By Jen Simmons
Anyone who knows me, knows that my natural approach to life, especially work, is based on ensuring I have a stable structure, a robust routine and a plan… I’m a BIG planner. I’m a thinker too, I like to plan the time to think things through, consider other perspectives and ensure when I do form an opinion it’s a convincing one based on a resolved understanding of any given situation.
I like to think this approach has helped me in my career pursuits over the years, however, these old habits didn’t initially translate all that well to life in iso.
How can you have a plan for the unknown? How can you have a positive outlook every day when the future is so unsure? Well, I’m here to tell you, having started a few weeks back in the deep dark depths of the unknown, to now, feeling back in the game… YOU CAN!
Pre-iso I was a big believer in how you begin your morning will set the tone and your attitude for the day, so after a few tough weeks, I decided to go back to my tried and tested basics and it worked!
Of course you can choose to derail yourself before you’ve even begun [read: fall down the TikTok rabbit hole, watching bald headed men do what looks to be some form of egg head challenge] or you can choose to give yourself the focus and drive that you need to own each day and to control what you can control including your attitude, your outlook and your work outcomes. Ultimately it is your choice.
So here are some of my basic tips to ensure you are making the most of each day and starting your work day right, iso or not;
Start on time
Ordinarily I would say it is critically important to the outcome of your day, to be at your desk ready to start the day early or at a minimum on time.
If you run late, you run the risk of always approaching the day from a challenging position of behind. Whilst it may [read: will] throw out your entire day, it can also leave a pretty bad impression too.
In iso I have found this also to be true. While flexi hours have never been so limber, it is still important to commit yourself to a start time for each day and stick to it. It may not be the usual 8am start that you used to hold yourself accountable to, but it is important to set a time and stick to it. Even better, set a time and tell your wider team too – accountability is equally important at this time.
No! Not the Coco Pops you picked up in your panicked doomsday ‘buy as much as you can no matter what it is’ shop (Eeek, we all did it right?). It’s time to get back into a routine and eat a proper breakfast. I know, I know… everyone says it’s the most important meal of the day, but that’s because it actually is. Eating a healthy breakfast is directly linked to good health, better memory, lower levels of bad cholesterol, improved metabolism, reduced risk of disease but most importantly, having a quality breakfast will stop those mid-morning hunger pain distractions that often lead to: that email that should normally take you 5 minutes and needed to be sent by 10am, actually taking you 4+ hours and doesn’t get sent until 5:29pm because you were so hungry your forgot all about it. Let’s eat people!
N.B. And I can’t encourage this enough; eat BEFORE you sit down at your desk for the day and BEFORE your designated start time. Preferably also try to avoid black and burnt toast that smokes out the entire AMPR office, and keeps our local fire brigade constantly on the edge of their seats … yes I’m looking at you Alex Bateman!
Don’t forget to breathe
If you know agency life you know it’s not without its challenges. The pressure is REAL! So, make sure you centre yourself each day with a few deep breaths, set your own tone and intentions, shake off any hesitations and remember you are good at what you do, then get out there and ‘Eat the Frog’ – it’s a thing, Google it.
Be mindful of your mood
A bad mood can have a seriously negative effect on others and a bad mood first thing in the morning can have a lasting effect on an entire team, even throwing out a whole days work. I find myself talking a lot about emotional intelligence and that is because it can play a much bigger role than just one person being aware of their own emotions or keeping them in check. An emotionally intelligent team of people can and will achieve much more success via their productivity, proactivity and simple awareness skills. SO, whether you are a morning person or not it’s important to leave your bad mood at the door and start the day with a sunny disposition. Choose to operate from a place of positivity in the workplace and you will find it comes right back at you, tenfold!
Make a plan
Once you are ready and at your desk with a full belly of breakfast, a clear mind and a good mood, it’s essential to make a plan for the day.
The first 15mins of the day is the best time to get a grasp of what lay ahead. It is important to get focussed, not to get distracted by the morning office coffee run and to avoid the inbox for just a few more minutes, long enough to write or type out your days task list.
For your list, it’s best to focus on what absolutely must get done that day. I like to then circle or highlight the big priorities and even number my tasks in priority order too. It’s best to keep the list realistic and to know what the deadline for each task is too.
In our industry it is also crucially important to always keep an open mind for the day ahead, ensure that you expect the unexpected and allow flexibility to deal with those nasty curveballs that can arise [read: an embargo is broken or a client deadline being severely adjusted to just two hours from now]. Whilst these curveballs may mean that your plan takes a turn with a little less crossed off at the end of a day, it also means you can take pride in your ability to handle the unforeseen – a big win in our industry!
I find that when I’m in the peak of a demanding period, I actually type out my daily task list in my Notes App, before I get out of bed, often even the night before. This helps me keep the day’s stress at bay, allows for my mind to subconsciously think things over and make any adjustments as I get up and ready for the day, even making the most of my time thinking it over on the commute to the office too. I find tracking my list and crossing things off as they are completed (ahhh that blissful feeling) helps to maintain momentum, motivation and satisfaction of the work at hand.
Connect and be present
This is one I can’t stress enough! It is SO important to stay connected and be present in the workplace. This will help with your own productivity and satisfaction that you are participating in a bigger team and company picture at the end of the day.
Whether you are a morning person or not, or maybe not feeling your best, you must be present both mentally and physically to start the work day right. That means doing simple things such as saying good morning to everyone when you get to the office each day. It means not having your head in your phone, as if you’d rather be anywhere else but work, as you walk in each day. It means taking the extra two minutes to ask how everyone’s weekend was and check in on what they have on for the day whilst making eye contact and participating in the conversation too. All things that some might consider very basic, but things I see overlooked far too often in the workplace. Yes absolutely, we are all busy and yes absolutely we all have a lot on our plates both professionally and personally, but no, that is still no excuse for not making your time with others pleasant and not making it count.
Now more than ever, whilst we are working remotely this has to be a priority for us all, albeit slightly differently of course. Sure, it’s easy to roll out of bed, log in, mute yourself and stare blankly at the screen for the daily team zoom call, but I believe it’s actually just as easy to make that time count!
For now, and while iso is here, the below are a few extra tips to help you stay present and connected during your zoom meetings;
- Take 5 minutes to think about the call ahead. Think about what value you can bring to the call, what information you can share that shows that your interest, passion and drive are still in check (even if they are somewhat diminished while we figure out the new meaning of life during iso).
- Put your phone down. Simple. It can wait. Stay focussed on the meeting you are in and show everyone the same respect for their time as you like them to show you.
- Make ‘eye camera’ contact – just as if you were in a meeting at the office, it’s important to look at the camera and engage with your peers, they don’t want to only see the side of your face while you multitask in a meeting.
- On that note, don’t try and multitask and type out unrelated emails while a meeting happens without your full attention.
- Leave your camera on – people need to see people, and they need to see that they are being heard.
- Make your smoothie/collagen beauty tea or plain old coffee before your calls, don’t take your meeting for a nauseating ride through your kitchen.
Let’s leave this one here, as I could go on for days re: Zoom etiquette.
In short, If you’ve found yourself stuck in a new routine that doesn’t include the above basics and still includes your daily dose of antisocial, unstructured and counterproductive activities, with a side of coco-pops, it may be worthwhile re-examining the start of your day to help get your work and furthermore your career back on track.
If you remain committed to setting good morning habits, I believe you can avoid falling down the unproductive and all distracting iso rabbit hole each day and instead you can feel satisfied and motivated with what you can achieve.
Remember – there is opportunity in chaos (refer to my AMPR video – ‘a slogan I live by’) so let’s get back to these basics and seize it!