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We’ve been helping people become more productive at work and in life since 2011. In almost a decade we’ve seen a wide range of cases to help people get out of a rut and thrive at work and in life. What we’re seeing today with COVID–19, countries being shut down, people being forced to stay home, and such is unprecedented.

My original plan was to write an email for my friends and family with tips on how to stay productive working from home. This was before COVID–19 was declared a pandemic. After the NBA season (my favorite sport) got suspended and the WHO announced that COVID–19 was an official pandemic, I felt the urge to publish a more thorough post for people in the Asian Efficiency community and everyone else affected by COVID–19 (directly and indirectly).

I’m no medical doctor and do not pretend to be one. Just like you, I’m concerned about the virus and what impact it has on our health, lives, and economy. Like many of you, I’ve been impacted it too. Sales are slowing down in my business, speaking gigs are canceled and everyone in the company finds it harder to get any meaningful work done.

For most of us, life goes on. We have obligations, bills have to be paid, and important deadlines still need to be met. It’s even more important now to stay rational, focused and productive than ever before if we want to get through this pandemic.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. Many people have always wanted to work from home and now it’s their chance to do so. A lot of people have more time on their hands that can be used productively like picking up a new skill, finishing an online course, or completing home projects (just to name a few).

To help as many people as we can, we’ve created this post to help you stay productive in different areas of your life amidst COVID–19. Below is a simple table of content you can use to jump around or to go to the section that’s most relevant to you.

How to Work From Home and In a Remote Team
How to Focus While Fear, News and Social Media Is Dominating Your Life
How to Get Anything Done with Kids at Home
How to Productively Deal with Financial Stressors
How to Stay Happy, Healthy and Sane
How to Be Social Without Being in Person

How to Work From Home and In a Remote Team

Asian Efficiency started in 2011 and we’ve always been a remote company with team members all over the world. Millions of people are now transitioning to work from home and that can be a major challenge. Especially for first-timers. For some, it’s a dream come true but I will say that it’s not for everyone. Some will deal with it better than others. Based on my decade of experience working from home and remotely, I’d like to offer a few productivity tips and strategies:

  • Use a video conference tool that offers video streams for your meetings. It’s superior over audio-only calls with your teams. We recommend and use Zoom.
  • Set up pairing sessions as much as possible between team members. Remote teams tend to work in silos so innovation and collaboration is slow. Prevent this by having two or more team members hop on a video call and work together through tasks.
  • Have a daily huddle or two with video turned on. This keeps everyone in sync. If it’s your first time working remotely, I recommend doing a daily huddle twice in a day (once in the morning, once in the afternoon) with your team.
  • Use an instant messenger tool over email to communicate. Email sucks for staying in touch with people and teams. We recommend and use Slack.

On our blog and podcast The Productivity Show we have more resources for you to dive deeper.

Blog: The Asian Efficiency Guide to Working Productively From Home
Podcast: How To Run an Effective and Highly Efficient Remote Team (TPS153)
Podcast: 15+ Things Asian Efficiency Implemented to Double Team Productivity and Collaboration (TPS264)

We’ve also created a totally free presentation where we take you through the best way to work from home productively.

Click here to register for our Work From Home presentation.

How to Focus While Fear, News and Social Media Is Dominating Your Life

It can be hard to focus when all you hear, read and see are COVID–19 updates. Every few minutes there’s a new development that makes it nearly impossible to get any important, focused work done. Even the World Health Organization urges people, for their mental health, to not check news and updates that often:

”Minimize watching, reading or listening to news that causes you to feel anxious or distressed; seek information only from trusted sources and mainly to take practical steps to prepare your plans and protect yourself and loved ones.

“Seek information updates at specific times during the day, once or twice. The sudden and near-constant stream of news reports about an outbreak can cause anyone to feel worried.

“Get the facts; not the rumors and misinformation. Gather information at regular intervals, from the WHO website and local health authorities platforms, to help you distinguish facts from rumors. Facts can help to minimize fears.”

