Imagine how you would feel if you had no debt obligation to anyone?
Imagine how you would feel if your savings and retirement were on a mathematical path that provides confidence that you will have a comfortable retirement starting at a time of your own choosing?
This is the reality for my family thanks, in no small part, to being debt-free.
Feb 23rd is our 100% debt-free anniversary. That was the day, in 2014, when we made the final payment on our house. I celebrate this day each year with a plea out to anyone willing to listen about the joys of debt-free living.
It is kind of amazing to think that we have now gone more than eight years with ZERO debt.
Life without debt obligations brings a sense of freedom that is hard to express. Having no debt opens doors to many things. It is the best step on the path to financial independence, it protects you from the blows of economic uncertainties, and it frees you from being held captive by the golden handcuffs of a job.
You are in control, not the world around you.
Here is my annual debt-free plea.
Get out of debt as quickly as you can!
I totally understand that a mortgage is hard to avoid so that is a longer game. As for car debt, credit card debt, and even new phone debt, these are 100% personal choice debts. You are making a choice with each of the decisions to giveaway a bit of yourself and put someone else in charge of your life.
Have a 3 to 6-month emergency fund
Just yesterday I saw an ad where a family has their car breakdown on the side of the road. The woman exclaims to the child in the car that she is not worried. She can get an emergency loan thanks to her credit score. The interest rate she was selecting was over 16%. Wait! What?
Cars break down. Pipes burst. Phones stop working. These are not real emergencies and instead are just part of life. Have good savings for the oh shit moments and you will be far less worried when they happen.
Save at a high rate
Best yet, make this saving automatic by sending a large percentage right to your 401K, IRA, or whatever is best for you. This is often referred to as paying yourself first. Don’t let having the money available tempt you into buying something stupid. Instead, keep it from ever hitting the wallet by sending it straight to savings.
Live below your means
Common sense and certainly not common practice when you consider the amount of credit card debt many people have. That $100 pair of jeans caught your eye? Well, if you have paid yourself first, have all your bills covered, and margin in the bank account that would allow you to pay for them. Go for it!
If you do not have money on hand. You can’t afford them and should not buy them.
Keep it simple
Day trading, 0 down house flipping, Beanie Baby saving, Enron stock buying, blockchain, crypto, next big thing whatevers are all well and good. I am sure, with these things, there are many that have made buckets of money and are very happy. The path for me has been the simple one with high quality, low cost, mutual funds.
Do the saving first and then use the leftover for speculative playing.
The number of resources available right in the palm of your hand thanks to youtube, podcasts and other resources just amaze me. Get obsessed. Soak in a wide range of opinions and then take action based on deep knowledge based on the success of others that are now where you want to be someday.
That is it! If you have made it to the end of this post then you are indeed a winner. Now, take action!
“I am a failure. I try to win but there are just too many barriers. It is better to not try as I always end up disappointed and heartbroken. Instead, I will live a small life, with small dreams, and I will blame the world around me for all my problems”
People with this inner voice suffer from a victim mindset. They see the supposedly perfect lives of those that have got everything in life handed to them. These lucky people have a life so easy. Good looks, great cars, big bank accounts, travel to exotic destinations, amazing jobs, and more.
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other social media resources have amplified the opportunities to get minute-by-minute reminders of how much your life sucks relative to what seems to be the lives of the rest of the world.
Meanwhile, that same feed, along with your search suggestions, provides basket loads of evidence that the world is one messed up place with more doom on the way. This only serves to validate how you feel about your obvious failings.
Instead of using these images to spark motivation, these feelings are turned to anger and efforts to tear down others. It can be very easy to join in a party of negativity. It is kind of fun to release this anger from the safety of your phone. See someone living their best life and being positive? Be sure and lash out at the person so that they too know that actually, they suck because the world sucks.
Only by forcing the world around you to be smaller, can you in turn create a feeling of being taller. That is the classic mindset of the bully.
