Laura Vanderkam: Smarter Ways to WFH (Work From Home) | E105

Laura Vanderkam: Smarter Ways to WFH (Work From Home) | E105

Stressed out about working from home?

Then stress no more!

In this episode, we are chatting with Laura Vanderkam, best-selling author, podcast host, and productivity expert. Her Ted talk, How to Gain Control of Your Free Time, has been viewed over 11 million times! She is also the host of Before Breakfast which features productivity tips every weekday morning. Her work has been featured in the The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, City Journal, Fortune, and Fast Company and she has appeared on shows such as The Today Show and CBS This Morning.

In this week’s episode, we talk about Laura’s new book, The New Corner Office, which is all about how to work from home, the benefits of having a routine, and creating work rituals. We’ll also dive deeper into how to cultivate a great WFH environment, ta-da lists (instead of to-do lists), why planning out your week ahead of time is beneficial, and more!

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Follow Hala on ClubHouse: @halataha

Check out our website to meet the team, view show notes and transcripts:


03:56 – Laura’s Past Five Years

05:07 – Benefits of Having a Routine and How to Have a Good One

07:35 – Opinion on a Fake/Mock Commute

09:11 – Advice on Dressing while WFH

11:09 – What’s a ‘Monday Morning’ Ritual

12:53 – How to Respond to Fires at Work

15:02 – Thoughts on Batching

17:07 – Laura’s Work Environment and How to Have the Best Environment

20:56 – How to Limit Distractions

22:51 – Ta-Da Lists

26:30 – How to Prioritize Tasks

28:19 – Why to Plan Out Your Week On Fridays

31:36 – Visualizing Your Future to Help Your Goals

34:57 – Why Designing Your Ideal Week is Important

37:30 – How to Keep Employees Engaged and Good Company Cultures

40:55 – Looking at Time with an ‘Abundance’ Mindset

42:35 – Laura’s Secret to Profiting in Life

Mentioned in the Episode:

Laura’s New Book, From the Corner Office:

Laura’s LinkedIn:

Laura’s Website:


[00:00:00] Hala Taha: You're listening to YAP young and profiting podcast, a place where you can listen, learn, and profit. Welcome to the show. I'm your host Hala Taha and on young and profiting podcast, we investigate a new topic each week and interview some of the brightest minds in the world. My goal is to turn their wisdom into actionable advice.

That you can use in your everyday life, no matter your age, profession, or industry, there's no fluff on this podcast and that's on purpose. I'm here to uncover value from my guests by doing the proper research and asking the right questions. If you're new to the show, we've chatted with the likes of ex FBI agents, real estate moguls.

Self-made billionaires. CEOs and best-selling authors our subject matter ranges from enhancing productivity, how to gain, influence the art of entrepreneurship and more, if you're smart and like to continually improve yourself, hit the subscribe button because you'll love it here at young [00:01:00] and profiting podcast this week on yap.

We've got Laura Vander cam back on the show. She first appeared on yap over two years ago for episode number four, where we covered all things. Time management, Laura is a journalist. The author of several productivity books, a podcast host, successful blogger, and a mother of five children with this much on her plate.

It's no wonder she's known for being a leading time management and productivity expert. Laura's Ted talk had a gain control of your free time has been viewed over 11 million times. Her work has been featured in major publications like the New York times, the wall street journal and USA today. And she's also appeared on television shows like the today show.

CBS this morning. And most recently the Drew Barrymore show and today's episode, we go deep on Laura's latest book, the new corner office, how the most successful people work from home. In our conversation, we discussed the benefits of having a routine and work rituals, how to cultivate [00:02:00] an ideal work from home environment, using to Dallas instead of to-do lists and so much more.

Hey, Laura, welcome to young and profiting podcast. 

Laura Vanderkam: Thank you so much for having me 

Hala Taha: So for those of our listeners who are new listeners. Laura was actually my fourth episode. So way back two years ago, she was actually my first interview. Previous to that, I would have four or five people and chop it up and put narration.

And Laura was my first real proper interview episode and people. I loved that episode and it gave me motivation to keep going in that interview style. So Laura, thank you so much for taking a chance on me. We got to, when, 

Laura Vanderkam: I'm thrilled that, oh, I knew you when, hey, that's great. 

Hala Taha: I'm so thankful for all.

Cause you are a big name back then. You were still like, a best-selling author. You had a lot of different books and podcasts already, and you took a chance on me. So I'm always grateful for the people who took a chance on me. And I always invite them back to the show, the first 20 people who took a chance on me.

So welcome back [00:03:00] and we've grown a lot since you last came on. 

Laura Vanderkam: That's wonderful. I'm so glad to hear it. 

Hala Taha: Yeah. So in our first episode together, episode number four, it was called level up your time management skills. We really uncovered all your expertise and advice on time management. We talked about having 168 hours in the week and how everybody has that same amount of time.

We talked about tracking your time, how to be, most productive in your time. If anyone is interested in time management, go back to episode number four, we really covered that in depth. So this time I'm going to focus on your new topic, which is really like working from home from what I understand.

So I want to dive deep into that. And before I do that, I want to ask you, what have you been up to you the past two years since you last came on the show, what have you been studying? What have you've been doing? 

Laura Vanderkam: Yeah. So I did like many people, we round up spending a lot more time at home over the last year.

