I always enjoy watching autumn arrive, its beautiful hues washing over the remains of summer. Vacations and long days spent keeping the kids occupied now in my rear view, I can’t wait to get back to a routine. My desk, which I’ve rarely seen this summer, due to a move into a new house and the “stuff of life”, looks all but abandoned. In fact, the most attention I’ve given to my work area, understandably if you know me, is my well-ordered bookshelf. But autumn has arrived and it’s time to get on with it, whatever “it” is to be.
This fall, thanks to an impromptu Twitter chat, I decided to dedicate more time to my writing. I’ve found quite the supportive environment on the platform, both personally and professionally. My friend, Tom Reid (@GovComSME) proposed that our community keep each other accountable to encourage a sort of rededication to our prose. The idea wasn’t lost on me as I’d had measurable success through my writing and felt that a return to a writing routine would be key to my sustainable future. That said, I needed a plan that would map out a productive work environment, work schedule, and realistic goals. So I got busy returning to my most productive self. And because we could all use a little help, I decided to share my plan with you and hope that you’ll return the favor.
About a year ago, I converted from a traditional office to a home office environment. This was both economical and practical, as my kids’ schedules were all over the place and my business was growing. I was traveling for business so much, it no longer made sense to be stationary. Working from home, while allowing for some wonderful flexible options, can be very challenging. It’s very easy to fall into unhealthy and non-productive habits when nobody’s watching. So, the first piece of advice for myself and for us all is, show up. I was determined not to become a pajama-wearing would-be entrepreneur. My income helps feed my family and I need to look like an earner. My profession has become more casual in recent years but I still put forth the effort. I feel I’m more productive if I take time to get dressed in the morning. This also helps when I have to run out for a meeting or have a teleconference scheduled. I tend to choose trends that I can dress up or dress down, depending on the occasion. Having a capsule wardrobe can ensure you always have an appropriate look that’s flexible and travels well. My fall capsule wardrobe includes 10 flexible pieces: 1 white blouse, 1-navy, trendy button-front top, 2 wrap tops (as shown), 1 great fitting pair of jeans (also shown), 2 pairs of black pants, and 3 pairs of absolutely fabulous shoes, that you love. Admittedly, my shoes serve two purposes; I like to look like a million bucks when I show up to Starbucks for my $8 cup of coffee and speaking gigs. Women who attend conferences are bitchy; they clock your shoes the minute you step in the room. The right shoes can be networking gold. Don’t forget to accessorize according to the way you like to rock it. I always have my seasonal Michael Kors bag to finish off a look. It’s an addiction; don’t judge me.
I also take time to put my best face forward. In my opinion, if you like the way you look, you’ll be more productive. Putting your best face forward doesn’t necessarily have to include makeup but in my case, it does. I love makeup and I apply at least a little each morning. It boosts my confidence and it’s simply lovely. If you don’t want to spend a lot of time applying a full face, I suggest a go-to look for work. I use a basic routine; it cuts down on time without sacrificing look or effort. My staple makeup look includes Laura Mercier blemish-less primer, Nars All Day Luminous Weightless Foundation, Nars creamy concealer, and Laura Mercier translucent powder. Of course, I always have ColourPop on my lips and Clinique on my eyes.
Once you have your look on, you have to nourish your body. In the past year, I’ve started meal planning to help with my fitness goals. However, another benefit to meal planning is the cost and time savings. I plan out meals weekly unless my bff posts something delicious looking on social, that I just have to try. For breakfast, I aim for protein and fruit. Of course, no morning is complete without coffee.
A well-organized work area can be your most productive hack. When you work from home or are rarely at an actual desk, it can be hard to stay organized. The challenges are real. You might be like me and need to have things at your fingertips while working remotely or you may be like “Tuesday me” and need to have multiple screens going at all times. Whatever your journey, organize your work space. Set up your home work space in a way that optimizes productivity. Customize your space according to how you work. My best advice would be; have a space for everything and let it live there. For me, I have to keep a PC monitor raised above the work area on my desk. On my desk, I have my MacBook Pro and my desk calendar. I often get questions about my desk calendar. Some will ask, “Why don’t you just use an e-calendar?” Or I’ll get comments like, “That looks like too much work”. I do have a digital calendar but I also like a desk calendar. It helps me map out my week when travel is heavy and I find it’s great for helping me stay creative.I use the Ikea Alex file system (see pic at header) to house client projects and to store overstock of copy-paper and supplies. One piece of advice for entrepreneurs, don’t skimp on your copier. Purchase one that produces quality work, quickly. A 3-D printer is a great investment if your work calls for it. But even with regular copiers, clients can tell if your work has been produced cheaply. Don’t do it.
For those times when I’m working remotely or visiting clients, I have a go kit. A go kit is a great time saver. I’ll go over what’s in my go kit in a separate post but simply put, you have to pack things that lend themselves to various worksite situations. You should also include things that optimize productivity while on the go. My favorite go-to item is a coffee mug. Just kidding, but I do like to have my tablet fully charged and ready to go for meetings scheduled at coffee shops or space-limited settings.
Finally, be accountable. Find like-minded or industry-related support for your work. Being in business for yourself doesn’t have to mean being in business by yourself. Forming collaborative partnerships can offer great opportunities but can also serve to keep you on track with your goals. I’d advise you to participate in Twitter chats, follow blogs that support what you’re doing, and get out of the office. When productivity or creativity stalls, go for a walk. Dr, Joseph Kvedar, author of The Internet of Healthy Things suggests getting up a few time a day and taking a stroll. I started doing this recently and it does stimulate my thought process. Accountability spawns productivity. Learn it; live it.