time management

Ask Anna Vol. 1: Work, Life & Balance While Staying at Home

April 6, 2020

Reading Time: 17 minutes

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If you tuned into Episode 22 featuring Sarah Joy Hays – an amazing baker, business owner, Disney vacay planner, mom and so much more – and you stuck around to the end, you might have heard me talk about what to expect in this week’s episode, Episode 23. I’d planned to devote an episode to sharing the 3 roles we all play in work and life, and how you can make sure to spend time Being the Visionary of your life. 

I hope you don’t mind, but with everything going on right now = I’ve decided to pivot and use today’s episode to host the very first Ask Anna episode. In the last few weeks, I’ve gotten a lot of questions from friends, clients, Instagram buddies, business owners, men, women, college students, parents, empty nesters, friends who have been laid off due to budget cuts – basically people from all walks of life.

So for this episode, I’ve taken the 7 most common questions that have come my way, and I’m answering them here for you guys. 

Questions about:

  • How to stay motivated when you just want to binge watch Netflix

  • What to do with all of those plans you made and goals you were so excited about

  • Decision Fatigue and what to do about it

  • How to take work from home breaks without feeling guilty and how to deal with life and work boundaries getting super blurry – or nonexistent

  • How to deal with an abundance of time without getting bored

  • And how to deal with having less time than ever without breaking down

Two weeks ago – Episode 21 was all about how to find your footing after a priority shift. It was inspired by the movie Frozen 2, and how to use your personal core values to figure out the next right thing to do in a weird situation. I loved crafting that episode – so if you haven’t listened to that one yet, you’ll definitely want to check it out. 

When that episode went live, I think a lot of us expected a much shorter period of time staying at home. We knew we’d have to hit pause on some things – classes, work projects, business launches, anniversary trips, birthday parties and so on.

Now – two weeks later, we all have a slightly different expectation, and we’re now a few weeks into doing practically everything – work, exercise, socializing (virtually, of course) homeschooling, childcare, grocery shopping (using Shipt or Instacart for delivery) and so much more. Our homes have become the hubs of our entire life. 

In my part of the country, South Louisiana – we’ve been blessed with lots of sunshine so we’ve – and by we I mean my 14th month of Millie and I – have spent a lot of time outdoors, but cabin fever is still very much a thing. Being in such constant, close quarters with our children, spouses, partners – it can be a little much – and there are countless memes about drinking wine at 8am to prove it.

And then – If you or someone you love is in the medical field or another essential industry – then you’re experiencing the front lines of the fight against the novel coronavirus and COVID-19 up close and personal. And it’s a lot to deal with. Physically – because you might be braving long hours in difficult environments, or you’re at home trying to keep the ship afloat while your partner is largely unavailable. It’s exhausting.

That’s been my reality. I’ve barely seen my husband, Scott, since the beginning of March. And it’s a lot to deal with Mentally – you’re either running on adrenaline, worry, fear, sadness – or a combination of any of those at any given moment. 

And if you’re listening, and you’ve lost someone you know and love to the virus, please know that my heart goes out to you and your family. These are such difficult times, and I hope you know that you’re not alone in this, even though we’re far apart.

As I mentioned in the intro – I’ve gotten a lot of questions about different aspects of this new life in the time of coronavirus. Friends who are working from home for the first time, parents who are homeschooling while working – and in response – I created two bonus episodes, one all about the basics of remote work featuring Christa Hutchins, and another showcasing the expertise of a long-time homeschooler and founder of NOLA Homeschoolers, Ty Salvant. If you’re in either of those situations, you’ll want to check those out. 

But – once you get past the basics of remote work and homeschooling – new, next level questions pop up. 

1. How do I get motivated or stay motivated when I don’t feel like doing anything?

Motivation or self-starting is tough, especially when we can’t exactly see what it is we’re working toward. Or we don’t see any kind of end in sight. Kind of taking it back to Episode 21 about doing the next right thing. In Frozen 2, the troll king tells Anna that he sees no future for their kingdom, Arendelle – and that when one can see no future, one must do the next right thing. 

