19 Ways To Be Productive During COVID-19

19 Ways To Be Productive During COVID-19

The past several weeks with the coronavirus pandemic have been unprecedented. We are in an environment of fear, stress, uneasiness, and unknowns. While it will take time for us to work through these emotions, it is important that we also try to continue as normal in ways that we can control. Productivity expert Barbara Hemphill said, “Control the things you can, so you can cope with the things you can’t.”  I think this is true now more than ever.

19 Productive Actions You Can Control

One byproduct of social distancing is that many of us have found ourselves with unexpected time on our hands – closings, cancelled events and appointments, reduction in travel time on planes, trains, and cars, and for some, an unfortunate reduction in customers or client work. Why not utilize this time for tasks or projects you have been putting off or just haven’t had the time to address? Take some control by working on things that will strengthen and grow your business, your career, and/or yourself, and create a solid base for “after the virus.”

Below I share a list of 19 productive actions you can take now, along with tips, resources, and recommended tools to assist with the task. Don’t be overwhelmed by the length of the list. Instead, choose a few of the highest priority items for you and/or your business and focus on taking action on those first.

At the end of the article, I provide a free download that will allow you to more easily prioritize each item and track your progress.

Organize Your Office Space and Information

1. Organize your office space

Whether you have a room devoted to work or space within another room, a clear, organized area can help improve focus and productivity. Clear off your floor, desk, and other surface areas. Toss, recycle, shred, or donate any unneeded items. Leave out only those items that add to your productivity, peace, or joy.

2. Clean out and organize your paper files

Divide your files into action (items you are working on now) and reference (items you are keeping for tax/legal reasons or future reference). Label files alphabetically (e.g. client files) or topically.  If you have more than one file drawer full of paper, consider numerical labels and an online inventory of your paper files using the Paper Tiger filing system.

3. Set up a daily and/or monthly action file system

An action file system such as this one by Smead allows you to file papers or cards by day and/or month as reminders to complete a task or to be easy accessible when you need them. Keep the file system in a desktop file along with a few hanging files to hold quick reference papers.

4. Declutter and organize your digital files

Depending on your current structure and content, decluttering and organizing digital files can mean something different for everyone. Start with this checklist of things to think about when attacking your digital world and then develop your unique plan.

5. Set up your email for productivity

Like digital file management, email management can differ depending on the application you use (e.g. Outlook or Gmail), how much email you receive daily, and whether you use your email app for other productivity tasks such as calendar, tasks, and contacts. Check out this past blog post to help you get started with The Only 5 Email Folders You Really Need.

6. Go paperless

Moving towards a paperless environment requires a good scanner. My favorite scanner for moving those piles of paper, notes, and business cards to digital form is the Fujitsu ScanSnap. It is the most expensive tool of all of the resources mentioned here, but well worth the cost if you work with a lot of paper, want to be more digital, and/or often work remotely.

ScanSnap ix500ScanSnap S1300i Portable

7. Manage your contacts

Whether this means scanning or entering business card information, cleaning out old contacts and updating current ones (I use the Duplicate Contacts app for Android and Apple phones – there are many others!), or setting up a full-blown CRM (customer relationship management) system, contact management is a great way to spend some unexpected downtime.

Get Clear on Your Goals

8. Determine your rocks (what is most important)

If it has been a while since you really stepped back to evaluate what is important to you in business and life, this is a great time to get re-centered and focused on what matters most. I am happy to share an exercise I use with individuals and groups for this reason, Big Rocks and Little Rocks: Priority Management Exercise.

9. Develop your 2020 goals

Once you know your “rocks,” you can work to develop your goals for the remainder of the year. I am confident life will get back to normal and when it does, what will you focus on for the remainder of the year?  It’s okay if your goals aren’t perfect right now. Just get something on paper and then reevaluate once the pandemic has passed.

Analyze and Manage Your Time

10. Analyze your time management habits

When it comes to time management, have you ever wondered where you excel? And where you could improve? My favorite tool for surveying and analyzing time management habits is the Time Mastery Profile. After completing the Time Mastery Questionnaire, you are provided with a report showing your strengths and challenges. In addition, you receive a workbook providing tips and an action plan to improve your time management habits. The retail price of the profile and workbook is $48.00 but as an affiliate, I am offering it to you at a $10 discount for the next 3 months. Click below to receive the discount with payment via Paypal or credit card. The profile questionnaire will be sent to you within 24 hours of payment receipt.

Purchase Time Mastery Profile – $38.00

11. Start using a daily time management tool

Now may also be the perfect time to review a few different time management tools to see what might work best once we get back to our hectic lives. I have tried many different paper planners, and the one I always come back to is The Planner Pad due to its funnel system and ability to brain dump tasks by category. A recent Today Show article shared 11 additional planners for your review.