Here are a few productivity tips to help you:

  • Consider firewalling your attention by blocking social media and websites on your computer and phone. We recommend and use Freedom.to for this.
  • Use the Pomodoro Technique to focus intensely for shorts periods and get stuff done.
  • Put your phone in a different room or in a drawer when you’re trying to focus. Anything you can do to have friction for reaching your phone will help lessen your phone usage.
  • Now is a great time to introduce a mindful practice to your life. A 10-minute daily meditation will keep you focused. Using an app such as Headspace or Calm is great for this.

We have lots of free resources on the blog and podcast on focus.

Blog: 10 Powerful Apps To Help You Maintain Laser Focus
Blog: How to Manage Your Attention
Blog: The Asian Efficiency Guide to Meditation For Less Stress, More Productivity and a Happier Life
Podcast: 4 Strategies for Developing Your Focus Muscle and Creating the Future You’ve Always Dreamed of (TPS145)
Podcast: Meditation for the Rest of Us

We also have an online course Focus Filter that will give you our 7 best focus hacks. If you have trouble focusing, this short course will give you practical strategies and app recommendations to help you stay focused and get things done.

How to Get Anything Done with Kids at Home

Schools are getting shut down and that means your kids are now at home. This makes it more challenging to get meaningful work done (especially if they’re young). Luckily for you, there are a few things you can do to stay productive:

  • You can wake up earlier and/or stay up later to get your important work done. We typically recommend parents wake up an hour earlier before the kids wake up.
  • Tell your kids they cannot wake up and go downstairs before a certain time, i.e. 7AM. This gives you room to get meaningful work done when you wake up early. This is no different than telling your kids to go to sleep at 9PM so you can get things done when they’re in bed.
  • If you have young kids, accept that you won’t be as productive as you could be. No need you to beat yourself up for it. Use this time to spend time with your kids and maximize pockets of time you do have to get work done.

Blog: Can I Be a Good Parent and a Productive Person?
Blog: Time Blocking, ToDoist, and Temper Tantrums: How I Do Life as a Freelancing, Homeschooling Mom of Four
Blog: How To Implement A Family Calendar, No Matter How Old Your Kids Are
Podcast: Can You Be Productive When The Kids Are On Break? (TPS251)
Podcast: 13 Productive Parenting Hacks (TPS47)
Podcast: Simple Strategies To Find Time to Parent Without Feeling Guilty (TPS232)

How to Productively Deal with Financial Stressors

Money and finances is a tricky subject to discuss during this time. We all have mortgages, rent, and bills to pay which can be struggle while we’re dealing with this pandemic. If you’re stressed around money, here are a few things to consider:

  • Start cutting your expenses now. This is the fastest way to increase your spending power. Look over all your transactions and cancel anything that’s not that important. Especially recurring expenses (anything you pay weekly or monthly).
  • Call your credit card companies and ask about paying over time, zero percent interest loans, and removing any late fees. It won’t hurt to ask. You can also open a new credit card with 0% interest for a certain period if you need short-term cash (assuming you can pay it back in the future).
  • You can offer your skills on Fiverr.com and Upwork.com to make some extra income while you’re working from home. If you have a unique skill, chances are people will want to hire you.
  • Pick up online jobs and gigs. You can answer surveys and do simple tasks on Mechanical Turk and similar platforms.
  • If you’re worried about your job security, start applying now at different companies and ask people if they know of any job openings. Better start now than being behind the curve on this.

Financial stress is one of the biggest roadblocks for productivity and focus. It’s hard to get anything done when you’re stressed about how to pay your next bill. So the faster you can address this, the easier everything else becomes.

Podcast: How To Get Started With Personal Finance With Proven Workflows, Apps and Tools w/ Charles Ngo (TPS261)

How to Stay Happy, Healthy and Sane

As we always like to say, happy people are productive people. One of the best things you can do to stay happy, healthy and sane is to continue to do everything you would normally do with a few tweaks. If you’re like me, you like being outside, working out, reading and eating out. With social distancing and government shutdowns, we might not be able to do everything the same way but we can still keep up with our habits and routines.

(I’m going out of my wheelhouse here because, again, I’m no medical doctor or expert on viruses and COVID–19. I’m sharing with you what I’ll be personally doing.)

I’m still planning to keep up with all my habits and routines. Instead of working out at the gym, I’ll be working out at home. I’ve ordered a few dumbbells, kettlebell, and a mace bell so I have equipment at home to workout. I’ll be following YouTube videos now to workout with a few tips from my personal trainer.

