Some people thrive in a busy office, but not everyone is cut out for working in a distracting atmosphere. If you’re struggling to get things done at work, there are plenty of ways to be productive without chaining yourself to your desk and swearing off all social interaction.
The most precious commodity in today’s world is focus: holding undivided attention to the task at hand. But how do we get there when we’d much rather “focus” on Facebook or watching funny cat videos?
Don’t despair. We’ve prepared these 5 tips for focused work to help you slay your workday and make your colleagues jealous.
1. Race against yourself
Using a timer as a motivational tool is very powerful, especially if you’re a competitive person. Even if you don’t have external pressure to finish specific tasks, you can set mini-deadlines and use a time tracker to track the interval you’d like to stick to.
Parkinson’s law states that any task expands to fill the time we allow it. Most of us don’t even schedule our work, and wishful thinking won’t get things done. Strive to do quality work in the shortest time possible and you’ll surely enter a deep state of focus.
2. Leverage peer pressure
Most of us have an innate desire to please people, so we may as well use it to our advantage. Just like accountability partners and workout buddies can help us reach goals outside work, we can mimic the same peer pressure inside our office environment. If you hate working alone, spend time with a like-minded colleague who values efficiency and productivity.
Want to take social pressure to the next level? Tell your boss, manager, or coworker your plans to finish a certain project by the end of the day. Afraid this approach will get you into trouble? Good. You’ll work extra hard just to avoid embarrassing yourself in front of others.
3. Listen to focus-inducing music
If you’re working in an open space, you’re probably aware of this magical device called noise-canceling headphones. They might make you look a little silly, but they’re a good defense against that coworker who wants to hang out by the coffee machine for the millionth time. Unlike him, you might actually get some stuff done.
But since you’re already shutting out the outside world, why not go a step further and feed your brain some hypnotic waves? Binaural beats are proven to increase cognitive function, improve memory and strengthen neural connections. You can choose from plenty of playlists on YouTube and Spotify and feel your mind enter its zone of genius.
4. Schedule uninterrupted time
The single biggest enemy of focus is interruption. Interruptions can come from your team, your phone or e-mail, and even yourself. Distractions and unforeseen situations will never stop occurring, but it’s in your power to make yourself unavailable.
Block uninterrupted time in your schedule and let your coworkers and even superiors know that you’ll be unable to respond during that specific time unless it’s a true emergency. Place your phone on airplane mode and out of sight. Shut your e-mail and notifications off. This might seem scary or selfish at first, but you’ll get a lot of work done, and you’ll barely be missed.
5. Use apps to block distractions
Okay, so you’ve taken care of other people distracting you. Now, you need to take care of your own interrupting behavior because, when it comes to focusing, even mindlessly clicking online for a few moments can ruin your state of flow.
Breaking deeply ingrained habits like picking up your phone or scrolling on social media to soothe yourself when you’re stressed or uncomfortable isn’t an easy thing to do. That’s why using apps that block those specific sites can be so beneficial. You can try Freedom, FocusMe, or SelfControl, just to name a few.
Apps are an integral part of our life today. As your work gets more focused, you’ll want to have all your efforts on record. Our Time Tracker for Salesforce is a great way to keep track of the work that you’ve done.
Ultimately, the goal is to create a habit of efficiency. The longer you procrastinate on work, the less time you’ll have to truly disconnect, engage in meaningful conversations or even leave home early. Not to mention that you’ll feel so proud of everything you accomplished. Try these ideas for yourself, and may the “focus” be with you! 🙂
For a lot of us, we’ve now spent over half a year working from home. I think a lot of us started down this path with if not excitement, at least a sense of relief. The benefits of WFH are self-evident: spend more time with your family, save on commute time and costs, work from the comfort of your home in comfortable clothes, and schedule your day’s work according to what is most comfortable for you.
But has the reality of working from home been as effective as the benefits we thought would accrue? The ongoing COVID19 pandemic seems to be continuing much longer than expected with no clear end-dates in sight. Many companies have decided to extend WFH; some till the end of 2020, and many until mid-2021. We’ve even heard of companies that have decided to give up on office space completely and have employees working from home indefinitely. They’ve decided on weekly/monthly all-hands meetings at co-working locations. While there are major benefits to WFH, there are significant drawbacks too.