Practice Risk Management

12. Back up your files

You have many options for backing up files, photos, email, and other digital information:

13. Evaluate your financial position

For businesses, utilize your current financial tool to review your actual results versus goals to date in 2020. How will this downtime impact your goals, if at all? If you are not using a financial tool, consider implementing one. Quickbooks, Freshbooks, and Xero are popular options.  (Before introducing a tool such as these, be sure to do a technology needs assessment to ensure you are choosing the right tool for your needs. Last month’s blog shares a list of things to consider when analyzing a new or improved technology tool.)

Individuals should also review the impact of the pandemic on their financial position and develop a resulting budget and plan for the rest of the year.

Work on Yourself

14. Learn or fine-tune a skill

Skillshare, is a great resource for videos and training resources for a variety of skills. And, the first 2 months are free!  A quick search on YouTube or Google will provide many more options.

15. Read a book

While I’m sure you have your own list of “must-read books,” a few non-fiction books I recommend (depending on your need and interests) are:

Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen

Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones

Unstoppable: A 90-Day Plan to Biohack Your Mind and Body for Success

I have a long list of recommended fiction books as well. Let me know if you are interested, or share your favorites in the comments below.

16. Get/stay healthy (exercise, meditation, healthy eating)

Getting and/or staying healthy when stuck at home takes a little bit of work. Since my normal workout location is closed, I joined an on-demand site with videos of the classes I normally take and purchased an inexpensive weight set on Amazon.com. Many workout locations and online exercise sites are providing free challenges, workouts, and videos. In addition, you can find several meditation, yoga, and recipe or meal apps in your phone’s app store.

17. Spring clean your home

Okay, I know this isn’t really “working on yourself” but It is a great way to feel better about yourself and your environment, and a clean, clutter-free home can help you feel more productive in your home office. Here are a few Spring Cleaning Checklists to track your progress. I chose to use the third as I felt it was the most inclusive and I liked that it gave me space to add my own tasks.

The Happier Homemaker

Freebie Finding Mom

Imperfect Homemaking

Give Back

18. Send cards, texts, or emails

Make someone feel a little less lonely or just make someone smile with a note of thanks or encouragement.

19. Help others

Giving can be financial, but doesn’t have to be. Drop off needed supplies or other physical donations, safely volunteer your time if you are healthy and able, or donate blood. You might also share your expertise or knowledge to help others in areas of need during this time, as is my hope with this blog. Buzzfeed and PBS share lists of other ways to help during the pandemic. And this article from Bankrate provides a unique idea – giving back utilizing your credit card rewards points.

Free Downloadable Checklist

I realize this is a long list!  Not every item will apply or be important to every reader. In order to prioritize and track your unique action list, I am providing a free, downloadable checklist below. Be sure to refer back to this blog for the supporting resource links.

If you are in need of assistance, coaching, or support related to any of these tasks, please reach out via my contact page or by scheduling your free 30 minute productivity assessment. All of my work can be done virtually via phone or video call.

I wish all of you health, safety, love, and peace over the coming weeks and months. Spend time with family, call your friends, give back, focus on you, and control what you can.

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Get Unstuck with a Simple Project Plan

Get Unstuck with a Simple Project Plan

Have you ever read a book that changed your life? At the recommendation of several friends in the business world, I recently completed Building a Story Brand by Donald Miller. Donald promises that after reading his book you will be able to “use the 7 elements of great storytelling to grow your business.” Before reading Building a Story Brand, I had never been excited about marketing. It does not come naturally to me, I am not good at it, and it is not fun for me….at least these have been my excuses for when I don’t put in the time and effort needed as a business owner.

The content of Building a Story Brand really struck a chord with me and provided me with a way to view “marketing” like I haven’t before, but this isn’t a book review. The truly eye-opening result of the book was that I was reminded of the importance of two things for any successful endeavor:

  1. A clear vision that resonates and
  2. a simple project plan.

While I had hired marketing experts in the past to assist me with specific pieces of my branding and marketing, I did not have an overriding plan that resonated with me. This book provided that for me. For someone who helps clients clarify their goals and develop customized productivity plans for a living, I’m embarrassed to admit it took this long to realize what I was missing!

Building a Plan for Productivity

What have you been procrastinating, or avoiding, in work or life? What projects have been slow-moving or “stuck” within your office or business? What reasons have you, or your team, used for not taking action? Could it be that you also need a clear, concise plan that resonates? Project plans not only provide the step-by-step tasks needed to reach your goals but can also help you “get unstuck” and motivate you and your team. (For more tips on tackling procrastination, check out “Reduce Procrastination with 3 Powerful Steps”.)

Parts of a Successful Project Plan

When creating or revising a plan, be sure to include the following important aspects:

Create a Vision for Success

What will the final result look like? How will success feel? What will you be able to do that you can’t do now? What drives you and your team towards this vision?

Determine Your Goals and Actions

Define the high-level goals that are needed to reach your end vision and put specific action steps behind them. Don’t make it too difficult at first – you can fine tune as you go.

Evaluate Your Resources

What human, technology, budgetary and other resources are needed to reach your goals?  What do you have now and what additional resources are needed?

