Some people are glad to be able to work from home – others, not so much. Whatever your feelings about it are, working from home is here to stay, in some form or another. If you’re one of the millions whose work has been transferred from office to bedside table during the pandemic, you can certainly relate to the blessings – and challenges – that this vastly different work environment brings. To discuss this highly relevant topic on the podcast, Adam Markel brings in someone who is uniquely suited to talk about it. Adam Schroeder, the Founder of LoneStar Multimedia, has been doing his job from home for ten years now. He is also the co-host of The Work From Home Show. In this conversation, Adam hones in on some of the most persistent problems people encounter when working from home and teaches us how to overcome them. He also talks about the importance of building your skill sets in this uncertain economy.
Some people are glad to be able to work from home – others, not so much. Whatever your feelings about it are, working from home is here to stay in some form or another. If you’re one of the millions whose work has been transferred from office to bedside table during the pandemic, you can certainly relate to the blessings – and challenges – that this vastly different work environment brings.
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The Gifts And Challenges Of Working From Home And Building The Skillsets To Stay On Top Of The Job Market With Adam Schroeder
I am feeling fortunate to be in a place that I can think. We don’t always find ourselves in places where we can even hear ourselves think. It can be loud. In fact, the guest I have on the show has four kids. My wife and I have four kids as well. For many years, our house was crazy, busy, noisy, and all that, but we became empty nesters. We are playing hooky from active parenting. Our parenting is done on the phone, FaceTime, Zoom but we’re in a good spot in a nice little tucked away place in Maine. It’s a great place to be creative.
For most of us, I would imagine to have the old expression, peace and quiet, but to be able to have quiet time and think about where we are in the world, personal lives, and professional lives is an important luxury. I call it a luxury because I don’t think a lot of people make too much time to where they are at. One thing the pandemic has given us is it has given us that time. For many of us, it’s given us a bit of space that we didn’t have as much of before. Some of you might be laughing and thinking, “What are you talking about? I’ve been stuck inside with people I can’t stand anymore,” or something. That’s where we’ve got to put our masks on, go out, take a walk, sit someplace, and be with ourselves a little bit.
This is an appropriate way to introduce Adam Schroeder because he is the Founder of LoneStar Multimedia, a web design and audio editing company, and the cohost of The Work From Home Show. It couldn’t be any more appropriate to have this gentleman on. I was a guest on The Work From Home Show and I enjoyed that conversation. That is a podcast similar to this dedicated to helping people to figure out how to work out of the home successfully and improve their skillsets while doing so.
Adam, it’s such a pleasure to have you on the show. Thanks for joining us.
It’s an absolute pleasure. I loved our interview. It was nice. I appreciate it.
It was a ton of fun. What’s not part of the bio that you would like for people to know about you?
One of the things that people should know is my journey to working from home and working from home, I initially didn’t get into the field that I’m in now. I didn’t do web design. I did some audio production before, but I started out at a public radio station, then I moved to a financial radio station when I moved to Houston, Texas. We were winding up that part of my life when we were having our first kid. I had to transition and I was like, “I don’t want to send her to the daycare. What can I do not to work?”
My wife had to work because she makes all the money. Let’s be honest. I started learning web design and I was like, “I need to learn a skill,” so I started doing that. That allowed me to meet a whole bunch of people doing web design for them. I met a guy who I worked with now, who transitioned me to another job that I started doing and helping people build up their real estate portfolios and everything. My life’s been a life of transition, but I’ve been able to transition from home.
This is a great conversation for us to have here because my guess is there are lots of people out there who are happy that they can now work from home. The corporate world collectively has not been on board with remote working. I’m making this number. It’s a total wild guess. I would say 95% of the conventional workforce was commuting to and from the office. They’re required to be in the office most, if not all of the time when they’re not on the road, traveling for business, and that kind of thing.
Thomas Malone wrote a book called The Future of Work in around 1999 or 2000, where he predicted decentralization in organizational structures and for a number of reasons related to communication and the speed of communication that we’d be able to work from remote locations and that would become the norm at some point. Of course, he didn’t say that in the book that it would be a pandemic that would bring about that change. That change has been brought about nonetheless. I’m curious from your standpoint. For the people reading this who are happy to be working from home and maybe having a real challenge with it, what’s the gift of working from home? What are some of the challenges that you’ve experienced? We can help some people with this conversation to get a little more comfortable.
