It's my birthday, September 8, 2020, and I'm sitting outside a Starbucks where I am the only one at 8:12 a.m. The world has changed considerably since I launched Work Well. Play More! in November 2019. The coronavirus halted all travel, kept us in our homes, and moved many of us to remote work. The shift in behaviors and cultures had positive and negative outcomes.
Companies who were suspicious of working from home or said it would never work for them were forced to comply. They realized that not only could they have productive workers, but it could also save them loads of money in commercial real estate. Not all those who now would be working from home had “remote offices” set up. Many managed or are managing from a kitchen table, makeshift office, or their sofa.
Even people who already worked from home had a shift (including me) because they now had spouses, partners, or roommates at home as well. One friend said she thought it would be romantic for her husband and her to be working together and then realized he had a loud phone voice and spent most of his days making sales calls. As a web designer, she was used to quiet and solitude.
Kids in virtual school shifted work hours so that parents had to be a part-time teacher and work when they could get to it. Professionals had to adapt their hours and figure out how to balance work, parenting, and self-care. Work-life balance for 2020 is not the same as the balance in years past.
Most days are still a struggle, but every once in a while, the heavens open, and I have a kick-ass day. I've identified what items are most important, and I know when they are due. Plus, I have been working through data in a manner that is “good enough. Today I avoided email chatter and the distraction from a two-hour meeting for an important but less urgent matter. I was able to finalize several reports and pull together an executive summary of my data like a boss because of my “good enough” running summary. Thanks again for giving me these tools to succeed.” Faith Stevison, Senior Scientist II, Blueprint Medicines.
Zoom fatigue is a real thing, as Zoom has moved beyond video meetings to wine tastings, birthday parties, and even funerals conducted virtually. Those with slow internet in rural, mountainous, or beach areas were even more isolated.
In the first part of 2020, people either got healthier or let health slide. Those with extra hours in the day from the lack of commuting or networking some have found themselves biking or hiking 1-2 hours. They have cooked more meals at home, and the pounds melted off. Others who live in cities and relied on gyms or group sports for their fitness have found themselves going stir crazy and challenged to exercise. The COVID pounds crept on as they stayed stuck in their homes with few outlets to move.
In the US, we’ve remodeled and fixed up our homes and yards more than ever before. This included my own house, which we paid off in July. We replaced all of our floors, gutted our only bathroom, painted every room, and flipped my office and bedroom. This gave me a bigger room with more natural light, which made more sense since I spent most of my time in the office. People have been decluttering like crazy, finally having the time to go through entire closets, rooms, and even the garage. We had more family meals and some of us have spent more time outside. But we missed out on hugs from friends, seeing live music and plays, and meeting new people.
The updates in the book are just tweaks to the recommendations. There is nothing that I believed when I first wrote this book that I don't believe in now, but rather in the updates, I am considering the work-from-home environment for many more people. Some businesses I initially referenced have not made it through these times. I removed them and added others. Just like before, the most recent technology references will be updated in the hidden bonus chapter. It's easier to keep up there than continually updating the book.
The response to the first edition was so positive, it was almost overwhelming. I had people say it was their book of the year and bought it for their entire team or company. I had groups create clubs to walk through the year of habits together. Most gratifying to me is the Masterclass. It was smaller than I had hoped due to launch at the start of COVID, but it is one of the most fun things I have ever done in my business.
May you use this book to guide your own health and productivity journey, whether you are a novice, pro, or master. Your own path—one step at a time. Thank you for trusting me to walk it with you.
Virtual High Fives and Fist Bumps! Marcey
Interested in purchasing the book to help you declutter your mind, body, and physical and digital spaces?
Already have the book? Reviews matter. Big Time. If you haven't written a review, please head over to Amazon using the links above, and/or Goodreads and write your experience about reading the book. Super virtual high-fives and fist bumps for helping me out and for helping others find a book to guide them on a new path.
Do you constantly feel sluggish whether you’re at work, school, or gym? I’ve had to deal with this issue in the past, and at first, I thought I needed to stay focused or eat healthier. It turns out the problem was I simply wasn’t catching enough Z’s at night. Besides that, easy fixes include something as simple as the best mattress to pick from.
