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Three productivity tips for remote work

We know many of you have been forced to work remotely to keep your businesses up and operating during this time of social distancing. Working from home comes with a litany of distractions, making it very hard to focus.

So, while you get settled in for a hard day of work, here are a few tips you can use to stay locked in and boost your productivity while working from home.  

Stick to a relatively similar schedule

At first, working from home seems like a blessing. You don’t have to drive to an office every day or really move all that much. But after a while, that can lead to some bad habits, particularly when it comes to scheduling out your day.

Our suggestion is to schedule your day similar a day at the office. Get up at the same time, work out, shower and arrive at your workstation at the same time you’d arrive at your office desk. Take a lunch break at your normal time — you get the point.

Obviously, there’s a lot of room for flexibility here. If there are distractions you can’t ignore, like children, try to make up those hours lost at a later time. The key is trying to maintain some semblance of normalcy to keep your brain in tip-top working shape.

Turn off distractions

Everything at home seems like a distraction — the television, family, food. Try and tune out those distractions by finding an enclosed office space. Keep your phone away (if you can!) to limit the number of notifications and texts incoming.

If you work at home with a family, consider finding creative ways to limit distractions. Put up a sign saying “Hard at Work” on your office door. Or set aside a few hours where family members aren’t allowed to distract you. Not everything will be ideal, but fewer distractions mean more productivity.

Give yourself breaks — and enjoy

Not everything has to be work, work, work — nor should it be. To keep your sanity and productivity high, take breaks. Take a lunch, go for an occasional walk, do something. No one is around to stop you from working, and overworking yourself can actually hurt your mental health and long-term productivity. Build small breaks into your schedules, and pick a time to “clock out.” Try to avoid email or work calls during your breaks or when you’re off the clock.

Yes, working from home can bring struggles. But hopefully, this guide gives you some good tips to stay locked in. Above all, we hope you and your loved ones stay safe and healthy during these unprecedented times.

NAWBO Member Q&A: Pam Schoffner

Pam Schoffner founded P.S. Writes, a print and electronic communication business, in 1979. She’s one of the founding members of NAWBO Iowa. In 2009, Pam was honored with the Vantus Bank/NAWBO-CI Women Business Owner of the Year Award for longtime service for NAWBO, mentoring of women and community involvement. In 1993, Pam was the recipient of the U.S. Small Business Administration's Women in Business Advocate of the Year Award in Iowa and a President's Award from the National Association of Women Business Owners.

Can you take me through your personal background?

I grew up in Davenport, the younger of two daughters in a working-class family, living in a home surrounded on two sides by city park that I rarely frequented. My mother called my sister and me “hot house plants” — my sister sat inside and read all the time and I filled every room in the house with craft projects. I wanted to be an interior designer, but my father saw me as a nurse or a teacher (in the late 1960s those were the big career opportunities for women). I selected journalism as my major, and he agreed to fund the venture if I took teaching classes too. I graduated from Drake’s School of Journalism and Mass Communications in 1972, having majored in advertising with a minor in sociology. I did not take one teaching class. College students were rebelling (Vietnam protests) in our nation then, and I think avoiding teaching was my bit of rebellion as a life-long rule-following daughter.

What is your profession/business?

I may be one of the few people whose work has always revolved around what I was educated to do. Before starting P.S. Writes in 1970, I did public relations for a mental institution, advertising continuity for a TV station, communications work for state and national associations, and finally served as a newsletter editor and information officer for a state agency. Today I provide print and electronic communication services to small businesses and organizations.  I write copy for websites, newsletters, brochures, blogs, speeches, books, advertisements, resumes and about every kind of strategic business communication that comes to mind. As someone who started her company with only an IBM Correcting Selectric typewriter and an ergonomically correct Herman Miller office chair, I have seen a lot of changes through the years, but the need for meaningful, accurate and compelling communication never ends.  

What is the favorite part of what you do?

I love meeting and working with a new client and delving into an industry I’ve not previously explored. And it’s extra delightful when I get to partner with someone I’ve perhaps known for a while but we’ve never had the opportunity to do business together. It reenergizes me to learn something new and give order to bits of information. I see every project as an opportunity to grow, no matter how big or small my invoice is going to be. I still have one client that has been with me since I started my business, and that too is enjoyable. While it’s challenging to figure out how to put a new spin and create something fresh when you’ve been faced with a project annually for decades, I can honestly say that I haven’t been bored in with my work in 40+ years. 

Who is someone you consider a mentor and why?

My father traveled a great deal, so I learned to be a “woman in charge” from my mother. My “boss” in a very early volunteer position, Barbara Cornett, later went to Meredith and hired me for extensive freelance work that allowed me to start my writing business in 1979. And while working full time in the association world, I experienced the strong leadership and indefatigable spirit of Helen Henderson, executive director of the Iowa Association for Retarded Citizens. These women have all earned their angel wings, but what I learned from them is still with me.

What was the best piece of advice you ever received?

I heard this statement shortly after my father passed away: "Don’t try to get over it, just try to get used to it.” They were said by Joey Bishop, the "woman in charge” of the United Way Volunteer Center, when I burst into tears after condolences were expressed to me at the beginning of a committee meeting. I’ve written those calming words on sympathy cards to friends and said them many times to attendees when I’m an adult facilitatory at EveryStep’s Amanda the Panda Grief & Loss camps. In the midst of today’s COVID-19 crisis and the angst and fears felt by everyone in the small business world, we need to continually refocus and calm our minds. This will impact us; we’ll never get over it. But we’ll grow in our knowledge and use it to springboard to where we need to be for whatever comes next. We will learn how to deal with upheaval. We’ll get used to it because we’re continually evolving as “women in charge."