person, and wake-up at 5:15 am every day. Because of this, I’m more alert in the A.M. But, I also have also worked with people who are night owls, and forcing themselves to wake-up as early as I do would be counterproductive.

However, after analyzing 1.8 million projects and 28 million tasks gathered from Priceonomics customer Redbooth, says that the most productive time of year is at 11 am on a Monday in October.

That timeframe is extremely specific, but they also found “that most people don’t really get going until 7 am (a typical start time). The study shows that after 5 pm (typical finish time), work quickly tapers.”

However, the “percentage of tasks completed (9.7%) peaks at 11 am — just before the typical person takes lunch.” The data has shown that productivity takes a hit between 11 am and 1 pm, “and after 1 pm, productivity never quite returns to its peak.”

“The highest percentage of tasks (20.4%) are completed on everyone’s favorite day of the week: Monday,” Priceonomics reveals. “Tuesday (20.2%) is just behind — and after that task completion perfectly tapers off as the days progress toward the weekend.” Fridays are “nearly 20% less productive than Monday.”

“We complete far more tasks in the latter months — September (8.8 percent), October (9.5 percent), and November (9 percent) — than in the earlier months,” notes the post. “We only complete 7.2 percent of our yearly tasks in January,” The reason?

Priceconmics suspects that it “maybe because the early year is typically for setting goals, not completing them — and as we near year’s end, we’re struggling to get everything done.” You have to learn how to work smarter — not harder.

How to find your most productive hours.

Hopefully, the data from Priceconomics can be of use. For example, instead of scheduling a meeting on Monday mornings, you do that on Friday afternoons when most of us aren’t as productive.

But what if you want to find out when you’re most productive? Well, here is a simple process that can help you figure this out.

Choose a time tracking period.

The first step you need to take is to determine when you want to start tracking your time and for how long. Some suggest that you can get away with just tracking your time for a week. But I disagree. The longer you follow your time, the more accurate of a picture you’ll have. Ideally, you should do this for 30 days.

Get the right tools.

You can honestly stay old school and use a pen and paper for this activity. You could also use a notebook or index cards. Other options would be creating a spreadsheet (or this one from Chris Baily) or premade worksheets like the 168 Hours Timesheet.

If you prefer to go digital, you may want to try out time tracking tools. Some of the best available are RescueTime, Clockify, Toggl, or ATracker — and of course, Calendar.

Maintaining your time log.

Here’s the moment you’ve been waiting for, actually tracking your time.

Jeremy Anderberg writes that there are two necessary frameworks for tracking your time. The first tracking is using the time of day. If you go this route, “you’ll write down your activity for a set chunk of time, say 9–9:15 am. Set a timer for every 15 minutes (at first, at least; it can be longer as you’ve gotten into it), and take a quick second to jot down what you’ve been doing.”

The second is by the task. “With this method, you’ll go about your day and activities as normal, and simply write down what time you change tasks and start something new,” explains Anderberg.

Jeremey suggests that you try both out and see what works best for you. “For my first few days of time-tracking, I did so by the task. I’d write down, to the minute, when I started and stopped doing something and moved on to a new activity.” For him, this helped “figure out how long things actually took, and how my day was naturally being structured

“After that, I went into tracking by time increments, which is more useful for planning purposes, understanding what times of day you’re more likely to waste time, how to structure your breaks, etc.,” he adds. “Another benefit is that when you have a timer to “remind you to write down what you’ve been doing, it re-focuses you if you’ve gotten off track.”

Regardless of which approach you take, there are some essential things to keep in mind:

  • Be honest and consistent.
  • Record your activities in real-time.
  • Note when you start and end an activity, as well as the duration.
  • Be meticulous and include as many details as possible. For instance, instead of just writing done “working,” record the specific thing that you were doing. But, you don’t have to be perfect.
  • Don’t just focus on your workday. Create categories and subcategories for home, family, social, commuting, and health and wellness.
  • Make sure that you write down how you feel for each activity.
  • Leave room for additional notes like what interrupted you or if a task took you longer then expected to complete.

Chris Bailey, the author of “The Productivity Project,” also suggests that you eliminate factors that may affect your productivity, such as caffeine, diet, waking up without an alarm, or staying up too late. He also recommends keeping a log of your energy levels every hour.