And I thought that a lot of other people would be [00:04:00] experiencing this and wondering, what do I do with this? How do I plan my days? How do I stay productive? How do I deal with distractions? How can I think of my career? Long-term if I'm going to be working from home and the sort of normal rules of the office don't apply.

And so I wrote a book called the new corner office, which. It looks at exactly that question, right? Like how can we work productively and ambitiously from home and then, doing the normal podcasting stuff, the I had had another baby a year ago, or so number five for me. Yeah. 

Hala Taha: That's awesome.

I really want to focus this episode on your work from home content. I think it's really valuable for my listeners. I think most of my listeners are working from home right now. And so it's the perfect topic. So let's start off with routines. What is the benefit of having a rhythm and routine? And what's your advice in terms of designing a routine that works 

best for us?

Laura Vanderkam: The upside of working from home is you tend to have a lot more control over your [00:05:00] schedule than you might. If you're in an office. Even offices that are very flexible, there's a certain time we're expected to be there and certain things you're expected to do while you're there. And it's not that you're going to get fired for leaving in the middle, people wonder where you're going.

Whereas if you are working from home, you have a lot more autonomy over these things. And so the upside is you can experiment the downside is that you have to be responsible for figuring out a rhythm that works for you. And so I tell people to look at their time, we've talked about time tracking in the past, but keeping track of how you're spending your time, partly so you can learn.

When are you most focused? When are you most productive? And that's both you personally, but then if you're dealing with anything like kids, remote schooling or anything like that, what time is available to you and what time is not available to you? Because if you know what time is available, then you can make the most of it.

Whereas if you're still trying to figure this out. It's going to be very difficult, but think about what your Workday can look like to maximize your use of focus time. You want to build in [00:06:00] an appropriate number of breaks. So you can manage your energy. Think about what you do during those breaks in order to actually be rejuvenated.

So not just surfing the web, but maybe get up and go for a walk or call a friend or something like that. And then most importantly, come up with a way to end your day. Because one of the biggest problems people have with working from home is it's not that they're going to watch Netflix. Like people don't really do that.

There was this worry, oh, everyone's gonna watch Netflix all day. No professionals don't really do that. The bigger issue is that people don't know when to stop. Because if you could see your laptop all evening you'd be like, I should be working, but you're not getting anything done because you're tired.

And so you're like half working and half not working. You're not relaxed. You're not getting anything done. It's really the worst of all worlds. So come up with a way. To indicate that your day is done at least for now and have that kind of goodbye every day. Whether it's writing your to-do list for tomorrow, going for a fake commute, like walking around the block, but something to give yourself a little bit of permission to relax.

Hala Taha: Yeah. [00:07:00] And so you just brought up a fake commute. Let's talk about the start of our day. I hadn't episode recently, where I talked about self care and I gave the advice to go on a MOC mute. So waking up, going around the block, walking your dog, even just going outside, getting some vitamin D or even just like walking up your stairs.

If you live in an apartment building and don't want to go outside, but just something to trigger the start of your day. So what is your opinion on a mock commute? 

Laura Vanderkam: I think that's a great idea for many people, especially if you are relatively new to working from home, you've only been doing it for the last year or so.

And the reason is that some people have, in fact, many people have more of a mental separation between home life and work life. And if you feel, if you go very quickly from one to the other or go back and forth between the two, you can feel a little bit just jarred. It doesn't feel quite right, or you have trouble getting into the mindset for it.

And if that is the case for you, it's not the case for everybody. But if it is the case for you, then it helps to put at least. Some separation between the two. So your brain knows that, okay, I am in work mode now, or [00:08:00] later in the day, I'm in home mode now. And nobody really likes commutes. Everyone hated commuting back when this was, but more of a thing that people did, but the one upside is it does introduce that obvious separation.

Mock commute is something that's much shorter and more pleasant. But still introduces that same separation. So yeah, the idea of walking your dog or running a quick errand, or, going for a little walk, you're doing something that wouldn't, get you moving, but it can be as simple as having a ritual.

Like you always go and make your coffee, you have your mug that has some sort of. Fire you up saying on it. I don't know, but take that into your workspace, sit down and have something you do first, that could be a way to get that same idea of a ritual that starts your day. 

Hala Taha: Yeah. How about getting dressed?

Do you recommend when we're, starting our day, a lot of people are wearing pajama pants and going on these zoom calls and they're just dressing from the top up. What is your advice in terms of dressing? Cause I've heard all different kinds of advice here. What's your advice on that?

Laura Vanderkam: I probably wouldn't wear a pajama [00:09:00] pants just in case you had to like, get up to do something while you were on the same call. I'd people like, wait, those are fluffy. Pajama pants, that's interesting. And then maybe that the impression you are wishing to convey in that particular zoom call, but I'm certainly totally cool with wearing jeans or even like dark stretch pants or something that's not going to look ridiculous.

If you wind up standing up and people can see you, but you can certainly be comfortable. I don't wear shoes. Like I know there's certainly a school of thought. It's you need to wear shoes to be in work mode. I don't think that's the case. I think that. Being comfortable is great. However, you probably don't want to be sloppy just because of people seeing you.

So come up with that sweet spot between looking presentable on zoom, not feeling like you are. Pinching your feet into high heels. Isn't that wonderful that people have not had to do that for the last year. 

Hala Taha: I haven't worn heels in so long. And to your point, I think the only shoes I ever wear is like Uggs to just go [00:10:00] outside.

