Remote Work Digest: August 25, 2018

The latest on all kinds of information, news, and resources that help you make working remotely better.

101 Time Management Tips to Boost Productivity Every Day | John Rampton, Entrepreneur.com

For most of us, time management and staying productive is a daily struggle. Sometimes that’s not the end of the world. But, if you don’t address this sooner then later, the things you were supposed to do today get pushed to tomorrow, then the next day. Eventually, you could end-up several weeks behind.

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Thankfully, you can prevent that from happening by using these 101 time management and productivity tips. Let’s start to gain yourself more time.

1. Just Breathe.
2. Measure twice, cut once.
My dad used to tell me, “Measure twice, cut once.” This is actually a famous proverb for anyone involved in carpentry or building since it advices to do things right the first time around.
3. Turn off the TV.
Instead of watching so much television, spend that time on higher-leverage tasks.
4. Eat the frog first.
“Your ‘frog’ is your biggest, most important task, the one you are most likely to procrastinate on if you don’t do something about it.”
5. Schedule according to energy.
By creating a schedule based around your energy you can create a routine that ensures your as productive as possible.
6. Wake-up earlier
This way you have the time to read, exercise, respond to emails, and plan out your day properly.
7. Keep a time diary.
By recording how you spend your time for a month or two, you’ll see where you’re wasting time and what influences productivity.
8. Make use of waiting time.
Let’s say you have a doctor’s appointment. Have something with you to do. This could be reading a book, catching up on correspondence, or writing your upcoming eBook.
9. Make a list and get it out of your head.
Don’t let everything you have to do swirl around in your head. Jot them done so that it clears your brain and prevents you from getting overwhelmed.
10. Think “half-time.”
For example, if you’re cooking dinner, make the twice the amount and freeze half of it. This way you’re not spending that time again preparing and cleaning your meal on another night.
11. Ditch commitments that waste your time, energy and attention.
12. Be decisive.
Make a decision, live with it, and move on.
13. Cross something off.
This keeps your to-do lists from getting out of control. It also prevents you from over committing.
14. Lighten your cleaning standards.
Obviously you want your home and office to be clean and organized. But, settling on “dirt removal” instead of “spotless” will definitely save you a ton of time and energy in the end.
15. Establish “maintenance days.”
Group your cleaning, laundry, and errands on specific days. This way they’re not lingering over your head when working on more pressing matters.
16. Schedule your work in batches.
Speaking of grouping, start batching similar tasks together.
17. Combine efforts.
This way you’re cutting down on the time spend going back and forth all day.
18. Learn keyboard shortcuts.
19. Shorten your emails.
20. Delegate or outsource.
Instead of doing tasks yourself, delegate or outsource them to someone else so that you can focus on more important tasks.
21. Automate repetitive tasks.
22. Schedule less.
23. Work hours a day.
It’s all about focusing on your most important tasks when you’re most productive.
24. Stop multitasking.
Focus on one task at a time. Train your brain to slow down a little. It’s like running, the more you train your body, the faster you’ll become.
25. Don’t beat yourself up.
What happens if you spend a Saturday morning binge-watching Stranger Things? Stop wasting your time feeling guilty about it. Sometimes that happens. Do your best not to make that a habit and move-on instead of living in the past.

To make the most of your time, here are tips for implementing a productivity system.

26. The “Pomodoro Technique.”
The “Pomodoro Technique” is where you use a timer and schedule short breaks, usually five minutes, after 25 minutes of focused work.
27. Seinfeld’s “Don’t break the chain” method.
Jerry Seinfeld would use a wall calendar and red marker to stay focused. He would cross out the days on the calendar when he wrote.
28. David Allen’s “two-minute rule.”
According to David Allen, author of the best-selling Getting Things Done, if a task takes under two-minutes to complete — do it now — so that it’s out of the way.
29. Break your day into five-minute slots like Elon Musk.
Doing so keeps him productive since it ensues that he stays on-track and doesn’t waste his time.
30. Jay Shirley’s “Must, Should Want Method.”
Every morning start your day by answering three questions: What must your do to create the most impact today? What should your do to build a better future? What do you want to do so that you can enjoy today and life more completely?
31. The Eisenhower Matrix
“Eisenhower’s strategy for taking action and organizing your tasks is simple. Using the decision matrix below, you will separate your actions based on four possibilities.
1. Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately).
2. Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later).
3. Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else).
4. Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate).”