But – beyond doing the next right thing, my top recommendation for finding your motivation when you’re just not feeling it is to reconnect with your why – or your purpose – for doing whatever it is that you’re doing. Your why is the fire to get you started, and the fuel to keep you going.

If you’re in college, trudging through classwork remotely and missing out on all of the typical spring campus traditions – zoom out and think about the big picture. Why are you working toward a degree? What will that do for you? What opportunities will that create for you? 

If your days are filled with zoom meetings, reports and whatever else you do at your day job – take a sec before you try to push through and take a quick inventory of why you accepted the job in the first place? Maybe you don’t love your job – and that’s something you’ve realized in the last two weeks. And if that’s the case – what does having a job give you? Is it funding your dream of opening your own business, or is it helping you save for your next big vacation? Does it enable you to provide for your children’s education?

If you’re struggling really hard with motivation and tapping into that why, that purpose – I would seriously recommend creating a vision board, or finding a single image that represents your why. And when you’re feeling low – take a look at it, reconnect with why you do what you do, and get after it.

2. I feel like I’m supposed to be productive all the time now that work and home all blend together. Like I’m supposed to always be on and ready to respond at a moment’s notice. I’m exhausted and always on edge. What do I do?

Take it from me – a time management coach – you do not have to be productive every single minute of your day. Not now, not ever. We need down time. We need time to just let our mind wander, to stare out the window and just breathe. 

What’s tough about working from home is that yes – the lines between home and work are super blurry or nonexistent. Where you used to have a physical commute to transition into work mode – your walk from your bedroom to the kitchen table just isn’t the same thing. 

Three things you could try here:

  1. Set a specific work start time, and end time. Many of you will have this set for you by your supervisors – but if you’re self-managing as a business owner or otherwise, decide when you’ll work, and when you won’t – and then stick to it. 

  2. Create a start up and shut down routine. This is probably the tip i’ve given the most in the last two weeks. When you don’t have that commute or your typical office routine, you have to DIY it. That looks like creating a short routine, just a few steps – that signals to your brain that it’s time to get down to business. 

A startup routine while working from home could look like.

  1. Make a fresh cup of coffee

  2. Turn off the TV

  3. Light my favorite candle. 

  4. Open laptop

  5. Scan calendar for meetings. Choose top priority for the day

A shutdown routine could look like:

  1. Final email scan

  2. Save current projects

  3. Close all tabs – yes, I’m not kidding.

  4. Close laptop

  5. Put it away

It doesn’t have to be anything complicated, but it’s doing the same steps each time – and committing to shutting down and walking away when you’re done – instead of letting work bleed into TV time, or working from bed. Please don’t work from bed.

That brings me to the third thing you can try when everything is blending together into a work/life blob:

3. When deciding where you’ll work – if you can create a separate space that’s just for work, that’s your best bet. I know it’s not always possible, because space can be an issue – but if you’re able to set up an area that is dedicated just for work so you can separate your work mindset from your home mindset with an environmental cue.

3. I feel like I’m taking fewer breaks than I did when I worked in an office. At the office, there were natural interruptions like walking down the hall to refill my water cup, or walking to another building or something like that. Now – I don’t really have anything like that. And I feel like I’m supposed to be available for my team, so I can’t just go take a walk or something like I would have in the past. How do I take breaks?

Yep – breaks while working from home are hard – especially if you have a lot of uninterrupted work time. If you’re working from home with kids – then it’s a different story and you’re probably interrupted way more than you’d like. 

But – if you’re in the camp of folks that is almost afraid to step away from their laptop during working hours in case someone needs something – this answer is for you.

First: Get crystal clear on the expectations that your supervisor or HR department or whoever has for your communication protocol and response time.

It’s entirely possible that there is zero expectation that you respond to every message immediately, and that you do have the opportunity and ability to step away from the laptop a few times. But – without an understanding of the expectations you won’t know. So – ask. Find out what words like “reasonable” really mean to your boss, because that could mean anywhere from 24 hours to 20 minutes. 

