Habits to Highly Effective Working from Home !
Chris Gibbons went live yesterday on Facebook with SUPERHEROS Amy Beck and Jenny Mclaughlan giving helpful tips and advice on how to succeed working from home and getting the most out of it.
We’re lucky here in InQbate as for the last few years we have been remotely working, and so have a few of the businesses that we help and work with. Here are our tips and tools on how to happily work from home!
There were so many useful hints, tips and habits including in this video, that summarising them was hard! Below are the top tips for how to work from home effectively! However there are so many more nuggets of information in the above video that you may find super useful!
A clear list either the night before or first thing in the morning of things that you need to get completed the next day - this is a great way to stay on track, you work until you’ve completed your list. If you get this done quicker than you thought, then great you’ve finished for the day! If not, it’s your list and they are the tasks you deemed important to be completed, you need to work until it’s done.
How to write your list?
Writing the list is the hard part! Most people are rubbish at writing their lists for the day and this is crucial to staying on track.
Don’t get bogged down by other people's demands. Remember...What is your overall strategic goal at the time, this should form the list.
EG if the target is to reach X amount in sales by a certain date. If the task you are writing down does not directly relate to achieving that target, it should not be on the list.
STAY GOAL FOCUSED.
When to write your list?
Plan in a set time to write your list each week, it need to work for you. If its a Sunday night or first thing Monday morning, as long as its done, and done correctly.
Jenny: I do mine on a Sunday night when the kids have gone to bed. I have a weekly scorecard, I assess where each of the businesses is and how they are progressing, I go back and look the main goals, what everyone else in the team has done and is doing and decide what tasks and actions myself and everyone in the team would need to do to move us towards the overall goal.
What does a Bad List look like?
Full of jobs that could probably wait, but I feel pressure from others to get done for them . . . but they aren’t necessarily moving the business towards the bigger goal. I feel more responsibility to help people get things done when remotely as you can’t pop over to someone’s desk and just ask.
Solution? Keep in regular contact, regular short meetings of what we’re working on and if we need help, ensuring everyone is staying focused towards the bigger goal and is managing their workload.
Staying on Track:
There’s a really good book regarding this way of working called “Eat that Frog” by Brian Tracy, which explains this theory very well. He uses the analogy of eating a frog every day.
Imagine you had to do something as disgusting as eating a cold, wet and slimy frog every single day . . .when would you do it?
Wake up and eat it ?
Wait until lunch to put it into a sandwich to disguise the taste and texture?
Keep it until the evening?
Most people in life are putting off “eating the frog”. They put off the stuff that is critical!
If you knew that eating the frog was the only important thing you needed to do in a day, the only way to survive in that world without being miserable would be to eat the frog first thing in the morning.
Jump out of bed, grab the frog and swallow it!
That way, you’re free to do what you want for the rest of the day!
If you leave frog eating until later in the day, it’ll be playing on your mind all day and all you’ll be able to think about is eating the disgusting frog and your day will become far less productive as you're putting off what you inevitably need to do.
Task lists - the most important things that will get you where you want to go, ensure they are on the list, with time blocked out and you get those tasks done!
Having a Default Diary
Set times when aspects of your job are done to keep you organised and manage your time. This isn’t only relevant to working from home but in an office environment also!
Everyone is busy . . always. We set out to complete our tasks with the best intentions, but life gets in the way ESPECIALLY when you're at home. We get distracted and whilst we’re caught up in the moment we try to re-prioritise our tasks quickly in our minds. This often results in jobs being left until too late or missed all together. Whilst each new task is pulling our minds in a different direction it’s difficult to manage.
No one is born with the natural ability to manage and organise their tasks effectively.
“I’ve run out of time” “I didn’t have enough time”
The truth is, time keeps on going. It’s the only thing you can’t manage because there are only 24 hours in a day and nothing will change that. Therefore we need to learn to be better at organising ourselves, our tasks and our priorities.
Before organising this way and before you had any accountability to others ( employees etc) what did you working life look like?
Jenny: 24/7, it really was. Doing things to serve customers always took priority whilst my team take some my time now, it used to be customer based things, so I would never get to the bigger jobs that could push the business forward. Although part of it is also a capacity based problem as well.
Be Honest With Yourself
If you are used to a set way of working and have just started working from home, you need to be quite honest with yourself and find out how you work and appreciate that people work in different ways.
You have to get out of your comfort zone pretty quickly. New meetings and communication perhaps with your boss that you’ve never needed before, be confident to report properly what you’ve done for the week and for the day.
Amy: In all of our businesses we report on what we’re doing every day as a discipline. People hate it at first but you realise how useful it is very quickly! We use a piece of software called Basecamp.
On a Monday morning at 8am we have a meeting and discuss what our key goals are for the week and overall aims that we would like to achieve.
Each morning before 8am we each write a small report, not just accountability to someone else but a report to yourself and the team, how you're progressing and what else needs to be done.
On a Friday first thing, what we achieved this week, what we didn’t manage to achieve, what we are going to do to get those things done.
