Mastering Your Mindset for Remote Work: Tips and Strategies from Angela Shurina, an Executive Brain Coach

Wayne Turmel interviews Angela Shurina, an executive brain coach, about how to stay productive while working remotely. They discuss the evolving workplace and the growing trend of remote work, which allows people to work from anywhere. However, Shurina notes that many people struggle with the mindset needed for remote work, and she provides tips and strategies to help listeners overcome these challenges. One key issue is the importance of creating boundaries between work and home life, as well as differentiating between different work tasks. Shurina also emphasizes the brain's adaptability and the importance of understanding how to use it effectively, which she calls the "Brain's User Manual." Overall, this episode offers valuable insights and tips for anyone navigating the world of remote work.

Key Takeaways

1. Creating boundaries between work and home life is crucial for remote work success.
2. Differentiating between work tasks and having designated work areas in the same space can improve productivity.
3. Understanding the brain's adaptability and learning how to use it effectively can help overcome the challenges of remote work.
4. Overcoming the difficulties of mastering a remote work mindset requires checking assumptions against reality and using resources available to make changes.
5. The brain is an adaptive machine, and small environmental changes can have a large effect on focus and productivity.


00:00:00 Benefits of Working Remotely

00:02:05 Working Remotely and Mastering Oneself

00:06:58 Exploring the Benefits of Establishing Boundaries in the Workplace

00:08:57 Benefits of Understanding the Brain's User Manual

00:10:52 Overcoming Feelings of Overwhelm

00:13:36 Advantages of Digital Organization Systems

00:15:44 Organization, Overcoming Procrastination, and Brain Biology

00:17:30 Overcoming Procrastination and Designing Teams for Remote Hybrid Work

Related Episodes

Featured Guest

Angela Shurina

Name: Angela Shurina

What She Does: Executive Brain/Performance Coach

Notable: Angela helps entrepreneurs, executives and teams to optimize workflow, lifestyle and nutrition habits to help the brain perform optimally to achieve personal and professional goals faster and without burnout. Let’s make the brain our ally not the enemy.

Additional Resources

Order The Long-Distance Team

Remote leadership experts, Kevin Eikenberry and Wayne Turmel, help leaders navigate the new world of remote and hybrid teams to design the culture they desire for their teams and organizations in their new book!

View Full Transcript

00:00:08:18 - 00:00:43:03
Wayne Turmel
Hi, everybody. Welcome to another episode of the Long-Distance Worklife podcast where we try to make sense of working from home, working in the office hybrid work wherever your brain and your butt are and getting stuff done. It is an ever evolving workplace, and that's what we are here for. This is not a Marisa episode, although we have been having an inordinate amount of fun with her lately, answering your questions and addressing your pet peeves.

00:00:43:09 - 00:00:58:17
Wayne Turmel
So she will be back next week. Do not fret, though. I am joined by a very, very clever person, the executive brain coach, Angela Shurina, who is joining us right now. Hi, Angela.

00:00:59:10 - 00:01:03:20
Angela Shurina
Hi, Wayne. So pleased to be here. Thank you for inviting me.

00:01:04:05 - 00:01:18:10
Wayne Turmel
Well, thank you for being here. Although you are not here, you are actually. And I love this about at the workplace right now. Last time I talked to you, I can't remember where you were, but it wasn't Brazil, which is where you are now.

00:01:19:00 - 00:01:21:17
Angela Shurina
Yes, it was Mexico, Playa del Carmen.

00:01:23:07 - 00:01:39:09
Wayne Turmel
Darn, your life is not bad. And this is part of the thing, right? Is you do good work and you write and you teach and you do all this stuff and yet you can do it from pretty much anywhere, which is a very cool thing.

00:01:40:00 - 00:02:04:10
Angela Shurina
Yeah, I think it's the reality for a lot more people. When people look into that, great, so we all know that most of us don't need to be in the office for all the hours that we work. And so why not take our self to some other place that we might explore, enjoy more instead of staying in one place in doing the work from there?

00:02:05:15 - 00:02:35:03
Wayne Turmel
Well, that's absolutely true, and there are lots of reasons people don't do that. You know, some people are grown ups with responsibilities and children and stuff, Right. And they're not free to do that. And here's the other thing. And this is what I want to talk about today is regardless of what chair you happen to be in at the moment, you still have to get work done.

00:02:36:04 - 00:03:03:12
Wayne Turmel
And our brains aren't always our best friends when it comes to this. And I know that you have done a ton of studying and writing on how the brain works and and or does it as the case may be. And we have a bunch of things I want to talk about burnout. I want to talk about fatigue. If we have time to it, we'll get to procrastination.

