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Dress for Suck-cess

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An UnReal Estate Film Treatment:

C’mon – tell the truth – you’ve seen many agents who present such a bad image you know even their own parole officers wouldn’t hire them.  Today at an open house I saw an agent (with his client) who was decked out in shorts and flip flops. By contrast, at the same open house there was an agent in a very tasteful skirt. However, the agent’s name was Steven. Okay, I made up the last one, but you get my point. Thus, I have decided to create a mini film treatment for your consideration based on these characters. I will be accepting submissions of resumes for those who wish to play the lead roles. Please remove all coffee stains from photos before submitting.

Fade In:

As the sun lifts its sleepy head over the Los Angeles skyline, Vivian enters Motley Real Estate, her equally sleepy head balancing an enormous straw hat designed to cover her unwashed hair. Grabbing a cup of java, she makes her way to her desk as Tommy watches from across the room, enjoying her entrance. Vivian’s tight skirt screams in pain as Vivian sits, and her ample bosom tries to escape the confines of the extremely low-cut sweater she is almost wearing.  “Wow,” Tommy sighs as he pokes one finger through the hole in the knee of his jeans, “those mountains deserve their own zip code.” As he is visualizes skiing those Black Diamond slopes, Vivian wipes coffee off her listing sheets and shoves them into her purse.

In the chair next to him, Hilda grins as she watches Tommy watching Vivian. “She’s dressed up for a listing appointment,” Hilda informs him as she stirs her coffee with her long acrylic nail. When she withdraws her finger from the hot liquid, Hilda notices that the nail has melted into a perfect question mark.  It now matches the other nails. The lovely hue of her talons reminds her of lemon tarts. In fact, she thinks, I may even have some lemon tart still hiding under one of them.

Tommy, still observing Vivian, sighs again. “Oh, I thought she was just returning from her date last night,” he responds. “You know, Hilda, I have a listing appointment today myself.”

“Great,” Hilda says with her usual enthusiasm. “The spiky hair and all those chains you have on really do make you look cool. Are you meeting a musician?”

“No,” Tommy grins, “this is a big fish from a stock brokerage in Beverly Hills. My dad referred him to me. That’s why I dressed up.”

“Well I’m sure he’ll love that Snoop Dogg Tee shirt, Tommy,” she says while wetting one finger and rubbing some dirt off the heel of her worn hooker pumps. “Be sure to ask Mel over there for some pointers – he deals with a lot of executive types.”

Cut To:

Hilda is using a magic marker to polish the toe of her shoe when Mel slides his chair across the floor, going zero to twenty in 10 seconds at the thought of sucking up a little attention. He lands squarely at her side. When his chair stops rolling, he touches his heavily sprayed coif to make sure every hair is still in place, pulls his powder blue trouser leg down over his pink sock, then adjusts his mauve jacket. A clump of rogue chest hair peeks over his top button like a rabid Pekingese. “Ohhhh,” smiles Hilda at the whiff of his pungent cologne.

“Hey, man” Tommy grins, “that spray-on tan of yours sure warms up the whole office like a nuclear reactor. I like that hint of orange that you’ve been turning lately.”

“Thanks, son,” Mel oozes, “I’m cooler than the Dogg, that’s fo shizl. I heard Hilda mention that you needed some pointers with the executive types. The best advice I can give you is to wear a jacket, kid. I have a plaid one in my Vette if you want to borrow one. And get yourself some reptile shoes.”

“Alligator? But they’re endangered!”

“Hell, then get Iguana, I don’t care. I’m just trying class ya up a bit, kid.”

And Along Comes Harry

Overhearing this, lanky Harry Houston stops while passing by. He shakes what’s left of yesterday’s lunch out of his long dreads and props himself onto the edge of Tommy’s desk. “If you really want to get business man,” he says while weighing in on the subject, “ask Georgia what her secret is. She closed four deals this week.”

“You sure know a lot about the office for a janitor,” Tommy replies in admiration, backing off from the smoke-and-cigarette cloud that clings to Harry like a second skin.

“I’m an agent, Porcupine Head,'” Harry corrects him while cleaning his cigarette stained nails with the tip of a pair of scissors. He sways gently as if imagining the ocean breeze in his hair. The heels of his boots are worn down so well that he is able to rock back in forth like a Weeble and still remain standing – always an advantage for Harry, who tends to nap on his feet a lot.

