Sunday, February 8, 2015

7 Tips for Working From Home on Snow Days

snowed in from blizzard

If you're in the northeast, like I am, you've probably had to work from home once a week for the past few weeks. Thanks, climate change!

For those of you whose job depends on being physically present, enjoy your snow day with reckless abandon.

But for those who need to work remotely while their friends day-drink and tumble into snowbanks, here are a few tips for staying focused and getting work done.

1. Wake Up At Your Usual Time

Wake Up Alarm Clock

This helps your body recognize that it's a weekday so you can stick to your routine a little better. Personally, I could never follow the advice to wake up at the same time every day, since I love to sleep in on the weekends. So on a snow day, I compromise: I sleep in for the amount of time that I would have spent commuting, but I eat breakfast, shower, and start working at my usual time.

2. Wear Appropriate Clothing

Fleece Unicorn Onesie
I find I'm surprisingly productive in my fleece unicorn onesie. No joke.

When you get dressed for the day, wear whatever will make you feel most productive. Usually changing into your normal work attire is a good choice. Some people need to wear shoes in order to feel "on." Or maybe you need to compensate by dressing in a 3-piece suit. Generally, it's a good idea to change out of the PJs you wore to bed.

3. Claim Your Workspace

Work From Couch

It's important to distinguish between work space and non-work space. If you usually sit at a desk at the office, sit at a desk or table at home. Again, when you recreate your physical routine of working, you'll work more effectively.

Conversely, if you usually lounge on the couch to unwind from work, don't work from your couch. Your subconscious will be very confused.

4. Block Out Distractions

Literally, there are free tools you can use to block distracting websites for a specific amount of time. In the morning, carve out blocks of time when you need to be productive, and make sure to block Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, or whatever other internet black hole sucks up your time.

5. Don't Have a Working Lunch -- Have a Cooking Lunch

If you usually eat at your desk or grab a bite at the office cafeteria, take advantage of your snow day and try something a little different. Cook a warm meal, maybe something you don't usually have time to cook at the end of the day. Crock pot meals, stews, gumbos, stir fries, or casseroles are a nice alternative than the usual sandwich, right? And since you're already home with all your ingredients (you stocked up before the storm, right?) and cookware, you have no excuse not to cook.

I find that cooking a meal injects a much-needed change of pace into a work-from-home day. Give your brain a chance to shift gears, and you'll be fresher when you return to your desk.

If you need to work during your lunch, try cooking while listening to an industry podcast or webinar. If you have a lot of email to catch up on, you can use an app to read it aloud for you while you're chopping vegetables.

6. Keep In Touch

Tin Can Phone

If all else fails, hold yourself accountable to your coworkers. Check in with your team via email to review priorities and tasks for the day. Have a meeting via conference call -- or video conference if you're feeling fancy.

One tactic is to email your supervisor in the morning with your plan of action for the day, and indicate that you'll notify them at the end of the day if something didn't get done. That puts pressure on you to keep on task or else admit that you mismanaged your time.

7. Take An Afternoon Snow Break

take a snow break

When you hit your afternoon slump around 3pm, lace up your winter boots and take a snow break. The chilly air will perk you up, and a walk around the block -- or a quick snowball fight -- will get your blood pumping again. After a couple minutes, you'll be cured of stiff legs and cabin fever, eager to warm up with a mug of cocoa -- which you should promptly brew.

Enjoy your snow day, everyone!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Don't Be a Toxic Networker

Bad Networking

Have you ever struck up a conversation with someone at a networking event, only to glance at your watch 5 minutes later and realize you still haven't gotten a word in yet? One of the following is happening:

1) They're really enthusiastic about their project and want to share it with you, but they're coming on a little strong.

2) They're telling a story but they're not very concise.

3) They just love hearing themselves talk.

1 & 2 are forgivable. Number 3 is not. 

I can usually tell when that's the case. I test out my theory by sending body language cues that I'm losing interest. I start by gradually reducing positive reinforcement: I stop nodding or saying "mhm" as they speak. Then I'll stop reacting vocally or facially to what they're saying. If it gets really bad, I'll stop looking at them entirely.


They're completely oblivious to the other person in the "conversation." They might as well be talking to a wall.

Clearly this does not make a good impression. It's insulting. And they've just spoiled a potentially valuable connection.

Don't let this be you!

Here's how to avoid being a toxic networker.

1. Ask them about themselves first

After the initial introduction, start off by asking them a question about themselves. This demonstrates interest in the other person, which is polite and flattering. A great way to start.

2. Allow for pauses

When you're chatting someone up, it's easy to get on a roll. But make sure you find natural pauses. Breathe between sentences. This makes for a more comfortable conversation anyway, and it gives the other person a chance to respond if they're truly engaged -- or a chance to change the subject to something more pertinent. The other person might really want to contribute to the conversation, but if you don't give them an opportunity, you'll never know.

3. Check for signs of disinterest or distraction

As you're talking, take note of how the other person is responding. Look for cues that they're engaged (nodding, making eye contact, smiling, etc.) or lack thereof. Similarly, look for cues that they're distracted (checking their phone, looking around the room, angling their body away, etc.). If you notice both a lack of engagement AND distracted body language, you're overdue to pass the conversation on to them.

4. Don't hog the conversation

It's fine to have a lot to say, but you don't want to dominate the conversation. That sends the message that your needs are more important or interesting than theirs.

To prevent this, pay attention to how much time you're talking vs. listening. If the imbalance is more than 60:40, let them do more of the talking.

5. Listen

If the other person is talking, make sure you are listening -- not waiting for your turn to speak. The difference is palpable. 


Stay tuned for more networking tips!