00:03:03:15 - 00:03:33:20
Wayne Turmel
And yes, I fully realize the irony of what I just said. I understand that. But let's just start with why do some people struggle with mastering themselves and creating a mindset that allows them to work remotely or free of the constraints most people have and other people just can't do it?

00:03:35:13 - 00:04:14:08
Angela Shurina
You know, I actually would just throw it in other place. But since you asked this question, I think a lot of people have assumptions that they don't check against reality. That's, I believe, the foundation of it. Right. So we think that it is not. It is impossible to, let's say, move with our family to another country, even if, you know, for a short while, because I don't know, because of kids school or because, you know, we are used to certain things or getting groceries or having our routines taken care of.

00:04:15:03 - 00:04:48:11
Angela Shurina
But then when you do research, actually the environment changed so much and you can do all of those things in most places in the world. And the world is much more open to that and ready for that. Right. And so I think it's assumptions and not feeling like maybe people have resources to put a little bit extra work into that research and decision making and changing things.

00:04:48:17 - 00:05:19:16
Angela Shurina
And then another aspect of it, of course, when we are in a familiar environment, we spend much less energy on making different decisions, on learning or on doing our thing, everyday things and people. And our brain is always trying to save energy, right? So when people think about how can it move to or should I move to another country, the brain immediately for most people will say no, too much work will already overwhelmed tired fatigue.

00:05:19:21 - 00:05:34:01
Angela Shurina
So no to the idea, right? See where you are, where we are because that's familiar. That's no additional energy expenditure. And that's why people tend to stay in the same place. Well, even.

00:05:34:01 - 00:06:10:12
Wayne Turmel
If they are in the same place. You said something that really resonated with me, which is I work from home. I have for a very long time, but things have kind of shifted in my domestic relationship with my bride, and I find them because I am home all day. I am doing a lot more stuff today. I'm waiting for the dryer repairman and I'm doing all of this kind of stuff that I used to being a good old cis at white male used to give to my wife to do.

00:06:11:15 - 00:06:28:02
Wayne Turmel
And I find now that because I'm home, I'm doing a lot of that stuff and I'm not as focused on work. I'm kind of more stressed than I was. Is that normal or is that just me?

00:06:28:23 - 00:06:58:08
Angela Shurina
No, it is absolutely normal. And that's an issue for a lot of people working from home. People don't put enough energy and time into organizing their work and home environment, separating them and building boundaries around them. By boundaries, I mean, for example, hours when people work, when people take breaks and take care of their other responsibilities at home, where people do their work.

00:06:58:08 - 00:07:31:05
Angela Shurina
Right. Where is the workplace? Where is the place for food or for doing other things? The entertainment, learning, taking care of our responsibilities. So for our brains, banality is very important. One example that might be you know, a lot more people might understand is, for example, if you decide to work at home in bed where you usually sleep, the brain is that a very, I don't know, magical adaptation machine.

00:07:31:11 - 00:08:15:11
Angela Shurina
Whenever we switch our environment from bad to we are from, you know, whatever we work to the bed, our brain immediately puts us in this state ready for sleep, because that's what we usually do when, when we in bed. So certain neurotransmitters are released, certain are not released. And we get into the sleepy state. Right now, if it's not sleeping time and somebody is trying to work there, they will not feel that productive and focused and effective at doing the work because the brain reads the environment and prepares for what you usually do there and creates the state optimal for that task.

00:08:16:09 - 00:08:50:00
Angela Shurina
And that's why, you know, even if the our working space is limited, not everybody can have separate office and separate room for for doing other things, having seasonality in a sense that, you know, maybe moving your table, maybe having different of corners of the same room for doing different work and taking care of other responsibility that will really help people to improve their productivity and effectiveness of doing other things.

00:08:50:07 - 00:08:56:09
Angela Shurina
So like environment, that's I think people are just not taught that fact.

00:08:57:00 - 00:09:15:21
Wayne Turmel
And I think there's a lot of things people aren't taught, not the least of which is how easily we trick our brains for good or evil. I keep moving. Your table close to the window shouldn't be as big a deal as in fact, it is.

00:09:16:09 - 00:09:41:18
Angela Shurina
Mm hmm. Yes. Because, you know, like, for example, it increases the production of dopamine, and it is one of the major molecules that allows us to stay focused and accomplish things and have energy and drive to to accomplish tasks. And so if somebody works, for example, in a corner that is darker, they are going to be having a harder time just focusing on things and getting things done right.