I might have mentioned before that in a previous career, I had a boss that required me to respond to every single one of his emails within 5 minutes – with “Ok, got it.” at a bare minimum. If 5 minutes passed without a response, I got a phone call. Was I on edge, all the time – constantly checking my email? You betcha. But – the difference is that my boss was very clear about his expectations, so I knew what was expected of me.

Now – if your boss does have clearly communicated expectations that you respond with 5 minutes to each communication, it’s up to you to decide whether you can or want to push back based on your situation at home. 

Second: Schedule your Email Time. Like – put in on your calendar.

I am a huge proponent of scheduling specific times to check email during the day so you don’t feel like you’re in reactive/response mode 24/7. I’ll have to do an entirely separate episode on email, but in a nutshell, if you have your email open all day, it’s very very difficult to stop yourself from checking it as it comes in, which then interrupts whatever you’re doing at the moment and kills your flow. Studies show that American knowledge workers are interrupted every 40 seconds with a notification of some sort – and when you consider that it can take almost 30 minutes to regain focus after being interrupted – it’s a wonder we get anything done. 

If you want to try this out – 10, 2, and 4 and maybe one more time in the evening are a good start. Then, once you’ve gotten used to checking email only 3-4 times a day, bump it down to two check in times. Maybe 11:00 and 4:00 and see what happens to your focus. 

Just like most time management tips – this won’t work for everyone. When I was a congressional scheduler, monitoring email was literally 80% of my whole job because my Congressman’s entire schedule could change at a moment’s notice based on vote emails from the Whip’s office. 

Third Point for the case of the disappearing breaks: Schedule your breaks.

Again – literally decide when you’re going to take a break and put it in your calendar at the beginning of the day, or the beginning of the week if you’re able to choose a consistent time of day.

My recommendation? Try to take a break around 2:55.

Studies have shown that’s the lowest energy point for most workers, so use that time to take a walk, grab a snack or play Animal Crossing.

Another idea to consider, especially if for some reason taking breaks isn’t allowed or you have to report every minute of your time during your 8 hour workday – which I’ve learned is common for many new remote workers – schedule a meeting with trusted coworker or industry friend, during which you both agree to use it as a break. Either take your cell phone with you for a walk around the neighborhood while you chat about something work related, or don’t. That way there’s something blocked on your calendar that looks purposeful.

Some of you might be thinking – Isn’t that stealing time from the company?

Honestly – I don’t know.

I think it depends on the culture of your organization and the expectations that have been set for you. Just take a moment to think about how you used to take breaks at your workplace. Taking a quick walk, checking instagram on your phone real quick, making a personal call – would you consider that stealing time from the company? I’m not advocating you break rules – but I am advocating that you take breaks during the day, even if you have to be creative in order to take them.

4. Is there such thing as decision fatigue? Because I think I’ve got it. Since this whole quarantine thing started, it’s been one decision after another. To the point I didn’t even know I was making decisions! 

Oh yes, my friend, there most definitely is such a thing as decision fatigue. And you’re probably feeling it right now, because very few of our default modes are still in operation.

You’d be surprised at just how much of our life is driven by routine. Even my friends who say they hate routine and just want to be spontaneous have hidden, not so obvious routines in their lives. They may not stop for coffee at the same spot every day on the way to work, but they’re definitely stopping for coffee SOMEWHERE.

When our lives are turned upside down, most of our normal routines totally go out the window – especially right now when we’re dealing with such a drastic change in our environment. Routines let us put ourselves on autopilot, because we don’t really have to think about what’s next. The decision was made a long time ago how we’d do a certain thing – what route we’d take to work, where we’d put our stapler on our desk, or how we’d prep for meetings.

Now – we’re having to decide in the moment how we’re doing life. We don’t have our routines to fall back on, and we’re feeling it. 

So – the solution here?

Be thoughtful, design your new routines, and start putting them into motion.

Back in episode 17, I dedicated an entire episode to the 5 must-have routines you need in your life, right now. 4 quick and dirty steps for designing a new routine.

1. Write out each step that you want to include in your routine.

2. Post it where you’ll see it.

3. Do each step.

4. Repeat. We already covered designing a startup and shutdown routine – so you can take it from there and decide what other routines you’d like to create. 