And the biggest of those drawbacks are feelings of isolation and loneliness. These feelings are not restricted to people who’ve started working remotely during the pandemic. It affects people who have worked from home for years, either full-time or part-time. This data from Buffer’s State of Remote Work 2020 report that 20% of remote workers suffer from loneliness and another 20% report issues with collaboration and communication. And an almost similar percentage (18), complain of “Not being able to unplug” from work. And these numbers are aggravated with more people working from home because of the pandemic.
Signs of loneliness
Perhaps you are feeling isolated and lonely or perhaps someone on your team is. The signs aren’t always easy to spot. These could include feeling like you don’t belong, that your work is not appreciated, that you are not understood. These kinds of feelings can cause people to become less productive at work, to lash out at meetings or withdraw from group activities. With the pandemic and social distancing guidelines still in place, it’s natural for people to long for experiences that we just can’t have in the near future.
Why is it becoming more common?
Most obviously, it is because more people are working from home. And have fewer chances to go out and have normal social experiences. Burnout is another big issue. When you go “out” to work, there is a definite separation between work and personal life. But when you are working remotely from your kitchen or dining table all day, that separation is lost. One outcome is that people are now working longer hours. Counter-intuitively, without the routine of going to and from work, it becomes harder to maintain work-life balance. 🙂
Tips for coping with working remotely
If you work as a manager of a team, then you really need to do double duty. Handling the issues of remote work for yourself and helping others on your team manage remote working issues. The remainder of this article covers both you as yourself and as a manager.
The big thing to remember is that there is no single way that works for everyone. Each person needs to do what is right for them. So here goes:
Tip # 1: Have a set routine
Set up a routine and practices that help re-create the structure that you’re normally used to. So start work at the same time everyday. If you have a workspace within your home, that automatically gives you a separation between work and personal space. If it helps, set up a 2-minute walk around the house, before you get in to work mode. That “commute” helps to set up context in your mind. If being properly dressed, helps you get into “work” mode, then definitely get dressed in work clothes.
One of the things that we’ve found useful is to have a quick team meeting every morning on Google Meet. That’s when we discuss things that need to get done during the day, any urgent customer issues that need to be solved and so on. But it also gives everyone a sense of structure to the day. And to make sure that we get together with the team at least once each day.
Make sure that you set up coffee break times and lunch breaks. If possible, use your break times to chat informally with colleagues. Or if it makes sense, use that time to catch up with what’s going on at home.
Using a time tracker like Time Tracker for Salesforce, can give you a great understanding of how your people are spending their time. If people are not taking enough breaks, or working too many hours, you’ll see that easily from the Time Tracker reports. That will help you identify and address those issues, before they become major problems.
Tip # 2: Balance your schedule for the day
The biggest perk of working remotely or WFH is the freedom and flexibility that it gives you to plan your day and work according to it. Not everyone is a 9-to-5 person. Schedule your work day and tasks, based on your own energy levels and interests. If early morning is your best, most interruption-free time and you are at your brightest, then schedule your most intense/creative/analytical work for that time. If afternoons are when you are most tired, then take a break at that time. Get some rest or do something else that you enjoy then. One of the best things about working from home is that you get to spend time with your family and kids. If you want to be available for play time with your kids, then schedule your work time around that.
Most importantly, keep your colleagues aware of your work times, so that they know when they can get ahold of you. Make sure that you schedule in group meetings and calls in to your day, but schedule the rest of your day around things that you may need to do. If you are a team leader or manager, empower your team members to set their own schedules and work your assignments around them.
At the beginning of the lockdown, many people set goals for weight loss, getting into better shape and so on. If you are sticking with those plans, more power to you. If you’ve been losing steam, then break into smaller activity chunks.
Do some simple exercises at your desk
Run up and down the stairs before your coffee breaks
Walk around when you are on calls
Make sure that you stand up and stretch at least every 2 hours.
Tip # 3: Stay in touch virtually
Get a bunch of your work colleagues together and join an online Pilates/Zumba/exercise/yoga class via Zoom. If you or one of you colleagues can run the class, that’s even better. if you can get your company to agree to it, perhaps you can set this up as a regular work task for your team. If not, at least make sure that your team members get some time for informal catch up and exercise. Schedule a common walking time with a friend, and speak with them as you walk. Great way to multi-task and keep in touch. :).