After you’ve done this for around month, go ahead, and analyze your data. Pay close attention to patterns — primarily when there’s a surge or dip in focus or energy. For most of us, because of ultradian rhythms, this would be after working for 90 to 120 minutes.

You should also be on the lookout for how much time you’re dedicating to low, medium, or high impact activities and where you can improve. Think about using time tracking — don’t think of it as time policing.

How to create more “peak” hours during the day.

That may seem like a lot to take in. But, after a week or two, tracking your time should become a habit. But, the main takeaway here is that you also listen to your gut. As I’ve said, you probably have a clue when you’re most productive without having to track your time. But, it’s still worth doing to see what exactly you’re doing and spending your time.

Knowing this, you can then use your “peak” hours more wisely. For me, I’m ready to tackle the day before 8 am. So, I block out from 8 am to 10 am for the most critical task of the day in my calendar. I then take a 30-minute break and get back to work until noon.

Since my energy may start dropping by then — my afternoons are spent on lower energy tasks like meetings. Then I have a snack later in the afternoon, take a break, get revived, and get going again for several hours.

I’ve also been able to create more “peak” hours in the day by taking care of my health — mainly getting enough REM sleep, eating a nutritious diet, and finding ways to relieve stress like meditating and exercising. The reason? All of these can impact your productivity.

Additionally, I also remove the unnecessary items from my calendar. The easiest way to do this is through delegation or dropping them entirely. It’s an effective way to ensure that you aren’t wasting your golden hours on things that aren’t important.

The 10 Best Business Calendar Apps of 2020

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No disrespect, but the days of hanging a calendar on the wall or placing one on your desk are probably over. You have a calendar with you 24/7 in your pocket thanks to your smartphone. It’s your smartphone and laptop where you can tap into the best business calendar apps. Now, we have the calendar apps of 2020 to keep us organized.

Unlike those old-school paper calendars, an online calendar allows you to access your calendar from multiple devices. Schedule meetings and appointments from anywhere, set-up reminders, create recurring events, block out time for specific events — all in your hand.

If there’s one catch, however, it’s that there are hundreds of online calendars and apps out there. So, which one should you rely-on? To be fair, the online calendar you’re using should already be pretty solid. Google Calendar, Microsoft Calendar, and Apple Calendar have been used by most people to organize and manage their lives successfully for some time. These may be already on your list of top calendar apps of 2020.

However, it seems like every day there’s some sort of new calendar tool launching. We decided to make your life easier and share with you the ten best calendar apps that are currently available. You can either switch over to a new calendar or use these apps to beef-up your existing online calendar.

Best Business Calendar Apps of 2020

We’ve put together a list of the ten best calendar apps of 2020:

  • Calendar for smart scheduling, calendar and productivity tool integration, meeting transcriptions, and analytics
  • Rooster for the ability to manage your calendar and to-do list simultaneously within one app
  • CloudCal for syncing with Google Calendar, Microsoft Exchange, Trello, Evernote, Eventbrite, and Meetup
  • Vantage Calendar for its clean interface and scrolling, visual calendar
  • Business Calendar 2 for its user-friendly dashboard and task organizer that syncs with Google Tasks 
  • Plan for its potential to improve organization and integration with your email, JIRA, Zendesk, Salesforce, and Github
  • TimeTree for sharing your calendar, tasks, and schedule with others
  • Fantastical 2 for its Apple compatibility, sync capability, natural language processing for smart scheduling
  • aCalendar for its customization features and automatic data import from Google Calendar and Facebook.
  • Trevor for its AI power to create smart scheduling and sharing

1. Calendar

Launched in 2017, Calendar solved one of the biggest headaches surrounding scheduling — it eliminated those back-and-forth emails.

By using a smart scheduling link, you can now share your calendar availability with others. When someone sees an open date that works for them, they chose the date, and it’s automatically added to everyone’s calendar.

The free app can also harness the power of machine learning so that it can make smart meeting suggestions based on your previous calendar date.

With Calendar, you can also quickly create events using natural language and a glimpse at your schedule with an innovative map view. It’s timezone friendly, categorizes projects, and has the ability to send invitation follow-ups — Calendar is ideal for teams.

