When you or someone on your team work from home, little things can mean the difference between being productive, and slogging through a check list. Routine is surprisingly important, and a simple task is a great way to start. So here’s a question: Have you made your bed this morning?
If you’re on social media, you no doubt have seen the 2014 video (although it’s making the Facebook rounds again) of the US Navy Admiral William McRaven saying that if you want to change the world, make your bed in the morning. While this seems a bit excessive when your goal isn’t to become a Navy Seal, but just to get that last line of code written, the advice is sound. Not that I’ll ever be mistaken for a Seal (although I do bear similarities to a walrus), but I’ve learned the importance of this little task personally.
Back before I worked in the real world, I was a professional entertainer, working nightclubs and keeping very late and irregular hours. Yet I had a reputation for always getting things done, for getting more work than perhaps my talent warranted, and for being perceived as more professional (and just plain grown-up). The secret was that I’d developed a routine, and it started with making my bed in the morning.
I was a single guy in my 20s. I lived alone, and my peers were living similarly, unfocused lives. But every morning I got up and started the day by making my bed. Why did that matter (and why is it relevant to you in your working remotely)?
- If your bed’s made, you’re less likely to crawl back in it. When you don’t have a specific time you need to get to the office, or anyone relying on you to be at your desk at a certain time, it’s easy to just set your own hours. For some jobs, that’s fine. But the routine of getting up and making your bed can be a signal to your brain that the work day has begun. It also helps you avoid your bed’s siren song, calling you to climb back in. Be strong.
- It might be early, and it might be unimportant, but you’ve accomplished something. As Admiral McRaven points out, even small accomplishments matter. To many of us, an unmade bed is a sign of disorganization and a lack of attention to detail. It helps many of us to know that, even if we haven’t accomplished everything on our list today, at least that’s done.
- I’m no Isaac Newton, but… The first law of motion is “An object in a state of rest or uniform motion will remain in that state unless an external force is applied”. If you’re not by nature an early riser or a “morning person,” this can be painfully clear. Some mornings you just can’t seem to get moving. By doing something it can move you to the next action item on your list, even if that’s staggering to the shower (which is also a good thing to do, even when it’s just you and the cat.)
- Routine helps create a true start/stop time for work. One of the blessings of working remotely, especially from home, is that you can set your own hours. The dark side of that is that the only person who can tell us to get to work (or to knock off for the day; we’re done) is us. By creating a routine and sticking to it, we can be comfortable that our day has begun—so get to work, ya slug—or ended. The people in the office aren’t working past 8 pm. Why are you?
I didn’t need a decorated military office to tell me to make my bed (although I still hear my mother’s voice in my head.) I learned the value of this little chore early on, and it made a difference at a time when there was little other structure in my life. It still works today.
To learn more about habits that can make or break your productivity when working remotely—or help those of us who manage remote workers—check out “Maximizing Productivity for Teleworkers” course, available On Demand or as a live webinar workshop. Learn more here.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Co-Founder and Product Line Manager
Wayne Turmel is the co-founder and Product Line Manager for the Remote Leadership Institute. For twenty years he’s been obsessed with helping managers communicate more effectively with their teams, bosses and customers. Wayne is the author of several books that demystify communicating through technology including Meet Like You Mean It – a Leader’s Guide to Painless & Productive Virtual Meetings, 10 Steps to Successful Virtual Presentations and 6 Weeks to a Great Webinar. His work appears frequently in Management-Issues.com.