I don't wear shoes either. And I'm plenty productive. So I agree. You don't need to wear shoes to be productive. 

Laura Vanderkam: And people might see your pants if you stand up, but they're not going to see your feet. So you really don't need to worry about that. 

Hala Taha: Just a nice pair of comfy socks. Okay. So I also know that you talk about something called a Monday morning ritual.

So what's a Monday morning ritual. What can we do there? You talked about it on one of your podcast episodes, 

Laura Vanderkam: 'I'm trying to remember what I said now. And if I'm going to guess what past Laura might've been expounding on? I think Monday mornings are actually a really good time to carve out for your biggest value work.

And ideally stuff. That's more speculative because it's how you are going to start your week with this thing. That's going to fire you up. You're thinking about your career longterm it's stuff you don't have to do, but you would really like to do. Now, the problem that happens is mostly people have this speculative stuff.

They're like, oh yeah, this would really advance my career. I really should [00:11:00] make time for this. And then the time they carve out is like Friday at 3:00 PM. Like you are not going to do it at Friday 3:00 PM. Let's just be honest. You're going to slide into the weekend at that point. Or, they carve out a time and it's okay, if I get all my other work done on Thursday, then I'll look at this again.

Not going to happen. Dedicating Monday morning to that is when you were at your freshest, when you are starting everything off, it will probably happen. Because the workweek emergencies probably have not yet arisen at 8:00 AM on Monday. So I would suggest starting your week with that really big, important speculative work that you otherwise will not make time for.

And if you do this week after week, you'll. Make a lot of progress in your career.

Hala Taha:  I love that. So basically schedule your most important tasks for the week on Monday before the emergencies come up. So in your book, you talk about. Resisting the need to respond to all the urgent matters right away.

So talk to us about that. Like how do we need to change our mindset in terms of responding to all the fires at work and how is it different [00:12:00] now that we're living in COVID and working from home? 

Laura Vanderkam: I think people are becoming a little bit more comfortable with this idea that they don't have to respond to everything in two seconds, but certainly in the first few weeks of working from home, there was that idea like, oh, my boss is going to think I'm watching Netflix. If I don't respond immediately. And so people would just not get out of their inbox their entire day. And I understand the impulse or to answer all slack messages or whatever, within five seconds of them coming in. But there's a trade off.

There's an opportunity cost for being this responsive, which is that you don't have time for that deep focused work, which is probably what you were hired to do in the first place. Like you were probably not hired because of your rapid email response time. Like you were probably hired because there's something that you are an expert in, that you do very well that your organization would like you to spend your time doing.

And again, my guess is that as not being in your inbox all day. So if that is the case, then every time you are spending hours in your inbox, responding to [00:13:00] everything, you are not spending hours doing those other things. And so there's a huge opportunity cost for that. Now that doesn't mean you shouldn't be responsive.

Yes, you should be responsive. And especially when we are working from home, we can become a real bottleneck. If we like. We're just like, okay I'm going to stop checking email completely like dump to that because then whole projects will grind to a halt as everyone's waiting for your response.

But there's a big difference between let's say checking once an hour or once every 90 minutes or once every two hours for, 10, 15 minutes responding to anything that is urgent at that point. And then being off email again for another hour, like there's almost nothing that has to be responded to.

In less than an hour, if there is, then the person needs to call you, if it's email, then by definition, they are not expecting a response in, they may be, but they shouldn't be in an hour. So give yourself that hour out of your inbox that are when you are not being responsive, when you can be more proactive and you'll be getting a lot more done.

Hala Taha: And do you think that our on our [00:14:00] off doesn't it take a little bit of time to get settled in our work? I would recommend. And maybe you disagree kind of batching checking your email when you're feeling like drained or like maybe right after you eat or something like that, so that you can batch that when you're not at your peak performance.

Laura Vanderkam: I agree. And my hour. Off the bill and then check an hour off and then check is more based on an improvement for people who are in constantly. If that is not you, if you don't suffer from that issue, then by all means, take as much time off as you can. So maybe check it. Once. And mid-morning like once around lunch, once in mid-afternoon once before you leave for the day, like four times a day would actually be great.

I think that's more than enough email checks for most people. And that will allow you to have, 90 minutes or more of focused time for any sort of work. I would say that most people can't go more than about two hours focused on just about [00:15:00] anything. You're going to take some sort of break, whether it's just, getting a drink of water, going to the bathroom, quick, looking at something else.

We can't stay focused for, six hours on one thing. So it doesn't have to be less than every two to three hours to check your email. 

Hala Taha: And I, I need to take my own advice because I'm the type of person who always checks my email, always check slack. Like every second, it's just add, I think, honestly, I need to take 

my own advice list.

Laura Vanderkam: Appealing. Cause it's oh, I'm doing something productive or I'm deleting emails. Look, I did something. I deleted emails. It didn't really do anything, but it feels like it. 

Hala Taha: Exactly. So the title of your book is the new corner office. Describe to us what you are working environment like is at home and what is the best way to design a work environment to make us as productive as possible?

Laura Vanderkam: Yes. I have a corner office. It's a corner of my house. I've worked in this office the entire time I've lived in this house. If you are going to work from home, long-term you [00:16:00] really do need some sort of dedicated space with a window and a door that closes. And I'm not saying that it has to be a full-scale home office with like gorgeous built-in bookcases and a full, zoom studio or anything like that.