If you sit down to start writing out your new routines and you’re totally coming up blank, here’s what worked for me:

Last week – I moved Camilla, Penelope (our dog) and myself to my parents house while Scott is working out of town for an extended period. My routines were totally out of whack just from being in a different environment. 

One thing that helped me transition was jotting down ideas for what I’d like to include in routines on a legal pad as I thought of them. If it’s something i want to do daily, I’ll write a D next to it. Weekly, I’ll write a W. Then I thought through – what time of day it made sense to do each thing, and how does this fit in with Camilla’s nap, snack and meal schedule? 

So – the short answer to this question? Yes – decision fatigue is a thing, and creating routines is the best way to counteract it.

5. I was laid off, or I’m a business owner who can’t really do my work virtually. That means I have a ton of free time on my hands and I don’t know where to start. I’ve already watched all of Netflix, what do I do now?

This is tough.

Because in some ways, the possibilities are endless. And on the other hand, you’re probably pretty bummed, worried, maybe even scared about the future so you don’t feel like doing much. And understandably so – you have ever right to watch all of Tiger King 3 times start to finish.

This is not where I’m going to tell you that if you don’t walk away from this “quarantine, stay at home, shelter in place” situation with a side hustle, speaking a new language or 20 pounds lighter, then you’ve failed.

Absolutely not.

But if boredom is starting to get the best of you, I’d encourage you to find some way to get creative. Whether that’s drawing, journaling, brainstorming – just let things flow for a bit and see where it takes you. Turn off the TV for a bit and put on some instrumental music, think the thoughts and feel the feelings. Chances are you’ll find some inspiration for what to do next. You might remember there’s something you want to learn – and you’ll head off to Brit+Co’s website to take a craft course, or you’ll remember a book you bought and never read. Give yourself the space to do what you want to do.

If you’re a business owner – like a wedding photographer who can’t shoot weddings right now, or an event planner who can’t stage events – this could be a great time to update your website, refresh your content, take an online course or play around with some new methods. Not saying you have to do any of that, but it’s a good option. Just make a list of what you’d like to do, pick something, and roll with it.

Whatever your circumstance, if you find yourself with an abundance of time – don’t feel pressured to do all the things. It’s ok to just be.

6. Anna, I’m struggling. I thought I was stretched for time before, but now I’m totally starved. I’ve got young kids at home, I’m trying to keep them entertained and alive, I’m trying to work from home, I’m trying to cook, clean and keep everything going but I’m so tired and I can’t do it all. I’m so jealous of the kidless people who are able to use this time to revamp their websites and build new products. How do I get through this?

My answer: One day at a time. One thing at a time.

Before moving in with my parents last week, that was my life.

From the moment I woke up, to the moment my head hit the pillow exhausted, I was moving. Working, caring for Camilla. Working, Caring for Camilla. Alone while my husband worked out of town.

To keep my time management coaching business and this podcast moving forward, I had to strip away every single nonessential piece of life and work. Get back to the basics in every way possible. And I started each day with One single priority for my business. Not three or 5, but one. And if I got that one thing done early in the day, then awesome – I can do something else, But once the one thing was done, the pressure was off. And that’s what I encourage you to do – find anyway possible you can relieve the pressure you’re feeling. 

A few more things to consider: Don’t give up your weekly planning sessions just because we’re staying at home. Create space to meal plan, look ahead at any deadlines or home school lessons and try to map out the week in advance, or even just the next few days. But i’ll tell you that deciding in advance what you’ll have for dinner makes grocery orders, or store stock-ups so much easier, and you’ll always have an answer for “What’s for dinner?” and you won’t have to think about it, or scramble to pull something together when you’re exhausted at 7:00 and everyone’s hungry.

You can get through this.

It will not be easy, but try to keep things as simple as possible for yourself until we get to the other side.

This is not the time to be a hero and try to do all the things and win quarantine.