It’s the freedom that I was given. I was the 95% you were talking about and you might be low on that number. Whenever I was working in an office, I got to work from home when I took two personal days because at that time, we didn’t have kids and my dog died. It was unexpected. I took a day or two off and I worked from home. I was like, “I’m so much more effective from here.” It was because there were many people stopping by my office wanting to ask me questions. I wasn’t high up but I wasn’t low, so I oversaw people.
They would come by my office and say, “What about this? What about that? Can you look this up?” This was before smartphones. My office mate and I used to always joke and be like, “Google on,” and then we would respond to them and be like, “Your question was so obvious.” There were many distractions. Working from home allowed me to, first off, the boss didn’t know when I woke up, so that was fantastic. I could roll out of bed and go straight to work. The only way people had to get ahold of me was to call me. They had to actively acknowledge that they were going to interrupt me to come in.
It’s easy to be walking down the hall and be like, “Adam, how are you doing?” When you’re at home, they have to schedule a time with you or they have to see you on Zoom or Skype and call you. It’s a conscious interruption. That allowed it to do that. On the other hand, there’s not the stopping by the office. There’s not the, “How are you doing? What’s going on?” It has to be conscious. Your social interaction gets a little lower. I talked to a guy who works in tech and he said, “I hate working from home.”
He does coding for apps and he was like, “It’s so much easier to sit down in the room, show them my lines of code, and point at things and do this, that, and the other.” It depends on your work environment. In so many jobs, you don’t need that. You don’t need to physically be there. The big stretch for people has been, “How do I fill my time? How do I fill my eight hours a day? How do I fill my 40 hours a week?” The simple answer is you don’t. You’re working at home.Resist the urge to fill your time with unnecessary things. Work to not work. Click To Tweet
You have to get over the mindset and you have to realize, “If I can do my job in twenty hours, my boss doesn’t have to know I finished it in twenty hours. They’re paying me $50,000, $60,000, $70,000, $100,000 for my expertise. If I can do that expertise in 30 to 35 hours, they don’t care if it takes me 50 hours. They’ve agreed to pay me for the job.” That’s a big mindset that people have to get out of whenever they start working from home. It can be a struggle because a lot of people are sitting at their desks saying like, “What do I have to do next? How can I prove my worth?” The big way to prove your worth is to get your job done on time.
It’s a performance mentality. It’s a performance-based system because you’re being paid to get a job done or multiple jobs done. It’s an ongoing thing that you’re being asked to respond to, handle, and solve. If you can do that, why does it matter whether it took me 10 hours or took 100 hours to do it? That’s a product of your own productivity and ability to be efficient at whatever that task is. The delta is either yours or theirs. If they paid you $50,000 to do a job that someone could do with maybe a higher skillset and they could get it done in 30 hours, but for you, in where you’re at, it took you 60 hours.
They got a good deal on you. They paid you less, it took you a lot of time to get it done, but you got it done. If you’re the person who got it done in 30 hours, then that other 10 hours or whatever that delta is, is yours, which we call time freedom. If you’re an 8:00 AM riser or whatever, but you’re going to log in and start working officially on the clock at 9:00. If 30 minutes is enough time for you to brush your teeth and put on a work shirt, who knows what’s going on underneath, then more power to you.
One of the things I would caution people about is overworking. You can show your boss somewhat that you can do more in your 40 hours, but make sure that that doesn’t become a part of your job description without the reciprocal payment. I read a study back in 2009 or 2010 that said, “People who work from home tend to work more hours.” It’s because you’re at home and it can be easy to stay at your computer and keep working or pick it back up later. I’m a contractor, so I’ll be working at 10:00 or 11:00 at night and it’s not a big deal to me because I don’t work from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM, and I don’t work from 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM.
There are chunks that I don’t do, but it’s so easy to keep working, continue doing things, and be like, “I could do this one more thing.” Your boss is like, “Adam did that one thing and I didn’t have to pay him any extra.” You get sucked into the rabbit hole, and then eventually, they give you a 3% raise, but you’re doing a job that they would pay somebody $30,000 a year to do and you’re doing it for either free or a $3,000 raise.