32. Airplane days.
If you plan ahead and organize your work before you leave for the airport, you can increase productivity by accomplishing an enormous amount while you are in the air.
33. Follow your ultradian rhythms.
It can get pretty complex, but the idea is that you should concentrate when your energy levels are highest, but to rest when you feel drained.
34. The “big rocks system.”
If you start with “big rocks,” and then put in sand or smaller rocks, all the gaps and cracks will get filled.
35. “No Meetings Wednesdays.”
Other companies have this rule for other days of the week, but the idea is the same. As opposed to wasting your time in a meeting, you can focus on important individual tasks.
36. The “anti to-do-list.”
Instead of composing just a to-do list, create a to-done list where you write down everything you’ve already accomplished.
37. Sunday check-ins.

What brings this altogether is focus and attention. The following tips can be a big help.

38. Get your environment right.
Work in an environment that has your auditory sweet spot (some prefer silence, others like background), organized, comfortable, free of distractions, and comfortable.
39. Turn off notifications.
40. Plan for interruptions.
41. Shrink your mental deadlines.
By shrinking your mental deadline you’ll work faster, as well as improve your focus.
42. Make a procrastination list.
This is a list of high-leverage activities that you can chip away at whenever you’re procrastinating or have down time.
43. Create a stop doing list.
This is a list of those bad habits that waste your time or hinder your productivity.
44. Use Brainwave Entrainment.
Brainwave entrainment isn’t a new development. In fact, it’s a 100+ year old science that uses special tones and sounds to influence an individual’s brainwave patterns.
45. Focus@Will.
Focus@Will is an app that not only removes distractions, it also increases productivity.
46. Use a password manager.
47. Hack your vision.
Blue wavelengths from fluorescent lights and electronic devices can fatigue your eyes and accelerate eye aging. To combat this start by taking a couple of small steps like blinking more and reducing your exposure before bed.
48. Actively listen.
Active listening is when you all of your attention and focus is at the conversation at-hand.
49. Have a cut-off time.
Set a specific time to completely check-out from work so that you can avoid further exposure to blue light and recharge your batteries.

The foundation of our productivity is our health, so here are physical productivity tips to simplify getting and staying in shape.

50. Exercise.
51. Fuel-up wisely.
Avoid sugar, simple carbohydrates like pasta and bread, and junk food — they can give you a temporary energy high, but then you may crash.
52. Drink caffeine intelligently and stay hydrated.
53. Get 7-9 hours of sleep.
54. Skip the nightcap.
Drinking alcohol before bed prevents your from getting a quality night’s rest. If you do have an alcoholic beverage, have one several hours before your hit the hay.
55. Stop and smell…the lemons.
Research from Ohio State University found that sniffing lemon improved people’s moods and raised levels of norepinephrine, a brain chemical linked to executive decision-making and motivation.
56. Meditate.
57. Strike a power pose.
A ‘power pose’ actually can cause a burst of testosterone, that’s responsible for feelings of dominance.
58. Take a nap.
59. Set the right temperature.
60. Soak up the sun.
Natural light increases your energy levels, helps you focus, reduces stress, and assists in better sleep.
61. Smile!
Smiling makes you more productive because it boosts your immunity, makes your happier, handle stress better, and helps you focus on the big picture.
62. Bring your dog to work.
This isn’t a problem if you work from home, but what if you can’t bring your dog to work? Looking at pictures of animals can have similar effects.
63. Standing and walking meetings.
It’s not just better for your health, these types of meetings reduce distractions, promote collaboration, and saves time.