2. Rooster

This app helps you stay on top of everything because you can manage both your calendar and to-do-list in one app. What makes this app unique is that it comes with a single-view design. That means you can just glance at both at the same exact time. With the QuickCal Keyboard, you can add appointments in just a couple of taps.

Another handy feature is the ability to prioritize your tasks by pinning your most important tasks at the top. You can also receive a summary of your schedule, share your calendar with others, and it works with Apple, Google, and Outlook Calendars, making it one of the best calendar apps of 2020.

3. CloudCal

CloudCal is an Android app that has been around for several years. But, it’s one of the few calendars that can unite all of your calendars in one convenient location, making it one of the top calendar apps of 2020. It syncs with Google Calendar, Microsoft Exchange, Trello, Evernote, Eventbrite, and Meetup. This makes organizing and scheduling your calendar a breeze.

The coolest feature offered by CloudCal is the ‘Magic Circles’ feature. This transforms days of the month into clock faces. This way you can see the hours when you’re busy and free with just a glance.

The app also allows you to customize your day, week, and month views, color-code your calendars, receive reminders and invite contacts to meetings through email.

4. Vantage Calendar

This app is equipped with a clean interface that provides a scrolling, visual calendar. This gives you a birds-eye view of your schedule. If you need more details, you can tap on an event to see more information.

Next to your events is your to-do-list. You can simply drag them over a date to make them appear there. To separate the various areas of your life you create “books.”

Vantage also lets you color-code your calendar, assign due dates to your todos, and iCloud, Google, Exchange, Facebook. You can only download Vantage on iTunes.

5. Business Calendar 2

Business Calendar has been a popular Android app for some time now. And, it’s easy to understand why. The app is user-friendly and was designed specifically with professionals in mind. As such, the app lets you navigate easily between month, week, or day ¾views. The task organizer syncs with Google Tasks, you can add event details with your voice, invite attendees to events, and create notifications for recurring events.

While you can download the app for free, you may want to purchase the Pro version to access all more of the robust features to get the most out of this tool that makes our list of top calendar apps of 2020.

6. Plan

This is a newer app that has a ton of potential since it can be used to organize your life.

With Plan, you can sync all of your tools. This means that instead of bouncing between a variety of apps, you can access your tools. You can use a calendar, email, JIRA, Zendesk, Salesforce, and Github in one platform. Plan states that this can save you and your team around 15 hours per week.

Speaking of teams, with Plan you can use its dashboard to see who’s responsible for certain tasks and when they’re doing it in realtime.

This calendar is optimal for one or two users — and you can use Plan for free. Larger teams will have to opt for the $9/month plan.

7. TimeTree

If you’re looking for an app that allows you to share your calendar, schedule, and tasks with your family or co-workers then TimeTree is arguably your best option.

With TimeTree everyone can put their schedules onto one shared calendar. You can then add and edit events or tasks so that everyone in on the same page. There’s also a communications section where you can add comments and attachments.

Perhaps the coolest feature is that you can share your schedule with anyone — even if they haven’t downloaded the app.

TimeTree offers support for Google, Apple Calendar, and Outlook Calendars. It can be downloaded for free at both the App Store and Google Play. You can also download the app directly to your desktop.

8. Fantastical 2

Fantastical 2 has long been a favorite among Apple users as one of the best calendar apps of 2020. It’s packed with features like the ability to sync schedules with others, create events and reminders quickly with natural language and time zone support, and alerts.

The app can also let you know when it’s time to leave for a meeting. There’s also support for Google, iCloud, Facebook, CalDAV, Exchanged, and iPhone calendar.

A lot of users really dig the “Dayticker” feature because it allows you to quickly see which days have been booked out and what’s available. Another popular feature is the “Today Widget” which allows you to access your schedule without having to open the app.

You can give Fantastical 2 a spin for free for 21 days.

9. aCalendar

Here’s another one of the most popular calendar apps of 2020 made for Android users that’s free to download.

With aCalendar, you can customize the calendar by changing the view or colors as you see fit. It transitions smoothly between day, week, and month view. And, you can use it to assign tasks, invite people to events, and create recurring events.

aCalendar also automatically imports all your data from Google Calendar and Facebook.

10. Trevor AI

Finally, we have one of the many AI chatbots that have been given a human name.

