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Bring Back Your A-Game, Don’t Be Barn Sour

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Remote work isn’t for everyone. It’s not all “uninterrupted” time and less water cooler talk. I’d argue remote work isn’t for MOST people unless they prepare for it. Distraction, competing priorities, low visibility, self-discipline challenges, and poor time management can create the perfect storm of crappy performance for remote workers. And, just like a horse, they can become “barn sour.” 

Recently, I had a conversation with a client, Chris, who went from managing a dynamic team in a conventional office environment to remote working from his home office. To his surprise, his performance had dipped and he wasn’t driving as hard. He wasn’t putting up the numbers, savoring life or playing big – he had become “barn sour.” 

Let me explain. The term “barn sour” is usually associate with horses, specifically championship horses, but I noticed it happening to people during the pandemic. If a horse stays in a barn for too long, it loses the desire to work, perform, or even play. Leave them there long enough; they don’t want to leave the barn at all. No work, no shows, no nada. Just a 2,000-pound hunk of wasted potential. The horse becomes content with stagnation, comfortable within its confines, and apprehensive about leaving its comfort zone. Sound familiar? 

Just like horses, humans can become barn sour, and it’s happening in record numbers right now. 

Remote working, despite its appeal of no commuting and relaxed dress code, can lead to stagnation if unchecked. We stop wanting to be seen because we’ve been invisible for too long. We forget what it feels like to stand up in a meeting, command a room, or board a flight. We’ve gotten too comfortable in our PJs or yoga pants and forgotten how to show up, be seen, and deliver. 

And I get it. I too enjoy this comfort. I love a good pair of running pants (regardless of actually getting in a run that day) and flip flops. It’s comfortable, takes less time to get ready- I’m living large and in charge. Then again… I had to admit I handle myself differently when I’m “dressed” for work. When I walk by a mirror and see that I have put in some effort, then

I’m ready to perform. And ready to be seen.  

It has been said that many U.S. Presidents wouldn’t enter the Oval Office without a suit on. I believe the reasoning is two fold. Yes they wanted to show the office respect, but also a different version of them shows up in a suit. Perhaps a more powerful leader worthy of the office.

Again ready to be seen, ready to perform. Ready to kick ass.  

Doing remote work, not only can we get distracted, but we can get used to not being seen. Not even being in a room with someone.  

What’s the remedy for this situation?

I’m glad you asked (play along, this is the fun part). Here are three tips I shared with Chris, and don’t let their simplicity fool you. They are key to remote work: 

1. Dress for Success: Yes the 80’s were right. This matters. Sitting at home in our pajamas will not bring out the best in you. Get fully dressed like you’re going to the office.

Can changing your clothes make THAT big of a difference? You bet your yoga ass it does. 

2. Minimize Distractions: Your workday should focus on delivering results, not entertaining yourself. Be careful every time you touch your cell phone. As Brendon Burchard says, cell phones are Weapon of Mass Distraction, and he’s right. Millions of dollars in R&D has been invested in one thing in the cell phone industry– how to get your attention and keep it. This looks like a friend, but may be a foe.  

3. Get Out and Be Seen: Change your environment, and you will get your passion and fire back. This is especially crucial for remote workers. Acquire a co-working space, work from a café, see people you work with or just interact and network with other people. 

The central theme here is – if your performance is dipping, drop the joggers. Manage your distractions, and change your environment. This will not only help your performance, but you’ll reclaim your passion and reignite your fire. 

Remember, championship horses are meant to be raced. If you are going to be a damn champion, then show up as one. 


#aprilgarcia #pivotme #productivityhack #productivitytip #timemanagement #businessmindset 

This article first appeared on April Garcia’s LinkedIn profile:

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