5 Ways for Remote Workers To Get More Done Faster

5 Ways for Remote Workers To Get More Done Faster

We're living in a day and age where we’re no longer trapped at a desk in an office block. Technology makes it a reality for many employees, freelancers, and entrepreneurs to work from home or whilst travelling. The workforce is dominated by Generation X and Millennials- people raised and fuelled by choice and independence.

The fantasy of complete control and utter freedom that's associated with being your own boss is appealing to many. We even get cool, hipster names like "Digital Nomads" and "Location-independent Entrepreneurs"! However, like all things in life with benefits, there are also challenges we need to overcome in order to reap the rewards of our non-traditional career path.

Following our FSB Regional and National Awards for Micro-Business of the Year 2018, I've been asked for advice from aspiring or struggling entrepreneurs about how I've built and maintained an international business and a team of over a dozen talented, motivated workers without ever renting or owning office space.

I'm also releasing a book about my professional journey in a couple of months. While the topic is fresh on my mind, here are five habits and productive actions that have helped me and my team achieve more quicker!

(* these points relate mainly to self-employed, freelance workers; however employees that have the flexibility of working from home or whilst travelling may also find these helpful!)

1. Have a Designated Work Space, and Personalise It

No matter where we are in the world, we need to create a dedicated workspace to put our mind into "work mode". If we’re not regularly going into an office, we don’t have that mental preparation that tells our brains, “you are entering a work environment”.

So we need to create one (even if it's poolside from time to time - ah, especially if it's poolside because we need to focus to do our best work!!).

Have an area dedicated to working. Here’s a basic checklist of what you’ll need:

  • A desk or a “work” room: The worst place to work is in your bed! Sorry if you were hoping to hear that the team and I stay in our pyjamas and duvets all day - that's not the case!! Having a designated work space makes us more productive and keeps us more organised! Keep it tidy and free of clutter - clutter is a natural distraction and the time we spend searching for misplaced papers and materials adds up!
  • Personalise it and make it inspiring: I'm a very creative and artistic person, so my desk and work space is an ever-changing collage of photos, event tickets, motivational quotes, and the like. But do what works for you - one of my team members prefers a more minimalistic approach with binders and a giant wall calendar. One of the luxuries of working independently is the fact that you can express your individuality.
  • Create an atmosphere: Stimulate all your senses, use essential oils or candles, proper lighting, music, comfortable chairs or a standing desk. Have water on hand as well as healthy snacks to top up your energy.
  • Create separation between work/ life: The set work area really needs to be purely for work. Just like a bedroom should be specifically for sleeping (and well...) There needs to be both a physical and mental barrier between your work and your life so you can switch off and avoid the burnout that comes from feeling like we're working 24/7.

The last point is particularly important for those of us with children or roommates. I used to have an “open door” policy with my kids. After all, working from home means more family time, right? However, letting my kids barge in whenever they want is hugely distracting and not very productive.

We all remember the viral video of the BBC reporter interrupted by his kids during a live broadcast, right?! That stuff happens when you work from home, even when we don't allow it, imagine if we didn't try to prevent it.

Instead of trying to juggle my attention between my family life and my work life all day, everyday, I created boundaries. This allows me to focus on the task at hand 100% (e.g. being a parent, or being a business owner) instead of giving each 50% of my time and energy. I even have a sign I hang on my office door that reads "Mommy is Working, Please Keep Out, Thank You", and my kids know I'll come downstairs when I'm finished working just like people come home from their workplaces.

2. Maintain a Work a Structure, Routine or Schedule

When we work remotely it’s easy to fall into the trap of doing what you want, when you want. There’s also the issue of putting yourself into “work mode” and avoiding the temptation to procrastinate (especially when the weather is nice and the outdoors are calling!). We all need to develop a work routine that works for us and the way we operate.

For those of you that are more right-brained - creative and “big picture” workers - set up a routine and structure that puts you in the right frame of mind for work. Those of you that are more left-brained - detail orientated and system driven, - map out a clear work schedule using 15 or 30-minute intervals.

