What’s the easiest way to eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
As an entrepreneur who doesn’t work in a corporate office, I’m constantly looking for things to improve my daily routine. Despite what many 9-to-5 type people think, working from home all day can be harder/more stressful than driving to someone else’s office if one is not careful about how they go about each day. The reason for this is simple: with no one else holding me accountable for my daily workload, I have to create my own incentive to get things done. This isn’t just because the daily tasks are what keeps the businesses blood pumping, but rather because if the daily, weekly, & monthly tasks are not completed one can never find time to work on the business as opposed to in the business. If we don’t have time to work on our business from a macro prospective, it can be very hard to grow, improve and even survive in the long-term.
I am a big fan of creating and improving upon process & procedures on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. I utilize weekly and monthly task lists to break my workload down to simple daily tasks. Being my own boss, I still have room to change-up my schedule as needed, but in general I find that I’m much more productive if I stick to my routine.
The power of positive distractions
A huge part of working as efficiently as possible is creating positive distractions. Despite how counter-intuitive it sounds, my 10+ years of working from anywhere on earth have proven this concept to me time and time again. Sometimes as entrepreneurs we think we are invincible or we convince ourselves that if we aren’t working during every waking moment of every day, we are being lazy. The truth is that we are actually more efficient if we are smart about how and when we work and don’t work.
For example, I am simply not as productive on a daily basis if I try to attack my workload at 7am with a “head down” mentality of work until there’s no more work to do. I get burned out, I lose focus and end up being quite inefficient. To ensure I don’t get caught up in this vicious cycle, I introduce positive distractions into my day. Things such as planting seeds, background noise, & personal tasks are all positive ways I can step away from my businesses without losing efficiency or feeling guilty.
Despite being single with no children & only my Beagle to care for, there are still plenty of things to do to keep my apartment up to the standard I desire. Laundry doesn’t do itself. Dishes do not clean themselves. Floors do not sweep themselves. Dogs do not walk themselves (ok, dogs do actually walk on their own, but they also do this). These tasks are all things that any reasonable human can do for him or her self, and most of us are accustomed to doing these chores and many more. However, when working from home, I’ve found that I can work many of these tasks into my daily routine, breaking up my business workload while efficiently completing my personal objectives. I do this by planting seeds – that is I set something up early in my day so that I can complete it later when I want/need to step away from my business. An example would be putting in a load of laundry at 8am so that I can move it to the dryer or hanging rack during a scheduled 10am call. Folding laundry is one of my least favorite things, but if I am doing so while on a business (or personal) call it feels like it just folds itself as I’m concentrating on the call, not the folding.
Background noise can sometimes be welcomed, even wanted, as I work from task to task on any given day. Silence is golden in certain cases, but in general I prefer the chatter of Bloomberg News or a great album streaming on Spotify over being left alone with nothing but my thoughts all day every day. This isn’t to say I advocate sitting around watching TV all day – but rather finding a way to introduce some background noise into your environment. Often times my mind can begin to wonder if I’m sitting in a silent room for hours at a time, but if I’m streaming Keane over YouTube or working from an awesome coffee shop I actually focus on the task at hand better as my mind is not left to wonder.
Balance is one of life’s most important concepts. Too much or too little of the things that make us tick can have harsh effects on our business & personal lives. Finding ways to do things for myself that make me happy outside of my business is a crucial part of each and every day.
For years I found myself feeling guilty if I tried to play golf at noon on a Monday or if I talked on the phone with a friend for an hour in the middle of a workday. Now, however, I realize that not only should I not feel guilty about these things – I should actually be doing them more!
Working personal (non-business) items into my daily routine helps to both keep me happy and to help me work efficiently on my business as I’m fresher and more focused when I turn my attention back to work. Finding this perfect balance isn’t easy, but it’s not extremely hard either. You are the only one who knows your true business workload so you are the only one who should assess how much time you can devote to personal vs business tasks each day. Take an honest, open look at your workload and then actively try to balance your personal life into each work day. If you’re like me, every day is a work day so mastering this concept is a very important part of having a healthy work-life balance.
Working from home can be the best thing ever
Despite the downsides of working from home (or better yet, not working from an office), being your own boss can be (and should be) a very positive experience. There’s a reason that I choose to work for myself as opposed to going for the structure, stability, & guaranteed paycheck that comes with a job in corporate America and that reason is that when done properly, I know that I can be as efficient as possible in business and as happy as possible in life when working for myself. So can you.