I work from home as an independent freelance writer and contractually as a product developer for a small e-commerce company . . . but it wasn’t always this way.
I started off like most of us here, in a cubicle, burning through the day to day tasks. I found my place in the system and so I became compliant. Then I got that entrepreneurial itch and had “the talk” with my boss after spending a year moonlighting the activities I do now. He completely agreed with my decision to leave the company to pursue entrepreneurship.
A Quick Story
Those first few months were amazing (even when they had their ups and downs), but if there was one thing that I would never have expected to become most troublesome … it was productivity.
Being the owner of your new business quickly reveals a few items you had taken for granted when working for others:
· You have to put in the time to pull in new customers each and every day
· You have to set the deadlines and motivate yourself (versus being hounded by a boss/manager)
· You have to create the environment that reduces the distractions
The fact that I could wake at any time, focus on any number of my projects, and be around my significant other was great … for a while. Then it hit me that running a business wasn’t just about the work but had a lot more to do about the time management.
What I Did that Worked
Realizing that I was allowing this great opportunity to begin slipping through my fingers–since I was becoming distracted and “chasing the shiny object”–I began experimenting with just about every suggestion and strategy I could read on the topic of productivity.
Of these various items I managed to single down a few that have done the most, for me:
- Act as If. I subscribe to the idea of acting the part. This rings true in all aspects of how I do the business, whether it’s replicating and remixing their style of marketing or even setting up the office cubicles in the side room to give it a real business feel. This method of acting eventually helps you develop those great habits held by the best in the biz.
- Chain Tasks. I believe the best methods to complete tasks are the ones that take minimal effort to keep track of and there’s no better method, for me at least, than the chain method. This is a lot like a to-do list with the exception that you list items you need to complete each and every day, but by breaking the chain you have this sense of incompletion. Psychologically, you don’t want to break the chain so it helps motivating you to keep pressing on the work.
- Early Bird. Not having a definitive schedule (i.e. showing up to work at 8am every day) will have you slip because there’s no accountability. However, the best work gets done in the morning because you’re fresh and that’s when other business partners are already running. I finally managed to flip my sleep schedule, so I now wake between 6am – 7am. It has done wonders for downing important tasks without distraction.
- The Talk. Working in your own office or at home means that you’re going to have people coming through to dip in on what you’re doing (much like when coworkers drop by at your cubicle at a company). This equals many distractions throughout the day. What I found to be effective was having a talk and explaining the need for uninterrupted time during the day. Sure enough this simple talk gave me the focus I needed to get things done and it was unbelievably simple to explain.
A change in mindset, workflow, time management, and communication, from my perspective, are the items that will dramatically improve your business productivity. Now, I can’t say that all of these will work for you, but a variation to your approach may jumpstart an idea that will become the winning technique for your business.