But you need someplace where you can expect that it will be quiet and where you can focus and where have your stuff that you use. If that means moving, it might mean moving. If you plan to do this long term, the upside. Of the current environment is that many more people are going to be able to work from home at least two to three days per week in the future, which means that you don't have to limit your.

Sites of where you're going to live to the same narrow radius you might've had to in the past. So possibly be able to find something that's, larger. That's got a home office in your budget because you aren't going to have to commute five days a week to the place that you were previously doing that for, windows.

Are good. You need some natural light. Otherwise you'll just feel like you're stuck in a closet all day. Yeah. Something that's comfortable. It is definitely [00:17:00] worth getting your chair right. Getting your desk height. Because if you work in work from home just a couple of hours a week or one day a week, whatever, the problem isn't so bad cause you won't be there that long, but once you start working 40, 50 hours a week in the same spot, any small.

Problems are going to get magnified so many times over. So it is worth, figuring out the ergonomics, making sure that you were comfortable. I feel like you were in a neutral position and then, you can make it into your happy place and in a way that you really can't in a cubicle at work.

If there are things you wish to be looking at out that window you can probably make that happen in a way that you just can't in like an office park, right? Like you are not in charge of the landscaping, whereas you are at home, you can put the decor as you want. Whatever makes you happy, keep the temperature where you want it.

I This is, that's a real big win. I always would freeze an office buildings because it's so overly air conditioned in summer. And I don't have to do that in my home office. And if he likes [00:18:00] specials, Since even that's the kind of thing you're not going to make it spell like Gardenia blossom candle in your office at a corporate office, but in your home office, if that's your power scent, why not?

Hala Taha: I totally agree. And I think it's important that wherever you work is separated from where you've relaxed. So try to avoid where you watch TV and kind of unwind for the day is what I would say. You don't want to be working where you relax. 

Laura Vanderkam: Yeah. And not because you're gonna be tempted to relax during work hours, because most of the time that's not actually the problem it's that you're gonna be tempted to work during the time that you've set aside to relax.

So yeah, as much as possible. I know a lot of people just grabbed the kitchen table because it was the first thing that we're like, oh, it's a flat surface. Let me put my laptop there, but then you're in the center of everything. And so it's a lot harder to have some privacy have. Quiet. People come to you for stuff.

If there's other people in the house, cause you look like you're available. So you want to make yourself look less available. So [00:19:00] coming up with some spot that is a bit more separated from everyone else is really key. As much as you can pull that off. 

Hala Taha: So you just basically brought up distractions, and your mother of five, which is that's a lot to handle while working from home. And I think you've been working from home for quite a while since before COVID right. So what have you learned in terms of minimizing distractions? 

Laura Vanderkam: The key thing is that anyone who is too young to care for themselves needs somebody else to care for them.

You cannot be the adult in charge of young children during the hours you plan to work. Now that thing about COVID has changed that it's just made it a lot harder to pull off since a lot of people's, schools have been closed or daycare situations have not been available. And so people have been trying to do both at the same time.

And just as I would always tell people in the past who were saying, oh, I'd like to work from home. Is this a way to save money on childcare? I'd be like, no, you're going to feel Harriet and frazzled and pulled in a million directions at once. And I'm like, guess what people are doing it now without childcare, I feel.

Harriet and frazzled and pulled in a million directions at once. So the [00:20:00] question is what can you do about that? I definitely think that if you have young kids at home, it would be who've you to hire someone in at some sort of situation that you could make work, that you could trust in terms of quarantine bubbling together, there might be money that you're not spending on commuting and traveling and things like that.

To get at least a few hours a day for focused work. If that's not going to happen, if you have two parents working at home, the two of you should formally trade off, right? One person has the morning. One person has the afternoon or however you want to work it. But rather than having your kids come to each of you and all of you getting distracted at different points or feeling like is this fair?

Like she was, distracted less than I was today or whatever, just say, okay, this person is in charge of the kids in the morning. This person is in charge of the kids in the afternoon. When you're not in charge, that is your focus, drill down work time. It is available. You also know not to schedule anything important during the time when you are in charge of your kids.

Hala Taha: And I want to talk about productivity and to do [00:21:00] lists for a minute. So you are an advocate, a very short to do list. You say three to five items, max, and you also sometimes call it a $2 list and you got that from Gretchen Rubin. So I thought that was really cute. So tell us about the to-do list. Why keep it just three to five items, max?

Laura Vanderkam: The idea of having a short to-do list is that you want your to do list, to represent things that you actually intend to do. And unfortunately, people wind up making these like 50 item to do lists. Like you're not going to get through 50 items in a day, but the question is which ones are you going to get through?

Is it going to be the easiest ones, the ones that were screaming loudest, the first ones you saw? I don't know. But the odds that the ones that you do get through were the ones that absolutely had to happen today. And we're the most important are low. Whereas if you force yourself to prioritize to five main things, like you will in fact get through them and people are like, that seems very short.

Like this does not mean the stuff that you do every day. Like this does not mean like [00:22:00] cooked dinner is on the list for the five things for the day. It's not, if you always. Post something on your blog. I would say that's probably not something you'd put on your list of five things, because anything that's a routine, that's a habit.

If you always check your email at 11:00 AM like that, doesn't need to go on the to-do list for the day. This is things that are discrete tasks that are important enough to become a contract with yourself that you will get through by the end of the day. But when it is short, then you can get through it and you start to develop this real trust in yourself that yes, if I put it on the to-do list, It is going to happen.