Success requires being equally fit physically and mentally. Try these mental productivity tips:

64. Have a plan.
Start by identifying a daily mantra, your short-term goal, and your long-term goal.
65. Take five.
This isn’t taking a five-minute break. It’s actually taking five minutes before any call or task to determine what you want to attain.
66. Develop a growth mindset.
67. Regularly review the past week.
68. Write in your happiness journal.
69. Get an easy win.
It’s a simple way to feel accomplished and build momentum for the rest of the day.
70. Learn to say ‘no’ effectively.
71. Find your groove.
A flow state is where you’re completely absorbed in what you’re doing at the moment. To get into this flow state, you should work on activities that are challenging, but also equal to the skills you possess.
72. Schedule breaks throughout the day.
“The best way to take breaks is to schedule them throughout your day. That way you can truly control the flow of work.”
73. Disconnect.
74. Rehearse situations.
75. Bargain with yourself.
“If you don’t want to do something, make a deal with yourself to do at least five minutes of it,” says Instagram founder Kevin Systrom. “After five minutes, you’ll end up doing the whole thing.”
76. Identify you keystone habits.
Examples include planning out your days, exercising, and having strong willpower.
77. Establish S.M.A.R.T. Goals.
Make sure your goals are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time based. This makes it easier to define and achieve them.
78. Stop tracking your progress on goals.
View your actions as evidence that you are committed to your goal” and remind yourself why you want to reach your goal.
79. Set “process goals.”
A process goal is what you actually need to achieve in order to achieve a larger goal. For example, if you want to increase sales by 25%, then your process goal would be to call 5 potential clients daily.
80. Anticipate obstacles.
This way you can have a contingency plan so that you can keep going forward no matter what.
81. Own your mistakes, then move on.
82. End your day on a high-note.
Ending your day on a high note encourages you to do the same the next day.

Success always is a team sport, so here are organization and prioritization tips:

83. Schedule your entire day.
84. Keep your desk clear.
When you have a cluttered desk that sends a visual cue to your brain that causes stress.
85. Use an online calendar and calendar tool.
With an online calendar you can access it from multiple devices, schedule meetings/appointments, set up reminders, block time, and set up recurring events.
86. Declutter your calendar.
Clear the clutter from your calendar by only adding priorities that are date-specific. Don’t fill it with minute activities or events that no longer fit into your lifestyle.
87. Consolidate your tools and apps.
Having too many of these tools and apps are counter-productive. Limit yourself to the essentials.
88. Share your calendar.
Share your calendar with clients and colleagues so that you can schedule productive meetings and be aware of deadlines without the back-and-forth emails. You can also share your calendar with your family so that they know where you are and that you can delegate household chores.
89. Set a maximum of three priority tasks per day.
90. Define three daily outcomes every morning.
91. Jot down “forgettables”.
What happens when something pops in your mind while you’re working on an important task? Have a pen and paper nearby so that you can jot it down. This gets the thought out of your head, without doing much damage to your flow.
92. Schedule buffer and travel time.
Don’t jump directly from task-to-task or meeting-to-meeting. You need time to recharge, refocus, and/or commute.
93. Break larger projects into bite-sized pieces.
94. Set deadlines.
95. Tap into the power of visualization.
“Mental practice can get you closer to where you want to be in life, and it can prepare you for success!,” writes AJ Adams, MAPP in Psychology Today.
96. Set-out visual reminders.
97. Find a mentor.
98. Enhance or develop skills.
99. Take one step at a time.
Baby steps. It’s probably one of the easiest and most powerful time management and productivity tips. Instead of focusing on the task, focus on what you’re doing now.
100. Don’t worry about perfection.
Stop worrying about something being “perfect.” It doesn’t exist. It’s only a figment of your imagination that can never become a reality.
101. Reward yourself.
It’s no secret that rewarding yourself when you’ve reached a goal or milestone is an effective way to keep you motivated and productive. The trick is being smart with your rewards.