That’s so interesting too, Adam, because I’m sure people are thinking that by doing that extra work, being so productive on their time looking to fill their time as opposed to celebrating the time off. I didn’t plan this and never did. It’s one of those wonderful little mysteries that I start with a thought about having time to ourselves to think, plan our lives, and evaluate, and where does that time come from. Many people that you speak to these days are freaking busy. They’re busier than they were before the pandemic. They’re always busy and you go, “What are you so busy doing?” It’s interesting because if somebody is working the job and can get it done, then that other time becomes their own to have dinner with their family, breakfast with their kids, time to work, work out, or work on something else even.
There’s a sense of maybe guilt that they shouldn’t be doing this. They’re battling their own suspicion that what they’re doing is wrong. There is even the sense that if they don’t work so much harder or produce so much more, they’re more vulnerable to being laid off and that kind of thing. Your podcast is constantly tackling this topic. What are your thoughts on that? Is there a mindset shift that has to precipitate people being able to work more harmonious way from home, or is it something else?
It’s important for people to realize when they’re at home and they’re not working, it’s not like they’re sitting in the break room and they could be seen not working. It all comes down to yes, you have to be available if they’re expecting you to work 8:00 to 5:00, 9:00 to 5:00, 8:00 to 6:00, or whatever. You might not be working but you’re available on the phone. If they call you, you need to answer or call them back within a reasonable amount of time. It’s the mindset of, “I need to continue to work.”
A lot of people, they’re thinking, “I’m going to have to go back to the office.” They don’t want to get into the habit of breaking that continuous working. You have to realize that you may not be going back to the office and it may not be your decision. You almost have to keep your old life in your head but embrace your new life and realize that you can have that time and it’s okay. It’s almost like you have to give yourself permission to do it. That’s a big mindset shift. It’s, “I’m allowed to sit on my couch and read a book for 30 to 45 minutes if I want to because that’s what I want to do. I’m done with what I need to do.”
As a society, we are so fast-paced and every moment has to be filled, even outside of work. With four kids, your weekends can easily disappear. If each of your kids is in one activity, there goes every night of the week. Now you’re something like, “My kids don’t have activities to do right now.” My kids and I were driving to Taekwondo a couple of days a week, but now they’re doing Taekwondo on Zoom so we have that hour that we would have been on the road and we’ve got that from home. We had to resist the urge to fill the time because you can fill your time with unnecessary things. You have to work to not work.
What’s your theory about the working to not work? What is it about us? I’m almost asking to put on a psychology hat or something. Why do we do that? Why do we feel we’re rushing always to fill our time?
A lot of it is due to the fact that we know that corporations fire people easily. We see all these layoffs that we think, “If I’m the lazy one or if I’m viewed as the lazy one, I’m gone.” There’s little loyalty from companies to workers, and it’s transitioned to be little loyalty from workers of the company because of that. You think, “If my company fired me, who’s hiring?” Nobody is hiring. It is a little scary to think about pulling back your hours at a time when if you’re viewed as lazy and you get laid off, you’re stuck in your unemployment for who knows how long until people start hiring again.
There are these two competing things. It’s this idea that we’re working perpetually and even working ourselves into states of exhaustion that are different than the kinds of exhaustion states that involve us commuting, going into the office, and all that kind of thing. What’s the way to resolve the tension between those two things if there is a way?
A big part of it is looking at your job description. Whenever everybody gets hired, you have a general job description and thinking, “What do I need to do to accomplish this? How do I prove to my boss that I accomplished this?” Those are your two big things. You have to do the thing and you have to prove you did the thing you did. Once you can figure out those two things, realize you don’t have to go beyond that. There were some things when you’re in the office that you took on that aren’t in your job description. You need to know what those were and you need to figure out how to accomplish those.
It’s almost like whenever you hire a contractor for your house, you give them a scope of work and you say, “How much will it cost you to do these things?” They’ll say, “$10,000.” You say, “You’re hired.” At the end, you go through and you look, “Did you fix my stairs?” “Yes.” “Did you fix this drywall?” “Yes.” Your boss is going to do the same thing. They’re not going to look at the list that you had on the side that was, “Here are ten other things I could do with my time.” They’re just looking at what you were doing in the office. You have to figure out how you can do those things from home and how you can prove those things.
