The New Corner Office (with Laura Vanderkam)

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We are all learning a new way of working. In truth, this transition has been coming for a while, but was dramatically accelerated by the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. Most of us are now working from home, or at least working in remote locations away from our co-workers, which means that we need to develop a new set of habits and rituals to help us thrive.

Laura Vanderkam has just published a book called The New Corner Office in which she shares best practices gleaned from years of research into productivity habits. In our interview, she shared a few key insights that can help you be more focused, more productive, and more energetic throughout your day. Here are a few of my key takeaways from our conversation:

Manage by task, not by time. When you are in the habit of going to an office every day, there are some external prompts for what constitutes a full day of work. (Is it 5:30PM yet?) However, when you work from home, your schedule might be different every day depending on what’s happening in your household. Laura suggests that, instead of focusing on time as the key metric for a full day of work, we focus on the accomplishment of tasks. Once we’ve checked those tasks off, we’ve completed our work for the day.

Make sure your virtual meetings have a focus and a “why”. When everyone was first working from home, virtual meetings sprouted on the calendar like weeds. We were trying desperately to make sure we were all connected and “in the loop”. However, now that we are settling into a new rhythm, it’s time to start pruning some of those non-essential meetings from the calendar and curating the set of meetings that are truly helpful and meaningful. Do all of your meetings have an apparent “why?”, and is there a clear agenda?

Work on transitions. When your desk is ten feet from your breakfast table, it can be a challenge to feel like there are any true “transitions” in your day. Laura says it’s critically important to develop some transitional rituals to signal to yourself that you are moving into a new mode of work. For example, maybe it’s having a coffee ritual that signals it’s time to start the workday, or maybe you need to change into different clothes to signal that the “professional” part of your day is beginning. Whatever your method, having transitions in place can be a strong signal to your brain that you are now in “focus mode”.

These are just a few of the key insights I took from our conversation. Whatever your job, make sure that your systems and rituals are set up to ensure that you’re spending your most productive hours doing your most important work, and that you are marking your days so that you have a sense of rhythm about your work.

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