Ceremonies for productive work
At CPS (www.cps.co.uk, @CPS_Solutions), we have been extremely lucky to have been able to adjust our ways of working to accommodate the restrictions that have resulted from the Covid 19 pandemic. As a consultancy with staff located all over England, we have worked and collaborated remotely for many years and so for most staff it has been a seamless transition.
All in all, as an organisation, we have supported each other to continue working effectively. So much so in fact that we are taking on more people, and have a new cohort of graduates starting work.
It is the graduates that sparked this post.
When starting your first job out of college, it is big change, a daunting change and one that you need support with. We always make a significant effort with graduates to ensure that they thrive and grow, but that is doubly necessary when we cannot work face to face.
My advice to our graduates is to think about daily and weekly ceremonies to manage the new realities of starting a profession and working remotely.
It seems a bit silly to dress formally for work, and most of us probably only do that when we meet new clients or when we feel like a change, especially if we are only doing remote meetings.
It is psychologically very beneficial to dress for work though, even if it is a special onesie, or smart joggers. The benefit comes with the mental association of preparing for work to get into the work mentality, and then when the work day is done, changing out of the work clothes and psychologically switching out of the work mindset.
If possible, have a place that you work which is not the same space where you relax. Again this is to do with the association of the purpose of the location. For example, I work in an office, however, I might write blogs in the kitchen, as they are not work.
This is a big change for graduates who may be used to sleeping, working and relaxing in a single bedroom - it is a bad habit that in most cases, may have been unavoidable while studying.
Start the Week
On a Monday morning, take some time and review all of the tasks that you have in Microsoft To Do. Mark the tasks that you plan to do during the week as Important so that you need only focus on them.
Start the Day
Set yourself up for success during the day.
Review the tasks that you have to do and prioritise those that you are planning to complete that day based on due date, priority and the capacity you have to work on them. The tasks you plan to complete in the day should end up in the “My Day” list in Microsoft To Do.
Try to keep to the tasks you have planned to complete!
Focus using the Pomodoro technique to ensure that you complete the tasks you have set yourself while having sufficient breaks to have time to for physical comfort and exercise, screen breaks, and time for managing other distractions such as social media and email.
Review the activities that you have completed, or not completed and ensure that you have planned how to complete new tasks that have arrived during the day.
Emails that need a response or activity should be flagged so that they show up in Microsoft To Do and can be priorities during the “Start the Day” ceremony.
Review the schedule for the next day to ensure that you are prepared for any meetings.
General Ways of Working
Ensure that you have at least five minutes between meetings. Teams meetings are easy to book, but it is hard work having meetings back to back all day. When people book meetings, they may not take the time to check your schedule and understand that you have back to back meetings. When you accept meetings, explain that you will be leaving five minutes early to ensure you have a break before your next meeting.
Block out time that you will use to focus on getting work done. You might choose this period of time as a set of four pomodoros with breaks, or you might choose to book whole days. The reason to book this time is to ensure you have solid blocks of time which others cannot book.