If it’s clerical, they might be looking at your time and seeing when you were working. If it’s more of the information society, you just send them the file or send them whatever you do. If you don’t know, you need to have a sit down with your boss and you need to say, “What are you expecting me to do during this time?” If they’re a good boss, they’ll sit you down and say, “When you were in the office, you were doing this and this.” You say, “That’s what I need to do. How can I prove to you that I’ve done that?” They’ll tell you, “I expect this to be in my inbox on Tuesday morning.” “Every Tuesday morning, you’ll have that in your inbox. If it changes, let me know. If not, leave me alone,” but say it nicer than that.Be truthful with yourself about what you want and what it takes to be able to get that. Click To Tweet
Has an email become like big brother? If your boss calls you, you’re going to respond and you’re absolutely going to pick up the phone or call him back. If she texts you, you’re going to need to text her back because a failure to text and return the call is a clear–out in the backyard with a cocktail and feet up. That’s the perception. Email is more insidious. Is your experience from what you’re hearing and seeing that bosses and companies are emailing people all times of the day, night, and weekends? There’s no set like, “I’ll email you between the hours of 9:00 and 5:00 while you’re at home.” That’s not the case, right?
No, there’s absolutely creep.
Scope creep like you said. That’s an interesting term. It morphs.
Especially as we’ve added our email to our phones and our phones are with us all the time, it’s so easy. As a contractor, it’s completely different for me because I can decide if I want to respond at 11:00. Sending the reply email at 10:00 or 11:00 at night gives your boss permission to expect that from you. You have to be careful of that because once you set the precedent, it’s hard to pull that back. When you email them the next morning, say, “I just received this,” even if it’s not necessarily true.
You might see it at 10:00 at night, you’re saying, “I just saw your email. This, that and the other.” You answer it by 6:00 or 7:00. That’s a little later than you would have been at the office, but be careful. It can be so easy to fire an email back, but as soon as you do that, they start expecting, “I emailed Adam at 9:30 last night and he responded at 10:30. I can call him at 10:00. I can call him at 10:15. I can email him and expect a response.” Suddenly, you look worse even though you’re responding after hours. It’s like, “Why isn’t he working now?”
Scope creep is definitely a concern for many people. I‘ve got emails from people asking, in general, “How do I set my hours?” The simple fact is you have to let your boss know, “I stopped work. I don’t work after 6:30.” If they ask, “Why?” Say, “I’m not going to be at work after 6:30 and before 8:00.” You can talk to them and say, “I like to wake up early and I’m more productive in the morning. I’m going to work from 7:00 to 3:00. I’m going to work from 7:00 to 4:00. Is that okay? If you email me at 4:30, are you expecting me to respond that day? If so, then I want to let you know that I’m going to take more time off in the middle of the day because I’m not going to dedicate 10, 11, 12 hours to the company right now.”
We’re talking about boundaries. It’s easy to blur the boundary lines, hold, set, and remind people of boundaries. It’s uncomfortable especially if there’s this insecurity that’s always in the background that the job market out there might not be optimal. Talk to me a little bit about the podcast. I was happy to be a guest on the show. That’s a bit of a pivot. How did you get into that space and what’s that been like for you?
Me and my cohost have been working at home for many years. This is one of those boundary things that we don’t have. He texts me one night at 10:30 my time and 11:30 his time. He’s on the East Coast and I’m in Austin, I’m in Central Time. We hashed it out via text. He was like, “This NBA friend of mine worked for the front office in the NBA. They’re going to start working from home Monday. He doesn’t know how to do it. We need to start a podcast.” I was like, “Let’s start a podcast. Let’s do it.”
The next morning, we got to work. We designed the logo, made the website, and started doing all that. He’s a digital marketer, and I’m a web design and audio editing guy. We had a whole thing built in. We published our first episode that next Monday. We knew there were going to be many people working from home or laid off and having to figure out how to make a business from home. His first idea wasn’t, “Let’s start a podcast.” It was, “Let me find a podcast for you,” and there weren’t.
He frequently publishes podcasts about it, so it became a see a need, fill a need. We started recording for it and it’s been amazing. We’ve interviewed one lady who’s been working from home since the early ‘80s. I didn’t even know that was possible with what she was doing. She’s been doing it since then. We’ve talked to a lot of people who have shown people how to make a business and how to build a business. This podcast was not designed to make us money, but it made me $7,300 from the PPP because I interviewed a CPA who said, “If your business was impacted from COVID and mine was, you’re eligible.” I was like, “Even if my readers aren’t getting anything out of it, I am.” It’s been a blast. Teaching people how to shift into the work from home environment has been fun because I’ve been doing it for decades, but it’s still new to me somehow. I’m still setting boundaries between my work and my family, and figuring out when to work, when not to work, and all of that. It’s a continually changing field, even though you’re not continually changing the job environments.