Shout for help first thing , either what you need help with or what you're expecting from others. It’s easy to get distracted with people asking you stuff throughout the day. My emails are checked by 8am and I would have noted any actions in my daily report / if they need a response. I don’t check them throughout the day, everyone knows to diarise what you want from me and when by and I can plan it accordingly.
Protecting other people's time is really important, the daily reporting highlights if someone has a lot on, you can protect their time better and potentially help others if you get your tasks done quicker than you expected.
Why Report Daily? Why Not Just Weekly?
All of our reports and tasks should be outcome based! Stuff can wait, and that's how I ensure I get the outcomes achieved.
New team members hate this process and see it as a chore and it frustrates them, we hear comments like “ I already did my list for the week, why would I write it out for each day again”.
The act of simply writing the list and deciding when the tasks will be done during the day is what makes the day productive.
Jenny: My experience when bringing it in to my team was if I’m in the right place and I’m doing it, everyone else will follow suit, but if I don’t start it doesn’t happen. It hasn’t formed an automatic habit yet with us.
I think people are concerned it won’t look like they’re doing much, or they feel checked up on or being over managed but that isn't the point of it.
It gets your clear, and helps others understand what your doing.
Amy: For me, as an accountant, I just want to be left alone to do my thing, but that’s not my job role! I have to shout about it a lot more than I’d like. Don’t look at it at what you have and haven’t done, but this may be your only communication for the day, especially when being remotely, so you can understand where you all are with your goals.
It can also highlight if someone does need credit, someone may not have realised what you’ve gotten done and it could go under the radar.
You're hired, regardless of the role of industry for your results as they are what matters. It’s YOUR list, it’s your results that your judges on but this list is your list to aid you.
Tony Robbins “ Progress = happiness”
If you’ve completed what you set out for the day, overall. You’ll feel good about it.
You can put personal stuff on it too, something you have to do mid day with the kids or to cut the neighbours lawn, it’s important in the day as it’s something I’d committed to do and it makes up part of my day. So it’s planned into my daily report.
How do you stopping work and home life merging?
Scheduling, setting out blocks and achievements for each day, as a result allocates time for your family. You have to be strict and achievement focused during your day, to ensure your free / family time during those planned in times.
I'd recommend being that strict to ensure you protect your own time and can get everything done in the day. I have set hours that I work and that is when I get my work done, and the other time is free / family time.
Chris: I’m lucky I can walk to work, my office and be here alone to work. I don’t set out strict times. Mine is very much based on tasks, which works well for me.
I commit certain time to my family which I ensure I do and I don’t miss anything. I have an agreement with my life that outside of those things, at the moment I need to focus on my task list and the business currently.
You need to prioritise your own time and what works for you.
Jenny: Tasks dictate how long the day is but I do block out time for the family and whichever way I work can fluctuate.
When my kids come home from school, if I haven’t finished my tasks I do pause my task to spend time with my kids, same as school assemblies, i’ll pause what I’m doing to go to it. That's the benefit of running a business, you take on the risk but you do have the option to make those kinds of choices.
Social Media / Tab Restrictions
Shut down all unnecessary tabs, stay off all social media, turn off Basecamp notifications ( communication and reporting software that we use) to avoid unnecessary distractions to ensure you can give the task you're working on your full attention.
Organised office space is the easiest. When you don’t normally work from home setting up a makeshift office is hard. A room where you can shut the door on the rest of the house is preferable. Have everything you need around you, diary, laptop etc. Clean, organised and distraction free.
Amy: All decide pretty quickly where your reporting will take place, how often, when it will be.
Don’t plan meetings for no reason, if a meeting isn’t productive, informative or reporting, it’s not helping you achieve your weekly goals.
The level of communication needed to report on what you need. The businesses Chris and I work with don’t need communication every day, so it isn’t planned in for every day. If you're having a meeting, have a clear agenda, which can take time to produce but it ensures the meeting has a clear purpose and goal, not just a chat / a catch up with.
Ensure everyone knows why they are attending the meeting and what the point of it is.
Offices are quite social, I'm struggling without that element
Jenny: We planned a social - turn up if you want - cup of tea meeting for around lunch time to build team relationships and help have a general chat whilst all working remotely. Honestly, they didn’t work, most people didn't turn up as it wasn’t productive, it’s just slowing down the day. HOWEVER if you're a social person you may love it! The point of the meeting is to socialise and this can help your other key meeting sty on point and focused.
Voice Messaging instead of Phone Calls
Phone calls can be seen as intrusive but voice messaged can be listened to whenever.
Some like them, some don’t. You may not have an appropriate environment to open them and they can be seen as lazy.
We use Screencastify to make short videos where you can share your screen at the same time. They can watch it at their leisure and can see what is happening and what I’m looking at on the screen, whilst hearing the tone of your voice.
It also protects their time as they can watch and process it in their own time and re watch the video if needs be.
You need to communicate to people as they want to be communicated to, not how you want to communicate.
Shower and get dressed as if you’re going to work. Have breakfast / coffee/ have a walk, whatever your morning routine is. Then get “unready from the day” as a way to switch off.
If you're using an old laptop with a broken microphone and background noise, you don’t have the right equipment for a remote meeting or to be productive for the day.