Schedule Your Actions

Once you have your actions and resources defined, you can determine a schedule for completion. Consider choosing an end-date and working backwards. Or, choose intermediate deadlines for the high-level goals and then schedule your action steps to meet those dates.

Celebrate and Maintain Your Success

Celebration is a great bridge between project completion and maintenance. You will also need to determine how you will maintain your success.

Consider Your Risks and Obstacles

For most projects or goals, it’s also important to consider and discuss any risks and obstacles you might encounter along the way and how they’ll be addressed.

Just Get Started

The most important thing is to get started, or “just do it” as Nike® would say. If you don’t have a complete, detailed vision or if you aren’t yet sure of the resources needed for each goal or task, that’s okay. You can start with a good framework and add to it – or even change direction if needed – as you go. Start small to gain momentum. Don’t waste another day before tackling that project, writing your book, or getting healthier. Whatever your end goal, just jot down your vision, goals and tasks and take action!

P.S. If plan development isn’t your thing, I’d love to help. I’ll listen to your needs, help you fine-tune your vision and goals, and document the action steps needed to reach your vision. I can also remain by your side to provide support and accountability as you walk through your customized plan. Schedule your free 30 minute productivity assessment to see if productivity coaching is right for you.

Create Your Top 10, and Bottom 10, List

Create Your Top 10, and Bottom 10, List

One of the most successful exercises I have done related to time management is to create two written lists which help me focus, set priorities and ensure I am working on the right things. The first list states “10 Things I Want to Be Doing That I am Not Currently Doing” and the second list states “10 Things I am Doing that I Would Rather Not Be “.

The lists cover not only career related items, but personal items as well – anything that I feel will bring the appropriate balance, direction and focus to my life. Just the act of forcing myself to think through these lists, and write them down, taught me more about myself and my priorities then any prior exercise.

Gain Focus and Accountability

I then shared my lists with an accountability partner, who did the same. We talked through our lists and discussed how we might change our current situation to address the items on the lists. We then chose an item from each of our individual lists that we felt were not only high priority, but that could reasonably be achieved in the time we set for ourselves.

We continued to speak on a scheduled basis. We discussed our progress and when we were ready, choose another item from our lists to focus on until we spoke again. Forcing myself to write down BOTH lists gave me more focus and direction than I’d had in a long time. Knowing that I had a partner that was interested in my actions and goals kept me motivated. If I felt myself distracted or not sure what I should be working on, I could go back to my lists and conversation notes and once again become focused on what is most important.

Try It

Why not take 15 minutes and try this exercise for yourself. Create your two lists and find a partner to keep you focused and hold you accountable. I’m confident your productivity will increase as well. Let me know how it goes by coming back and commenting below.

Need an accountability partner? Shoot me an email at lori@alifemadesimple.com to learn more about how Productivity Coaching can help you overcome overwhelm, get clear, and reach your goals.

The Superman: Goal Achieved

The Superman: Goal Achieved

A couple months ago, my two daughters and I had the chance to do something I never thought I’d do. Typically, my fear of heights and “mother instinct” would have prevented me and my girls (ages 9 and 12) from experiencing one of the best adventures of our lives. But thanks to Vallarta Adventures, I overcame my fear and accomplished The Superman, the longest and fastest zipline in Mexico. What did Vallarta Adventures do? To answer simply, they started small.

After the one hour journey into the jungle, our guides suited us up with our helmets, harnesses and gloves and provided general instructions for the day’s adventures. We then headed out for our first zipline. While I was a bit nervous, I also knew that children over the age of 8 were able to partake in this Extreme Adventure experience, so how bad could it be? The first zipline was pretty low-stress for most as we started on a platform overlooking a gradual decline, not a straight drop-off as I had imagined. As the day went on, the ziplines gradually became longer and higher. Additional adventures such as climbing a steep rope wall, repelling from a tree branch, walking a tightrope between two trees, and jumping from a platform attached only to a “bungee swing” provided the group with increased bravery and trust as the day progressed.

Goal AchievedFinally we came upon our last zipline, The Superman. By this time, I had complete trust in our guides, the equipment, and my own judgment that my children and I would be safe. If we would have been asked to do the Superman first, or even earlier in the day, I likely would have told the guides they were crazy. But because they started small and gradually built us up, even though the course was still a little scary, there wasn’t a doubt in my mind that we would all ride the longest and fastest zipline in Mexico. Their process resulted in an end goal that was achievable, low stress and fun.

What adventures or goals are you missing out on because of fear, anxiety, stress or overwhelm? How can you apply Vallarta Adventure’s process to your work or your life? Maybe you would like to be more organized or productive, but have obstacles keeping you from getting started. Perhaps you have a career or business goal that seems out of reach. What is one small action you can take towards reaching your vision? Perhaps it is making that first phone call to set up a meeting, tackling a pile of papers on your desktop or signing up for a class related to your goal. After that one action is complete, what is your next action, and the next? Step by step, you will start to gain confidence and trust, and your vision will become clearer. Soon, you will be flying…