We talk a lot about resilience in this show. How would you describe what resilience is required to work from home versus the resilience that’s required when you’re working out in the office?
If you’re working as a W–2 employee, resilience has to be setting the boundaries and understanding that it’s easy to go and not do work. It’s easy to say, “I’m going to do this now and I’ll do that later,” because you’re not at your office and you don’t have the stuff sitting on your desk. Pushing from inside to say, “I have to finish this. I’m not going to do it later. I’m not going to do that during family time. I’m going to stick with this and I’m not going to allow myself to slack.” If you’re doing contract work, you’re shifting to that, and you’ve got to be resilient because you’re going to hear no a lot. When you go out and you’re pitching yourself to companies or headhunters, you’re going to hear companies saying, “No, we don’t need you.” It can be hard. You have to know that somebody does need you. You just have to figure out, “How do I convince them that they do need me?” To me, I don’t need a new website and I have to figure out, “Is that true? Is this somebody I have to prove myself to more?” “You may not need a new website, but if you did this, you can make this much money.”
Sometimes, you get far along in the sales process and you think, “Next month, I’ll be finishing this up and I’ll make $2,000 or $3,000.” Suddenly, they get to that point in the sales process and they go, “I don’t think so.” “I don’t think we need this,” or “Our budget disappeared.” It’s up to you to find the next job. It can be disheartening and it can make you want to say, “I’m just going to get a full-time job. I’m just going to go work in the office. I’m going to let somebody be my own boss.” You have to decide whether that’s important to you. When I left my last job, I said, “I never want to work in an office again.”
It’s having that freedom and that element of control. Yet, where we are in the world is such a lack of control. There seems to be so much uncertainty. How is it that you personally are able to manage and leverage the uncertainty?
I made an interesting decision at the beginning of 2020 that looking back, created way more uncertainty than I thought it would. I scaled back my web design and my audio editing, and I scaled up. It was a beautiful time for selling investment real estate to investors nationwide. I started doing that in January and March came. People suddenly told me, “Call me in July.” For a little bit, I pulled back and I was like, “Am I doing the right thing? Should I continue down this path or should I ramp up the other thing?”
I realized, “I need to push. Even if it doesn’t succeed, I need to dedicate 2 to 3 hours a day calling people and get told no. Even if they tell me no, I can start the relationship now and start talking to them.” In terms of dealing with the uncertainty, I have to say, “I’m fortunate in this regard that my income is not required for us to live comfortably.” I had to say, “I’m going to get told no and I’m not going to make any money, but in 6, 9, 12 months, I’m going to make money. I’m going to set the base now and do it.”
I knew and I was right. I didn’t make any money. You have to commit to it and figure out if this is something you think will be good for you long–term, then you’re in it for the long–term. If you have to do some stuff on the side to make that income to go along, then do that. Don’t give up on the thing that you think is going to be your gift to the world or what allows you to do what you want to do to make the income you want to make.
In that place of uncertainty, it seems to me what you leveraged was getting truthful with yourself, being super honest about what it is you wanted, and getting also equally truthful about the timeline that it might involve to get what it is that you wanted. Is that right?
I’ll have to admit, doing the podcast didn’t help in that regard because I was talking to all of these people who were working from home and making $10,000, $15,000, $20,000 a month doing this thing. I was like, “Maybe I could do that,” and then I realized, “That’s not what I’m good at.” I could 2 to 3 years of learning how to be good at that, but I am good at helping people with their real estate portfolios. I’ve learned about that for the last couple of years. I am good at audio editing and web design. I need to focus on my strengths and I need to stay true to what I know I can do for people and businesses.
Getting distracted or chasing after. You’re comparing yourself or even look at someone else’s grass being greener and saying, “I’ll do that. I could do that. If they can do that, I can do that.” It can be dizzying to see that your mind can be easily distracted or drawn away from that core inquiry about what you want to do. What do you love doing? What are you good at doing? Where does your current skillset lie? I’m a big believer in if there’s something you want to do, you can always figure out how to acquire the skills to be at a basic level.Building your skills during this time is important because as soon as the economy turns around, that's going to be your time to strike. Click To Tweet
You can figure out how to do it well enough. If you loved it that much that you commit to being a master at it, you could create the deliberate practice, get the mentorship, and get the training. At some point, be that good at it, but it doesn’t happen overnight. You’re an honest guy. The caveat is, “I could see this might take a couple of months at a minimum to get up and running and produce an income. Fortunately, I don’t have to worry about it because we’ve got enough income coming in already.” Is it something that you might even be able to say to somebody that wouldn’t be in that situation? Imagine yourself if you were in that situation and let’s say your spouse was not earning as much as she’s earning or somehow or another, it wasn’t comfortable. What would have happened in that moment?
