Real talk, I’m not productive. Well, I wasn’t productive, but now I am. Spending the last four years working as a virtual employee for a major insurance provider has lent itself to many failures, and many opportunities. While many envision the Monday of a virtual employee as a luxurious weekday filled with daytime soap operas and the flexibility to do as many loads of laundry as one would like, it’s much less attractive than that.

Being a virtual employee requires a self-motivated, intentional effort to manage tasks, maximize technology, spur your own creativity, and hold yourself accountable. Not having the eyes of leadership over your shoulders at all times initially sounds great. Until you realize you only have yourself to thank for the nights and weekends you spend catching up on work you could have easily gotten done during the week, had you not spent your lunch hours re-organizing your rock collection.

That’s not to say virtual employment gleans any less productivity issues than in-office work. Let’s be honest — there are far too many hours in a cubicle spent on Facebook, or spent flirting over the water cooler. Taking the elevator from the 23rd floor to the ground floor three times a day for a smoke break isn’t exactly ideal, either. In fact, research proves that the digital revolution of virtual employment actually enhances employee efficiencies.

Even still, we all know that productivity and performance ultimately comes down to one crucial component — the individual.

It took me about three wishy-washy convoluted years of virtual employment to create my own groove of consistent productivity that persists through our constantly wired and distracting lives.

With the help of my amazing leadership, some great books, and staying true to what drives me — I lean on three fail-proof processes to keep me productive.

#1. Wake-up EARLY!

The most productive time of day is before the sun comes up, and right after the criminals have headed to bed. That’s right. I am telling you to set your alarm for 4:45AM. So is this guy, @before5am, on Instagram. You will amaze yourself with all you can do in the wee hours of the morning. Laundry, tidying up, catching up on emails, annoying admin tasks, online shopping for the eighty-five weddings you have to attend, and all of the little items on our to-do lists that tend to get pushed down on the priority lists as our day-to-day responsibilities take precedence. Or, maybe, you use the hours before your phone starts ringing to get in your favorite workout (mine happens to be sitting), journaling, or enjoying your coffee in a regular mug instead of a Swell bottle. Needless to say, the first thing you do each day should NOT be getting ready to go to work. Make the most of your morning. It works for these early risers.

#2. Plan ahead, like, way ahead.

Please note, “planning” ahead is not the same as actually doing things ahead of schedule. Let’s not get crazy here, I am still a procrastinator. The point is, I plan my procrastination weeks ahead of time. I have every event of my life calendared. Every work-related action, social events, commute times, the two hours each day it takes me to shower and put my face on, cycle classes (JK, I don’t exercise), errands, to-do lists, daily wardrobes — literally everything — gets time on the calendar. Knowing that I have a grasp on what my upcoming hours, days, weeks and months look like is a major ease of mind and prevents me from ever piling on too much at once. It is very rare I find myself having a day where I need more time or feel slammed with last-minute stressors, because I have scheduled myself ahead of my own game. The available time you have in your calendar is time within your control to block it off for what needs to be a priority for you in that moment. Take advantage of having that control and make the most of it. The key is, to actually use the time you blocked off for what it was intended for. That means, the twenty minutes you scheduled on Friday to submit your expenses doesn’t equal time to try on new lipsticks in your mirror.

#3. Be present.

This is hard. Especially if you hate who you are speaking to or don’t like what you are doing. But, giving 100% to the content and responsibilities of the moment alleviates the need to back-track. How often do you see an email come in and not read it until you feel it is really necessary down the line? How often are you multi-tasking while on a conference call because you know you’ll get an email recap later? That is not productive, at all. Read the email the first time you get it, and schedule in time to complete its action items. Listen to the content of the conference call while you can, and you won’t have to waste time digesting it later. Being present will also improve the quality and performance of your job. Humans are constantly distracted and aren’t as good at multitasking as they might think. So sadly, by simply paying more attention, you’ll have more opportunity to outperform your peers.

We all have a variety of best practices to keep ourselves productive, because we are all driven by different things. The best part of being productive is that it improves our quality of life. We like our jobs more, we have more time to let the dust settle, and we can do more of what makes us happy. Find what works for you and stick to it so that you can stop running on the hamster wheel and start being you.

Tedi T.

Baltimore, Maryland

Senior something-or-other at one of those insurance companies

Thanks to Tedi for being our guest blogger! Tedi resides and works in Baltimore, Maryland. She is a former NFL Captain and Pro Bowl cheerleader and is employed by a major insurance provider. Her role involves business process consultations, change management and CRM initiatives.

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