I had a bully growing up. His name was Carlos and in elementary as well as middle school, he would torture me with taunts about my weight and lack of athletic ability. I became so fearful of gym class that there were a few times that I made up fake notes from my mother to get out of having to go. It was dreadful to always be the last picked for the team and the first to get hit in the head or balls with the dodgeball.
I was joyful when I learned that joining the band would get me out of any future requirement to go to gym class. Whew, at least now the bullying would move to only lunch. The band turned out to be a terrific experience and I am very thankful as it saved me in a way.
Carlos is long gone but that bully voice still speaks to me at times even though I am now in my mid-50s. The bully voice pops in with reminders of my inadequacies as I strive to reach big vision goals for my future.
Time to lose some weight? The bully in my head says you will always be fat!
Proud of my debt-free life? The bully says, so what, an economic crash is coming and you will never have enough.
Signing up for a race? The bully says you are a to-be-picked last person, why bother.
Writing a new blog post? There will be at least one typo or grammar error that you will find later. Post with errors and people will think you are stupid.
The voice goes on and on.
Yes, I still hear it from time to time. The good news is that I have identified my voice and even though it speaks to me, I know it is not in control. I know that I actually live a life of great success that is just a glimpse of even better things to come. I am not in competition with others. I only compete with the me of today as I strive to be a better me tomorrow.
Who is your bully? Do you have that secret voice inside of you that tries to pull you down?
Middle school playground kid that taunted you? A parent that put you down and said you were worthless? Former, or current, spouse that devalues your worth? Religious leader that filled you with guilt.
Who or whatever is your inner bully
Recognize it. Name it. Embrace it. Then resolve to bully it back. You are in control, not the world around you, and certainly not that meaningless negative voice(s) inside of you.
In Philippians 4:8-9 (MSG), Paul writes, “I’d say you’ll do your best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious–the best, not the worst, the beautiful, not the ugly, things to praise, not things to curse”.
The best way to mute the bully is to take Paul’s advice. People on Facebook got you angry? Easy, get rid of Facebook. Tired of the pretty people on the Gram making you feel bad about not owning a Tesla, stop the scroll.
You know this. You know that your life will go where your mind and spirit have their focus. It is a universal truth. Want a new life? Direct the mind differently and follow that with action.
Perhaps it is time for you to shed everything around you that is trying to make you smaller. Call it the great purge if you will. Easy will be the redirecting of what you see on the phone and on the TV. Hard will be the choice to eliminate some people from your life.
Voids are called to be filled. Create a rise in your life by filling that hole with goodness. Good media, good health, good friends, and good times. Know that you are a unique masterpiece with many positive things left to give the world. You can win. It starts with being willing to fight. Forget you bully! I am calling the shots around here!
Are you ready? Victim or Victor? The choice is yours to make. Today!
“The purpose of a goal is not to achieve said goal. The purpose of the goal is to turn you into the type of person that could who could achieve that goal” –Jeff Woods
For many years I have spent a few hours over the course of the last week of December to jot down my goals and think deeply about what I want to accomplish. More so, I think of my life in the present and the life I desire in the future.
This is the root of the whole “davidnprogress” thing. I know that I am never finished and no matter where I am in the now there is hope for change in the next.
More than just goals
These are not set and forget goals. They have been a part of me for so long that they are ingrained as my value system. I view them often as the weeks and months go by and before writing for the next year, I add notes regarding my results for the current year as a review of my effectiveness.
The first goal document I have is from 2005 and I have goals from every year since that date.
Looking over them today, it is almost journal-like as I can see a picture of where I was in life at the time. Some years have been full of triumphs. Like for example the year(s) where I actually lost weight. (Yea for 2011, 2014 and 2017) And then there are those years where I felt like I had amazing outcomes at work. Finally, there are the years of wonderful family-impacting events, adventures, financial milestones, and parenting moments.