This is a time when there are a lot of opportunities. Even if I know I’m not going to make money doing this, I stick with the job that I’m doing, I don’t love, and I’m not the best at but I’m making money doing. I watch a bunch of YouTube videos about how to do the thing that I know I’m going to be doing that I want to be doing in 6, 9, 10 months from now. You have to pay for your shelter and food. I wouldn’t suggest anybody give up their job that they need to do. There are many options for learning new skills. YouTube is like a free university. They’re uploading four days worth of content every second on YouTube or something. It’s some insane number.
It sounds cheesy, but building your skills during this time is important because as soon as the economy turns around and people start hiring or companies open up their checkbooks to independent contractors, that’s going to be your time to strike. You need to position yourself to take advantage of that opportunity. Right now, you stick with that $30,000 or $40,000 job while you’re eyeing that $80,000 job. You need to build up the skill, so whenever that $80,000 job is hiring or available, you come in and say, “I have all of these skills and I’m better than anybody else you’re looking at right now.”
It’s such an interesting thing because, at times like this, there is a tendency to hunker down. When we get feeling insecure and things are uncertain, we play it safe. Like in football, you play defense and even your offense becomes a defense. I remember, with the team that I followed since I was a kid, they prevent offense. It’s what we used to call it. I’m sure a lot of teams use that phrase. At a time like this, go into a prevent offense. At least one of the aspects, the offense is a time to acquire new skills. It’s a time to work on yourself. Perhaps in working at home or in any way that you’re able to recapture time.
Some of what you can use that recaptured time to do is not just to sit around with a Mai Tai, even if that’s what you want to do. If you’ve got the time and you got your work in and done, great. Fine. Do it. What you can also do at that time is read, research, study things on YouTube, and look at where the market is headed or where you want to be headed 12 months, 18 months, or 2 years from now. We know, like snapping your fingers, that eighteen months will go by and we’ll come out of this disruption as tough as it’s been.
Companies will be hiring and companies will be thriving, the ones that are still around, and that’ll be quite a number. There will be new companies that have sprouted up from the ashes of burned up old companies that weren’t able to pivot. All of that is part of the cycle of life and may not be nice. It might not be easy for many people dealing with it, but it is, on a macro level, what is to be expected. It’s the norm.
Since that’s a repetitive cycle that happens the same way as spring follows the winter every year, as much as you think the winter is never going to end perhaps, spring follows the winter. You’ll see the exact same thing happen in our economy and in various sectors of different industries. This would be the best time to be making yourself that much more relevant, building your skills and positioning yourself either as an entrepreneur. That’s the arena that you want to be in or be that valuable from home in the particular area that you’re either great already or want to become great at.
If you are a salaried employee right now or even if you’re a contractor in one way, as you’re learning these skills, you can always go to Upwork or Fiverr and start offering your services with that delta time that you have even if you’re willing to work in the evening. You don’t have to make a ton of money doing it, but you can take on a job here and there that will allow you to start doing things faster. Whenever you do get a job doing your next thing, you don’t come in taking on a massive load of work that’s going to take you 80 hours. Now that you’ve done those 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 jobs on the side, suddenly, you can do that massive load in maybe 40 or 50 hours. It’s going to shorten your learning curve after the pandemic is over. There are many companies that have to lay off workers that are looking for that one-off person, and you can be that one-off person.
It became an outsourced solution. It helps you to fine-tune your skills and get faster at doing a good job but doing it more quickly. Potentially, who knows, in doing that, you go, “Why wouldn’t I hang out my own shingle, so to speak, and do this piecemeal for as many companies who’d like to hire me?” Adam, what are some other suggestions? I don’t normally get in this show the ability to ask somebody this question. Since you’ve been curating a lot of information and answers, it’s a perfect opportunity for people reading who are working from home, either in their own thing or for someone else. What are the best suggestions you could recommend for folks in addition to what you’ve already shared?