And the only way you can make sure of that is to keep it short, because guess what stuff is going to come up? Things are going to happen. Things are going to go wrong. People are like, oh, I couldn't get through everything on my to-do list because stuff happened this afternoon. New things landed on my lap.

It's oh, imagine that when has that ever not happened? Whereas if, you've decided these three things absolutely do have to happen. You probably will get to those three things. Even when the new stuff lands on your lap too, or even if you get called away for a personal [00:23:00] emergency at 2:00 PM, right?

You still will have been able to get through the very limited list. And that's why you want to make it very short. The two Dallas part is more of that at the end of the day, it's helpful to know what have I done? And ideally this both matches the to-do list that you created, for the day.

And then you can also add anything that you did that came up in the course of the day and then celebrate that those accomplishments happened as well. 

Hala Taha: I love that because usually, we spend time prioritizing our tasks the, in the day, like at the beginning of the day, but we don't really go back and say what did I accomplish today?

And celebrate those small wins. And I think that's probably really important mentally to keep you motivated to do the same thing tomorrow and crush all your goals. 

Laura Vanderkam: Oh, definitely. When you get through what you have set out to, do you feel this incredible sense of progress because you don't have to keep shoving things forward to the next day.

We're like, huh? It didn't do that again. Let me move into Thursday. Oh, didn't do it again. Move it to Friday. Oh, once it's on the list it's done. And then you can move on to the next step. And so in fact, you wind up [00:24:00] getting more done with a short list. Because once things have been done, you can move on to the next thing, as opposed to having them continually resurrect themselves day after day.

Hala Taha: And how about prioritizing all of our things that we need to do. So you say, do write down three major things that we need to do every day, three to five major things. But I know all of us probably have 50, 60, a hundred things that we have to get done. So what's your advice there in terms of having all your tasks in one place and then prioritizing them do you have a system that you personally use?

Laura Vanderkam: You could have, David Allen, the productivity author has what he calls a someday maybe list. And so this is a kind of list of anything that's going on in your life. And certainly if you have lots of different projects going on, you could make a list of that somewhere too. I plan. My life in weeks, I hardly recommend this.

And I have a weekly priority list of all the things I need get to in the course of the week. And then I pull my daily tasks from that list. And I've got [00:25:00] five things from Monday. That's not everything I have to do in the week, but it's five that are then done. And then I know that there's a time on Tuesday for other parts of my weekly tasks.

And so sometimes I will go ahead and make the entire weeks to do lists at once. Like when I plan my weeks on Friday afternoons, I look at what's coming up in the following week. What are my big tasks, all my different projects. Where do they stay on the spinning plates? Like what's going to need me to push it.

Spending without my help, what stopped spinning entirely that I, need to do what new plates do I want to add? And so then I'm running through all my different tasks and, spheres of influence and figuring out what needs to happen in the next week? And then I can break that down into the shorter list for each day.

I never make the entire weeks to do this because. Again, stuff comes up and I won't know everything that I need to do on Thursday by Friday, the week before, but I can usually set at least Monday and Tuesday and half of Wednesday. And if I do that well now I've [00:26:00] got, I know when most of the major stuff of the week will happen.

And so there's space when things do come up too. 

Hala Taha: And so you plan out your week on Fridays. Is there a reason why you do that? 

Laura Vanderkam: There is, I think Friday is a really good time for it. Partly it's because most people aren't doing much of consequence on Friday, particularly Friday afternoon, we're sliding into the weekend.

At that point, it was very difficult to start anything new. So it's often wasted time. Like you're just hanging around until it's okay to leave or okay. To shut your laptop down these days. So if it would be wasted time, there's no opportunity cost to now rework it for planning time. So let's make it planning time.

A lot of people use Monday mornings, but the problem is when we show up at work Monday morning, we're on like, go time. We have the most energy we will have for the week. So that's a good time to do that. Speculative stuff. We were talking about it. It's not a good time to plan because there's a bigger opportunity cost for Monday morning.

Then there is four for Friday afternoon. Okay. Another reason is that, some people plan Sunday night. I know that's another popular time, [00:27:00] but. Other people may not be at their desks on Friday night. So if you need to, set up a meeting or get something from somebody to make the next week work, the odds are pretty good.

They're still at their desk at Friday afternoon. Whereas, Sunday evening at 8:00 PM, you realize you want to set something up. Like, why is that person at their desk? Like there, they're not doing that. It's just in business hours, which is often held. If you need to do things that require, reaching out during business hours and then finally.

Planning on Friday for the week ahead, allows us to think about our weekends. If you, haven't really made a plan for your weekend or thought about what you'd like to do on the weekend, having a little time on Friday afternoon to say, okay what would be fun? What would I like to make happen?

Any logistics that need to occur? Now you've done it. And so you're going to have a lot more fun than if you wait until Saturday morning and when nobody feels like doing anything Saturday morning and then nothing winds up happening. 

Hala Taha: I think this is excellent advice to everybody listening.

So use your to-do list to end your day and close off your day. And then Friday, you've got your [00:28:00] planning and that also signifies that the work week is over and you can go into the weekend, like fully, knowing that you've got everything planned for the next week. And you can close that off, shut that out of your mind and just enjoy.