Here’s what you need to do (this works for both types of workers):

  • Manage your time: Even though working for ourselves means we don't HAVE TO have a set schedule, I do recommend it; especially during the initial stages. Habits determine actions, and actions determine results, so don't just "wing it" everyday!
  • Maintain a morning routine: If the work-from-the-office version of you used to shower, eat breakfast and listen to music on the way to work, the work-from-home version of you should too! I recommend getting dressed and styling yourself as if you were going to the workplace because the way we look determines how we feel to a certain extent
  • Control the communication: Don’t become a slave to your inbox or your mobile device answering them 24/7. When planning your days and weeks, schedule set times for reading and responding to emails, for phone conversations and web chats, and for side chat with family and friends. If we don't plan for the necessary communication, we're constantly reactive towards it.
  • Remove the clutter: At the end of each day before shutting your laptop (this is a signal to my brain that 'we're done working'), take 5-10 minutes to make a list of all the "little things" that popped up during the day that require your attention, but don't need to be done right now. There’s a tendency for remote workers to blend work and home life and to constantly think about work-related stuff, so get it down on paper and relax stress-free.
  • Use Randi Zuckerberg’s “Pick Three” technique: My friend Randi believes we can all "have it all" - just not everyday! Her theory, which she'll describe in her upcoming book, involves picking three of the five most important things to you daily. Then swap them tomorrow for another three if you want!

The most important aspect of this is discipline. By developing, and sticking to, a routine or schedule that works for you, you’re going to see a huge increase in your productivity.

You’re also going to minimise the stress of remote working. This may sound silly, but it’s easy to become obsessed with only doing work and to lose out on seeing friends, family, and maintaining a “real” life because we're not in a traditional work environment where social plans are often made. By sticking to your schedule or routine, you enable yourself to be productive and make time to enjoy life.

3. Incorporate Accountability and/or Game-ification

Without other people around you, it is easy to procrastinate or get distracted. When we work remotely, we need to make sure that we’re accountable for the work we’re completing or not completing.

I was fortunate when launching my recruitment advertising service because I had two things that kept me on target everyday. Firstly, I had a mentor that I trusted and who had a vested-interest in my success to check in with daily. Secondly, my work was all online, so my clients could see in real time what work was being done even though we were miles apart. Not everyone will have these two factors readily available, so here are some other ways to make sure you're staying on track...

To make sure we’re hitting our goals and not wasting time here are strategies to stay accountable and even making remote work fun:

  • Chunk your goal: Take the big picture (Vision), and turn that into what long-term results you’d like, now break that down into several short-term results, now chunk that down further into action steps. Anyone can eat an elephant - one bite at a time!
  • Post online or use shared documents: Even if the work you do isn't publicly visible online, you can still hold yourself accountable by promoting what you're doing behind the scenes on social media, or using shared documents and files so your clients can see what's done and what's pending.
  • Impose your own deadlines: We’re grown-ups - in many cases also parents; we shouldn't need a boss or a teacher telling us when something is due. It's not fair for your clients to have to chase you for information or something that's past due. Set deadlines for yourself and take personal pride in getting the job done on time, every time!
  • Find an accountability partner: Although we can set and reach our own deadlines, it can be nice to have an accountability partner because as much as they keep us focussed and on track, they're also someone to overcome challenges and share our victories with! Choose another remote worker, a spouse, a sibling, a friend, or someone you respect and trust. Make sure you can be open and honest with them and that they'll push you to be your best!
  • Reward and penalise yourself: Even with all the above working for us, my team and I are always looking for ways to add fun to our lives! We've found that using a points system for hitting mini-targets or competing with each other really motivates us to get things done faster and to the best of our ability! Finished ahead of your deadline? Take yourself out for dinner! Spent much time procrastinating? Looks like you’re staying in!

By turning your work into a game and finding external sources of accountability, you train yourself to turn productivity into a habit. Once a habit is formed it becomes a natural part of your routine and you’ll find yourself looking forward to working on your projects and business.

4. Make Use of Your Freedom; Don't Isolate Yourself

When you work from or remotely it’s easy to only spend time in your home or home office. Why would you leave (especially if it's cold or raining!)? Everything you need is right in front of you; coffee, tea, and comfort - plus the whole world is at your fingertips through your mobile phone or laptop!

This can destroy your working and social mood, and remove the main advantage of being a remote worker - having freedom and a better work/life balance!

When you’re a remote worker you have the freedom to work in a way that allows you to operate at peak efficiency. Here my top tips for making full use of that freedom:

  • Change your scenery: Relocating ourselves to a new location can help give us a new outlook on a situation. Sometimes I just gravitate from room-to-room within my house or if the weather is nice, I work in the garden for part of the day. I also go into the city from time to time to work in my client's office or a shared workspace.
  • Go outside: I love the sun, I love trees, I love water, I love nature... so the ability to work outside in the nice weather is hugely appealing to me. I find I do some of my best, most creative writing when I'm outdoors. But, I'm not suggesting this just because I enjoy working outside; here are 10 scientific reasons to get outside more often!!
  • Socialise: Get some exposure to other people. When I first started working from home, I stopped interacting with people regularly. I drove my partner mental because he'd get home from work ready to switch off, and I'd be talking his ear off about all the things I didn't get a chance to express throughout the day! I found that even going to a coffee shop and sitting around others is more social than sitting in a room alone for the full day. Small interactions with others keep us in touch with civilisation and stem the loneliness that many remote workers suffer from.
  • Keep it cost-effective: You don’t have to spend money just because you're leaving the house (trust me, it's true - I didn't believe it at first, but I've actually done it!)! If you’ve just started freelance work or a small business, money can be really tight. Leaving your house doesn't need to be expensive! Go for a 10-minute walk around the neighbourhood listening to music, go to the park and have a home-made picnic, ride a bike, sit by the water, etc.