If you feel safe having a family member who has been staying at home move in with you – that could be an option. Me and Camilla, as well as my parents had all spent 2 weeks staying at home, so I felt confident about making the move to live with them to get some much needed help. 

7. What do I do now with all of those plans I made and goals that I set? I feel like I don’t know what’s next, or how to set deadlines or milestones.

Friend – I feel you. This is tough.

We don’t know what the future holds for us here.

I’ve had to stop reading the news late at night, because it seems like every day there’s some new something that gives me anxiety or causes me to worry about the future and what it’s going to look like for our businesses, for our communities and our families.

Setting goals, or sticking to deadlines for goals you’ve already set might feel daunting or even pointless.

Or – you might feel completely unaffected and you’re still tracking on your goals and plans – which is awesome!

But if you’re not feeling the deadlines, that’s okay too.

My accountability partner, Katy and I email each other just about every week with what we’re working on, our key action items and when we plan to complete them. We’ve both decided to toss the deadlines for now and do what we can. 

If you’re an Enneagram 3 – like me – and you live for goals and you’re in a tailspin about how to adapt and adjust, consider setting mini-goals just for the week.

Little by little progress is better than no progress at all – but right now, no progress at all is also completely ok if it means you’re taking care of yourself. 


Y’all. This is hard. For so many reasons.

But we can get through this together.

I hope that sharing these frequently asked questions and answers are helpful to you as you’re navigating this weird time.

For many of us, we’re moving into week 4.

I feel like week 1 was a shock to us – this didn’t seem real. And I don’t know about you, but I totally thought it might last 2 weeks and then we’d move on with life.

Week 2 kind of felt like denial – this is when we made jokes, had lots of virtual happy hours, and laughed through the craziness of it all.

Last week – Week 3 was the hardest. Jobs were lost – either your own or someone you know. The reality started to set in especially with announcements that this is going to take a lot longer than we all expected from the get go.

This episode is going live on Monday of Week 4 – I’m not sure what this week holds for us, but I’m hoping for hope. And I’m hoping that we’re all starting to settle into our new routines – and I’ve tried to avoid this ubiquitous phrase – but settling into our new normal. 

You know I spent a large chunk of my career working in crisis communications.

In Louisiana – we know crisis. We know hurricanes. We’ve been affected by them in so many ways – and we all have a hurricane story of some sort.

And while we were rebuilding or recovering – life was going on as usual in other parts of the country.

Nothing was different for them.

Our crisis was localized, and most people in other states just didn’t get it.

This is so different – because everyone gets it.

And it’s something that can unite us in our shared struggle.

So give yourself grace, give your neighbor grace.

We’re all processing and dealing with this in our own unique way.

We might not know what the future holds, but we can take this one day at a time, one thing at a time, connect with our way to stay motivated, and take care of ourselves so we can take care of others. 

I’d love to know what you thought about this episode.

Was this Q&A helpful for you? Are there any questions you have that I didn’t answer?

Two ways to send me your questions:

First: Go follow me on Instagram at @annadkornick and send me a DM with your question.

Second option: Head over to the private It’s About Time Podcast Community on Facebook and post it in the discussion.

LISTENER SPOTLIGHT

Heath! – Gosh you are the best! First of all – thank you for cheering me on and for being a listener. I am so grateful for you! I don’t know if I’m the most efficient human being ever created – even I can get lost in an Instagram scroll from time to time, but I hope you’ve enjoyed what you’ve heard so far, and that you’re making progress on those goals that have been sidelined. Thank you again for listening! 

SUBSCRIBE & REVIEW IN ITUNES

If you’re enjoying It’s About Time so far, I hope you’ll take a moment to subscribe if you haven’t yet – I don’t want you to miss an episode! I’ve got a few bonus episodes in the works, and you might miss them if you’re not subscribed. Click here to subscribe on iTunes.

If really like what you hear, I’d be so grateful if you left me a review over on iTunes, too. Your review play a HUGE role in helping others find out about It’s About Time. And honestly, they’re really fun for me to read! Click here to review, select “Ratings and Reviews” and “Write a Review” and let me know what you’re loving about It’s About Time. Thank you!!

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