We’re on part four of a six-part article series on how to leverage being home right now for an extended period of time to prepare you for the road.
Or to say it another way, Six Ways to Leverage Home Life to Improve Road Life.
The first article focused on energy habit #1 of MOVE and how to stand more (think up on your feet not down on your butt), walk more (think forward not just still), run more (think cardio and getting your heart rate up), and lift more (think strength training).
The second focused on energy habit #2 of FUEL and how to leverage the MTHC Formula (Make the Healthiest Choice) to continually hydrate (think early and often), eat clean and green (think fewer ingredients and less processed than more dark greens and vegetables), and snack strategically (think planned energy boost).
The third article focused on energy habit #3 of REST and how to leverage the Strategic Resting Formula to Sleep (think Improve then Increase), Breaks (think Move the Body, Rest the Mind), and Downtime (think Time to Be, NOT to Be On).
The first three energy habits are physical. Now we’ll shift to the mental energy habits.
I’m a HUGE Chicago sports fan and although we’ve had our championship droughts from time-to-time, I’ve seen every professional team in my lifetime win at least one championship.
The ultimate time to be a Chicago sports fan was in the 90s with the Bulls winning six championships in eight years.
In fact, it was so influential in sports history that ESPN created The Last Dance a 10-part docu-series on the last year of Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls but also tying in his entire career, key players, and moments throughout his time with the Bulls.
I’ve watched every episode at least two times and one of the major underlying themes was Michael Jordan’s incredible commitment to perform at the highest level over a long period of time. Even the best in the world, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird saw this in Jordan early on.
He was intentional in everything he did and willing to do whatever it took to perform at the highest level. He made everyone and everything better as a result.
Yet too many road warriors whether we’re on the road or now working from home could NOT take a more opposite approach.
And this is why you may not be performing at your best while working from home.
In The Last Dance, Michael Jordan was willing to do whatever it took to perform at the highest level and would use absolutely anything to motivate him. And that’s exactly what we need to do right now working from home to prepare us for when we get back on the road.
Why You May Not Be Performing at Your Best While Working From Home
There are three elements to a successful Working-From-Home Day to perform at the highest level:
Key Phrase – Think Planned Priorities
I define a plan as “thinking on paper and telling your time where to go.”
There are three main parts of my working from home plan that I call Creating Your Master Evil Plan:
These ironically enough are the same three for Road Life and in the Elite Road Warrior book called Road Plan:
I don’t leave my energy habits up for chance or just whenever I can fit them in. Ironically, I knock out 4 of my energy habits in the Early Morning Window Block before my workday even begins:
Develop – (read my Bible and another motivational book then write in my Elite Road Warrior Journal as well as develop content such as this podcast or a LinkedIn article)
Move – I’ll workout, consisting of Run More / Lift More
Connect – with the Fam in a thoughtful, meaningful way before the day begins
Fuel – hydrate and have a Clean & Green breakfast
I do all of these before the specific energy habit of Perform. Why? To get in what matters most to me and also sets my day up to succeed.
There are three key action items that will determine if your day ahead is a success or not.
I’m not talking about your overwhelming task list.
These are the Key3 that will make or break your day.
How do you know what to choose?
Well, if you DON’T get them done, you won’t feel like you made the most of your day, something was incomplete or missing, or you “didn’t leave it all on the field” to use a sports analogy.
Those are the days when I feel I was busy the entire day but don’t feel like I really got anything done. I look back and think “I was always doing something but what did I actually accomplish?”
For the record, I hate those days and avoid them whenever possible.
And it starts with creating my Key3 for the day ahead.
Here is my process:
- Brainstorm what I want to accomplish for the day (and this is always a long list)
- I look for themes – what are clusters I can group together
- I narrow them down to the most crucial 3
- I list them in order of most important, 2nd most, then 3rd.
- Then I start with my 1st of the Key3.
I want to feel I made the absolute most of the day and did what was key to me and that comes from creating your Key3.
Note: I don’t toss out my ToDo List – I use it to brainstorm then come back to the incomplete portions of the list only AFTER I’ve completed my Key3.