Set up a regularly scheduled call where members from different teams can talk about what they’ve been working on. This is a great way to replicate those water cooler / lunch room discussions that played a great role amongst teams. Set up a “brainstorming” meeting schedule, when team members can bring up technical issues/problems that they need help with. Encourage other members to provide solutions, so that individuals can get over those issues.
Organize a weekly trivia quiz for your teams. Even include a small prize for the winner to make it more competitive. Have simple games that you can play on an online Zoom / Google Meets call. Organize a team lunch. Have food delivered to your team members and set up an online call where everyone can eat and chat online. This is something that I’ve seen an aunt’s Rotary Club group use to fantastic effect.
Tip # 4: Schedule time and stay in touch
When you are in the office, chances for communication are constant. You lean over and speak to someone at the next desk, you meet people in the elevator and in the lobby, in the break room, even in the rest room. You go out for lunch with your team, you walk with co-workers during your lunch break. The chances for conversation are endless. These conversations and interactions play a crucial part in building a sense of belonging and camaraderie. So how can you do this when you are working remotely?
If you know your colleague welcomes impromptu calls, then call them up when you think of them. But with most people juggling multiple responsibilities, you’re better off scheduling a specific time for these calls. These calls don’t have to have a specific reason. They are just for catch up and keeping in touch. You get updates on what your colleague is working on but also what’s going on in their lives. If you regularly walked with a co-worker, then perhaps you can schedule a time when you walk and talk with them. Whenever possible, try a video chat. There’s something to be said for actually seeing a person. The connect is always better. And as everyone grapples with issues of loneliness while working from home, these catch-up sessions can be invaluable.
Tip #5: Learn something new
If you’ve ignored your interests and hobbies because you’ve been too busy, this is a great time to start / re-start on them. Put the time that you would otherwise use for commuting to good use. Whether it’s to learn a new language, learn an instrument, start to bake, learn financial planning or a new cuisine, there are plenty of online classes to choose from, for whatever your interest may be. So if you are looking for something new, go ahead and start right away. This is something that will stay with you, whether you continue to work from home or you get back into the office. If you need additional encouragement, a great way is to get together with a group of friends and challenge yourselves to achieve something specific every week. If you don’t have too much time available, then do it in small steps. Don’t sign up for expensive classes, but look for free lessons on Youtube. Do as much as you can. If you like to write, keep a journal. Or start a blog and post your thoughts, poetry. Share your achievements with your friends for a quick high.
There is still no clear time frame on when work from home will end. It looks like a lot of us will continue this for the next few months, perhaps until mid-2021. So we need to make sure that we can work from home successfully and deal with loneliness issues. The good news is that it’s POSSIBLE! It needs some effort and conscious thought, though. Both organizations and individuals need to put in effort to make remote working successful.
Follow some simple steps, like a daily routine, regular formal and informal contact with colleagues and friends, scheduling our work day around our energy levels and other commitments. All of these will enable us to tackle work from home with fewer issues and be more productive at work.
If you’ve found some specific ways to cope with work from home, do share it with us. We’d love to hear from you.
As shelter-in-place rules are relaxed and volunteers start coming in, our nonprofits are faced with the question of how to keep volunteers safe. To help that process, we’ve introduced a new Zero Touch volunteer check-in process in V4S Mobile.
Join us for a webinar on Thursday September 17th at 11 AM PT / 2 PM ET to see how you can “Bring Back Volunteers Safely!”. We look forward to seeing you there. Click here to register for the webinar.
Good to see you back. In Part 1 of this blog, we explored the four ways in which you can track time inside Salesforce. Today, we’ll move on and explore how you can track time on the web and on the Time Tracker mobile app. Remember that in all these cases, all your time tracking data is still safely within Salesforce.One other thing to remember is that users who use the Time Tracker on the mobile or on the web, do NOT need to be Salesforce users.
On the Web
There’s two ways to track time on the Time Tracker Web app. You can track time by checking in time for multiple tasks/activities or you can use a timer that you can Start/Stop as you do your work.