The weekend. Cause I think part of the problem in COVID is this everybody's just on this wheel and doesn't know when to stop working. 

Laura Vanderkam: Yeah, definitely. No, it happens. It's good to have some demarcation and it's make days a little different from each other too. I encourage people to plan at least some sort of mini adventures into your life.

And I know it's a lot harder these days, but maybe it's something like streaming a concert or going for a walk someplace new, but anything that will shake up your routine a little bit, routines are great. But if. Life is nothing that routine. The days don't stand out for each other. So you want to do a little thing here and there that's a little bit out of the ordinary and makes you feel a little bit less like you're in a RET and, spend some time thinking about what those things will be in life will feel a little bit more adventurous.

Hala Taha: So I know that you're a proponent of thinking big and you talk [00:29:00] about like bucket lists and you've got this like list of hundred dreams. Tell us about that. Why is it important to visualize your future, to think about the things you want to accomplish and work in your life and how does that actually help us move closer to our goals?

Laura Vanderkam: I think it just helps our brains focus on what might be cool to do. We have time. In life, like everybody has some amount of discretionary time, but the problem is if we don't. I think we have a whole lot of time. We don't think about what we'd like to do with our time. And so then when time does appear, we're ah, just do whatever's easiest.

This is why people spend the majority of their leisure time watching TV or surfing the web because it's the easiest thing to do. It requires very little effort, whereas other things require more effort. And we have to plan ahead. And so we don't do them. I'm making a list of a hundred dreams, which is an exercise I got from a career coach named Caroline Sinisa.

Levine is an unedited list. Of anything you might want to spend more time doing in your life? So a hundred items [00:30:00] is, it's a bucket list, but nobody puts a hundred items on their bucket list. People stop at 20 and then they don't come back to it. Cause it's not something that they're like, oh yeah, I should make a bucket list.

And then you do, and then you stop and then, that's the end of it. But a hundred items aiming for a hundred items. You not only get like those 30 countries you want to visit, like that's going to be the first 30, but then after that you start thinking a little bit more about oh, there's that park, that's an hour away from us that we've never visited or I'd love to try this restaurant or I'd like to learn, to make a good souffle.

Or I would like to try water colors or by an adult coloring book or a jigsaw puzzle. There's start to be very small things that are actually quite doable. Cause it'd be like, I want to do a puzzle. Guess what you can make that happen very quickly. You can, buy one and be delivered in two days or whatever.

And your leisure time over the next weekend can be spent putting together this thousand piece puzzle. You want to make an unedited list because we often talk ourselves out of things like this is not a contract. I'm like your to-do list. This [00:31:00] list of a hundred games is not a contract with yourself at all.

It's just things that might be cool. Maybe you'll do it. Maybe you won't. Maybe I'll try things on it. Decide you hate them. Good to know. Don't have to keep worrying about that anymore, it gives the, an answer to the question of what should I do? I have some time, what would I like to do with it?

I have a little time at night after the kids go to bed or we have some time this weekend, or you have a vacation coming up, what should we do? And so you're not racking your brain in that moment when you realize there is time about what you want to do with the time. 

Hala Taha: So before we move on to the next topic, which is really about fostering connection and COVID and having good culture and things like that.

Is there anything that you didn't cover that you wanna t ell my listeners in regards to productivity or time management, when it comes to working from home.

Laura Vanderkam:  I think it covered a lot,  I think with all, everything, it's helpful to try tracking your time for a couple of days or a week, ideally. Just so you get a sense of what the rhythm of your life looks like, and then you can decide what you like and what you don't like.

And that's just a very helpful place to be operating from. 

Hala Taha: I guess you just reminded me of one more [00:32:00] question that I have for you is you mentioned. Designing like your ideal week, right? Why is designing your ideal week and important thing to do in your opinion? 

Laura Vanderkam: We often think about ideal days too, but an ideal a week as the cycle of life as we actually live it.

So thinking about the whole of the week allows you both to think about, the workweek. And things you'd like to do that maybe don't have to happen daily, but might be nice to have once or twice a week in your life. It also lets you think about what an ideal weekend would look like, what sort of a formula for a good weekend would look like for you.

Maybe there are things that you want to do. Like you want to wake up twice during the week early to exercise, it's not every day. And so if you were designing an ideal day, it would be hard to figure out what that would be. But when you look at the whole week, you can see something that's a little bit more reminiscent of the life that you will actually be living.

But by thinking about how you'd like to spend your time, you empower yourself to get your actual schedule closer to it. So that's why we want to figure out what an ideal week would look like. 

Hala Taha: So for example, you could say, I want to work out three times a week and I want to work out in the morning.

[00:33:00] I want to talk to my friends five times in an ideal week and know all the big things that you want to do and the general timeframes and then map that out. And as you schedule your life, keep that in mind. I think all of this stuff is such great advice. It's just basically taking a step back, slowing down to speed up essentially so that you can live the life that you most want to live.

Laura Vanderkam: It is so hard to do that with time though, because time keeps passing regardless of what you do. And so it's very hard to take yourself outside of it and then make conscious choices about how to direct it. But that's why we build in these like weekly planning times or, to have a little moment to think about what my ideal week would look like, because when you're just moving from thing to thing, it's very hard to direct it.

But if you can build in times where you do step outside of the flow for a little bit then you're far more able to make conscious choices. 