If you’re a remote worker, socialising and getting outside can dramatically increase your happiness and lower your stress levels. Less stress means you can work more efficiently and produce higher quality work. For those of you that have yet to make the transition, make sure that you follow the tips to avoid some of the issues I ran into.

5. Get Passionate, Celebrate, And Evolve!

The truth is that being a remote worker can be one of the most difficult things to excel at. We're forced to keep ourselves accountable, motivated, on time, on track, ahead of the competition and more all whilst managing our time and enjoying our freedom!

It's our passion, commitment and enthusiasm that get us through the toughest times. The truth is if you don’t have a passion for the work you do (whether you’re employed or running your own business) remote work is going to be at least 1,000 times more challenging. A hobby becomes a chore and a freelance business becomes a job when there's no emotion attached to it.

Here are some of my favourite ways to stay passionate about my work or business:

  • Celebrate victories: Take some time to think about all your recent and past successes and celebrate them - with friends and champagne or just with a Galaxy chocolate bar! When we’re stressed or overwhelmed we often forget about how far we’ve come, and it's important to reflect back on what we've accomplished - try making a list right now of the top 10 or 15 things you've done in life that you're proud of.
  • Remind yourself of your vision: All of us work because we want something - to help others, to earn enough to buy a house, to provide value to other people and their businesses, to travel the world, to retire early, to move to an island... Whatever it is that your heart desires, make it a constant reminder.
  • Build Relationships: Part of what keeps my team and I so passionate and motivated are the relationships we have with our clients. Their struggles become our struggles and we want to help them get better results; and their victories become our victories, so we have even more to celebrate!
  • Get Creative and Embrace Challenges: Another think that keeps the team and me passionate about our work is the fact that the industry is always changing and evolving. We have to adapt and embrace new ways of advertising in order to get the best results, and this keeps our roles interesting.

“Passion” is an intangible part of work but it’s important if you want to be successful. Test out lots of different ways of building your passion to find what works for you.

Follow These Steps

Remote work and working from home is an amazing tool that can help boost your productivity and accelerate you toward your goal. However, it’s easy to fall into the trap of distractions, loneliness, and procrastination.

Here’s a quick cheat-sheet of what we covered above so we can avoid those downfalls and not just survive, but thrive:

·     Create a dedicated workspace: Physically and mentally separate your workspace from the rest of your life

·     Build a Routine/Schedule: Routines and schedules get you into that mental work state that’s essential to be productive

·     Implement accountability strategies: Find someone or something to help keep you accountable, set rewards for hitting targets, do what you need to do

·     Go Outside: Make full use of the freedom of remote work and socialise and go outside. By staying in your home all day, you limit your creativity and energy

·     Manage your Passion: It’s easy to feel disheartened when working by yourself. Regularly do “passion building” exercises to keep you motivated.

Remote work is a great way to give you and your team more happiness, freedom, and autonomy. All three of those traits have been proven to increase efficiency, productivity, and lower employee turnover. If you’re looking to start remote work, or want to train your team with remote working, and want advice from the the FSB Micro-Business of the Year Award winners, send me a PM to see how we can work together. 

I'm sure there are more things that have helped us along the way, What are your top tips for remote working?

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  • Arron Jolly

    I stress less when I am not working next to my boss

  • Bryan Larson

    Tried working remotely 4 years ago, I had difficulties to communicate with the other team members.

  • John Wheatland

    Some good points..... However not everyone is suited for remote work...

  • Tim Nellist

    Congrats on your massive achievement !!!

  • Chris Betton

    Thanks Kristen for the tips

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Kristen O'Connell

Recruitment Guru

Kristen is an award-winning global business owner, keynote speaker with a passion for travel and adventure. She is a a people-focused entrepreneur who built a business from scratch to help like-minded individuals. She is a visionary with a passion for helping others find their calling and achieve their full potential. Kristen launched her own media and recruitment advertising company in 2014 as a result of her vast experience and the understanding that she could help other Sales Directors grow in a similar way. 

   

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