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Category Archives: Thrive at Work

If you asked us at the beginning of the COVID pandemic what life would be like in December, most people would probably say, “December?! Surely, life will be back to normal by then.”

The reality, however, is that life is STILL different, there are more COVID cases than ever, and we’re still in for a long road ahead. Even if we do manage to get the pandemic under control, it’s certain that life will never quite be the same.

The number one change I’m anticipating is this: Work From Home (WFH) will become the new normal.

Are you ready for that change? What will you need to do to adapt?

In the not-so-distant past, working from home was not even an option for most people. We were expected to go into the office five days per week, 52 weeks per year. At the drop of a hat, that changed. People set up makeshift offices at home, and we began communicating with co-workers exclusively over email or video conferencing. We figured out dozens of tiny details (from childcare to finding a home printer/scanner), and then we dove in.

And, do you know what? Most people have been able to pull it off. Sure, we might miss our co-workers or miss the change of scenery, but many people have found that they enjoy certain aspects of working from home. The casual dress code, the ability to skip the daily commute, the money savings from eating lunch at home, the freedom to take an afternoon break–all these benefits have got people thinking about making WFH a permanent change.

Are you ready for that change?

Is your home office set up the way you like it? Have you figured out your new routine? If not, I urge you to give these items some thought. How can you, for example, set up a fairly disciplined schedule so you make sure you get your work done on time (and are not distracted by things like dirty dishes!)? How can you make sure you have an effective morning routine?

One way to amp up your WFH productivity is to think of it like you would think about working from an office. Commit to waking up at a set time, establish a morning routine (walk the dog, make coffee, stretch, etc.), and then begin your day. You might work in sprints (setting a timer and fully immersing yourself in a project for an hour or two) or be on the clock from a certain time in the morning to a certain time in the afternoon.

Figure out what works for you and ease into your new routine. Remember, your new routine may NOT look like your old work routine. For example, if you find that you tend to have an afternoon slump (Daniel Pink, who studies productivity, aptly calls this an afternoon “trough”), take a break mid-afternoon. You might exercise, stretch, do a crossword puzzle, or even take a short nap. This may mean you’ll work later in the afternoon, BUT your brief respite will ideally make you more productive than you would have been otherwise (meaning you’ll potentially complete the same amount of work in much less time).

And, about the home office: Be sure to invest in comfortable, ergonomic furniture. No one can do their best work if they’re putting up with a creaky, uncomfortable chair and a crowded desk all day. Make your workspace a place you want to be. That, alone, can make a huge difference.

Working from home IS becoming the new normal, whether you’re ready or not. Chances are, many workplaces will adopt a hybrid of the WFH model, but even so, it’s best to be prepared for this to become a permanent reality. With a suitable WFH setup and an effective routine, you’ll be prepared for whatever the work future holds!


MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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work from home

With the COVID pandemic, many of us have had to adjust to working from home (WFH), but unfortunately, not everyone has fallen into a groove. Some people still feel out of sorts or less productive at home than in the workplace. With the pandemic still lingering AND many companies thinking about making WFH a permanent state, it’s a good idea to think about amping up your productivity.

Here are 6 practical Work From Home tips to help you get on track:

1. Find Your Morning Groove

When working from an office, you naturally fall into a morning routine. You get dressed, perhaps make a cup of coffee, and commute to work by car/bike/public transit. With WFH, that comfortable routine gets obliterated. You might wake up later or stay in your pajamas or eat breakfast at odd hours.

This week, commit to following a strict routine. Get up at the same time, eat your meals on a consistent schedule, exercise at a set time during the day. Following a routine can help get your brain in “work mode” right away.

Another helpful tip: Do NOT check your email right away. Instead, tackle the one project that demands the most concentration. Work on it for an hour or 90 minutes, THEN check your email. You’ll find that you’re able to accomplish more during the day when you practice this healthy habit.