There are also years where I can tell that I had lost focus. I see no result notes and just know that for whatever reason, my motivation on progression just did not happen.
What about you?
Are you a goal setter? A dreamer? Someone in progress?
I hope that you are. I hope that you look in the mirror often and think about who you are now, who you were yesterday, and who you plan to be tomorrow. As you think, I especially hope that no matter what you see there is also a smile knowing that life is good and it is only getting better.
Not a goal setter? Perhaps now is your moment to start the journey.
Time is going to move no matter what actions you take. I promise this time will be better if you are engaged, chisel in hand, to craft yourself into the best you. The you that God gave you the potential to be. It is never too late.
Michelangelo is quoted as saying, “I created a vision of David in my mind and simply carved away everything that was not David”
Perhaps 2022 is the year to start shedding all that is really not you. Are you ready?
My goal setting template
Here is the format I have evolved to be my goal template to be over the years.
My one word. This is a word that I use to brand my focus for the year. My word for 2022–Persist
My affirmation. This is actually pretty new and something I added as almost a mantra. There have been many times where I start my day by repeating this a few times: I am positive, I am passionate, I am persistent. I make a difference for others.
Next, are the goals and I have these in categories to reflect the whole me that I want to impact. Ideally, your goals are SMARTER. That is, specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, timebound, exciting, and rewarding. The more detailed your goal, the more likely you are to follow through with your plan.
Here are the categories I use and under each category, I have at least one goal.
Yes, seven categories of goals with specifics under each is a lot.
If, for your first year of doing this it seems overwhelming, then just pick a couple of key categories and start digging deep. Even with just two of these committed to in writing you will be light years ahead of other people.
The last two years have brought tremendous challenges and yet you have made it through. Now is your opportunity to look into 2022 and make it your best year ever.
It has been quite a bit of time since I have regularly posted here and I have some catching up to do for sure. Here is how I have landed where I am in life now.
I had started my goals for 2020 very early into 2019. There was zero doubt in my mind that it was to be a special year with the son graduating college, celebrating our 25 year wedding anniversary with a dream trip, and the potential for a merger between Sprint and T-Mobile.
I personally branded the year as vision 2020 knowing many of the goals I had in motion were progressing to come true.
Kind of out of nowhere, one day in December 2019, I got a call from a person asking if I would be interested in applying for an open position in HR. This was a change I had thought about for quite some time and had prepared for by getting a Senior Level HR certification and through my experience in my role as a Training Manager.
With the still in question Sprint/T-Mobile merger on the horizon and the Sprint history with layoffs the norm, doing a career pivot to a high in demand job seemed like a good move. After all, my reasoning went, if I were to need to find a new job the HR role would add to my marketability.
A risk? Sure it was.
David as a risk-taker?
I had lived a path of the known for the last many years of my career and with the financial weight of the son’s college in the mirror, it was a good time to step into bold.
I had received external job offers over the past few years but had never had the courage to make the change. This was not a move to a new company but instead was a career pivot to a new role. It was also a demotion with a decrease in pay as I was moving from a manager role to an individual contributor. On paper, the new job would be a step back from where I was.
I took the mindset that this was to be a pivot. A step to the side into a new lane so that I could move forward in a different direction.
I applied, got the offer, and said yes!
I have to admit that the months that came next were among the most stressful of my working career which was, in some ways, exactly what I was going for. Digging deep into the new role, floated through several different teams, and did my best to rapidly learn while making sure to project a personal brand of confidence.
Move to a new career in HR right at the start of a pandemic, a merger, social change, and economic uncertainty? Sure, why not!
From my start in March of 2020, through the summer of the pandemic, merger, and changes I experienced many what was I thinking moments.
Now here I am with 2020 gone and 2021 soon to pass as well. Looking back, I am so very thankful that I had the personal courage to step out of my comfort zone and take the pivot risk.