That’s right! Just improving your sleep environment can help to prevent you from tossing and turning at night. Simply adding a new memory foam topper or latex foundation mattress can be just as effective as reducing stress, ditching caffeine, or turning down your thermostat at night. This can help you with your daily performance.
Big Health Benefits from Sleep
Sleep experts generally recommend that adults get about 7 or 8 hours of sleep most nights. This can provide a wide range of health benefits that are worth noting.
We all know from personal experience that lack of sleep can cause us to feel groggy, sluggish, and moody. However, the problem is modern society often sees sleep deprivation as the norm to make us more productive. In fact, it can have the opposite effect.
Sleep and Physical Health
Sleep can provide you with many physical benefits. Studies show that many physical functions of the body are improved through slumber. In fact, sleep affects nearly all tissues of the human body, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This includes factors like:
For example, while getting more shut-eye can help you recover from a cold, it can also help to prevent you from getting one from the get-go!
If you don’t sleep enough, your physical health is also at risk of various health conditions. They include the risk of obesity, infections, and heart disease.
Sleep and Mental Health
Besides improving your physical health, your mental health can also get a boost with a full night’s sleep. This includes different factors like:
These mental functions not only can improve your work performance and gym workouts but also keep you alert while driving a car, for example.
If you catch yourself feeling tired all day, experiencing “brain fog” or dozing off while doing desk work, then you might be showing signs of sleep deprivation. Studies show that this can not only affect work performance, but also cost your company money, and even affect the national economy.
Sleep deprivation and its effect on work productivity is a major problem. Worldwide about half of adults don’t get enough sleep, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Meanwhile, a 2008 poll discovered that nearly 30% of American workers reported that during the previous month, they had become sleepy or fallen asleep while on the clock.
Meanwhile, the same Sleep in America poll learned that over 25% of workers reported that their daily
work activities were negatively affected by daytime drowsiness. People who worked 50+ hours per week or multiple jobs were affected the most.
Heavy Workloads and Less Sleep
When people have a long to-do list at work, they often start sacrificing sleep quality in an attempt to deal with things like busy work schedules. Over time the situation can even start affecting people’s free time and mental health.
It’s quite common for people in the medical field to experience sleep deprivation. Studies show that when on-call medical professionals work all night, they experience 2x more attention failures and make 300% more medical errors.
Sleep and School Performance
Research shows that sleep deprivation can also affect students’ academic performance. If you’re a high school or college student, you should consider steps to improve sleep quality, like taking the time to pick the right mattress for your good night's sleep. It’s possible an old mattress, among other factors, could be preventing you from getting enough shut-eye.
Teens and Sleep Deprivation
Various studies show that lack of sleep can affect various mental skills, which are related to students’ learning, including attention, focus, and memory.
A Sleep in America poll (2006) found that 45% of adolescents slept less than 8 hours per night, according to the Sleep Foundation. Meanwhile, it’s recommended that teens get 8 to 10 hours of sleep nightly.
Sleep and Athletic Performance
Studies also show that lack of sleep can affect athletic performance. Getting a good night’s sleep can improve factors like speed and accuracy, while sleep deprivation can have the opposite effect.
Athletes and Sleep Needs
Not sleeping enough can affect athletes more than non-athletes because they tend to need more than the average 7 to 9 hours of sleep nightly.
Athletes are constantly pushing their bodies to new limits. This also requires them to get more sleep after tough practices. They generally need about one more hour of sleep than usual. Options include going to bed one hour earlier than usual or taking a power nap during the day.
Sleep and Recovery
Athletes, weightlifters, and bodybuilders require more sleep so their bodies can repair and recover. So if they don’t sleep enough, this can affect the process and prevent them from performing optimally at practice or games.
Athletes also have to deal with factors that can further affect their ability to sleep well. They include early morning practices, late evening games, and road trips to away games.
The good news is athletes can take steps to make sure lack of sleep isn’t affecting their performance:
Follow a sleep schedule every day
Get used to your new setting when traveling
Avoid sleep medications
Studies show that sleep deprivation is having a tremendously big impact on people’s performance at work, school, gyms, etc. It’s critical to learn the warning signs that you’re experiencing a lack of sleep.