Shoving a pencil between his spiked locks, Tommy scratches his head and shoots Harry a puzzled look. “Oh, sorry about the misunderstanding, Dude,” he mumbles. “Are you referring to that Georgia over there?  She closed four deals this week? But isn’t she our cleaning woman???”

“Nope,” replies Harry. “That pine smell comes from her skin ointment.”

“…Oops, my bad.” Tommy says with chagrin. “Hey, Georgia,” he calls out to her, “what’s your secret for success?”

Enter Georgia

Georgia rambles over, stopping occasionally to yank up her pantyhose, which are migrating South like a flock of geese. “Oh, I just know how to handle myself,” she brags, “and I pay close attention to details, Toby.”  (Tommy doesn’t correct her on his name, bowing to her seniority. In fact, he momentarily even considers changing his name out of respect.)

“Well, I plan to learn from the best, Georgia,” he explains.

“Well, then pay attention, kid,” Georgia growls, a bit perturbed that Tommy’s attention has already drifted. In fact, the entire group has suddenly been rendered speechless by:

A Cloud of Candi

There is shock and awe at the sight of Candi, the new agent with the dark roots and the platinum mane. Her back side is definitely a distraction to the entire group as she bends over in her napkin-size skirt to retrieve her eye pencil. As her skirt hikes up and momentarily becomes a belt, they all cock their heads to one side to get the wide lens view of Candi’s candy. Suddenly Candi uprights herself, looks around, and then slaps herself loudly on the forehead. “Oops,” she giggles, “I think I’m in the wrong office. I’m with the real estate company down the hall!” She sashays toward the door, bounces off the door frame, and loses a few more IQ points in the collision. As she makes her spectacular exit, her Poppin Fresh giggles trail behind her behind.

After a few silent minutes, they all shake off their shock and drift back into the conversation. Well, all except Harry, who is now asleep while swaying in his rockabye boots. Vivian slithers over, her hat shading her eyes and her hips shading the rest of the office.

“So who is your clientele, and why are you able to close so many deals, Georgia?” Vivian presses. They all lean in closer to hear her response, knowing that she has a secret that somehow eludes the rest of them. What is it? How can they also have the secret to cultivating great client relationships? How do they make the same impression on people that Georgia does?

The Secret of Suckcess

Georgia leans back in her chair and props her thick ankles on the desk, her feet protruding over the sides of her shoes like two over-baked popovers. When she raises her arms to beckon forth her followers, the stains that line the armpits of her blouse form a juicy smile. She whispers dramatically as she imparts her secrets for a winning career: “As you have probably noticed, I am the the queen of dressing for success.”

Silence. Then: “Ahhhhh,” they exhale in unison. Georgia nods her head and shoots them all a supercilious grin. “I was taught by my father who was a very dapper business man.”

“Was he an agent also?” Tommy inquires, taking notes on a napkin.

“Hardly!” she sniffs, pausing for drama. Then, as if giving a benediction, she delivers the secret: “He ran a clown college.”  She waits for the effect. The group, one by one, absorbs the information with slack jaws and nods, unified in their appreciation of her sartorial heritage. Georgia then stands imperiously, her slip winking at them from below her hemline, and gives them all a Queen Elizabeth wave. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I must be on my way,” she apologizes, “I need to tend to my client base. They adore me and they love my sense of style.”

“Are they clowns, too?” Tommy asks.

“No, Toby, it’s the Square-Dancing Society of Bakersfield.”

A reverential silence then: Loud applause breaks out as she exits, one broken heal clickety, clack clacking as if to salute her splendor. Several agents wipe tears from their eyes.

After a beat, Vivian jumps into Tommy’s arms and throws her hat in the air. (Cue the theme from “Officer and a Gentleman.”) And then…

Fade To Black 

Casting Director’s Note: Any similarities to real persons is accidental. Yeah, fat chance. If you feel you are exactly right for any of these roles – and some of you KNOW you are – please turn in your R.E. license before auditioning. And keep your dirty shoes off my casting couch!

I wear several hats: My mink fedora real estate hat belongs to Sotheby’s International Realty on the world famous Sunset Strip. I’M not world famous, but I've garnered a few Top Producer credits along the way. I also wear a coonskin writer's cap with an arrow through it, having written a few novels and screenplays and scored a few awards there, too. (The arrow was from a tasteless critic.) My sequined turban is my thespian hat for my roles on stage, and in film and television, Dahling. You can check me out in all my infamy at LinkedIn, LAhomesite.com, SherlockOfHomes, IMDB or you can shoot arrows at my head via email. I can take it.