Trevor is pretty much a personal assistant that connects your calendar with your phone’s task list. Doing so can help you manage your time more efficiently. How? Because Trevor can find available time slots for you to complete these tasks automatically.

For example, let’s say that you need to pick up groceries or office supplies. You can tell Trevor what you need to buy and after analyzing your calendar Trevor can text you suggested times that would be best for you to run this errand. When you find a time that you like, text Trevor back and the app will schedule this task into your calendar.

Currently, the Trevor app only integrates with iOS Reminders and Todoist. But, more app integrations are expected to arrive soon.

Download Best Calendar Apps of 2020

Even better is that many of these best calendar apps of 2020 are free or low-cost. With more people working remotely than ever before, it even makes sense to see which best calendar apps of 2020 have team tier pricing to ensure everyone has access to these productivity tools.

 

6 Things That Can Jeopardize Your Morning Routine

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Morning Routine

We all have those days when things just won’t go our way. More often than not, they start with a hectic morning.

The morning is an opportunity to set the tone for the rest of your day. That’s why a morning routine is so important: When you make good use of the first few hours, you generate momentum that helps you be productive throughout the afternoon and evening. 

Of course, you can’t plan for everything. Disruptions happen, but they don’t have to throw your entire morning out of whack.

The key is proactivity. If you know what disruptions to expect, you can minimize them. If they do happen, you can mitigate their impact on the rest of your day. These are the top culprits:

1. Your Alarm Doesn’t Go Off

It happens to the best of us: No matter how sure we were about setting our alarm clock, it doesn’t go off.

Maybe you forgot to activate it. Perhaps you set a “p.m.” time instead of an “a.m.” It could have come unplugged from the wall.

The solution is to wake up at the same time every morning. Within a week or two, your body will start naturally waking up at that time.

If you truly need an alarm, get one with a battery backup. Look for a “set it and forget it” model that automatically chimes every morning at the same time.  

2. You Check Your Phone First Thing

These days, you need a smartphone. But that doesn’t mean you should be scrolling through it first thing after you wake up. With all the things to do online and in apps, you may find yourself deeply distracted.

Checking your phone first thing may keep you in bed too long. It can also get in the way of more productive morning habits, such as meditating or exercising.

Don’t use your phone as an alarm clock. Better yet, keep it out of the bedroom altogether. If you struggle to stay accountable to yourself, ask your spouse to remind you. 

3. Your Wi-Fi is Down

Although you shouldn’t stare at your phone first thing each day, there are reasons you might need to get online. You may want to check your online calendar in order to internalize what’s ahead of you. Or you may want to answer emails before you head to the office. 

If your Wi-Fi goes down regularly, there are two ways to get the information you need. You could get a back-up access method, such as a hotspot. You could also do some legwork upfront to keep your morning routine offline. Start by:

  • Saving your calendar offline.
  • Keeping a physical copy of your schedule.
  • Reading a newspaper instead of internet news.
  • Downloading exercise classes, relaxing music, or other streamable media.

4. Your Housemates Interrupt You

If you live with other people, there’s always a chance that they could disrupt your morning routine. Maybe your roommate steals the bathroom when you want to take a shower. Or maybe your kids are demanding attention while you are trying to make breakfast. 

The best way to prevent others from distracting you is to talk with them about your morning routine. Ask about theirs, too. If necessary, post everyone’s morning tasks and times in a public place, like on the fridge.  

Just because you’ve laid out a perfect routine for yourself doesn’t mean it works for everyone else. Be civil, set expectations, and remember that mistakes happen.

5. You’re Stuck on Yesterday.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could start every day with a fresh slate? That’s what mornings are meant for.

With that said, you might struggle to get something from the past out of your mind. Maybe some tragic news event is bothering you. Perhaps you received bad news about a loved one. A fight with a partner can bother you for days.

If you can resolve issues before going to bed, do so. If not, allow yourself time in the morning for introspection. You can meditate or write in a journal during this time. It’s important to get in tune with your emotions so that they don’t overwhelm you. 

6. You’re Missing Your Must-Haves.

You’ve finished most of your morning routine and you are about to leave the house — but you can’t find your keys. You search everywhere, but you can’t seem to find them. Plus, you’re now running late. 