If you get bad scores on work evaluations or low grades on report cards, it might be time to consider solutions like the best mattress to pick from. Simply using a new mattress might help you achieve peak performance in your day-to-day life.
About the Author
Erick is a writer at ID-MAG. An enthusiast and expert when it comes to sleep products, Erick dedicates a lot of his time reading, researching, and reviewing about both traditional and emerging sleep brands that manufacture varied types of sleep products – from eco-mattresses, smart pillows to cooling sleep systems, Erick has probably reviewed them all. Erick also finds sleep especially important since he juggles a small business which he runs from home, makes sure he spends time with his daughter and he also writes during his spare time – you can definitely see that he needs a great forty winks all night, every night so he’ll make sure that you get great sleep, too!
Last March, COVID-19 turned the speaking world upside down when everything became virtual. While I was already doing some video presentations, I certainly wasn't doing every single one that way! Recently, I upped my game and set my office up for virtual speaking.
We live in an 1100 square foot house with two bedrooms, one of which was my office. After a few months of being home-bound, it was evident that even when a vaccine is discovered, I won't be traveling as much as I used to. Conferences, events, and meetings will continue to sometimes be virtual or a hybrid event. I also knew that I couldn't continue my current set-up for another year.
We invested the money and remodeled our house to flip our bedroom and my office. I moved from a smaller room with poor natural light to a room with three windows and more space. I can't believe it took that long to realize that we only slept in our bedroom, yet I was in my office 8+ hours a day!
We replaced the flooring and covered one wall with shiplap from Home Depot. It is beautiful and provides a nice, neutral background. My background before was purple photo paper in my logo color, but it severely limited what I could wear. I had to have it behind me because the alternative was people seeing my closet and door. Not an ideal scene, and as a speaker, I can't use a virtual background because it looks unprofessional, and when I would move, I would lose an arm or get blurry.
Furniture for virtual speaking
I added a ladder shelf with only things that I love from clients or friends and a few marketing pieces. I lost wall space due to windows, so I bought a reversible mobile whiteboard that I can use when speaking and for my own use. My new standing desk gave me space for dual monitors, and now I'm completely spoiled. I already had a standing desk, but it was narrow and didn't allow me to have all the technology. I don't think speakers should be sitting, even when virtual. Would you sit onstage? Stand up!
Mobile Whiteboard – I keep all of my quarterly, monthly, weekly, and daily priorities on one side of the whiteboard and use the other side for presentations. This hosts the Smart TV, and I can easily roll it out of the way when I'm not speaking.
Standing desk– I like this one because it's adjustable and gives me plenty of space for all of my tech and to write.
Technology for virtual speaking
I had no idea what to buy, so I relied on Evan Carroll from Attended Events to purchase the goods and install them. He came to my house twice for set-up and training and did a quick emergency video session before my first virtual keynote. He was worth every single penny not to research all of it myself and just tell me what I need to know, complete with an Amazon shopping list. It all took some time to get used to, but I love my new set-up!
ATEM Mini Pro switcher allows me to go back and forth between the full slide, full me, and me in the corner of the screen.
Accessories for virtual speaking
Before, I didn't have anything natural in the office. Now I have plants, and I can't believe what a difference it makes! With my new office, I vowed to only have things that were truly special or functional. I love the lack of clutter.
I love my new office and set-up to speak virtually. I still prefer speaking live, but I am fortunate to make the investment to create an environment that allows me to speak more naturally and for my audience not to see a toy soldier or talking head on a screen.
If you need a speaker, check out my Speaker Prospectus. I can help you Conquer the Calendar, Master Tasks, Extinguisher Email, Escalate Energy, and Work Well Remotely!
Today is my 46th birthday. I'm the happiest and healthiest I've ever been physically, mentally, and emotionally (a lot given the 2020 circumstances). This photo was hard to post because I feel a little embarrassed, like I'm showing off, but I promise I'm not. I'm showing you that it is never too late to improve your health. I'm actually more healthy after 40 than I've ever been before!