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20 Comments

20 Comments

  1. Jonathan Dalton

    April 10, 2009 at 9:32 am

    > Today at an open house I saw an agent (with his client) who was decked out in shorts and flip flops

    Was this their first time out together or had they established a relationship long before based on more than clothing? Or would the latter possibility ruin the snarky fun?

    When it’s 100 degrees outside, I’ve shown homes in shorts and a golf shirt to clients who a) I already have established a relationship with and b) after picking up the obvious hints that this wasn’t a fashion show – such as their own shorts, golf shirts and flip flops.

    If I found my clients a good house at an excellent price, I don’t think they’d care if I were in a tube top and hot pants. It’s about the results, not the aesthetics.

  2. Ken Montville - The MD Suburbs of DC

    April 10, 2009 at 10:29 am

    Gwen, I nearly pee’d my pants laughing at the film treatment. Hey, I don’t wanna star in it, I just wanna watch.

    Seriously, I wrote something along these lines on Active Rain and most of the responses were similar to Jonathan’s – dress to the client and relationship. You bring in a whole new perspective: What about the people who are not your client who will run into you?

    Just because our clients don’t care how they dress (is that a clue as to what they think about us?) doesn’t mean we shouldn’t “dress the part.”

    I’m on board with the weather thing. I understand it’s important not to be sweatin’ like a hog while your out showing property. There’s ways to project professionalism without resorting to, er, resort wear.

    Disclosure: I’ve been known to wear jeans and Topsiders while showing property. I always dress for the paperwork and really dress for settlement. But that’s just me.

  3. BawldGuy

    April 10, 2009 at 3:47 pm

    Marry me.

  4. Brian Brady

    April 10, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    “Marry me.”

    No, pick me. You had me at Vivian

  5. Gwen Banta

    April 10, 2009 at 6:04 pm

    Ahhhh – I love the support, and I would say “I do” to each of my marriage proposals if I lived in Utah. I am so happy you all got my satire. Someone on Active Rain said she hires people based on their record of success and not based on something as “superficial” as how they look. I would venture a guess that if they are successful enough to be hired, they do not look like Georgia and the crew at Motley real Estate. Granted, satire utilizes hyperbole, but the basic truth remains; and I am sure you have all seen characteristics such as these in your fellow agents, albeit maybe not so many in one character. Jonathan makes a good point that there are circumstances where casual is appropriate, but unfortunately, many people (such as Tommy in the “film treatment”) are not attune to what is appropriate for the venue or the client. And I bet Jonathan wears clean shorts and shakes the crumbs from his hair before leaving the house. Truly thought, I’d really like to see Jonathan in the tube top. C’mon Jonathan – do it for us!

  6. Missy Caulk

    April 10, 2009 at 6:32 pm

    Gwen there is a great photo of Jonathan on Flickr at Inman in San Francisco if you really want to peak.

    I dress up the first time we meet, then it is kacki’s and polo’s for me, with nice Brighton flip flops in the summer.

    In the winter it is boots.

    Yesterday my daughter went out in jeans to show a house to a buyer she had spoken to many times on the phone. Mom was not happy. Ha He had jeans and hair in a pony tail…so Ann Arbor and they hit it off great.

    Very funny read!

  7. Gwen Banta

    April 10, 2009 at 6:58 pm

    Your Mom taught you right, Missy. And obviously your daughter learned from you because she was able to discern the client’s level of casualness. Too many agents do not do this, they just dress for themselves and not the occasion. I bet she was clean, too. What actually inspired me to write this was the comment made by my lovely European clients who told me they dumped their last agent because she embarrassed them; and because of her sloppiness, they could not take her seriously.

    Does that photo of Jonathan you mentioned show him in a tube top. That’s the money shot I’m waiting for! Thanks for your comment and support, Missy.

  8. Jonathan Dalton

    April 10, 2009 at 10:28 pm

    It wasn’t a tube top not was it hot pants.

    The satire wasn’t lost on me … I used to specialize in it once upon a time before I became old and cranky. Maybe I’m still wound up about an iPhone thing from Twitter earlier in the week.

    Local custom rules, though. People hire me because they connect with me on some level. If they want someone who looks good in a suit, I’m not their Huckleberry. (For that matter if they want someone who looks good in general, I’m screwed.)