00:09:42:05 - 00:09:53:11
Angela Shurina
I like to call this, you know, Brain's user manual, like nobody taught us those things, like how to actually use our brain. Of course, one of the reasons was there was not enough science compared to now.

00:09:56:16 - 00:10:27:07
Wayne Turmel
What you said is disturbing. I impulse and I'll tell you why. It's because because our brains are so easily tricked and because we're not always conscious of what is going on, we get in our own way. And so let's take a look at some of the most common things that people experience, and you can help guide us through some of this.

00:10:27:20 - 00:10:34:03
Wayne Turmel
The first thing I think that a lot of people are feeling is just a sense of overwhelm.

00:10:34:19 - 00:10:36:02
Angela Shurina
Mm hmm.

00:10:36:04 - 00:10:52:17
Wayne Turmel
Things are just it's just too much. And I'm trying to keep up at work and I'm trying to be a good soldier and I want to be a good teammate and I want to be a good employee. And I want my boss in while I'm working so I don't get fired. And, oh, by the way, the dog needs to be walked and their stuff.

00:10:52:18 - 00:10:59:03
Wayne Turmel
Yeah. Why does our brain beat us up like that?

00:11:00:20 - 00:11:19:03
Angela Shurina
Yes, The brain is always actually not trying to beat us up, but trying to do its best job to help us accomplish things in life and, you know, get what we want. But it has, again, its user manual. It's kind of like every car hybrid, electric or gas has a set of rules how to use it. The same for the brain.

00:11:19:13 - 00:11:57:15
Angela Shurina
And our brain has also limitations. It's not limitless in its capacities. So one of those limitations, for example, is our working memory or that part of our brain that keeps the stuff that we are working on or thinking off in one place to analyze, to process and to help us achieve it. Now, again, it is limited. And so the more stuff we put there without management, without, I don't know, putting certain on schedule or things in certain folders or a project, if we just keep them at the back of our mind, so to speak, in that working memory.

00:11:57:23 - 00:12:46:08
Angela Shurina
That's where the feeling of overwhelm comes from because all of those things there in that center, in that working memory at the same time. And the reason is because people are not taught that to separate their life and their work into different projects. And how can we do that? Very simple. Let's see if you have different projects at work you can create on your computer different folders, and you put the information in related to that in those folders and then you studio things and you write it down again, put into folders, schedule them, and then that unloads your working memory because now it's kind of like in the cloud.

00:12:46:13 - 00:13:08:23
Angela Shurina
Right. If somebody has personal life project the same thing, creative folder, schedule it. If you need to spend time with family, with dogs, you know, with spouses, then put it on your calendar. And now you are not just trying to keep it in your working memory, trying not to forget. Now it's out there, manage by our technology that can actually help us to feel less overwhelmed.

00:13:10:03 - 00:13:36:00
Angela Shurina
And one of the most popular strategy from productivity coaches is that you have to manage your life and work as projects and you have to unload what you keep in your brain into some device, into some storage, can can be folders, can be your schedule. So you don't think about it all the time, like what you have to get done, right?

00:13:36:02 - 00:13:48:12
Angela Shurina
You put in place reminders. I personally put reminders for anything from my work to doing my laundry, etc. So it's all in the schedule and I can be free thinking about whatever I need to think. At the moment.

00:13:50:00 - 00:14:11:22
Wayne Turmel
I am both old and analog, and so I do everything by notebooks. Is there an advantage to doing it electronically? Does the old analog, you know, write your list out, keep it in a paper calendar? Are there differences?

00:14:12:13 - 00:14:36:14
Angela Shurina
Yeah. The difference is about the effectiveness of the system. Now you can write them down, but then you have a system to organize that. Do you have separate folders for different areas of your life and work? So we need to when you need to find something, it's actually easy to find. The advantage of digital system is that number one, it is.

00:14:37:10 - 00:14:58:13
Angela Shurina
It can be structured in so many ways, right? You can have folders of all kinds and you can put links there and audio files and video files. Number two, it can be accessed in theory from everywhere. Like if you have your Google Drive, for example, you can access it from your phone, you can access it from your computer.

00:15:00:02 - 00:15:21:08
Angela Shurina
Another thing, you can connect it to your calendar that will send you reminders. You can share it with other people, and then when you want to physically move, you don't have to move your notebooks and think about that or getting a new notebook in just one place all the time. And I think the last but not least, it's searchable.