You need to have an honest conversation with your significant other if you have one and start setting boundaries with them too, and say, “I’m going to be unavailable at this time, but we will do this at this time or this part of the day, or even on this day.” My wife knows, for example, that I work when the kids are sleeping because I stay home with our four kids as well, even pre-pandemic. I work before they wake up, during their rest time, and after they go to bed. We’ve set aside every Friday night, that’s our date night, even though we don’t go anywhere. We know that that is a time for us.
It’s important to have that whether it’s daily, weekly, monthly, or whatever. Your relationships can suffer if you don’t figure out what you want to do. The other thing is to figure out when you’re most effective. My wife is a night owl. If you asked her to wake up at 7:00 AM and be productive before 10:00 AM, you wouldn’t be looking at the best employee. She wouldn’t be putting her best foot forward. If you say 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM, she’s your woman. You need to realize and figure out when you’re most productive and how you’re most productive.
You may be productive, sequestered away from your kids while they’re watching TV or doing something else, or you can function because of what your job has to do while they’re in the same room with you. You need to figure out how your household can work around your job because we’ve lost all the time and the excuse of, “My kids are running around and being crazy,” is gone. Everybody had that excuse for the first 1 or 2 months of, “We’re adjusting. The kids are home. This, that, and the other.” Now, that’s gone. They don’t care. It’s like, “You’ve had four months to figure this out. If you haven’t figured it out, then you’re not the right person at this time.” You’ve got to figure that out.
The question you asked is a great one. When are you most productive? Ask and be honest with yourself about it because there’s a lot you can do when you have the flexibility of 24 hours. You now have the flexibility of 24 hours and 7 days a week. Not suggesting that we ought to be working 24/7. We’re clear. What’s great is that if you come from a performance mindset where what you’re being paid for and what you’re looking to produce is a result. I used to love to work Saturday mornings. I was a lawyer for eighteen years and I love Saturday morning.
When I wasn’t coaching on the baseball field or something like that at a certain point in our kid’s lives, getting into the office and doing the 3 to 4 hours, clearing out everything so that come Monday, which is usually the bear of a day. My Mondays were relatively easy because I took all that pressure off on Saturday. The phones weren’t ringing and nobody was bothering me. It was a great time to catch up. Learning that about yourself, when do you work best? Setting up those boundaries in those zones of productivity to coordinate well.
The other thing you said that from a relationship standpoint is powerful. I’m married to my college sweetheart and I suppose she’s married to hers, hopefully, for many years. One of the things that I learned that’s important is you’ve got to schedule time together. Somebody might be thinking, “What are you talking about scheduled time?” All we do is each other. We’re running into each other in the house more now than ever before and can’t get enough. We have so much face time.
There’s a difference between that blending of all of these things like family, business, and every other thing. Separating, creating space, and calendaring that space, literally putting it on your calendar that, “At 8:00 at night, it’s foot massage time,” or whatever it might be. “We’re going to walk and get a coffee,” or “We’re going to take the walk that’s just for us. The kids are not there and it’s just us taking a 45-minute health walk.” That’ll happen when you schedule it. It’s likely not to happen when you don’t.
There’s something else to it as well. Not only will it more likely happen, but you’re telling your spouse or your significant other something about what’s important to you when you put it on the calendar to do it. For what it’s worth, after many years, you’re doing yourself a big favor and you’re doing something important for your relationship when you make it a priority in that way. Adam, you were alluding to the same thing.
You were talking about 24/7. Weekends don’t have to be Saturday and Sunday, especially as you’re working from home. If you get to continue working from home once everybody goes back to work, some people aren’t, it’s fantastic to go places on Tuesday or Wednesday during the day. There’s nobody there. Weekends can be whatever days you want them to be. Let your boss know, “I’m going to work Saturday and Sunday and not Wednesday or Thursday morning,” or whatever. Days mean nothing in a lot of cases.
Growing up, my dad had a job where he had the choice of his weekend, so to speak. He made his weekend Friday and Saturday instead of Saturday and Sunday. Friday was a day when many wonderful things were happening and he was doing things he wanted to be doing. The message was loud and clear to my brother and I without him telling us anything. When I own my own law firm at a certain point, that Friday was mine. It’s tough to convince my boss before that, that Friday could be mine, but we have that ability now. It’s such a great suggestion. Adam, the last question for you, back to resilience. Do you have certain rituals or habits that you do consciously that build your resilience and are building you up mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually?