Hala Taha: So I recently became an entrepreneur. I was working at Disney streaming services and I, I started an agency, so I was able to quit my full-time job, which has been very [00:34:00] exciting.

But one of the things that I realized that Disney as work from home, started to progress is that the team morale just went. To the shitter, sorry for cursing. But even for Christmas, nobody said like happy holidays to each other. There's just no team morale and everyone didn't really talk to each other anymore.

Other than me things we just lost connection. And I feel like the team morale really went down the tubes. So what's your advice there in terms of keeping employees engaged and fostering, like healthy company cultures during this time? 

Laura Vanderkam: Yeah, I'm really sorry that happened because it is definitely not inevitable.

And this is just something that any of your listeners who are in management really need to think about is that your job is not just making sure that the work gets done. That's part of it, but you need people to do the work and you want people motivated to do the work. And the only way you'd have that is if people have a culture that they are plugged into and feel motivated to.

Part of, they feel like other people are on their team and cheering them on. So you can cultivate that, recognizing that [00:35:00] people aren't just their jobs. One thing that people can do is start all meetings with a few minutes of social time. And I know that people are like, whoa, I don't have time for that.

That sounds like such a waste of time. My meetings take too long as it is, but you can put it on the agenda. So it's not just that awkward start of a zoom meeting where I was like is everyone here? Can we actually start, do I have to make some comment about the weather before I dive into the real stuff, like actually put in, five minutes at the start where everyone says an answer to one guided question and this is just a way for people to.

Hey, you're hearing everyone's voice, which is good because you want a meeting to involve everyone's contributions. And so you're getting used to hearing everyone when that happens. But just lets people talk a little bit about what's going on in their lives. So everyone knows where people stand at a given woman, as they're about to collaborate together on something, you can do social activities.

Virtually the key thing is they really have to be well facilitated and. Honestly, professional social events should have been facilitated in the past. They just weren't because there's [00:36:00] always the option to be like, okay, I'm just going to go buy my team drinks. Like I don't have to think about it.

I'll just take them all out for drinks. That's great. I'd take them out for dinner. Yay. Solve that problem. Whereas now you have to think about it a little bit more, but there's all kinds of things you can do. Very short. Fun, zoom things, like playing Kahoot type trivia games just scavenger hunts.

Again, you keep it to 30 minutes, honestly, and you have a limited number of people on it. And or if you're having a fun, chit-chat have it be guided. Like you've all read the same article and now you're discussing it together with one person leading or you've all read the same book. And now you're having a discussion with one person leading, but just, building in things like that.

And then if again, as a manager, It's your responsibility to reach out and see how people are doing, get in the habit of calling people, like just picking up the phone and calling people so that you don't put the onus on them to reach out to you. But also people know that they're not just going to hear it from you when you're in trouble.

Like it's not that like, where's this report. [00:37:00] Why didn't this happen? It's Hey, how's everything going? I just want to check in, say did, how did you feel after that meeting yesterday? What was your takeaway? And then, see how life is going and take that upon yourself to make sure that people as whole people feel successful.

Hala Taha: And I love that you said, like not to wait, be so worried about wasting a few minutes. And I think that really speaks to your perspective that time is abundant. And you always say that, we should approach time with an abundance mindset. Why is that? Like why is it more beneficial to look at time with an abundance mindset?

Laura Vanderkam: You just make better choices. Because if you are constantly feeling like there is no time for anything. Like you feel rushed, you feel harried. You're not going to be open to opportunity because how could you take on any opportunities? There's no time. There's no space for anything. Whereas if you tell yourself I have all the time I need for what is important to me. We see what we choose to see. So if you're walking around with a story that I am harried, busy rush star [00:38:00] for time, share, you can find evidence of that. I'm sure we can all find evidence in our lives of moments that are starved for time rushed, harried, whatever.

But if you're walking around with the story that I do have time for the things that matter to me, then you're like, okay, Oh, Hey, I just got my kids in bed and I, have 90 minutes before I need to go to bed. I could read a book. I'm the kind of person who reads a book, look at me, and it's same thing with, at the start of the meeting. It's we have so much to get through. I have 10 meetings today. How could I possibly spend time just chatting, but here's the thing. If you all trust each other and feel like you're happy together and going to have a great meeting, cause you all feel like you're.

In it together because of this five minutes of chit chat at the start it's going to be a much better beating. Like you may not have to have a second meeting because somebody like just resorted to total subterfuge over something that they weren't happy about on the previous meeting. Like it is so much better to invest the time in getting it right.

Hala Taha: I completely agree. This was such an awesome conversation. The last question I ask all my guests is what is your secret to [00:39:00] profiting in life? 

Laura Vanderkam: Profiting is having extra, that there is more coming in than what is going out. And I think that this is a good way to think about our time as well, that we have more coming more available to us, and spending on things we would like to do, then the things that sort of drain us and make us unhappy.

And yes, there are things we have to do in life. But even so even if you absolutely hated your job and it was 40 hours a week, there are 168 hours in a week. And so if you slept eight hours a night, so that's 56 hours per week, seven times, 8 50, 6, 40 hours for work. We still have 72 hours for other things.

And so you could think of yourself as yes, I have this money. Time going out for the work that I'm not thrilled about, but I have these 72 other hours that I can do other things with. Wow. What a profit, or, maybe I can change the work too. And then I look even more profitable because I have even more of my hours that I feel good about.