    But I can show you dozens – no, make that hundreds – of local agents who look the part better than me and know less about the business than Tobey.

  9. Gwen Banta

    April 11, 2009 at 12:13 am

    I agree completely, Jonathan – dress is only part of the package, but unfortunately, tacky dress can undermine an agent’s genius by presenting an image of lack of attention to detail. I have clients right now who dumped their last agent because she embarrassed them in her disgusting appearance. (I know her personally, and she is one smart cookie, but she always has food all over her and smelly hair.) Casual dress is certainly called for when the occasion warrants. I am sure you are always appropriate for the occasion. That being said, I heard that you’re good-looking, so I still want to see those hot pants!

  10. Aria Kilpatrick - Austin Homes & Land

    April 11, 2009 at 7:31 am

    This is true, it can be hard to find the balance between being yourself and dressing the part. You have to find work clothes that you’re comfortable in that both give a professional image but don’t leave you looking like you’re trying to hard.

    This is always a challenge for me. I look young so I always have to be careful not to dress young!

  11. Gwen Banta

    April 13, 2009 at 11:22 am

    Great comment, Aria – you addressed something I failed to address. The argument was never about being CASUAL, but about being APPROPRIATE in order to convey the right message to ones clients. As someone who is older than you (ouch, that hurt), I do not share your problem, but I can see how important it would be to your clients to feel that you have had enough experience to have gained the necessary skills to represent them well. I was married to a doctor who actually lost patients because he looked so young they thought he was green, when actually he was a very skilled practioner. So kudos to you for having the foresight to know how to present an image appropriate to the situation!

  12. Bob

    April 13, 2009 at 1:10 pm

    In 20 years I have seen it all.

    My litmus test starts with having to spell, then define, “fiduciary”. Get that right and we’ll talk about the dress code after we determine whether or not you can correctly fill out a purchase contract and write a counter offer that actually makes sense. Of course this assumes that it even gets this far as I will have read your AR content to see if you managed not to break any FH or other laws.

  13. Gwen Banta

    April 13, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    I guess you missed the point of satire…or are you just cranky today, Bob?

  14. Gwen Banta

    April 13, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    You know, I just re-read your comment, and I don’t think all the “you’s” were referring to me personally, so maybe you weren’t being cranky. I do agree that knowledge and experience are the most important requirements of our job. Appropriateness of dress is unimportant without it, because if an agent lacks those things, he should STAY HOME OR GET SOME MORE EDUCATION.

  15. Bob

    April 13, 2009 at 3:52 pm

    Gwen, my apologies for the misunderstanding due to poor writing on my end. I most certainly was not referring to you personally.

    I actually love satire and got it all.

    A few years back in the go-go years, there was an agent in an office I used to work in who was a cross between your Vivian and Candi. She did extremely well picking up prospective male buyers at Starbucks. At one company sponsored meeting at the races, she showed up in a dress that required more double-sided tape than JLo’s green Versace dress. At least I think it was a dress – but I suppose it could have been a swimsuit cover up sans swim suit.

    Her career ended abruptly a few months later when one of her sugar daddy buyers sued the brokerage over a $2.2 million deal she had him in that went bad. Something about the contract…

    After that the manager enacted a firm rule about not hiring people with skill sets that involved brass poles.

  16. Gwen Banta

    April 13, 2009 at 6:46 pm

    That’s hysterical, Bob – sad but hysterical. I know an agent who always wore polyester pants that were closer in consistency to plastic than to fabric. While heating food during his open house, he was leaning against the oven when the seat of his pants melted to the oven door. Now I suppose one could argue that his bad sense of style was meaningless in light of his knowledge of our business, but the fact that he signed his clients names for them “as a service” would render that argument useless I’d say. This underscores your point that we need to develop a complete, professional package.

    I suppose brass pole skills could be entertaining at an office party, but it’s hard to imagine the application of that skill at a listing appointment. (But maybe I have a lack of imagination.) I may start hitting the local Starbucks though…if I can find my J Lo dress and some tape!

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Opinion Editorials

Interviews shouldn’t include ‘how did you improve yourself?’ during or after COVID

(EDITORIAL) Emotional Intelligence will be even more needed in recruiting talent and Interviews shouldn’t look the same as they did pre-COVID.

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Question: Remember that last time you dealt with a global pandemic?
Answer: No, because most likely, none of us have.