Check In/Out: Checking In/Out on the Time Tracker web page means that you are Starting / Ending a timer as you work on a Project / Task (or whatever has been configured for you). You do this by selecting
the Check-in button on the top right hand corner of your screen when you login to the Time Tracker Web. You simply select the Project / Task that you are working on. Key in any notes that you want your manager/supervisor to see and click on the Check-in button. This option tracks time as you are working on a Project/Task. When you are done working, click on the Check-Out Now button, if you want to Check out at the current time. If you forgot to Check-Out at the time that you actually finished your work, you can put in the actual hours and minutes that you worked on the task and click on the Checkout button. This will work as long as the Check-in time plus Hours Worked is less than the Current Time.
Multi Check In: Use the multi check-in option, when you want to add timesheet entries for Project / Task that you worked on each day from
the drop downs, Add any information that you need on the additional fields configured for you. Fill in the Start and End times for the activities that you worked on. You can enter up to 10 different activities on this screen. When you are done, click on the Submit button. If you have more activities that you need to add in, you can do so.
A Manager/Supervisor can also Approve / Reject timesheet entries put in by people that report to her.
On the Time Tracker Mobile app
The Time Tracker mobile app works on both iOS and Android devices.There are four different ways that you can track time on the mobile app. Checking in/out as you work on an activity OR manual entry after you’ve completed the activity. We also have a Kiosk mode that you can use as a replacement for a punch clock. This is really useful in a factory/warehouse/office setting where you want all your employees to Clock In and Clock Out as they start and end their work for the day The Time Tracker Team mode allows a Team Lead/Supervisor to Clock In/Out individual team members and then Check In all Clocked in team members.
Check In / Out: As in the other cases, Check In/Out means that you are starting a
timer for work that you are currently working on. There are two ways that this works. If you are set up as an Individual User, you can check in/out of Projects / Tasks on your mobile device. This is a good option for Exempt employees who need to track time for billing/invoicing. If you are set up as a Personal User, you can clock in at the Start of your work day and Check In/Out of multiple Projects/Tasks with different check-in types. Some check-in types that our customers currently use include options for Job, Travel, Loading, Cleanup, etc. This option is good for non-Exempt employees for whom you need to track hours and breaks for payroll purposes. On the mobile, you can configure the app to collect GPS locations at specific transactions. Users can also take pictures at the jobsite and add them in.Users on the mobile can get notifications, when they are assigned a project or when anything changes on their projects.
Manual Entry on the mobile: Sometimes, you may want to enter your time
details after the actual work is done. You may have forgotten to enter the time, your phone could have been out of charge or perhaps you left your phone at home, Whatever the reason, you may not have been able to Start/Stop the timer as you worked. In such a case, you do have the ability to add the Project / Task that you worked on along with the Start and End Times for the work done. You can add multiple manual entries. You could use this mode of timesheet entry, if you are adding all of your timesheets after completing the work. In general, we suggest that you do this at the end of the day, so you don’t forget things that you have worked on.
Team Mode check ins for entire team
In the Team mode, only the Team Lead needs to have the Time Tracker on his/her mobile phone. The Time Tracker configuration in Salesforce lets you set up Teams with a Team Lead. When you set up Users in Salesforce, you can assign
them to specific teams.
When the Team Lead of a specific team logs in, she sees the names of all the people on her team. The Team Lead can Clock In each member of the Team as they arrive for work. When the Team Lead clicks on the Start Job, Start Travel or Start Loading buttons, all Clocked in Team Members are checked into the Selected Project and Task for that Check in type. When the Team Lead clicks on Stop on the previously Started Check in type, all checked in Team Members are automatically checked out of that Project / Task. This is a great option for teams working together on Construction/Landscaping/Installation type of work. GPS locations and photos can be configured to be collected at the jobsite.
Team members can be transferred between teams for better utilization. A Team Lead can Release a Team Member from her team, if needed. Another Team Lead can “Add” the released Team member to their team, as needed.
Kiosk mode Check In / Clock In
The Kiosk mode can be used in a factory/warehouse/office to replace the
traditional punch card / bio metric time clock. With the Time Tracker in the Kiosk mode, the big advantage is that all time tracking data is in Salesforce and can therefore be used for analysis. Depending on how your Users are set up in the configuration, Users may be able to Check In/Out OR Clock In and then Check In/Out of individual projects. We suggest using an iPad or an Android tablet for the Kiosk. Since multiple people will need to use the same device. The app works just as well on a phone, but the larger format is useful, when you need multiple people to access the device.