I have found a new sense of joy in my new role and with my new organization. Key in part is that my core work vision regarding being of service to others has not changed. I am doing who I am but just in a different way.
There is an extreme sense of motivation when you recognize you are doing something as the result of your own choice. There are no negatives that I can blame on anyone other than myself and no positives either.
I realize now that this truth applies to every part of our lives. Everything is a choice and you can be a victim of these choices or you can grind them into your own positive expectations to turn into victories.
Now with the new flip of the calendar almost here, it is once again that magical opportunity to choose.
Today is an exciting milestone anniversary for us. It was on this day seven years ago that we paid off our house to make us 100% debt free. It was a long time target to be debt free when our son turned 16 knowing there were many big expenses to come.
In the last seven years, there have been the expected expenses of college and life. There were also other less expected but still large expenses that included new heat, A/C, and also new windows for the house. A car accident resulted in the need for a replacement car around this time a year ago.
Heck, this week, we have joined the many others in our area experiencing leaky pipes due to the record cold winter storm.
As I write this, I am just a few feet away from a tub of water I am using to refill the toilet since we have no running water. It will be a few days before we will know the exact damage and cost of the repair. Stressful? Yes but way less than if we also had a mountain of debt to add to our worries.
No debt + a high savings rate = freedom, peace of mind, and preparedness for when the unexpected comes along.
Was it hard to hold strong to get out of debt and then to stay out?
I will admit that the temptation to finance the car was compelling given the low interest rates at the time. The car dealership finance guy gave us a bit of a hard time saying he never understood why people pay cash when they could make more with money in the stock market.
We thought about it but just could not do it. Just weeks later, the stock market had one of the largest drops in history, the nation fell deep into the pandemic and suddenly it looked like jobs were in great jeopardy.
I personally just can not imagine the additional stress that a pile of debt would have provided during all of these “unprecedented” and “historic” events.
It truly is my hope that the crisis that was 2020 and is in progress still for 2021 will be a wake up call for many. If these times do not create a line in the sand-no more, moment then I do not know what it will take.
If you are in debt, get a solid emergency fund in place and then go crazy to get rid of it as fast as you can. You will sleep better at night for sure and then soon will be well on your way to secure your financial future.
This week was yet another historic moment for our country as a mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building in what in essence was an attempted coup to keep the electoral college from certifying Biden as President. Five people died during the incident and there were many injuries to the police. There was even a Confederate flag brought into the house chambers and there were KKK flags at the demonstration.
It saddens me that our country has sunk so low. Positive conflict and compromise is a wonderful thing and part of what has made our country so great and different.
We no longer seem to have the capacity for E Pluribus Unum.
We can have opinions. We can disagree. We can be passionate. The grinding of conflicting ideas is very important to progress. However, at the end of all of this were all one wonderful thing–Americans.
Somehow this has been lost by a large number of our citizens that have seemed to have joined the cult of always right. Too many people have moved to an FU culture where if you do not believe as I believe then FU.
If you do not look as I look then–FU
If your religion or lack thereof is not mine then–FU
If your personal lifestyle does not reflect mine then–FU
If the person you voted for is not my person then–FU
It goes on and on and on. I see this and I think of all the immigrants, the tired and shattered, that have come to this country over 200+ years to escape the FU and instead find a path to freedom.
Too many people have grown so hard-hearted and selfish that they are completely unwilling to accept anything that is contrary to exactly what they see as the truth. We have millions of two-year-olds that have lost all emotional intelligence and the ability to really understand the difference between facts and opinions. “It is okay for me to do this because they are worse than me”. “Because they did this, I am going to do that”
Even my own US Senator and Congressperson participated by refusing to certify the election. Not because there were any actual facts to support the issue. The Supreme Court, law suits, U.S Attorney General, State Attorney General’s and more had agreed there was no evidence and instead there were mostly rumors. Really, they were afraid of the FU and the impact that working from the truth would have to their own reputation among the FU crowd.
