You wake up and get ready for your workday with all great intent to crack open your laptop, cross things off your list, and win the day! But first, you must get the kids ready for school, take them to school, all while checking emails… you return to your laptop only to catch yourself scrolling on your phone, responding to texts from your kids, family, and significant other, do a bit more work, then you remember the laundry, respond to random work calls and so-called emergencies, back to social media you go, attend a few virtual meetings, make lunch, prepare for dinner, might as well clean the house a bit, get back to work, and with no de-escalation drive home from work… you immediately transition to the second half of your day to be Supermom or Superdad… sleep and repeat! Sound familiar?
As an adult with ADHD, a business owner, and an author… I’m darn good at leading through distraction, but to be honest… I still need to refer to what I’m about to teach you at least twice per year; as so many of us experience the positives of remote work, but also the concerns… leading to increased anxiety, depression, and burnout. So, what to do?
First thing’s first, before we learn the 5 Keys to best lead through distractions… we must identify who we are, how we are, and the pros and concerns of each type:
This is the Remote Worker that gets up, starts their workday, and can literally go from sunrise to sunset getting work done! This is my wife… when we first married, our styles did not mesh well when it came to household anything. She can go, go, go on one thing all day long; with no break… I do not, Lol! The Pro is, Famer Brown gets a lot done and crosses things off their list at an epic pace. The concern is, they may tend to work with blinders on; desiring to focus on only what’s right in front of them and not on developing the Team. As a Leader, your work is important… but, so are your People, their issues, crisis, speaking their professional languages, mentoring them, and selling your position… so they may desire to be in your role one day. Therefore, it’s important to intentionally connect with your Team, and have your 1-on-1’s to know how to best impact and assist!
This is me, in all of my ADHD Glory and very different from my wife! If I had to work on one thing all day long, I’d lose my mind… more appropriately, my focus! “The Squirrel” tends to bounce from task to task… completing some here, there, returning to it, and repeating. The Pro is, they enjoy their work, they’re interested in multiple areas of the business, and may be good or adequate at multi-tasking. The concern is, it may take longer to complete tasks, honor deadlines, and remember smaller but important details. This may also be the Leader or Employee that takes a thousand breaks. I often joke, my neighbors must think I’m crazy as they see me check my mailbox 20 times per day. I KNOW there’s no mail in there … rather, I need the break and the walk that allows me to get up, walk outside (no matter the weather), get some fresh air, and reset. Therefore, it’s important to be aware of your priority list, keep notes, have a list to best plan your day, but knowing what your 1-3 wins of the day really are. “Busy” is not always “Better”… Be Mindful!
The By the Book!
This Remote Worker does exactly what’s on their list, what was given to them, or the job description! The pro is, what you hired them for is exactly what you’re going to get! The concern is… most jobs and responsibilities are fluid. “The By the Book” may resist additional responsibilities due to either a rigid mindset or simple unwillingness. In either case, it’s the organization’s responsibility to hire and expect the 3P’s… Leaders and Employees that are Positive, Passionate, & Productive. It’s also important to place the expectations of remote work in the job description, have honest and impactful 1-on-1 Meetings (we’ll discuss later), and being willing to have challenging conversations to uphold high company standards and expectations.
However, that does not mean an organization gets to abuse their Employees by dumping more and more work or the work of lost employees without compensation of some sort; especially when the request is expected for an indefinite period of time. Leadership is about positively influencing, impacting, and protecting our people… and you cannot do that if they are working remotely and burning out, in an office you can’t physically visit… Be Mindful!
The Forget About It!
Let’s face it, some people are not cut out to do remote work! They accepted the job, meant well, but left to their own devices, cannot get out of bed before 12:30pm, don’t have the bandwidth to complete a single task while being that close to their bed or couch, and really need an office setting to thrive!
Now you know which Remote Worker you are… and I’m sure you had visions of a few employees you know; what to do to help lead through Remote Work Distractions?
It’s a great idea to start your day off with a list… I recommend it, but you know like I know how easy it is for your day to get thrown off track. Therefore, schedule times to place your phone (your biggest distractor) in another room, schedule specific times to check your email, to do deep work, and develop a working definition of what an “Emergency” really is with your team.
Now, don’t get fired because Andre Young told you to lose your phone and not check your emails. There are jobs where time zone issues are sensitive, deadlines need to be met, or actual life or death situations. By all means, have your phone and check your emails! However, when you can… schedule time for your phone to be away from you to decrease the amount of scrolling for a dopamine hit, text from family, friends, and kids, or gaming. If only for 30 minutes, an hour, or short spurts of time throughout a day… You’d be surprised how freeing it is!
