How can we tune ourselves to the new ebb and flow of our lives while working from home? For those of us who traditionally spend our 40+ hour workweeks in a central office, the COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated that we adapt our work rhythms to cope with the often overwhelming challenges of our nearly 24/7 stay-at-home lives. At Perkins Eastman, leadership in each of our 17 studios around the world has been using all available communication tools, including emails, texts, phone calls, video conferencing, and blogging to inform, engage, inspire, and focus.
While these onscreen/on-air caucuses might lack some of the dimension and nuance of in-person communications, these deliberate conversations have become immensely valuable in a time when connection to the world beyond the shelter of our homes is in scarce supply. And the advice being shared has helped at least some of us find new rhythm in our days.
In our Pittsburgh studio, Lee Pellegrino, AIA, Principal and Board Director, is developing an email following as his staff looks forward to his end-of-the-day ‘Lee-mails.’ Consider, for example, this one from last week:
To: Perkins Eastman Pittsburgh Studio
Subject: When to…
Many of you have referenced Daniel H. Pink’s books and TED Talks during our happy hours and leadership discussions. One of Pink’s several books is titled When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing (Penguin Audio, 2018).
Wait! Don’t stop reading… this is actually much more interesting than it sounds.
Like all of us, Pink, who also works from home, talks about how he is constantly making decisions throughout his day on when to do things. When to write. When to go to the gym. When to answer emails. Sound familiar? He says he was making decisions in a very sloppy way, which was frustrating to him. He wanted to make those decisions in a more intelligent way and did some research.
Pink found that cognitive power changes throughout the day and that there are better times of the day to do different things. The peak is in the morning. This is where we are most vigilant and can swat away distraction. It is the time we should do more analytical and heads-down work. Early/mid-afternoon is the trough. This is the time of the day when test scores are the lowest, car accidents are the highest, and when the most errors in hospitals occur. (Pink will not let anyone in his family go to a doctor at this time of day.) This is the time to do more administrative or routine work. And then the recovery. Mood goes up later in the afternoon but we are not as focused as in the morning. This, Pink says in FranklinCovey’s podcast: On Leadership Episode #10, is the time for more iterative and creative thinking, insight work.
“And if we do the right work at the right time, we are going to perform better and feel better. Period.”
Stay well and stay focused on what you can control.
Testament to Pink’s (and Pellegrino’s) insight, this end-of-the-day-email triggered Associate Principal Ken Kuligowski’s creative recollections of a fascinating graphic, which underscores in detail that work, creativity, and inspiration are based less on location, and much more on frame of mind and time of day. In his response to Pellegrino, Kuligowski notes “you’ll be amused, but perhaps not surprised, by what actually constituted the ‘day job/admin’ time of someone like Le Corbusier.” And others, like Maya Angelou, who would spend the hours between 7am and 3pm “writing in [a] hotel room, the more anonymous, the better.”
“The Daily Routines of Famous Creative People”
Check out the link above and the graphic below to explore how your favorite artist, writer, musician, or architect spent time effectively and creatively working — from home: the study, library, bed, garden, kitchen, and so forth. Perhaps it will inspire fresh perspective and a few ideas. Many of these famous creatives did their greatest work from home too.