This is new for many of us. We’ve likely each felt the rollercoaster of emotions or even grief as our ways of lives changed, some were quickly moved to working remotely while others were deemed essential workers and were not able to work from home. It was disheartening for many that no matter what position they were put in, it was with no choice. And then there were the millions of jobs eliminated as well, affecting people’s ability to pay their bills and fulfill their own safety, and even basic needs. Everyone entered survival mode, and it looks the same yet different depending on your unique situation.

All of this comes at a price that seems hard to predict. Moving forward will be different albeit many of us don’t know exactly how yet, and are imagining a wild range of possibilities. Now that the US unemployment is up to 14.7%, there will also be many people job searching and finding themselves in interviews answering the typical “Tell me about yourself”, or “Tell me about a time when…” Most likely many candidates will be able to tell you about their previous work experiences, but here’s what we ask of future employers:

  1. Be more understanding (less judgmental or pushy) if you see folks looking to switch careers, or you see Small Business Owners applying for your open position. This may have been an opportunity for them to explore another avenue, or it may have been forced if their previous type of position (or business) is no longer available. Of course, you can ask them why they are interested in the position, but try not to look down your brow if they seem to be an unlikely or unexpected candidate.
  2. Do not ask what this candidate did to be productive during the quarantine. Just surviving may have been enough. If they did take up a new hobby, learn a new coding language, write a book, or start a new work out program, I’m going to guess it will come out in conversation. If they literally had to utilize the majority of their energy for coping skills, that should be enough. Don’t believe all the sourdough starters you saw on Instagram (and why has banana bread been so popular?)
  3. Try to avoid some of the ridiculous questions that tell you nothing about their skill set. We get it, interviews can be boring so you thought it might be fun to ask the interviewee for their favorite joke such as “What 5 items would they want on a deserted island?” or “What fruit they would be in a smoothie?” This has been an extremely traumatic situation for many. The goofy questions are not really applicable, and will only lead to additional stress after they leave thinking over if they “got the answer right”.
  4. Please do your best to really utilize this time to hire with diversity and inclusion in mind. Do not dismiss someone because they have several years of experience in another sector or because they didn’t attend the Ivy League school. If they applied, chances are they do have an interest in your company, so exploring how they can be a great fit, bring in a refreshing perspective, and may be a better option than hiring something that exactly matches the job description (which may be hard to find anyway) is a smart idea. Please be open to a variety of ages, races, and sexes.

Interviews in general can conjure up lots of negative feelings, anxiety, and stress. Most people don’t like the stress of interviews but yet they have accepted that this is part of the job search process. There will be even more people out there looking again, and likely not because they want to. The mental toll this is taking should be handled with care. As this Ask a Manager article beautifully states:

“If someone is teaching themselves a new language or building their coding skills during the pandemic, that’s great. But to present it as an expectation during a time when millions of people are struggling to keep their homes, feed their families, and stay alive — to imply people might be less worthy of employment if they needed to focus on their finances and their safety during a f’ing global crisis — no. No. Something has gone very wrong in anyone who believes that.”

The companies with openings may have an advantage with many available and interested candidates but they also have a huge responsibility to not take this lightly; don’t waste people’s time, and don’t ask really INSENSITIVE questions. If you need help reviewing your questions or interview processes, it may be great to assign someone to review Emotional Intelligence tips and see if they can incorporate that in to what you normally do.

Emotional Intelligence is touted as the most required skill of the future (that may have been pre-pandemic), which is, “the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.” This means really reading the room and not putting candidates in an awkward position, or placing unrealistic expectations on them. Oh, and please have a little grace with those virtual interviews – that is also new to some people, so maybe cut them some slack if the nerves have really kicked in.

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Opinion Editorials

Press mute when you’re sobbing on a Zoom (and other COVID mental health observations)

(EDITORIAL) COVID-19 had been hard on everybody, but a group often not thought of are those who have mental illness, they struggled in the world before, what about now?

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Editors note: This editorial was written anonymously and brings important insight into an issue not often brought up or thought about. We at The American Genius believe this is an important topic to keep in mind about an often silent group that may think they are alone and face extra challenges everyday.

Whether you’re a veteran of working from home, or if you are someone newly learning that muting your mic is important, welcome. Working from home is both rewarding and challenging. This is not an instruction manual on how best to work from home. It’s a guide to working from home and not losing an already delicate mind to existing or potential mental illness.