Healthy exercise after 40
In my 20s and 30s, I never ever thought I would have abs. I trained 20 hours a week for Iron-distance triathlons, 24-hour adventure races, and ultra-marathons. The result? A ton of endurance and the ability to go on for hours. However, I wasn't super lean. Even though I knew that ultra-endurance training wasn't healthy, I kept at it, pretending that pushing myself that hard and exercising at that level was beneficial. Turns out, it was really more of an escape from my job. Something I could identify with that made me feel worthy, and a way to impress people when I told them I had covered over 300 miles in a week or worked out for three hours that day.
The result after a decade of that was nervous system fatigue, sleepless nights, gut issues, and triggering three autoimmune diseases. Oh yeah, and going into menopause at 36 years old. When I was diagnosed at 39, I did one last race after my 40th birthday and said goodbye to competition. Surprisingly, I didn't miss it because I was able to identify with something more important, the growth of my business, and helping my clients.
How I work out now:
I exercise daily for about an hour in the morning. Heavy on the strength training (no pun intended), running less than 30 minutes, mountain and greenway biking for 40-90 minutes, or jumping rope.
I do a lot of Movement Opportunities, which include hula hooping while I read, phone walkie talkies, walking meetings, and riding my FitBike while watching webinars.
I have three baseline exercises I do every day – 50 pull-ups, 75 push-ups, and 100 kettlebell swings.
Key change? Doing more interval workouts instead of long, slow endurance training. The law of diminishing returns will get you when doing those kinds of activities. Building muscle is more important as you get older. And for the love of suns and guns…pick up more than five pounds.
Nutrition after 40
If you've read my books, you know that growing up, the only vegetables I ate were corn and potatoes (which I don't even count as vegetables now). I started eating more variety in my 30s but was still a potato-chip carbatarian more than a vegetarian. Once I was diagnosed with Hashimoto's Disease and Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity, I went gluten-free and never looked back. My chronic gut problems went away after about two months. I slept better, had more energy, and managed my Hashimoto's. I don't substitute with many GF grains, limiting all grains to two servings on most days. Limiting makes it sound like I'm strict, but there are days when I have zero, and I don't miss them. Why? I. Love. Vegetables.
I had no idea how good veggies could be once I knew how to cook them properly. I easily get 5-6 servings a day and sometimes up to 9. It's not a challenge for me to get them in. I use vegetables the same way I used carbs in the past – subbing zucchini noodles for pasta noodles, and coconut wraps for flour tortillas.
I also was a sugar addict. I now limit it, but definitely don't eliminate it. I don't have the cravings I had before because I don't eat it during the week. I break the cycle by not having it all the time. Where I used to have to eat something every morning before I worked out – gel, banana, toast – I work out fasted every morning because I'm able to tap into my fat stores easier.
How I eat now:
Loads of veggies, often starting my day with at least one serving.
Fermented foods in the form of home-brewed Kombucha, real sauerkraut, and kimchi.
Seaweed or kelp a few times a week.
Sweets only on the weekends or holidays (real holidays, not like Columbus Day).
Fasted workouts in the morning. Water with Kion Amino Acids is all I use before and during a workout. Note that when you first start doing this, you may feel terrible because your body is used to needing carbs. After 2-3 weeks, your body will get more used to it. This is one of the top ways I feel I was able to get leaner.
I'm such a fan of Brussels sprouts that I was delighted to see that my friend Ron's new restaurant, Mookie's New York Deli, actually named a dish after me – Marcey's Crispy Brussels Sprouts!
Mental health after 40
I am a recovering perfectionist and admit to high-strung, high-intensity behavior. I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop or reach the next rung on the ladder. Rarely being present in the moment or even considering anything I did good enough. That changed when I hit 40 and became a business owner. Learning it all and attempting to do it all made me a fan of ‘good enough.' I also started meditating and self-hypnosis, even with just two minutes, and now do it daily. The change took a couple of years to notice, but now I wouldn't go without it.
How I'm happier now:
I meditate or do self-hypnosis daily for 10-25 minutes, sometimes twice.