2. Get Dressed

Okay, sure. Maybe you DO get dressed in the morning when you work from home, but you probably don’t dress like you do when you go into the office. If you find that you’re feeling less attentive and less productive at home, try dressing in office attire this week. Notice how it makes you feel. Are you more productive? Do you feel more professional?

Dressing for the office can put you in a work mindset and make you feel more in control of your day.

3. Cut Distractions

If you find that you tend to check social media or hop onto YouTube during the day, try installing a browser extension to temporarily block those websites. Search for “block social media,” and you should find many different blocking programs.

If you’re distracted by your surroundings instead (dirty dishes, for instance, or laundry), try keeping yourself on a strict time schedule. For instance: From 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 you can only do work, but between 1:00 and 1:30, you’re allowed to take a short break to tackle a household chore or two.

4. Set Timers

If you’re having trouble concentrating during the day, trying focusing on a single project for a set amount of time. Pick a project, close your email, and set your timer for an hour or 90 minutes. ONLY work on that project. Do NOT multi-task! You might be amazed by how much you can get done when you’re singular in focus.

5. Take Charge of Emails

If you tend to get derailed by emails throughout the day and feel like you’re always trying to stamp out little fires (Urgent request! I need your help with XYZ! Please respond, ASAP!), practice setting healthy email boundaries. Try only checking your email three times per day–once in the morning, once midday, and once toward the end of the day–or even twice per day, if you can get away with it.

Taking charge of your emails can help free up your schedule so you can pay attention to the crucial projects that you have on your plate.

6. Set Your Own Schedule

If you’re feeling disjointed and fed up with all the video meetings, emails, and phone calls that seem to command your day, resolve to take charge of your schedule. If you keep a public e-calendar, be sure to set aside blocks that are strictly YOUR time–time for you to focus on the projects you need to complete.

(For more tips on setting healthy boundaries, take a look at my recent blog post.)

Part of controlling your own schedule means saying NO to certain requests. If you already have too much going on in a given day, don’t be afraid to draw a line in the sand and turn down a request to meet. You can always suggest meeting on a different date.

Developing good habits while you WFH will not only help you successfully navigate working out of your house, but can also assist you when you begin working out of an office. Many of these tips are applicable to work both in and outside of a traditional workplace. It’s all about establishing an effective routine and creating healthy boundaries.


MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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If you’re like many people I know, you’re probably incredibly busy ALL the time. If you’re a parent, you’re running around, making sure your kids are fed, educated, keeping active, and staying safe. If you work, your days are likely filled with emails and deadlines, meetings and reports. If you’re a caretaker for someone who is ill or disabled, you have the added obligation of taking care of another life, in addition to your own.

If you find yourself thinking at the end of the day, “Where did the time go?”, chances are, you need to slow down. Or, at the very least, you need to pause and take a moment to celebrate YOU.

While that might sound selfish, in reality, it’s not. It’s healthy to feel good about ourselves and our accomplishments. This is what gives us strength to keep going—to keep doing what we’re doing.

I encourage you to take a few minutes to jot down your recent accomplishments. What big things have you achieved this year? This month? What smaller things did you accomplish this week or even this morning? Include items like milestones reached, interpersonal successes, personal growth/lessons, altruism or volunteerism, etc. The items could be work-related (I turned in my quarterly report on time; I learned how to use Zoom) or personal (I made sourdough bread for the first time; I helped my daughter with XYZ).

Now, take a look at your list. I bet you’ve done a lot this year! And I bet you’ll think of more items to add to your list as the day goes on.

Everything you’ve achieved this year is worth celebrating. These are signs that you’re making a difference, whether in your own life, the lives of others, or in the workplace. You matter. Don’t lose sight of that.

Don’t forget to acknowledge your actions in some way—a nice dinner, a new book, a popcorn-and-movie night. These small rewards will help motivate and rejuvenate you for tomorrow.

And whenever you’re wondering, “Where is the time going?”, pull out your list and add to it.


MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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