 
Ask these 4 questions before hiring a remote worker | Alexis Bruemmer, Fastcompany.com

To reap the benefits, companies need to be prepared to adjust their systems and practices and set up remote workers for success. Asking these four questions before you hire a remote employee can go a long way.

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1. IS THIS POSITION WELL-SUITED TO REMOTE WORK?
If you’re hiring an office manager or administrator, they should probably be present in the office. You need to ask yourself this before you even start considering candidates–because if it turns out that being remote is a hindrance to their role, you’ll probably face expensive and time-consuming problems down the line.

2. CAN THIS CANDIDATE BE EFFECTIVE IN A REMOTE SETTING?
Not everyone can be a remote worker. For starters, someone who isn’t a proactive communicator or needs constant social interaction to thrive can really struggle in this kind of setup. When you’re evaluating candidates, you need to understand if their work habits fit the needs of a remote role. This is a little tricky, but having a consistent interview plan can make all the difference, mainly when hiring for a technical remote position.

3. HOW CAN I HOLD MY REMOTE TEAM (AND MYSELF) ACCOUNTABLE?
As a manager, I tend to share what’s happening at the leadership level during our daily standup, and as much as I can, I communicate how our team’s work ties back to larger strategic goals for the company.

You don’t necessarily have to use this method–but it’s vital that you have a single, shared system for tracking progress on team deliverables. That way, everyone is clear on what they need to accomplish, and they can have something to refer to anytime they’re unsure of their priorities.

4. HOW CAN I KEEP MY REMOTE TEAM MOTIVATED?
It’s a challenge for any manager to keep their team motivated, and remote work adds another layer of complexity to the mix. Loneliness is a huge problem among remote workers and the lack of in-office face time might also lead to higher anxiety around job security.

In addition to keeping your team on track, it’s equally crucial to keep them connected so you can combat those potentially negative feelings. I try to schedule planned face-to-face time at least three times a year with my remote team, and I put extra effort into recognizing and (visibly) rewarding great work. After all, saying “good job” while I pass them in the hallway isn’t an option for me.

7 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Working with a Virtual Assistant | Yoshitaka Shiotsu, Business2community.com

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Virtual assistants (VA) are remote office assistants. They provide administrative, clerical, and support services that can range from scheduling conference calls and sending invoices to more complex tasks regarding PR, marketing, and project management. Here are seven common mistakes to avoid when working with Vas.

1. Hiring for tasks instead of filling roles
When you hire people to perform tasks you’re not taking advantage of this phenomenal human trait. When outsourcing tasks, once each is complete you must then spend time to delegate a new one. When you hire someone to fill a role, he or she can be trained to perform all the tasks associated with that role, keeping management time to a minimum.

2. Micromanaging a VA
When you micromanage, you become an operational bottleneck within your organization. VAs are supposed to free up your time, but if you micromanage you’ll end up spending more time delegating specific tasks than you gain from their help.

3. Not Using a System
By creating clear step-by-step procedures for how certain tasks should be performed, you can remove the guesswork and confusion that usually prevent teams working under micromanagers from being proactive and productive.

4. Neglecting to define a clear role or scope
Make a list of the specific tasks—social media posts, booking travel arrangements, scheduling meetings, etc.—of the role you’d like to outsource. Create a picture of the responsibilities, skills, and experience required of that role. Clarify whether this is a long-term hire or a one-time gig. Transparency will save you headaches and unmet expectations in the future.

5. Thinking you can 100% set it and forget it
How else is your VA supposed to learn how to better meet your business needs? Fortunately, plenty of project management tools are out there to help you better manage your VA and other members of the team. There are even freelancer management systems especially geared toward helping you work with VAs and other remote freelancers.

6. Failing to build trust
Trust has to be built; it’s a two-way street. You have to first ascertain whether you’re actually ready to delegate responsibilities to a VA. Then you have to be able to screen your short list and judge intangibles such as personality fit and attitude. Consider using test projects in your hiring process to help you select the right VA for your team.