As a result, they will have to live with blood on their hands and history on their conscience knowing they served to encourage what happened on that terrible day.
Those folks with the flags storming the capital in pursuit of a coup attempt were all strangers to me just as we’re the people that decided to loot businesses and pull down historical monuments during the riots over the summer.
Not strangers to me have been many folks I know on both sides that have seemed filled with hate and vileness towards people that in the past would have been friends with different opinions.
Can we heal? Honestly, I am not really all that sure. Try to speak subjectively with people on the far either side and most likely you not find find any openness to listen.
My person is right, the other person is wrong and that is not going to change no matter what. FU
Well for me, I am going to continue to love and support as I believe the Lord would want me to do. I am going to do my duty, as a citizen, as I believe our founders would want me to. I am going to support openness as the millions that have come here for the dream would want me to. I am going to do my best to live in my own very small world with honesty, civility, and objectiveness.
Perhaps someday we will come out of this winter that is our world. In the meantime.
Today is our 25 year wedding anniversary. I know this is traditionally referred to as the silver anniversary which I think is intended to be a reference to the type of gift that is expected to be exchanged but in my case, I think it may be more of a reference to what is happening to my hair.
Since we happen to live in a state with one of the highest divorce rates in the country, this is quite an accomplishment. The truth is that we have never seen it that way as our life together is pretty good and our circle of friends all seems to have stable, long term marriages.
I was 28 when we were married and had met Michelle through a mutual friend blind date just a couple of years earlier. The path to our coming together seemed long at that time as I had come to wonder if I would ever find “the one”.
We found each other and have been happy ever since. Have there been challenges? Of course, as they are part of life. Nonetheless, we have faced them together as full partners with never a thought about not getting through whatever has come at us. That is what great teams and great relationships do. They find a way to joy even in the darkest of times as it is the wind and storms that make roots strong.
We are thankful for our family, our health, our past and the possibility of what awaits in the future. I am thankful for the enthusiastic, smiling, giving, and beautiful woman that has put up with my shenanigans for all these years. I am thankful to the Lord for making me wait for that blind date to meet the person that would become the rest of me.
The years of gone by quickly and now we look forward to retiring and filling our lives with even more adventure, fun and service to others.
Marriage to many is considered to be a risky thing. Meet the right person, share common goals, and treat your lives as a singular endeavor and you will win.
I can still remember when I first read The Millionaire Next Door. I was new in my career having moved from my small hometown to “the city” (Oklahoma City) to start my adult working life. This was the early 90’s and there was a recession going on. For some reason, there did not seem to be much of a demand for people with a degree in Government from a small college and work experience that consisted of being a janitor at a hospital.
What a surprise!
I had tried to find a job for many months before I finally was offered one by Cellular One as a call center collections agent. The starting pay was $14,000 base with a possible $3,000 bonus which turned out to be the absolute minimum I thought I could survive on.
Flash forward just a couple of years later and I hear about this book that tells stories of how average people with an average income ended up being very wealthy. At the time, the primary learning I took away was that most millionaires did not drive Porsche 911 or wear an Italian suit. They instead drove used cars and shopped at JCPenny.
I wish I could say that it was at that moment that I started maxing out my savings, paying off debt, and living conservatively leading to retiring early at 40. Heck, I was hardly hanging on with a low income, a car loan weighing me down, credit card debt, and ramen noodles as my main food source.
I did buy a suit that year at JCPenny and I did enroll in a 401K for the first time. After that, I think I was done. Nonetheless, that book planted a seed of possibility into my mind that did not leave me.
If with age and failure also come wisdom, I am a really wise fellow. So much so that I want to help you in some ways to not be me and in a lot of ways to be me.
