• Kevin Lindon Ryan

How to Be More Productive and Efficient While Teleworking During the COVID-19 Pandemic

As COVID-19 spreads in Washington, D.C. my work-life changes forever. In health communications, I consult a client at its headquarters, an hour commute for me by metro and shuttle, with my body less than six feet apart from sweaty, sullen strangers. Prior to telework, I was briefly like an ad for coronavirus infection.

On the crowded metro, I could feel a man’s breath on my shoulder. My chin itched from a more-than-five-o-clock-shadow. I couldn’t stop touching my face, despite Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 guidance. Yes, I develop health communications products professionally, including social media content on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Yet, all I could think about was teleworking and the unexpected new normal. 

Organizing While Teleworking During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Over the years, you may have seen my organizing tips featured in The Washington Post and other online and print publications. (PRESS PAGE!) However, during the first week of telework, my entire world turned upside down. At first, I felt like a new preschool teacher managing a class of 30 students all coming down from simple sugar highs. It was challenging, this new normal, and it required hard skills.

However, it forced me to become more productive, efficient, and organized than ever before, even compared to my experience updating 75 major annual communications during Medicare Annual Enrollment Period, ahead of Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services deadlines, or else resulting in major fines.

10 Tips to Boost Your Focus & Become More Productive & Efficient While Teleworking

1. Create a list each day of completed action items, alongside your to-do list. I keep my notebook open, record the date at the top of each page, track completed action items on the right page, and my to-do list on the left. Use this tip to prioritize and remain organized, productive, and efficient. Also, let it be your record. On the spot, someone may ask about project updates and progress.

2. Send your boss regular reports. Tip one above should come in handy. Write this report as if it were your resume. Quantify as much as you can. Use bullet-points. Organize as an inverted pyramid: rank in order of importance— with heavy lifts first.

3. Keep your phone on vibrate or ring. (Of course.) Ask your boss, clients, and coworkers to call or text you if they need anything. If you take lunch, bring your phone with you in case of any urgent or critical asks. Perhaps a team member may cover certain requests while you chow down on salad, a kale smoothie, or even tater tots. (Whatever you eat during quarantine.)

4. Respond to emails, like, instantly, if you can. Your clients and colleagues may appreciate your quick responses, even if you feel like a bot for responding so quickly. Keep projects moving.

5. Track projects on a spreadsheet with regular updates. Submit this tracker to your boss periodically, and provide as much detail as necessary. Measure progress and include status updates. Keep your team informed and up-to-date.

6. Share successes, and celebrate victories. If you get outstanding feedback from a client or colleague, you hear praise about a fellow team member, or you notice stellar results of hard work. . . Let your boss know. It may be valued, appreciated, and encouraging.

7. Use data whenever you can. With analytics tools, it may be easier for you to quantify results and paint a picture of accomplishments to leadership. Draw insights from data and present findings. Evaluate weaknesses and provide opportunities for improvement.

8. Save praise. Keep emails sent by someone about your high quality work, contributions, or character, and store praise for a rainy day. . . Or your performance review. (Never a bad idea.) You may even ask if you can use a note as a testimonial on your website or LinkedIn. See my LinkedIn recommendations, and view testimonials on my homepage.

9. Think beyond your assigned tasks. If you have suggestions or ideas for projects or process improvements, don’t be shy. What's the worst that could happen? You may impress someone with your feedback.

10. Practice productivity and efficiency, use these tips to manage time efficiently, and become more productive and efficient. You want to show your boss, clients, team, and leadership that you are just as productive when teleworking as you are at the office. This may build trust. Prove your tele-worth.

Remember, we're all in this together. Reach out if you have questions or need help! #COVID19