In this scenario, “your keys” could represent anything that you need to leave the house, like your wallet or bus pass. Not being able to find them when you’re leaving can create stress that lasts the rest of the day. 

The key (pun intended) is to keep these items in the same place at all times. Make it a ritual that every time you return home, you put your keys in the same place. 

Disruptions tend to happen at the worst possible times. But a little preparation can go a long way toward preserving your morning routine. And the more consistent you can keep it, the more ingrained it will become. 

Working While Home-Schooling: 5 Tips for Parents

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Working While Home-Schooling: 5 Tips for Parents

Being a parent is a full-time job. But with schools closed amid this coronavirus pandemic, you suddenly have a second full-time role: teacher. On top of that, of course, is your actually full-time job.

Working from home while home-schooling your kids is a lot to ask. Tackling what is, in effect, three full-time jobs can seem downright impossible. It’s understandable that some parents have decided to give up on home schooling altogether.

But in times like these, you have to step up. Your household needs an income, and your kids need an education. Here’s how to balance both worlds without losing your sanity:

1. Revamp your schedule.

Any time you take on a new role, whether at work or in your personal life, you need to give your schedule a second look. Even if you were home-schooling your kids previously, the pandemic has almost certainly shaken up your life. 

Between tutoring your kids, completing work tasks, and taking care of household chores, you almost certainly won’t be working from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Your kids probably won’t be doing school work on their normal 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. schedule, either. Sync your personal and professional calendars to help you make use of the whole day.

If your typical routine isn’t doing it for you, experiment with alternatives. You might:

  • Alternate between school days and workdays.
  • Designate blocks of time for teaching and work. 
  • Trade teaching days with your spouse.
  • Work fewer hours but more days per week.
  • Designate a day for just housework

Readjust your schedule based on what works for you, not what you feel like you should be doing. Be mindful of your prime productivity hours so that you can schedule your toughest tasks for when you have the most energy. 

2. Get your kids on board.

Your new schedule could be bulletproof in terms of work, but you won’t be able to balance it with home schooling unless you get your kids on the same page. 

Your kids need to understand that this isn’t a vacation from school. However, you also don’t want them interrupting you with homework questions while you’re working either. Be sure to set boundaries of space and time so that you don’t have to worry about them invading your Zoom calls.

Don’t try to make all the rules, though. Involve your kids in the process of planning your schedule. Incorporate some of their ideas: If they want to try a four-day school week, let them.

If they have trouble with motivation, come up with a reward system for accomplishing work. Perhaps you can all get takeout for dinner on Friday if they do their homework every day of the week.

3. Coordinate with your spouse.

If you have a spouse or significant other who’s working from home, consider yourself fortunate. Especially if you have kids in multiple grades, you’ll need a teacher’s aide.

Together, decide who will be home-schooling and working when. If one of you works better in the morning, that person can home-school during the afternoon. 

Another good way to divide up the work is by subjects. If one of you loves to write but can’t do algebra, perhaps one person should take English and the other math. Play to your strengths. Teaching, like parenting, is all about teamwork.

4. Stay motivated.

There may be times when you feel like you can’t handle the work. When that happens, it’s easy to lose motivation. But getting down on yourself or letting responsibilities go undone will only make you more stressed.

Instead, take some time to reconnect with your passions. Remember that you’re working toward something that is worth the effort. Your best is always enough: at home, at your job, and with your kids.

Easy, inexpensive ways to rediscover your “why” include:

  • Journaling 
  • Meditating
  • Taking walks
  • Reciting affirmations
  • Practicing gratitude

5. Don’t forget to have fun.

Between housework, home schooling, and regular work, the responsibilities can feel crushing. The solution isn’t to grind yourself into the ground; it’s to enjoy the little things in life. 

Involve your kids and spouse, who are likely feeling the strain as well. This could be a great opportunity to establish traditions like movie nights or game nights. Bonding with your kids will also reduce discipline problems and boost their own motivation. 

That doesn’t mean, however, that you shouldn’t also enjoy time to yourself. At least once a week, enjoy a good book. Go for a run, tend your garden, or call up your best friend from college. 

Staying on top of your many roles right now is about perseverance. Be strong, and keep at it. And remember, there will come a day when you can drop your kids off at school again. Then, you’ll only have two full-time jobs to worry about. Doesn’t that sound nice right now?

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