I still need to schedule my Breaks (to move the body, rest the mind) and Downtime (time to be, not to be on) which is my 5th energy habit of the day.
I need to schedule my meetings and appointments for the day ahead or review what has already been scheduled.
Remember the key phrase: Planned Priorities
We want to plan our priorities at the beginning of the day so you perform at your best doing what is most important – on purpose.
This is one element to a successful Working-From-Home Day to perform (which is energy habit #4) and at the highest level with. One down and two to go – after, this short break…
The 1st necessary element to a successful Working-From-Home Day to perform at the highest level was a CLEAR PLAN. Once we have that in place we move to element two:
BLOCK & TACKLE
Key Phrase – Think Planned Road Blocks
Block & Tackle is a football term that means doing the fundamentals to allow your team a chance at winning. A team that does not Block & Tackle well almost always loses because they are undisciplined which results in giving up costly points and useless penalties.
In the business world, Block & Tackle means you’re blocking out a specific amount of time to work on one specific task.
Did you catch that? Block & Tackle means you’re blocking out a specific amount of time to work on one specific task.
On the road, I refer to Block & Tackle as Road Blocks. We’re choosing to put the roadblocks out to put in or block in what is important. I’m intentionally blocking time out on the road for a specific time to work on one specific task.
But pertaining to working from home, we’ll stick with the term Time Blocks.
- Focus Time Blocks – 90-120 minutes blocks of time when we’re especially creative, inspired, and able to do high-level work that requires focus (this would be your key3). Focus blocks fuel your best work.
Critical – NO distractions / turn off all alerts / close email / turn off your phone
- Social Time Blocks – 90-120 minute blocks of time when we’re primed and energetically in the right space to meet other people. This is interacting with people in real-time. This is your video and audio time when you’re home and have meetings, set calls, etc.
Critical – Spread these out throughout the day otherwise it will drain you. Also, take your calls on a walk. Productivity expert, Marcey Rader, calls them Walkie Talkies. Get some movement in, get outside, and double dip with the call and exercise.
- Administrative Time Blocks – 30-60 minutes low-energy blocks of time when we’re not in the zone to do the work that requires “heavy lifting” but there are still types of work to do effectively. Think email, phone calls, CRM work, digital, paper filing, low-level filing, organizing, etc.
Critical – Batch admin tasks together which means lumping the same kind of work together (30 minutes of e-mailing, 30 minutes of calls, 30 minutes of CRM updates).
- Recovery Time Blocks – variable-length blocks of time that we use for activities that recharge us such as a lunch break without a screen, going for a 15-minute mid-morning or mid-afternoon walk to “move the body and rest the mind.”
Remember, the other three-time blocks of focus, social and admin are energy output blocks, and just like a battery that outputs energy, they need to be charged. This is done with the Recovery Time Block.
Critical – Do NOT underestimate or devalue the importance of the recovery time block especially working from home. You need to recharge and stop thinking you’re superhuman and the quality of your work won’t suffer. Lies nothing but lies.
I live my day working from home leveraging these four-time blocks. Each day the amount and length will look different but that can be planned ahead of time and must be scheduled.
Be intentional about putting up Road Blocks that intentionally keep what you want in your day.
The 3rd necessary element to a successful Working-From-Home Day to perform at the highest level is
Key Phrase – Think Planned Energy Boosts
This element of Energy Pacing is the unsung hero of Perform. It’s the Scottie Pippen in energy habits.
You need to know your energy levels throughout the day.
It’s key you match your time block with your energy level. Don’t try and do Focus Work if you’re tired or hungry – your results will suffer.
Pacing is monitoring your energy levels.
I use a term called an Energyologist (another Buckley-ism). My made-up definition for my made-up word is:
AN ENERGYOLOGIST IS THE PERSONAL STUDY OF YOUR ENERGY
The only person who can know your energy is you. Most people don’t even know their own energy levels, so how in the world could they possibly know or even care about YOUR energy?
Become an Energyologist for your own good because it’s a key element for effective pacing.
You must be responsible to monitor your energy levels.