The bad stuff
Mostly this was having let fear get in the way. I have been with my employer for over 20 years which is a pretty rare thing nowadays. Unfortunately, during this time I experienced layoffs almost every year, and during those times I would “buckle down” by reducing my 401K savings thinking I needed to keep the cash up. Each time the outcome was the same. I still had a job.
The good stuff
This fear of job loss forced us into a conservative financial mindset with a low-cost lifestyle and relative to most people a high savings rate. I only wish that we had saved more sooner so we could have had even more benefit from the power of compounding.
My first real step
This started for me during my drives home from work. It just so happened that Dave Ramsey was on air at that time and I quickly became a superfan as I heard story after story from people that had transformed their lives by getting out of debt and by getting their spending lives under control. I was fortunate to have never dug too deep of a hole as I had no credit card debt by this time and instead only had the “normal” car debt and a mortgage. I loved the information so much that we eventually ended up being Finacial Peace facilitators and hosted the class at our house. By this time, we were 100% debt-free with no thoughts of ever having debt again.
The next big thing
I thought we were doing pretty well with having 0 debt, saving 10-15% of our income in a 401K all while paying for the son’s college debt-free.
Then came the wake-up call which is was in the form of the FIRE movement and awareness of the widely accepted 4% rule. I had not considered before that it was possible to retire well before the traditional ages of 62 or 67 and I certainly had never heard before that at retirement you would want to withdraw no more than 4% of your total savings.
So $1,000,000 in retirement savings would mean only $40,000 of pretax income. No way!
Oh, how I wish I had this information 15-20 years ago. Regardless, I have it now and my goal is to pass it onto you at a high level so you can learn and get control of your financial life.
Sorry for the long back story but I wanted you to know where I was coming from before laying down some information to help you join me where I am going with the rest of our conversation.
Are you ready now for the big secret?
The formula for winning with money is really quite simple.
Save at a high rate over a long period of time
Live below your means
Grow your income
Define your money values
Define your life values
Surround yourself with like-minded people
Yep, that is it.
Do these things and you will never work for money again. Instead, you will set up a perpetual wealth-building machine that makes money work for you. Sounds great huh?
The sauce to bind all of these things together is education, action, and averages. Go deep to learn many different opinions on how to reach financial independence, do something right now to get started, and increase your life average by surrounding yourself with people that are already where you want to be someday.
For me, I have several resources that have been my go-to these last several years. If I would have had access to this information AND had taken action way back in those early 90’s days I am convinced I would at this point in life be a very wealthy person.
Here is my win with a financial education list and please if you have others that you recommend please add them in the comments.
The Total Money Makeover-Dave Ramsey. Read and do this if you have debt
The Automatic Millionaire-David Bach
Unshakable- Tony Robbins
The Simple Path to Wealth- J L Collins
Think and Grow Rich-Napoleon Hill
The Chris Hogan Show
The Clark Howard Show
The Stacking Benjamins Show
I could add even more but do not want to overwhelm you. Just trust me that if you do nothing but go through these resources and then the next most important step with an action you will win!
Have more that you would add? Leave a comment for others (and me) to know.
This week I read the wonderful obituary of a man known simply as “H”. His actual first name was Harold but based on the description of his life I get the feeling that he lived it with such gusto that he simply did not have time for the formality of his full name.
Now that is a man you can hang out with on the front porch while sipping a cold one or bushwhack through a jungle on a grand adventure.
I kind of imagined what it would have been like to meet him for the first time. Hello, my name is Harold and I move pretty fast so all my friends just call me “H” and since pretty much everyone is my friend that is what you can call me”.
