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Working from home? Beware of the Doom Loop

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In his bestseller "Good to Great," author Jim Collins describes something called the “Flywheel Effect.” No matter how dramatic the end result, good-to-great transformations never happen in one fell swoop. In building a great company or firm, Collins argues there is no single defining action, no grand program, no one killer innovation, no solitary lucky break, no miracle moment. Instead, it’s a process that’s like relentlessly pushing a giant, heavy flywheel, turn upon turn, building momentum until a point of breakthrough, and beyond.

How does the flywheel apply to CPA success? It’s a series of actions we take, no matter how small these actions are, that all feed the direction we’re going. (For more on this topic, see my article, "The ant on the elephant.")

At times like these, it’s important to make sure your Positive Flywheel doesn’t deteriorate into a negative Doom Loop — a downward spiral of negative behavior that, if you’re not careful, will turn into long-term negative habits.

We’ve already been in this stay-at-home quasi-quarantine period for at least a month. It’s likely to continue for at least another month depending on where you live. Right now, we’re in the danger zone of having some of these pandemic-era habits becoming permanent. Those daytime snack runs to the fridge are dangerous. Starting happy hour in the mid-afternoon or catching up on a few episodes of Netflix during 9 to 5 can be tough addictions to break.

Eat to feel better

Nutrition is a big deal right now. Many people don’t have a gym to turn to, and access to their refrigerators is way too easy. So many people can’t figure out why they don’t feel right. You’re not able to do the things you normally do. How can you create an environment where you’re able to simulate as much of your normal A-game life as possible?

Focus time

When you’re working from home, I know it’s tough to tell yourself: “I need to work for six hours straight.” That can be daunting. But there are several easy-to-implement time management techniques that can be helpful. One I like is the 25/5 Pomodoro Technique. With this approach, you commit to deep focus for 25 minutes and then follow that focus time with a strict five-minute break. Then you do another 25 minutes of deep focus, followed by five-minute break, etc.

I know you may have young kids, teenagers or elderly relatives at home. They don’t care what your work-versus-break interval is. Trust me, I know. I have two very active young daughters at home. But this current situation is not the Zombie Apocalypse. It’s just a few months of self-imposed working from home. It’s not that bad, is it? The reason it feels bad is because you’re not free to live your normal life. You can’t easily see friends or go to restaurants or the gym or the movies or a ball game — the pleasant diversions you’re accustomed to when not working.

Again, just keep your eyes and ears open for hints of the negative Doom Loop creeping into your life. You want to keep that Positive Flywheel spinning.

Here’s a good rule of thumb. If there’s any behavior you would never be caught dead doing in the office, don’t do it at home!

As Jocko Willink wrote in his bestseller, "Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Seals Lead and Win," the key to being tougher is just being tougher. C’mon guys. We’re not starving or out on the battlefield under enemy fire. We have our families around us. We have power and water. We have internet service. We should be able to handle a few months of working from home. It’s going to be fine. Again, just make sure that none of your habits during this temporary break in our work routine turn into self-destructive lifelong habits. After 60 days, they’ll get harder and harder to break.

Right now, your clients need you more than they ever have. It’s still busy season, even though it’s been extended. Again, it’s work from home, with emphasis on the word “work.”

I get it. I know you’re not going to be on your A game when working from home. Just be very careful. Habits and your brain are incredibly difficult to pull back. Not to scare you even further, but think about the very real possibility that we’ll be getting back to normal in early summer, just when kids are out of school and people start thinking about vacations and travel plans.

Every morning when you wake up, ask yourself, “What do I absolutely have to get done today?”Write that down before your day gets started. It’s not just a to-do list. Put those must-dos in your calendar and commit specifically to the time of day when you’re going to get those things done.

At times like these, you have to hold yourself accountable because you’re not in a normal workplace environment that’s going to hold you accountable.

Eventually this crazy time in our nation’s history will pass. It will be OK. You just don’t want to find yourself and your team members miles behind the competition when this pandemic passes, with lots of bad habits in tow. Make sure everyone is staying on track. And whatever you do when you get discouraged, don’t let the Doom Loop creep into your life. Keep that Positive Flywheel moving.

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Practice management Work from home Coronavirus Work-life balance
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