So that covers all ten ways of tracking time using the Time Tracker for Salesforce. Whether you want to track time in Salesforce on a web app or on a mobile device, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a solution as configurable and as user-friendly as our Time Tracker for Salesforce.
As the shelter-in-place rules are lifted, most nonprofits are beginning to see some volunteer activity start again. But with Covid-19 still raging, all our thoughts are on how to make every process safer for everyone. With that goal in mind, we are very excited to roll out the new “zero-touch” volunteer check-in process in V4S Mobile. With just a quick scan on any iOS or Android phone/tablet, your volunteer check-in data is safely and reliably in Volunteers for Salesforce.
The idea for the zero-touch solution came from requests from several of our nonprofit customers. We had detailed discussions with them on what would make sense for nonprofits and their volunteers. Everyone was concerned with the safety of multiple volunteers checking in a shared Kiosk device. As a stop-gap arrangement, we offered V4S Personal free to all our existing V4S Kiosk customers. While that worked for a few customers, a lot of our nonprofits wanted a central solution that was at their location but could still be used safely.
While we had introduced a scanning mechanism in our V4S Kiosk Events add-on, we had not done that with the volunteer check-ins. For two main reasons:
Most of our nonprofits had a lot of walk-in volunteers who had not previously signed up
With Events, there was an urgency to check-in people quickly, which wasn’t as much an issue with volunteer check-ins.
Now with COVID-19 rampant, most of our nonprofits had decided to do away with walk-in volunteering. Our discussions revealed that over 60% of nonprofits had decided that there would be no walk-in volunteers for at least the next one (1) year. Several had decided that for the next two (2) years. And most nonprofits could not have a Volunteer Coordinator available to check-in volunteers on her device. This was especially true for our nonprofits handling pets and animal shelters, where volunteers came in from early in the morning to late at night to feed, clean, and exercise the animals. They were very clear that volunteers would need to check themselves in.
The zero-touch solution for V4S Kiosk.
With this background, we decided to add an automated scanning solution for volunteers. We added a QR Code field to Volunteers for Salesforce’s Vol Hours object. We also added a QR Code field to the Contact object in Salesforce. This way, our nonprofits have the flexibility to either have a unique QR Code based on each Volunteer’s Vol Hours record OR a unique QR Code for each Volunteer’s Contact ID.
Here is a short video that shows what the QR Code looks like on the Vol Hours record in Salesforce.
If you are setting up QR Codes by Vol Hours ID, then you’ll need to make sure that you send out an email with the QR Code it to each Volunteer for every Job/Shift that she has signed up for. You will need to send out such an email for every time that a volunteer has signed up for a Job/Shift.
Here’s a video that shows what such an Email would look like:
If you are using QR Codes on the Contact, then you could send a single email to the Volunteer with their Contact QR Code in it. They could use that same emailed QR Code for checking in every time that they came in for a signed up Job/Shift. Alternatively, you could print a badge for each volunteer with their contact QR Code on it. This way, the volunteer can scan their badge whenever she comes in for Job/Shift.
We suggest that you put the iOS / Android device that you are using for check-ins in the single app mode so that the device is not accidentally turned off or switched to a different app. Within V4S Kiosk, we suggest that you select the Scanning to be in Continuous mode. Also, select whether you want the Front or Back Camera to be used. We suggest using the front camera because the volunteer would be able to see confirmation of their check-in on the screen.
Here is a video that shows how a volunteer could hold up their Shift confirmation email and get Checked-in to that Shift.
If instead, you chose to use the QR Code on the Contact ID, then potentially you could send that QR Code to the Volunteer once and she would just scan the same QR Code every time that she came in for a Job/Shift that she was signed up for that day. The V4S Kiosk app looks to check if the Contact with that QR Code has signed up for any Job/Shift on the current day and scans the Volunteer in.
If a Volunteer signs up for more than one Job/Shift per day, then she would necessarily need the QR Code related to the Job/Shift. You would not be able to scan the Volunteer with the QR Code on the Contact. Because in that case, the app would only find one of the multiple Jobs/Shifts signed up for.
As nonprofits start to open up and volunteers come back to help, we urge you all to maintain social distancing. Keep those masks on and stay safe, everyone!