One of the things I do that helps me sort through everything is my wife and I have gone away from it a little bit since the pandemic started. We have weekly check-ins on our Sunday evening where we list everything that I need to accomplish and what she needs to accomplish and set the week in place. That way, we don’t have an excuse when next Sunday comes around, “Did you get this done? Did you get that done? Why didn’t you get that done? Why didn’t you get this done?” You have to be held accountable for it. We haven’t been doing as much and it’s hurt me, honestly. She was mentioning it and she said, “You become less productive when we haven’t had our meetings.” I find myself not being as productive because I don’t have my weekly list.
Why do you think that has been the case?
It’s because the kids’ activities stopped so it made it easier for us to say, “I’m never leaving the house so why do we need to do that?” We need to get back on the ball.
It worked. It’s good to look at something and go, “That was working for us.” Because the world is different now, lots of things are different. We can still go back to what worked for us. That’s a wonderful way to end, for people to look at where it is that there were things that were working in their life pre-pandemic that they’ve stopped doing. There are things that we’re working like, “I love going out for a happy hour on a Friday night and meeting my friends at the bar.” That’s not one of those things that you can do, but there are a lot of other things that could have been working that we have in our minds go, “Having connected the dots to be able to reinitiate that, I suppose.”
My own personal ritual has to do with the way I wake up in the morning. As a way to close out this conversation and a reminder for myself and for everybody out there who’s reading, the waking ritual is one of the most, if not the most important rituals that we could create for ourselves. As my grandmother used to say, and this is important, “How do you get off on the right foot? How do you start your day on the right foot? How do you leave the house on the right foot?” That was the way she would always express it.
Those thoughts in the morning, those things that you state out loud, and you intend either consciously or even unconsciously have a great deal to do with the results you see on a particular day. They string enough days together that it looks like a life. That waking ritual is important. For me, it’s waking up. That’s the simple first part. I hope everybody is willing to agree that that’s not negotiable. Let’s wake up again tomorrow. Be grateful. What’s one thing in the waking moment, not ten minutes later.
Right then as you’re getting out of bed, instead of thinking about the creaking back, you didn’t sleep enough, you’ve got stuff to do, or whatever it might be that goes into your head. “I’ve got to check my Facebook page and see how that posted from last night.” You could consider, what’s something I can appreciate at this moment? Lastly, think about, what are the first words that come out of your mouth? What do you want the first words to express? What’s the energy of those words? What’s the intention behind those words?
My first words of the day are, “I love my life.” Those four words. Now more than ever, with everything that’s going on in the world with so much uncertainty, how I deal with uncertainty in many ways is by leveraging this state, the things that I know with all of my heart are so important, my spiritual practices, the power of my own words and intention. Think about what you could say when you wake up tomorrow. Be grateful at that moment, and then say something out loud. It could be, “I love my life no matter what.” It could be anything. Adam, as we close out, is there something you say in the morning routinely?
I don’t have a pattern like that. The only thing I usually think is, “I’m glad my kids let me sleep.”
It could be anything. There’s a woman I had on the show and she’s approaching 80 years old. I asked this question out loud and she says, “I wonder what miracles are coming today.” Think about that. It presupposes there are going to be miracles. That’s a good start already. She’s looking for them to see what those are and still, at her beautiful age, is curious, like the curiosity of a child in that state of wonder blew me away. This wonderful lady, Judy Whitcraft is her name. Adam, I loved our conversation. Thank you for being a guest on the show.
I appreciate it. It is fun.
Everybody, please feel free to let us know how you think about the show. Give us your thoughts. You can go to AdamMarkel.com/podcasts and leave a comment there. If you haven’t subscribed, please go ahead and subscribe and tell your friends and all that kind of thing. Join us on Facebook or wherever it is that we can serve you. Let us know what you’re looking for and we will see if we can fill the gap with some resources, information, or way to give you a tip that makes things a little easier. Ciao for now, everybody.
- Guest – Adam Markel on The Work From Home Show
- Judy Whitcraft – past episode
- Facebook page – Adam Markel
About Adam Schroeder
Founder of LoneStar Multimedia, a web design and audio editing company, and co-host of The Work From Home Show, a podcast dedicated to helping people figure out how to work out of the home successfully and improve their skillsets while doing so.