I get less worked up over things, and if I find myself going down a ruminating path, I can stop it quicker. Note – I didn't say I don't do it, just not nearly as much and for shorter time periods. It's a hard habit to break.
I limit my news and don't do any social media except LinkedIn (people tend not to be mean, political, or controversial on that platform).
Two things I'm adding this year to be healthy after 40.
A far-infrared sauna will soon be delivered to my house. Far-infrared has been shown to boost immunity, increase blood flow, reduce inflammation, improve heart health, heal wounds faster and slow down aging (among other benefits). I'm also buying a rebounder. Yes, that bouncy thing you used to jump up and down on at your grandma's house! Rebounding is gentle on your joints, strengthens bones, and has been shown to increase lymph flow by 15 times! Just like with the sauna, the benefits are too many to be listed. After playing on one for five days at my friend Sara's house, it became a must-have.
There you go…a few reasons why I'm healthier at 46 than I was at 36 and even 26. It's not too late. It's never too late. Make one change at a time.
What makes a healthy home office? Proper ergonomics is a given as is natural light and temperatures you can control. Step inside my office to see what I use to stay healthy (which also means more productive)! (And please excuse the COVID hair)
Items for my healthy home office.
FitDesk Bike Desk* – I've lost count how many people have purchased these since COVID started. I use mine to watch webinars, attend meetings as a participant, read, and practice my Spanish. Use the code MARCEYFREEMAT for a free under-desk mat at www.thefitdesk.com, or you can buy on Amazon.
Hoop – I make my own hoops, so I have them in different sizes and weights. The lighter and smaller they are, the harder to hoop. You can buy these online.
Sit-Stand Desk* – This two-level desk has a hand crank that I can move up and down, but with all my tech on it, I just keep it stationary and use my leaning stool if I need to give my legs a break.
Portable standing desk* – My version is from www.standstand.com, but you can purchase several lightweight versions online or check out the one from FitDesk*. I take mine to the park, coffee shops, and on trips. If you have other family members at home, trade off on who gets to use it at different times of the day. And please include your kids. They can get glute amnesia too!
Focal Mogo Leaning Stool* – I use this for quick breaks and even to take outside instead of a camp chair. It requires your core to be engaged so you don't slouch and adjustable so your whole family can take turns using this.
Blue Ray Blocking Glasses* – If you work on a computer, you must get blue ray blocking glasses to protect your eyes and help with eye fatigue. These are also known as gaming glasses, and you can even get them without a prescription. Zenni Optical has affordable, fun glasses with and without a prescription.
Custom illustrated cards– I send out cards on Fridays for my AAA theme – Admin, Accounting, Appreciation. Giving gratitude or sending a ‘thinking of you' card makes me happy and the other person. Science shows it contributes to happiness and wellbeing. I purchased custom illustrations from artist Lisa Wood and had them printed with Vistaprint.
Standing desk mat* – No matter what floor you have, a desk mat can help prevent leg fatigue. I am barefoot at home and stand on mine all day. Check out my reviews below.
Evoluent mouse – I use an ergonomic vertical mouse to help prevent wrist problems. I've had it for over a decade and have never experienced an issue.
Air diffuser – I have a couple of these, one in the bedroom and one in my office. I like InnooCare* because it has a timer, and I don't accidentally leave it running all day.
Essential Oils – I like to diffuse essential oils for at least an hour a day and change it up depending on what I need – energy, relaxation, focus, etc. I like the Doterra brand.
When you work from home, ergonomics, proper lighting, and taking your space seriously often gets overlooked. Incorporating even one or two of these things into your office set-up can improve your health and productivity. Just because you don't have a separate room and are working from the kitchen table doesn't mean you can't use a portable standing desk. If you're sharing space with your spouse or kids, you can still diffuse oils and buy blue-ray blocking glasses for everyone.
What one purchase or step can you make to make your office more healthy?
Items marked with an * is an affiliate link which means I make a few coins off your purchase at no extra cost to you
You already have poor posture from sofa slumping, and your legs have a laptop burn. Many people that are newly working from home have lost weight because they have an extra 1-2 hours in their day without a commute. They live in a walkable or bikeable neighborhood or have space for a home gym.