And so getting yourself into a place where you [00:40:00] feel happy about your hours is how you can profit in life. 

Hala Taha: Yeah. And to everyone listening, I highly recommend that you guys go check out episode number four, we talk about this a lot in terms of, you have enough time for the things that you want to do.

And honestly, Laura, I've taken so many of those value bombs that you shared in that episode. And I've said them so many times on other podcasts interviews that I've been on when they ask me. Me like, how do you have time for a side hustle? I always give that example that you still have 72 hours left after you sleep and work.

And that's plenty of time, even if you have kids or whatever it is. I love that piece of advice. And where can our listeners go to learn more about you and everything that you do? 

Laura Vanderkam: Yeah. Please visit my website, which is Just my name. And if you're looking for more podcasts to listen to, you might check out before breakfast, which is a short every weekday morning.

Quick tip. That'll just help you take your day from great to awesome. 

Hala Taha: Amazing. Thank you so much. 

Laura Vanderkam: Thanks for having me. 

Hala Taha: Thanks for [00:41:00] listening. Young and profiting podcast. Having Laura back on the show was a blast. And now that most of us are spending more time at home and working from home. I hope this episode lefty with ideas in terms of how to increase your productivity, better, prioritize your tasks.

And boost your overall wellbeing and work-life balance. My favorite gem of this episode was the to-do-list. It's a super short daily to do list that you can realistically accomplish three to five items. Max, keeping our to-do lists super short and with the most important items is a really smart idea to move the needle towards success while also maintaining motivation.

I hope that everyone listening today had some of their own personal insights or takeaways. From this episode, if you loved this conversation, definitely check out her first interview with me. That's number four and that's truly a yap classic. And it, we discuss all things, time management and fun fact, Laura was my first one-on-one guest interview on yet [00:42:00] prior to that, I had a completely different format for my show.

And if you want more work from home tips, Why don't you check out my yap snacks. Step up your care. In 2021 episode that I put out on December 27th, 2020, and that episode, I talk about learning how to master your environment and the touchstones of self-care that can help you stay healthy, happy, and productive.

Here's a clip from that episode. I'm going to try to help the people who are naturally messy and naturally unorganized. So I actually personally think that I fit into this category. I have to try really hard to maintain organization. I'm a very creative person. I'm a very optimistic person. I always think I have more time than I do.

And I'm naturally messy. I would say when it comes on the spectrum of organization, right? So cheese use is somebody that I interviewed episode eight, attacking human behavior. And he is an ex FBI agent. He is a master when [00:43:00] it comes to influencing others and having amazing persuasion skills. He is the ultimate master at that.

And so he taught me something that stuck with me forever. He told me to be a leader. You need to lead yourself. He says that before you can ever influence others, you need to be able to influence yourself, which means that you need to be super self disciplined. And this is something that always stuck with me.

He said that you wear your messiness on your sleeve. He says that he can always tell when he's talking to someone, if they haven't made their bed that day, or if they have a pile of dishes in the sink, or if they have clothes piled up on the floor, he can tell instantly if their environment is a mess and if they're wearing their messiness on their sleeve, as he says, So you bring your mess with you wherever you go.

You are not your most confident, influential self. If you have not made your bed, if your house is a mess, you wear that on your outward and people will be able to see that and see through you. They won't know what's off. Exactly. They'll be [00:44:00] like, oh, this person is saying great things, but something is. Off about them.

I don't quite know what it is, but something is off and what's off is the fact that you have not disciplined yourself and you have not controlled your environment. So at the very least what I want you guys to take away from this is make your bed every day. With us being at home constantly, it's easy to feel depressed.

It's easy to feel like you don't need to make your bed, that who's going to notice, especially if you're single, you're living by yourself. It's easy to just roll out of bed and roll into bed every day and not make your bed. But that is not a good way to live. That's not how you're going to lead yourself or be a leader you've got to snap out of it.

So make your bed, as soon as you wake up, make it a routine. Again, that's my yap snacks. Step up yourself care in 2021 solo episode from late December for more work from home and self care tips. And if you love YAP, please drop us a review on apple podcasts, apple podcast reviews. Are by far the best way you [00:45:00] can thank me and my team for our work on young and profiting podcast.

They act as social proof and they improve our apple podcast ranking. But I know I have a lot of listeners who listen on Castbox Spotify podcast, Republic overcast. So no matter where you listen from, we appreciate you. And if you can drop us a review or comment on your favorite platform, we would really appreciate that as always, I'm going to shout out a recent apple podcast review this week.

Shout out, goes to Midwest MC who says a lesson and every question really like the format and deep questions learned a ton from others. Who've been through similar struggles and now pass on advice that resonates no matter where you're coming from. Thank you so much. Midwest MC at YAP, we really take pride in digging deep with our guests and we try to ask really smart questions.

We do our research and we do this so we can uncover the best and most actionable gems for you. Thanks guys so much for listening. If you enjoyed this. Episode, please make sure to write us a review, just like [00:46:00] Midwest MC and feel free to share younger profiting podcasts with your friends and family. And remember to follow us on social media.

We love to see people profit from our work and share content to our social media. You can find me on Instagram @yapwithhala or LinkedIn, just search for my name, it's Hala Taha. And now I'm on clubhouse. Follow the young and profiting club, and you can find me there at Hala Taha I'm hosting live events there almost every day.

Once again, big, thanks to the YAP family. This is Hala signing off.

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