7. NOT REALIZING VAs ARE MORE THAN COSTS ON A SPREADSHEET

Yes, it’s important to factor in the cost of hiring a VA; budgets must be balanced. However, it’s even more important to remember that when you hire a VA you’re really investing in a person, a new member of the team who can help take your business to new heights. Congratulate your VA on his or her successes. Keep your criticisms constructive. The VA you bring onto the team today could grow into a full-fledged project manager tomorrow. Nurture your investments and they’ll pay dividends in the future.

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5 Signs You Desperately Need a Productivity Tool

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Image from Acclux.com

What does productivity mean to you? How do you manage to handle the tight deadlines and appointments that keep coming up? We are all terrible at maintaining a consistent level of productivity. You may find yourself juggling lots of responsibilities, workday spinning uncontrollably, feeling distracted, and simply procrastinating.

The best thing that can happen to anyone is being productive. In the words of Shawn Achor, “Happiness inspires productivity”. According to the Bureau of labor statistics, productivity in the business sector since 2007 has been consistently dropping.

We need productivity tools to streamline everything that needs to be done. How do you know if you need a tool?

Here are some signs that show you should start investing in a productivity tool to manage your productivity.

1. Your tasks are not running efficiently

There are some tasks of your job that are dull, repetitive and boring. You have to push yourself doing these tasks. When it comes to doing the work amazingly, you have to make sure you meet deadlines, reply to emails, and spend the right time in meetings. All of these things and more can be easily done, thanks to productivity software. If you don’t have productivity software and you are facing a steep fall in your efficient performance, it’s time to get one. You will be able to create tasks on your own efficiently and avoid an extra leg work on your already busy day!

2. No one knows what anyone else is doing

How do you know what you and your team is working on day in and day out? How do you know if they are overloaded or sitting idle browsing social media. It is required to have a quick glance over the workload to make the process of assigning tasks much simpler. If so, using a productivity tool will allow project managers to know who is working on which tasks, and if everyone is in loop. The tasks will be distributed equally, avoiding overloading and missing deadlines. In addition, it will also prevent employee burnout.

3. There are a lot of status-related questions

Often, it becomes frustrating for project managers to daily ask for updates on the status of the tasks. If you have to hold meetings just for checking the status of the project then you really need to get a software that displays the status of every ongoing and completed task. Everyone in the team, project manager and clients can have a quick look at the ongoing status of every task and know who is responsible for what. It saves a lot of time, effort and misunderstanding to have a check on which tasks are running late and who is not on track.

4. You are just cranking through

Today, more and more people are over occupied with various tasks that keeps them switching between tasks in order to complete faster. And in this process they lose focus and productivity. You get very little done and will mostly postpone doing some important things. This is why you need to have a project management tool where you can assign tasks based on priority to avoid multitasking. Whether working remotely or in the office, you will know when you need to focus.

Tip: Productivity tools come in a wide range of software to reduce the time you spend and increase the productivity.

5. You are using too many tools

There are countless number of tools coming up in the market, but it makes no sense to use more than one for your work. It just creates confusion and clutter. A project management tool will keep up all your needs of productivity, time tracking, maintaining a task list and everything you may need. Switch to one tool so you don’t waste your time hopping from one tool to other and get solutions at your fingertips.

Productivity is your duty

Pick a tool that fits your needs and you will be amazed to see the outcome when you combine productivity with technology. The true benefits of productivity tools will be visible the more you incorporate it into your workflow. Realize the full power of tool to make it possible for you to complete more projects in less time.

How do you increase your work efficiency without increasing your hours? Leave us a comment and let us know.

 

Vartika Kashyap is the Marketing Manager at ProofHub and has been one of the LinkedIn Top Voices in 2017. Her articles are inspired by office situations and work-related events. She likes to write about productivity, team building, work culture, leadership, entrepreneurship among others and contributing to a better workplace is what makes her click.