Schedule time for deep work. This is time intensely focused on a task or project without interruptions. It’s amazing how much you can accomplish and the clarity you can gain, in less time than you think, when we’re not bombarded with interruptions! When you can, schedule times to check your emails… perhaps it’s in the morning, before lunch, after lunch, two hours before your workday, and at the end of the workday. You know your job better than me, so select a pattern that makes sense for you, your Team, and the organization. Back in my employee days, I retorted to my boss, “Do you want me to do my job or read emails all day?”. I don’t suggest you repeat what I said; however my point was, I want to do what I love and what I signed up for and it’s impossible to do it with the amount of emails I was expected to read and respond to in real-time.
Lastly, define with your Team what an “Emergency” really is! Every email seems like an emergency… some are, some are not… and a problem in every organization is when EVERYTHING is a High Priority/Handle Now!
So, how to do all of this like a Leader? Offer a solution, a plan, and ask for permission! It may sound like, “Hi__, Happy Monday and I hope all is great! I’m enjoying the work I’ve been getting to do and have an idea I believe will help make my work better and me a better employee. I’d like to share it with you to see what you like and anything you’d fine-tune or change. Lately, I’ve been inundated with projects, emails, etc. Moving forward, I’d like to schedule it or my day like ____. I think this will help me do ___, the organization by ___, and my clients/customers by ___. I’m always open to feedback. Thanks so much, I look forward to hearing from you, and have an awesome rest of your day!”. Feel free to make this your own; as the flow keeps you a Team Player, a Leader with a suggested solution, an idea that helps you, your team, and clients, and removes your ego and invites theirs in… Be Mindful!
This Key is short and sweet! Remember, you’re not the only Leader or Employee working remotely. Stay connected with your Team, those in other departments you depend on, and those you serve. They’re going through the same thing you are… why not let one of your emails be a nice reach-out simply saying Hello, just wanted to stay connected, see how you’re doing, if there’s anything they need from you, and letting them know the best way to connect with you when necessary. In our Hybrid and Remote Work world, the only way many colleagues know each other is through that regularly scheduled virtual call and emails… then doesn’t that mean every word we say is more important than ever? Be sure to make your words, emails, and virtual calls count as you better connect!
In other articles, videos, and certainly in my Trainings I delve into HOW to have the most cancelled and rescheduled meeting across all organizations… The 1-on-1 Meeting! I won’t go into specifics here, but with Remote Work we can increase our awareness of what a distracting email and request looks like by having or requesting regular 1-on-1’s with our boss or direct report. This is the time to explore, prioritize, or reprioritize our “Professional List”, expectations, vision, and plan!
As you work remotely, we are left alone with our thoughts and internal dialogue all day long! I came up with a quote a while back and it’s stayed true to this day, “The most dangerous thing is a person walking around with only their one or two thoughts rattling around in their head!”. The negative thoughts and talk about your job, your boss, your coworker, that sharp email, that new plan you disagree with, that virtual call that ran long, etc. with no one around to soften the blow, make light of it, or challenge your negative perception of it is dangerous for your mental, professional, and personal health!
At least when we’re in the office, those negative thoughts can be balanced or outweighed by that same person you’re frustrated with holding the elevator door for you, the funny joke you heard over coffee, going out to lunch with your team, or that impromptu conversation with that person from Department B. Without all of this, it’s up to you to “Gossip Good” about your work, coworkers, and your day… and… Be sure your venting, when necessary, is people-limited, time-limited, and purposeful!
Know what you need to best nurse yourself, self-soothe, and put it in your schedule and calendar! Without that drive into work to mentally prepare for your day… what will you include instead? A walk, breakfast, a trip to get breakfast, your morning coffee routine, etc? I take my 20 walks to the mailbox… If you’re not “Farmer Brown”, what breaks will you give yourself, what will you do, how long will you do it for, how will you get back on task? Lastly, without that de-escalation drive home from work… how will you effectively shut down your workday, allowing you return to your living room and family ready, upbeat, and willing for your second half of the day? Perhaps a walk, a shower, the gym, watching a show, etc. before darting out to pick the kids up from school or them bursting through the door with all their energy, questions, and beautiful chaos. Whatever you choose, make sure it makes you “Better” instead of Bitter… your kids, your partner, and your future self will thank you for it! Enjoy your Evolution!!!
“Leadership is a verb; therefore a choice… Let’s be sure to do it right… Be Mindful!” – Andre Young
Written by: Andre Young
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