Nice to meet you “H”
Here are just a few facts there were listed about his life:
Met the love of his life in 2nd grade and was married to her 54 years before her passing
Grew up on a 125,000 ranch near Mexico
Started work as a roughneck at the age of 12
Went to college on a scholarship and hitchhiked to get there carrying all he owned and his life savings of $300
Was a star college athlete and in the ROTC
Served as a Green Beret officer in the 101st as a low altitude paratrooper and sniper. Saw action but spoke little of it
Post military was a pro football player
Husband, father, grandfather and a “special friend” to a nice lady
There was even more listed but I think by now you have joined me in forming a picture of the man that was “H” and the life he lived. My favorite part of the obituary is this quote they provided as attributed to him, “life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well-preserved body, but rather to skid sideways. Chivas in one hand – a taco in the other-body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming, WHOO-HOO, ITS BEEN A LONG DUSTY RIDE.”
Consciously or unconsciously, the majority of us spend our lives seeking the safe middle ground without the risk or the joy of discomfort. We are content to get through our day, our week, our year and for many, our life without having ever really stood up stood out or taken a risk.
There is a great joy to be found in the unknown and the uncomfortable. Perhaps the craziness that is 2020 is the year for you to do some deep reflection regarding your well-preserved self and to make some uncomfortable changes.
What is one thing you can do right now this day to be bold and beyond the comfortable you? Write that thing down and make a public commitment to make it happen no matter what the cost.
I know for many this is going to be hard and I know for all that do it the reward at the end of the journey will be worth it. I am with you. After all, don’t we all love a good drink and great taco?
It seems like it was just yesterday that we were at work with friends, co-workers, and the long talker that would trap folks for what seemed like hours to tell a random story about their weekend. Suddenly the world has changed and all of that is gone as millions of us have suddenly found ourselves forced to work from home.
For those of us at home, our role now is to maximize the time to be the best possible worker we can while also balancing whatever may also be going on in the house as we deal with stir-crazy children, barking dogs and the reality of spending 100% of hour time with our family.
It will come as a surprise to many to learn that the transition to working from home can be difficult. First, there is the design of the job itself. Your company may not have previously used tools like Zoom, Webex, Skype and others to connect workers with each other. Fortunately, these can be learned quickly if you have a tech leader that can help others to adapt.
Next is the work at home transition for the individual employee that may have never had this opportunity before. The worker that is disciplined and structured at the office most likely will be this way as well at home and as a result will adapt quickly. The undisciplined and poorly focused person is going to struggle more and will need to have a solid plan for every workday and in some cases for every hour.
I have been a remote worker in the past and now am that way again. Here are a few tips that I think will help.
Set up a dedicated space
Already have a home office space? Lucky you! If this is not something that you have already then make the most of a card table, kitchen table, or some other space that you can declare to everyone in the house, “this is where I work now”. Make sure you have plenty of room with good natural light and strong access to your internet connection. This is a great time to try using a stand-up desk and if you do not have that option be sure and get a quality chair since the one you have now may not be designed for long term sitting.
Remove possible distractions
It can be easy to drift away from work and lose time to the constant stream of news that is blasting from the TV, the movie the children are watching or your various social media outlets. If these are a possible issue, turn them off and be sure your workspace is not near the temptation. There is no need to cut yourself completely off, just be reasonable with the amount of time. Have trouble staying away from the phone, use digital wellbeing, and other similar tools to set limits to your social media accounts.
Establish clear boundaries and rules with others at home
Working from home now is different than the old remote worker normal. Many employers before had clear rules for work from home employees including what to do about barking dogs, kids at home, and distractions. These rules will return but in this temporary world hopefully, most are providing some understanding and flexibility. At the same time, it will benefit you and the others at home to have clear communication to understand when you are working and when you are available. A good thing here is to transfer much of the same discipline you are using over to the children as they “work” as well on chores and learning activities. If your work area has a door, consider posting a schedule so your new co-workers can be aware of important times when you will be in meetings and do not want to be interrupted.
Take a shower
At first working from home can seem like a terrific form of a staycation with sweatpants, comfy shirt and lack of hygiene requirements. Even Ferris Bueller took a shower on his day off. The wake-up routine of getting ready for work combined with some decent casual clothes will help with the mental transition into work mode by providing a clear transition from not at work to at work.Those ratty sweatpants are a message to your mind that you are not at work and instead have moved to casual mode. Plus, with the extensive use of conferencing through cameras, it is still important to be mindful of your personal branding to demonstrate your level of professionalism.