Others have packed on the pounds. The city they live in is congested, and they don't feel they can social distance appropriately or want to navigate the protests. My Boston apartment-dwelling clients can't even do a lunge jump without the neighbors below knowing about it. The spaces are small, and living, working, and playing in 800 square feet isn't motivating. Or they have young kids at home and that extra time back from commuting is spent with them because their school isn't opened.
Let's not be judgy or righteous about exercise, but you can move your body.
If you're on your way to being a remote couch potato, try the five tips below to move more at home.
Five Tips to Move More at Home
Get a sit-stand desk*. You may have not wanted to invest when the pandemic first started, but folks, we're gonna be here a while. Invest in a sit-stand desk so you can change position. We were not meant to be professional sitters. If you don't have the luxury of home office space, get a portable standing desk that you can move around your house or even to a park. Bonus that this can be shared with your family members. And please, for the love of your children, don't let them sit all day either. I'm already hearing of elementary-age children having back and neck pain!
Get a bike desk* or under desk elliptical*. This is a master-level suggestion, but I love my FitDesk bike desk because it is meant to work on with your computer. It has a rubberized space for my laptop so it doesn't slide and a backrest to make it comfortable. It's perfect for watching webinars, attending meetings where I'm only a participant and reading. My clients that are in small apartments or live in densely-populated cities were really missing their exercise. After investing in a bike desk, they get some great opportunities while background-tasking with work-related activities. Under-desk ellipticals take up hardly any space, and no one even has to know.
Walking meetings. Not every meeting has to be over video. Remember the phone? They still work! Meetings that you don't have to be in front of a computer can be done outside as walkie talkies. It's a great break for both of you. I always let the person know I'll be walking outside so they can choose to as well. I have a habit that I do not talk to my family or friends unless I walk. When I schedule a time to chat with colleagues or peers, I send the calendar invite with the title Phone Walkie Talkie. Getting outside in nature is one of the best things you can do for your productivity.
Get up at least once an hour. After about 45 minutes, our glute muscles, which are supposed to be the second strongest muscles in our body (after the jaw), start to forget how to contract. This can lead to lower back, knee, and hip pain. You may think you have a bad back, but what you really have is a weak butt! Do 5-10 squats every 45 minutes, set a timer, and do a few reps. You can also check out these deskercises.
Create a trigger for push-ups. Push-ups are a metaphor for life. Everyone needs to be able to lift themselves up and not rely on other people. You also need to be able to lift your own body up. It's a functional movement that is even more important as you get older. Can't do a single push-up? Try it from your desk or a counter. Gradually move down to a stair or bench. Then do them from the floor. I do 75 every day, sometimes during my workout, and other times I'll just drop and do 25. What can your trigger be? Before checking Facebook or Instagram? Any time you get a text message? Before you grab another snack?
My personal Movement Opportunities while working from home.
I use a standing desk* almost all day. I have a Mogo stool* if I get fatigued and want to sit a little, but for the most part, I only sit at lunch and in the late afternoon when I'm writing.
I use my FitBike* if I'm watching a webinar, participating in a meeting as an attendee just listening, when I'm practicing my Spanish, or reading a book. Purchase from www.thefitdesk.com and use code MARCEYFREEMAT for a free under-desk mat!*
There are a lot of things I'm worried about with the pandemic besides general health and the economy. I”m concerned about our bodies because not everyone lives somewhere that they can be safe outside or have room for a home gym. I'm worried about our eyes from looking at screens without a break. I'm afraid for our mental health from being isolated. I'm concerned about our kids (OMG the kids) because parents aren't thinking about their ergonomics, eyes, or breathing (we breathe more shallow when we are staring at a screen).
Be mindful of how much you move. Think of the triggers you can use and create a behavior before, during, or after = Movement Opportunity.
You don't have to be a remote couch potato just because you work from home.
Connect with me to get my not-too-often emails on how you can increase your productivity, improve your health, and declutter your spaces. I’ll send Ten Things You Are Doing That Wreck Your Productivity right away!
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