Some ideas I’d like to convey should ring true now and in the future. However, one aspect is unique to now. I’m writing from the time of Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. Workers have been divided into two groups, “essential” and “non-essential.” Those considered non-essential were sent home with hopes of slowing the spread of the disease. Those deemed essential, like doctors and grocery store clerks, were considered too vital to our way of life to stay home. One group unable to work, the other unable to stay home.

Then there’s us. A quasi third group. Those who have a job that is so tied to the glowy screen in front of them that it could be performed, in theory, from any location with a computer and internet. Theory was put to practice as many people – accustomed to commuting each day – suddenly learned the joy and perils of working in their jammies.

Working from home is not a new idea, but there had never been such a reason to push so many people to practice it. Some companies, historically, felt uncomfortable with workers staying home. With the arrival of COVID-19 they had a change of heart and now insist on it. Once and for all we will find out which meetings could have just been an email.

The pandemic has been hard on many people. If one is able to avoid the disease itself, they are still subject to staying in and staying isolated. Many never leave their home except for groceries or prescriptions. Some people thrive in this situation, but for others, it puts pressure on the mind and spirit. What about those who already have such a toll on their state of mind due to mental illness?

Working a job, or doing anything, with mental illness can be its own challenge. Mental illnesses and disorders that can affect your work include depression, PTSD, panic disorder, agoraphobia, and borderline personality disorder – just to name a few. So what happens when those who suffer from one or more of these mental health issues have to stay at home every day for work?

There are advantages. If a moment strikes you when you can’t be your professional self, you can often step away and have that cup of tea and peace of mind. Going heads-down and focusing on your task is where you might thrive. However, working from home can still mean having dead-lines and going to live meetings. Needing help or coordination from distant workers can quickly tax your social resources.

There will be a great deal of communication through multiple methods ranging from group video calls to instant messages. Things can get out of control quickly if you don’t set limits. When you want to reach someone it may be unclear which method to use. “Should I email or call them?” you might find yourself pondering. This can frustrate you to the point of not taking action at all. Getting a handle on the lines of communication is vital.

Request to have as few modes of communication as possible. You might find yourself responding to text messages, reading emails, taking phone calls, or answering instant messages from WhatsApp, Slack, or more. It will certainly create a growing obsession towards monitoring notifications rather than actual work.

If a consensus can not be found, give your coworkers clear communication on how you want to be reached, and ask them what they prefer. Needing to check the notification on so many apps is a recipe for a panic attack and overwhelming yourself.

Let’s consider meetings. You’ve seen it by now – or you will – a Zoom meeting with people saying “hello hello, is this thing on?” It’s amazing that in a time we all have computers in our pocket, that it’s still hard to coordinate things like your own audio, video, and even lighting conditions. If you suffer panic attacks it’s best not to be unknotting your earphones while the CEO is about to make a big presentation. Get ready early, check that you can be heard and can hear others. If another meeting is about to start, leave on time. Respect the start time of that new meeting. Overlapping meetings that never end are a sign that boundaries are not being observed. Boundaries are hard for most, but if you have a mental illness they can feel impossible to set.

On a similar note, let’s look at the start and end of work. Being on time is important. Wait, you just need to roll out of bed and turn on a computer? Great, but is it though? You get there just in time to say the proverbial “here!” If you are not ready to work, you are falling behind. Extend this idea to the day itself. When is the day over? Did you start a little late so you feel obligated to work a little later? Do you have a time when other people can expect that you won’t get their message until the next business day? Does working-from-home turn into working-all-the-time?

Getting to work on time also means leaving work on time. Those who have had a reactive or abusive partner know that setting boundaries can escalate situations instead of repairing them. Telling your boss “I’ll like to be offline after 6:30.” can result in the fear that you’ll just be told to close your computer and never return. But these are the boundaries one must set. Finding this work-life balance is doubly important for the mentally ill because we need to reserve time for ourselves for repair and growth.

Among all my reminders to you, remember to leave the house. In the time of COVID-19, this gets convoluted because “Stay home, stay safe!” is the phrase of the day. Having issues going outside can be a part of mental illness. In extreme cases, some people are afraid to go out the front door. With nearly everything being available for delivery now possible to stay home for days, but this is not a good recipe for mental health. When your day ends – and make sure it ends – get some fresh air and possibly some exercise.

