“Soooo, do you sleep?” – the most common response upon hearing what all I’m working on: running marketing and real estate investment companies, launching a not-for-profit, buying/renovating a new house, all while raising two high energy kids and trying to be a good husband.

Besides the fact that I don’t spend much time on social media or watching TV, I’m able to produce at a consistently high level predominantly because I have spent the last several years studying and honing my working habits and morning routine to truly understand how to maximize my abilities. Like a little science experiment where I am the test subject. 

I know what time of what day, in what place, with what music to put myself in the best mindset to get a week’s worth of work done in an hour…coupled with exactly what time I need to get up to get through my morning routine of physical/mental workouts, make the kids breakfast and take them to school (pre-COVID), and get to my first meeting.

Now (post-COVID)…it’s like someone shoved that beautifully prepared multi-course meal into a blender, flipped it on high, poured it into a pitcher, sloshed it on the table, and yelled “bon appetit”. It’s all the same stuff, but oh so different.

There are two types of translation: literal and meaning. 

For example, when a book is being translated from one language to another, literal translation is exactly word-for-word without context. The words are the same but the meaning may be different.

While meaning translation is taking the soul of what is being communicated, the euphemisms, stories, and wordplay and recreating it in the new language. The words may be different but the meaning is the same.

My world opened up a few weeks ago when I realized why I was feeling less productive, more scattered, more stressed, and unable to ever feel even close to caught up…why I could never get into that state of deep focus where all the real work of any meaning actually happens.

I was literally cramming my previous routine and workflow into the “new normal”. The literal translation of my routines into work from home were producing entirely different (suboptimal) outcomes. 

I needed to get back to the fundamentals and figure out the context, the meaning of each. 

I needed to focus on what assets were newly available and how to use/leverage them to recreate my approach.

I realized that not only must there be contrast between work and home but just as importantly, in the type of work being done.

…and by reframing the situation, by translating for meaning, I felt the switch flip. I felt the traction regain, like I went from running in mud to running on the moving walkways in the (now empty) airports. And it all came about from just a few small tweaks. I was back.

I played with a bunch of different variables, but here are the two areas that have and continue to make the biggest impact:

Morning Routine:

Before: wake up, physical work out, mental work out, breakfast, shower, start the day

Meaning Translation: wake up, focus work, physical work out, mental work out, breakfast, start the day (didn’t eliminate showers altogether, just at night now)

I found it impossible to get in the zone at any point during the day knowing my kids would be running into my office, fighting, or crying, or all of the above at the same time, at any moment. So, when I moved a 90 minute working session first thing in the morning before anybody got up, on a topic I identify and place on my calendar the night before…magic. Pure magic.

Right Space, Right Work:

Before: focused strategy work at Starbucks or Panera with just my laptop and a notebook

Meaning Translation: all in the same place now, but reconstitute the vibe

I deploy different combinations of lights/lamps, music, and monitors in my office for different types of work. It’s pretty remarkable how my mindset can be shifted by just creating a little environmental contrast.

Focus Work: only lighter, softer lamp lights with piano or acoustic guitar music (no words) with headphones. I also use the Houzz Chrome plug-in for calming house pictures (usually an outdoor firepit, living room fireplace, or study with lots of books) on my two secondary monitors, which normally have my email and chat programs up and running, helping maintain tunnel vision on my primary screen/task.

Task Work: the brighter the better, all lights on high with uptempo music playing on my Sonos speaker and all 3 monitors in full work mode.

I’m still tweaking and improving things every week. Would love to hear what you have done or at least considering to recreate your pre-COVID magic; to create the contrast and deep focus in your most important work.

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