Pacing is asking the right questions.
1. When is my energy highest within the day?
Everyone is different from how energy flows within us during the average day on the road and now at home.
If you tend to be more of a morning person in general, your energy may be the highest at that section of the day. But is it in the early morning when you first wake up? Mid or late morning? The entire morning? If you’re an evening person in general, is it early evening? Late evening? The entire evening?
The key is to match specific levels of work to your energy level. For example, I have the most energy to be creative first thing in the morning. I’m not necessarily social at that time, but my mind is clearest to create. This is my writing time, project time, etc.
This is when I tend to do my deep work, so I try to do whatever I can, even on the road, to match my highest energy level to the time of day that can allow me to maximize my time and efforts. It’s a challenge and a dance, but it’s worth the effort.
2. Why is my energy low right now?
Often, the answer may be as simple as, it’s 2 pm and you’ve not stopped for lunch. Or what you ate for lunch is sitting in your gut like a 20 lb. dumbbell because it was a poor choice. Or because the only movement you’ve had in numerous hours is your fingers on the keyboard and multiple yawn reps.
Sometimes, it’s bigger like running on little or low-quality sleep. This cannot be solved at the moment but can be in a few hours by getting to bed on time or even earlier to bank energy for tomorrow afternoon. Finding the why of your energy drop is key to solving the problem and not repeating it day after day. STOP the bleeding.
3. Is there anything I can do to change my energy level?
Once you know why your energy level is low, you can do something about it.
Go eat something healthy.
Stand up and stretch.
Take a break and go for a quick walk to move the body and rest the mind.
You’ll be surprised how much doing something different puts positive fuel in your body or even gets you moving.
Certain tasks give me a hit of energy so I’ll switch to that task. Listening to some music gets me up along with some quick-hit exercises like push-ups, burpees, and leg squats to get that heart rate up.
You need to figure out what can change your energy level besides getting a hit of sugar that you’ll regret later.
4. How can I match my tasks with my energy?
Sometimes a small tweak is not going to change your energy level. So, I pick a low-energy task that requires more time, and I dedicate the time to that task. I have a list of low-energy tasks I can turn to at any given moment that needs forward motion.
These are the no-brainer, little-to-no-thinking tasks that need attention but definitely NOT during high-energy moments.
Often, working on a few of these tasks for 15 or 30 minutes is all I need to snap me out of the low-energy funk.
Other times, I’m going to ride the low-energy tasks out for the remainder of my day because it’s just one of those days. It’s not a big deal when it is mid- to late- afternoon, but it’s a major concern if it’s 1:05 pm. Learn to match energy with the task.
Pacing is making key changes to boost my energy
1. Change of position
Stretch, stand, walk, do push-ups (seriously, try it!), and just move. Our bodies aren’t designed to sit in one place for long periods of time and this is especially true when you work from home and are seemingly always on a Zoom Call. This ironically zaps the energy out of us, even though all we’re doing is sitting.
2. Change of location
What if I worked in a different location? It may mean moving to a different room or possibly to a completely new environment to make the most of the afternoon. If I’m struggling with my energy, I’ll move to the patio and bring my noise-canceling headphones. A different vibe often brings me a hit of much-needed energy.
3. Change of activity
Learning to have a pulse in my energy is huge for productivity. It’s SO easy to try and force something when the reality is your energy is just not there. Don’t force it. Adjust and evaluate. Sometimes, the worst thing is to force something that ends up taking twice as long with results that are half as good. Holy bad math, Batman.
If you were to only change your energy levels throughout your day, you would see a major difference with the results of your work at the end of the day.
Let’s Make This Happen! Your action items may be:
- Doing as many energy habits as you can before your workday begins
- Creating a Key3
- Getting better at scheduling your day
- Creating Time Blocks for Focus Work, Administrative Work, and Recovery time
- Monitoring your Energy Levels and making changes in the moment to increase your energy
There is so much here to help you perform at the highest level for your work. I challenge you to take and focus on one or two items to up your work game at home.
Michael Jordan is the best basketball player of all time! – Hands down, drop the mic, I’m out