- Working productively and remotely can be a challenge for small business owners.
- Establish a routine, use time blocks and outsource tasks that are better done by experts.
- Know your best working environment, personalise it and take breaks in between your time blocks.
In today’s digital world, small business owners have more accessibility to work when we want, how we want, and from where we want. A large part of this extends to the concept of working remotely.
This would have been inconceivable not all that long ago. I still remember having to wait for that pesky dial-up modem to kick into gear. Don’t even start me on the brick-sized mobile phones that could only do so much compared with today’s units.
Now you can run your own business from any location. All you need is the internet. It sounds like a luxury for any savvy entrepreneur working on their startup, right? Or even for a small business owner looking to scale their business? Let’s consider things more closely.
The benefits of working remotely
Working remotely is a luxury in many ways. There is a sense of freedom and flexibility that you can change your location almost any given day. Different environments can help boost morale and spark creativity.
You may even have scope to vary your schedule as well. With this you can spend less time in the car during the peak hour commute to and from the office. Instead, you get to enjoy a better work-life balance.
Many small business owners and startup founders also love the ability to lower costs while working remotely. You no longer need a dedicated business premises, saving you rent. Transport costs can be cut. Certain utilities become a sunk cost or burdened by the location from which you work.
But with all these benefits, the key is to ensure you remain productive. In my own experience with PriceMyCar, sometimes that’s easier said than done. Here are some of my recommendations on how to remain productive when working remotely.
1. Know what type of environment you thrive off
We all work best in different ways. While some might thrive off on an engaging and lively space, others may require peace and quiet to get things done. This trade-off between isolation and social engagement should influence your choice of work environment.
A co-working space is great for networking, collaboration and even as a creative outlet. Does that sound like you? Or do you need your own space?
Need some inspiration or a clear frame of mind? Maybe drive to the beach, just don’t forget your speedos! Is a café too distracting for you with all the stimuli?
Do you have space for a home office? If you do, can you work from there without being distracted by family members who want your attention? Can you finish off that important phone call in the car parked in the driveway away from the dog barking and kids yelling?
Different locations will suit different business owners. Don’t forget as well, certain tasks will be more practical from one location than another. So, mix and match as you can.
2. Control and personalise what you can
Regardless of the environment you settle for, an element of stability and comfort will help you remain productive. For example, there’s no point working on your marketing strategy from the café if they’ll soon ask you to leave come closing time.
In a co-working space, consider using background music to drown out unwelcome noise.
If you work from home, a lack of any sense of purpose may leave you feeling as though you’re not really at work. So, ensure that you have a dedicated office space. Give it purpose. Make it an environment that will work for you. Install appropriate lighting, comfortable seating and create that necessary aura to be productive.
Even if you cannot spare a full room, cordon off an area in the house. Declutter and delineate it so you know it is a work zone. You also don’t want nor need any reminder of other duties waiting for you around the house.
When the day is done, step away from your workspace.
3. Don’t think you can ignore a routine
To remain productive, you often need to feel your best. That doesn’t just mean getting out of bed, setting up the laptop and tapping away. It might be tempting to lounge about in pyjamas at home, but that’s not getting you in the mood or mindset to be productive.
Instead, establish some sort of routine and ritual before work. Follow through with this ritual, whatever it be, just as you would if you were heading into the office. You can still have flexibility throughout the day, but making a good start is just about the most important thing.
4. Work in efficient time blocks to maximise your output
Sitting down in one long stretch and continuously staring at your computer can bog you down. Your intentions might be good, but there is only so much one can absorb. And there is also so much concentration one can exert towards a task.
We all love to say we can multitask but it’s easy to lose focus chasing multiple goals at once. So, I use work blocks instead. I set myself small periods of time and commit to focusing entirely on one task during that period.
After that, I take a momentary break. One well known principle is the Pomodoro Technique. This involves breaking large tasks into blocks. You work on them for 25 minutes at a time, followed by a 5-minute break.
You can also set yourself daily goals and milestones as well. If you are planning on taking phone calls, or conducting meetings, plan around others you live with. If working in public, schedule them for the quietest periods.
5. Embrace your flexibility
Not every line of work will cater for it, but if yours does, tailor your schedule around your productive output times. I’m one of those people who is most productive first thing in the morning. With others, it may be later as the day goes on. This flexibility is one of the most useful aspects of working remotely as an entrepreneur or small business owner.
Then there is the matter of looking after your health and wellbeing. Apart from your momentary breaks at the end of every work block, you should have at least a 15-minute break every 2 hours.
The key is to feel refreshed and active. Clear your mind, take a moment to step outside for fresh air, drive the car or even walk the dog around the block. Don’t feel guilty, and certainly don’t skip meals.
All this is part of maximising your productivity when you are back at your desk. It’s also about setting your boundaries so you are not run down the next day.
6. Leverage the best assets around you
As a small business owner, you no doubt have a breadth of skills and knowledge across your business. But to remain productive, it’s often better to outsource certain tasks to people for whom it is their specialty.
With my new startup, because it’s just me working, I’ve had to regularly outsource tasks like web development, content production and marketing to other business owners. Their expertise has helped me execute tasks in a fraction of the time it would have taken me. I’ve then been able to focus on the strategy of my overall business rather than trying to do it all.
If you regularly travel, it might be practical to outsource more tasks than normal. It’s easy for us to encounter unexpected difficulties in the car on the road, or while in transit. Maybe you already know you will be without internet coverage? In these instances, take comfort in loosening your control over aspects of your business where others can pitch in and help.
Productivity really is within your own control
The ability to work remotely has given small business owners and entrepreneurs all sorts of benefits. From the freedom and flexibility around your schedule, to the location from which you work, and even the expenses you can save.
To capitalise on that, however, you need to remain productive when confronted with a series of new distractions. You might even be concerned around procrastination. But the reality is, any one of us can take charge of our behaviour and attitude to maximise our productivity.
If it feels tough, remember the key to productivity is entrenched in some easy to follow practices:
- Understand the environment and work dynamic you need to be able to focus
- Control and personalise that environment to instil a sense of purpose and meaning
- Set yourself some sort of ritual before you start to work
- Take advantage of the flexibility you have working remotely
- Break work down into blocks and goals that will enhance your focus and efficiency
- Save time by outsourcing to the best assets around you
We’ve all come this far along the journey to establish our businesses, kick off a startup, or pave the way for our next entrepreneurial vision. Remaining productive when working remotely is easy in comparison.
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