Saturday, August 17, 2019

How to Improve Productivity When You Work from Home

Thanks to my company's flexible work policy, I get to work from home about once a week. For me, working from home gives me back two hours of a day that would have been spent on commute. In addition, through some test and learn, I figured out several tips to use these days to further increase productivity and overall well-being.

1. Schedule Focused Work on Your Work-from-home Day
One advantage of working from home is the lack of constant interruptions and distractions, especially if you work in an open office like I do. As a result, I've learned to really cherish these focused time, and use them for work that need absolute focus. Therefore, I try to schedule in-person meetings while I'm in the office, and use work-from-home time to tackle challenging strategic work. What time of the day should you schedule this focused work? As my other post suggests, I do it first thing in the morning.

2. Keep a short list of 10-mins "take-a-break" items 
When I first started working from home, I would sit in front of my laptops for hours without a break. Compared to when you're in the office, you have zero interruptions at home and thus no natural breaks you would normally get in the office (walking to the next meeting, refilling your water bottle, walking to use the bathroom, for instance). To increase productivity, it is important to schedule breaks. What I do is keeping a short list of chores, each of which take about 10-15 mins and would require me to get up and walk around the house. Chores like a load of laundry, clean kitchen sink, chop vegetables for lunch, are good options. This small tweak has made wonders. I've felt more energized after the short break and refreshed to tackle the next tasks.

3. Set a Start and Finish Time
It's important to keep a regular start and finish time even when you're at home. Like my normal work days, I wake up around 5:45am, exercise quickly first thing in the morning, eat breakfast, then start my work day. Because I don't have that one hour commute, I'm able to start early around 7am. Then I try to sign off (shut down laptop) around 5-5:30pm.

Any work from home productivity tips you would like to share?

Saturday, August 10, 2019

How to Eat More Fruit & Vegetables for a Healthy Diet - 3 Tips to Add Healthy Food to Your Diet Everyday

A major change that's taking place this year is eating more fruit and vegetables for a healthier diet. Through months of trial and errors, I summarized a few tips that have helped me achieve that.

1. Eat more fruit and vegetables early in the day - in the morning
Similar to the productivity philosophy I shared in this post, a key strategy for a healthy diet is to start the day right. If you could eat 2 servings of vegetables \in your breakfast, it's easier to hit your daily goal of veggies. Some ideas for including vegetables for your breakfast are:
  • Use more vegetables in your smoothies
  • Vegetable omelette
  • Quick 4-minute steamed vegetables: I learned this from a Taiwanese cooking show. Simply fill up a sauce pan with bite-size vegetables (i.e. carrots, squash, egg plant, topped with lettuce), sprinkle some water in, put it on the stove, medium heat, for 4 minutes and it's ready. You could add some salt/pepper for flavor, or enjoy the original taste.
  • If you're on the go, grab an apple or banana
2. Sign up for a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture)
We received a direct mail advertising of our local Tinicum CSA a few months back. After checking it out, we signed up for its little share (good for a small family or a couple). The concept is simple: every week, you pick up your fresh vegetables and fruits (plus seasonal pick-your-own cherry tomatoes, cut-your-own flowers and unlimited herbs). They are locally and organically grown. What and how much you get varies by season. Every week our pickup are different and of variety. So far I've been loving it. We never visit our local groceries stores anymore. I love how fresh the vegetables are and we get to try things we don't normally get ourselves.

3. Not sure how to make it? Blend Them! Smoothies is our best friend.
Because we get some unfamiliar vegetables from the CSA, I have to learn how to cook them. If I don't have time to look up recipes, I simply use them as a base in a smoothie! So far I've tried purple cabbage, turnip leaves, radish leaves, and some other green leaves vegetables I don't even know the name of.

I hope the 3 tips could help you get started. Like everything else, start small, experiment, and find a way that works for you!

Saturday, August 3, 2019

How to Achieve Results through Others - 4 Steps to Delegate Like a Pro for New Managers

With the promotion to Brand Manager last year, I became a true manager for the first time, with managerial responsibility. I'm really excited about it and take it very seriously. It's no easy task to grow from an individual contributor to a manager who has to get work done through others. The last 12 months have seen trials and errors. Combining book learning and my hands-on experience, below is a 4-step approach to delegate like a pro.

1. Set clear goal and objectives
It all starts with defining what success looks like. What is the task and what do the end results like? What is your expectation in terms of the quality of the work?

One key is, before you delegate, really make sure you as a manager fully understand the entire scope of the project. Preparation is the key - setting aside dedicated time to brief your direct report about the task. And before the meeting, you should take at least a few minutes to thoroughly prepare for it.

Another important point is focus on the results, not the method. It means there's no need to describe exactly how this task should be performed with painstaking details. A variety of approaches could be employed to achieve the same good result. To a degree, the individual approach is the beauty of having diverse talents. Being too prescriptive could run the risk of micro-managing and demotivating.

2. Provide background details on the project 
After setting the objective (what), give your direct report the why - equip him with context and details about the project. The objectives here are two fold. Firstly, helping him understand the rationale will motivate him to perform. Secondly, giving him details around the project, such as what has been done, what has/hasn't worked, could help him accomplish the task more effectively.

3. Align on a Timeline and Regular Check-In Points
It's important to set a realistic deadline for the completion of the task. Meanwhile, if it's a big project with long lead time, set up some regular check-in points to see progress. Outside of those check-in points, try to leave them alone and trust them to progress the project, unless you see things aren't progressing as planned, which led to our last point: follow up.

This last step is the biggest lesson I've learned as a new manager. Truth be told, I wasn't doing it right at the beginning. And it's a big mistake. A few things contribute to it.

First, I myself normally don't need a lot of follow-up from managers. I do a fairly good job of staying on track and keeping them updated. Therefore, I'm projecting my work style on my direct report and assume the same. Well, we've all learned situational leadership and know you have to adapt your style to how others perform. If you don't see the results as anticipated, it is your responsibility as a manager to follow up and ask the right questions.

Second of all, it comes down to that strong ownership and accountability: shifting the mindset from "I'm responsible for what I'm personally delivering", to "I'm responsible to what I'm personally delivering, plus what my team is going to deliver." Having that level of accountability is everything. Once you truly take that extreme ownership, it only makes perfect sense that you should feel obligated and empowered to follow up, in the right way.

So these are the four-step approach I've summarized as a new manager. I'm sure as years go by, it will evolve and continue to refine.

Postpartum Support Group

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