Plan the rest of your day ahead of time. Look forward to it and go out and enjoy it. Day to day life is already hard with mental health issues. Don’t let working from home be another hardship. Breath deeply, take care of your mind and don’t let the mixture of home and work overwhelm you. Don’t forget your most important job is to take care of yourself.

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Opinion Editorials

5 Secrets to a more productive morning in the office

(EDITORIAL) Productivity is king in the office, but sometimes distractions and other issues slow you down. So what can you do to limit these factors?

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distractions stop productivity

Regardless of whether you’re a self-proclaimed morning person or not, more efficient mornings can be catalytic in your daily productivity and output. The only question is, do you know how to make the most of your mornings in the office?

5 Tips for Greater Morning Productivity

In economic terms, productivity is a measure of output as it relates to input. Academics often discuss productivity in terms of a one-acre farm’s ability to produce a specific crop yield, or an auto manufacturing plant’s ability to produce a certain number of vehicles over a period of time. But then there’s productivity in our personal lives.

Your own daily productivity can be defined in a variety of ways. But at the end of the day, it’s about getting the desired results with less time and effort on the input side. And as a business professional, one of the best ways to do this is by optimizing your morning in the office.

Here are a few timely suggestions:

  1. Eliminate All Non-Essential Actions


    Spend the next week keeping a log of every single action you take from the moment your eyes open in the morning until you sit down at your desk. It might look something like this:

    • Turn off alarm
    • Scroll through social media on phone
    • Get out of bed
    • Eat breakfast
    • Take shower
    • Brush teeth
    • Walk dog
    • Watch news
    • Browse favorite websites
    • Get in car
    • Starbucks drive-thru
    • Arrive at office
    • Small talk with coworkers
    • Sit down at desk

    If you do this over the course of a week, you’ll notice that your behaviors don’t change all that much. There might be some slight deviations, but it’s basically the same pattern.

    Now consider how you can eliminate as many points of friction as possible from your routine. [Note from the Editor: This may be an unpopular opinion, but] For example, can you skip social media time? Can you make coffee at home, rather than drive five minutes out of your way to wait in the Starbucks drive-thru line? Just doing these two things alone could result in an additional 30 minutes of productive time in the office.

  2. Reduce Distractions


    Distractions kill productivity. They’re like rooftop snipers. As soon as they see any sign of productivity, they put it in their crosshairs and pull the trigger.

    Ask yourself this: What are my biggest distractions and how can I eliminate them?

    Popular distractions include social media, SMS, video games, news websites, and email. And while none of these are evil, they zap focus. At the very least, you should shift them to later in the day.

  3. Set Measurable Goals and Action items


    It’s hard to have a productive morning if you don’t have a clear understanding of what it means to be productive. Make sure you set measurable goals, create actionable to-do lists, and establish definitive measurements of what it looks like to be efficient. However, don’t get so caught up in the end result that you miss out on true productivity.

    “There’s a big difference between movement and achievement; while to-do lists guarantee that you feel accomplished in completing tasks, they don’t ensure that you move closer to your ultimate goals,” TonyRobbins.com mentions. “There are many ways to increase your productivity; the key is choosing the ones that are right for you and your ultimate goals.”

    In other words, set goals that are actually reflective of productivity. In doing so, you’ll adjust your behavior to come in proper alignment with the results you’re seeking.

  4. Try Vagus Nerve Stimulation


    Sometimes you just need to block out distractions and focus on the ask at hand. There are plenty of ways to shut out interruptions, but makes sure you’re also simultaneously cuing your mind to be productive. Vagus nerve stimulation is one option for doing both.

    Vagus nerve stimulation, which gently targets the body’s vagus nerve to promote balance and relaxation, while simultaneously enhancing focus and output.

  5. Optimize Your Workspace


    Makes sure your office workspace is conducive to productivity. This means eliminating clutter, optimizing the ergonomics of your desk, reducing distractions, and using “away” settings on apps and devices to suppress notifications during work time.

Make Productivity a Priority

Never take productivity for granted. The world is full of distractions and your willpower is finite. If you “wing it,” you’ll end up spending more time, energy, and effort, all while getting fewer positive results.

Make productivity a priority – especially during the mornings when your mind is fresh and the troubles of the day have yet to be released in full force. Doing so will change the way you operate, function, and feel. It’ll also enhance tangible results, like income, job status, and the accolades that come along with moving up in your career.

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