Dumb bells
Kettle bell
Mace bell
YouTube videos: this one, this one, and this one.

Being outside and catching enough sunlight is something I will also continue to do (especially since my blood results have shown that I’m deficient in vitamin D) unless it’s a government requirement to stay inside. The coronavirus transmits from person to person and has a short lifespan when it’s on objects. Based on my research, as long as you’re not touching people and follow good hygiene (washing hands often, carrying a hand sanitizer), you should be okay walking outside.

We talk often about the importance of sleep on the blog and on The Productivity Show. It’s one of the biggest drivers for productivity. The better you sleep, the more energy you have and the easier it is to focus and feel motivated. It’s also very good for your body to repair itself and recover. Most of your healing happens when you sleep and during this time I’m putting an even bigger emphasis on my sleep. With the help of my Oura ring, I’ve been tracking my sleep religiously so I know what works and what doesn’t. With that said, we have a few resources for you:

Course: Serene Sleep (our sleep course) – how to get superior sleep and wake up productive
Blog: How To Optimize Your Sleep For Maximum Efficiency
Podcast: Sleep Secrets to Boost Your Focus and Maximize Your Productivity (TPS214)

How to Be Social Without Being in Person

I never heard of “social distancing” until this week. If you’ve been living under a rock, it’s the idea that we stop being around other people so we slow down the transmission of the virus.

The silver lining with this pandemic is that introverts, like yours truly, will be able to cope with social distancing. If you’re not an introvert the world is not about to end. There are so many things we can do to follow the social distancing guidelines while staying and feeling connected to others.

  • Call your parents and friends – especially the ones you haven’t talked to in a while. This is a great way to feel connected and let them know how much you care about them. Be the first to initiate because so many of your family members and friends will appreciate it (most people don’t call anymore).
  • Play video games with your friends. This is what I’m doing a lot now and it’s a fun way to stay in touch.
  • If you have a Virtual Reality device or set up at home, you’re all good to go. For the rest of us, this might be a great time to try this out. I personally haven’t tried this but I’ve heard only good things from friends that I’m going to do this.
  • Hop on a video conference call with your friends. I use Zoom for this with my friends.

Just because we’re social distancing now doesn’t mean that we can’t be social. Use this time to get in touch with your family, friends and loved ones.

Next Actions

There are so many things we can do to get through this pandemic. I haven’t even touched the idea of working on your home projects, going through online courses, creating products/content/innovations while we’re going through this period. The options are endless and it’s not all doom and gloom. This won’t last forever and if you want to stay productive in the meantime, pick one or two tips from this guide to implement today.

Please share this guide with your family, co-workers, and anyone who needs this. Let’s get through this together, Asian Efficiently.

Thanh Pham

Founder of Asian Efficiency

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Thanh Pham

Founder of Asian Efficiency where we help people become more productive at work and in life. I've been featured on Forbes, Fast Company, and The Globe & Mail as a productivity thought leader. At AE I'm responsible for leading teams and executing our vision to assist people all over the world live their best life possible.

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  1. This is a very good article and I think that not only when there is a pandemic but even when the pandemic has passed, what the article shares can still be applied.

  2. I’ve been doing Zumba several times a day. I’ve sent my “routine” (consisting of 7 youtube videos) to a few of my doctoral students , One evening, by sharing my screen and using a larger speaker for the sound. I’ve even done Zumba with a friend, Zumba home to home. It worked and was quite wonderful.

    Further –Last night I held a virtual Saturday night dinnner for friends -it was fun, and in addition, it was my way of making sure they all learned how to use it, to keep in touch with people. Social connection via zoom is particularly important right now. Throughout life, we regulate one another emotionally (or iambically if you will). Thanks for your post, I’m finding is very difficult to do anything BUT Zumba.

  3. Muy bueno su artículo, buenas ideas para esta temporada de obligado recogimiento, muy agradecida por sus sugerencias

  4. Hey Thanh, thanks for your great tips. Just yesterday my country has announced that there will be “movement restriction” starting from tomorrow on. And you’re right, there’s no need to be all negative about it. We should focus on fighting harder and working hard to overcome this tough situation. And when this pandemic is over, our business will bloom. By the way, do you base in Thailand?

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