00:15:21:16 - 00:15:42:21
Angela Shurina
When you put it into digital storage. Now you can put in keywords and search for a very specific thing instead of trying to browse through, you know, for example, and again, can be done probably with notebooks too. But it requires that organization so you can actually find the stuff that you put in there easily.

00:15:44:02 - 00:16:11:07
Wayne Turmel
Wow. That is a lot of stuff and I am properly shamed. But let's in the few minutes that we have left in time is fleeing. Good heavens. I do want to make sure because this is my personal demon. And so I am using this as therapy time. And I make no apologies to our listeners about this. My big demon is procrastination.

00:16:11:07 - 00:16:30:16
Wayne Turmel
I am a world class procrastinator. Here I am at 43,000 words of the new novel, and it ain't going anywhere. Tips for Overcoming Procrastination. Maybe. Why does our brain do that to us and what can we do about it?

00:16:32:00 - 00:16:59:16
Angela Shurina
So there are a few things, you know, from biology to psychology. I probably want to start with psychology because biology might take a while to unpack. So psychology, you know, your brain actually, Wayne, is not procrastinating, not, you know, the way you think your brain does everything to keep you alive, to keep you fed, to keep you having a roof over your head.

00:17:00:02 - 00:17:30:07
Angela Shurina
So your brain does the important things. Now, why brain? Our brains primary purpose is survival. And so if we procrastinate on some project, that's because a couple of reasons I'll bring think it is not important to our immediate survival and thriving. Right. And that's why we tend to do things the urgent, especially if we are committed to someone and procrastinate on things that are kind of good to you.

00:17:30:07 - 00:18:09:06
Angela Shurina
But you know, we might skip it. And that's internal knowledge of what's important and urgent and what is not. That is because of procrastination on some projects, but not on others, like, you know, essential work that pays the bills. You, the people usually don't procrastinate on that. And number two, the brain often thinks that the project that you're procrastinating on is too expensive, meaning you have to put a lot a lot of energy in that the cost and the outcome, the reward is unknown somewhere far in the future.

00:18:09:06 - 00:18:38:06
Angela Shurina
So your brain is much more concerned with the immediate survival. And that's kind of the answer to this question. And the exercise here is to figure out, to talk to you, to your brain and create this urgency almost artificially by, for example, writing down all the potential benefits of finishing this project if you're working on your book, right.

00:18:38:12 - 00:19:02:18
Angela Shurina
So you might start journaling a little bit about what this book can bring into your life, how can improve, how it can improve your business, what kind of connections in opportunities it can bring into your life, how much more income it can bring, and then maybe put more examples to make it really true to your brain, to make your brain understand that this is actually important for your future.

00:19:03:07 - 00:19:21:18
Angela Shurina
This is where I would always start if I find people who I work with procrastinating, I'm trying to make them understand why it's important in the first place. Right? Talk to your brain about the rewards and the future that you are getting from getting this done.

00:19:22:23 - 00:19:56:20
Wayne Turmel
Wow. I don't know about talking to my brain. It has been a pleasure talking to your brain, which works very differently than mine. We are at the end of our time, alas. Thank you, Angela, for being with us. We will have notes, links with how to reach Angela, Executive Brain Coaching, all of that good stuff. We will have that in the show notes, which are of course on

00:19:56:20 - 00:20:30:15
Wayne Turmel
Angela, thank you for being with us. I am going to wrap things up here. If you are interested in this episode or any others, please like and subscribe. Tell the rest of the world. Our listenership is growing in leaps and bounds. Most of that is due to the hard work of Marisa. If you want to reach it myself or Marisa, you can reach us on LinkedIn or,

00:20:31:11 - 00:20:58:14
Wayne Turmel
Tell us your pet peeves. Ask your questions. Let us know what you think. Also, if you are thinking about how to design your team for remote hybrid work, trying to find that balance. Kevin Eikenberry and I have our new book, The Long-Distance Team: Designing Your Team for Everyone's Success. You can learn all about it and get free stuff at

00:20:58:23 - 00:21:05:03
Wayne Turmel
That's it for another week. Thank you so much for being with us. Thank you to Angela Shurina.

00:21:07:11 - 00:21:25:13
Wayne Turmel
I hope to talk to you again soon, folks. Don't let the weasels get you down.

Your Host

Wayne Turmel

Master Trainer and Coach for The Kevin Eikenberry Group, co-author of The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership and The Long-Distance Teammate: Stay Engaged and Connected While Working Anywhere, and trainer of remote teams for over twenty years.

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