Create goals and checklists
It is always important to have a plan and to know when your todos have moved over to done. Without some set goals for the day, it can be too easy to lose focus, let the day slip by, and then by the end have no idea what was accomplished. Let your checklist help to bring a smile as you reflect back on your accomplishments at the end of another day of work.
This is best to do at the end of each day and then again at the start of the next next. When you reach your stopping point, reflect on what you accomplished and then sketch out some goals for the next day. The following morning, it is time to tweak the plan with a few clear goals for the day.These goals should involve more than just work productivity as you will want to…
On average, I would walk at least two miles during the normal course of the day. The restroom was well down the hall and so was the breakroom with coffee and people for a quick personal chat. At home, things are more compact and it can be way too easy to get into work mode and have very little physical change.
Our minds are wired to work best in chunks. At least once an hour it is a good idea to do a quick walk around the house just to clear the head. Watch the health too as it can be very tempting to snack throughout the day due to easier food access. You will regret the bag of chips when it comes time to slip on the work clothes and you find you have expanded.
Take a break
Yes a real break, this means at lunch to step away from the desk and do something very different. You could go for a nice walk around the block, spend some time interacting with your new co-workers (kids, dog, cat), or just do anything that is not work-related.
Understand, it is okay to step away from the computer. Trust is especially important for WFH teams and your team will know the work is getting done even if you are away from your desk. If you are on a more structured team as far as requirements, make sure your lunchtimes and break times are clearly communicated with the team and manager. That will leave you with no guilt feelings or worry when away.
Continue to collaborate
With the tech we have access to, there is no reason at all to work alone in a silo. Stay in touch with peers on your team with daily check-in calls, frequent e-mails or IM chat groups. This includes people from the fringes of your work circle as well. Out of sight can be out of mind and so this is a good time to reach out to experts in areas of the organization that may be able to provide you with insight or assistance.
Thousands of years of norms have wired us to live in tribes. It is not natural to be alone all the time and complete social isolation can have a negative impact on mental health. For your work tribe, take time to have non-work talks and sharing during a meeting. Consider a virtual webcam happy hour where work talk is banned and all the time is spent being personal.
What a great time to actually build deeper personal connections with your working peers and experts in your profession. Many teams are going deeper with each other with virtual team happy hours and other fun ways to get personal. Every day now is a bring your kid, cat, dog, fish to the workday. Keep these happy hours as a work-free zone and use them to build personal connections with each other.
If using a webcam, keep in mind that not everyone may have the same level of workspace. This means not being judgemental of what you may see as you peak into the home of another. With that said, it is a good idea to test your camera view in advance to ensure what will show up behind you is work appropriate. Some video conferencing applications like Zoom and Teams allow you to modify backgrounds. If that is a concern, give it a try.
Plan a hard stop
If non-exempt, do not forget the rules regarding hourly work continue to apply. This means work should occur during the scheduled times and any work outside the agreed-upon boundaries should result in compensation. Just be sure and follow the guidelines you have been provided or ask for them if you do not have any. Most employers will ask for advance permission to work outside of expected hours just as they did before the move to working from home.
For the exempt employee, stopping can be a difficult challenge since work is now always just a few steps away. The temptation to never stop can be strong for work from home employees especially if other teammates seem to always be online. As a team, this is a good opportunity to ensure it is understood that work is not intended to be 24X7. This is not the time to get into every day and every hour work habits as it is not healthy for you or for your family.
Working from home can be a wonderful experience if treated with a positive attitude and strong discipline. You can get through this and may even find yourself thriving in many unexpected ways.
These are just a few tips based upon my work from home experiences. What about you? What are some of your top tips that you would share with others?