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9 Hacks for Getting the Most Out of Each Self-Employed Workday

9 Hacks for Getting the Most Out of Each Self-Employed Workday

Whether you work from home or have a thriving startup, there are many additional challenges that self-employed individuals face during a workday. For example, being your own boss means that you must keep yourself motivated at all times. To help you with this process, here are 9 hacks that can make each workday more productive.

1. Firmly Structure Your Day

As previously mentioned, remaining motivated can be very difficult for self-employed individuals. To help combat this problem, it is best to firmly structure each workday. Not only will this make it easier to hold yourself accountable but it will also make it possible to more accurately measure your productivity. As an added bonus, you will remove the anxiety of being unsure of what to expect throughout your day. By structuring everything, including when you will have phone meetings with clients or investors, you can feel more in control.

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2. Use Project Management Software to Track Everything

Some self-employed entrepreneurs believe that project management software is only practical for a large business, but this is absolutely not true. In fact, even creative individuals have begun turning to software to help them manage each of their projects. The advantage of taking this approach is that you will be able to easily track every aspect of your projects in one comprehensive dashboard. Some developers, including WorkFlowMax, have even begun adding integration options with dozens of popular add-ons such as Google Drive.

3. Block out Distractions with White Noise

Studies have shown that using ambient noise can increase creativity, so it is a good idea to invest in a quality white noise machine or app. However, you need to ensure that you choose a white noise that is pleasing to your ears instead of distracting. Some experts recommend using the Thunderspace or Ambiance app, but it may work better in the office to invest in a white noise machine that you can place inside or outside your door.

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4. Take Exercise Breaks

According to Harvard Health Publications, exercising on a regular basis will improve your mental sharpness, ability to concentrate and memory retention. Additionally, cortisol levels decline during the immediate aftermath of exercise, and this typically makes people feel less stressed. Therefore, taking a few 5-10 minute exercise breaks during your workday is a great way to make you healthier while simultaneously boosting your productivity.

5. Put a Social Media Blocker in Place

The average American spends 1.72 hours per day on social media sites, and much of this time happens while they are at work. To reduce this large amount of wasted time, you can install a social media blocker such as Work Mode  to help yourself resist the urge to check your Facebook news feed when you should be doing something more productive. Of course, you will need to turn the blocker off when you are using social media for legitimate work related reasons, but that’s another good reason to structure each day. For example, if you spend 30 minutes working on social selling each morning, you can turn the social media blocker on for the rest of the day afterwards.

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6. Give Yourself a Weekend

Are you tempted to work six or even seven days a week in the quest to get ahead? Doing this might seem like a good idea, but it’s actually going to reduce your overall productivity and creativity. The reality is that the human brain and body must have regular breaks in order to recharge, so you should give yourself two days off every week. Studies have also found productivity increases in workers who take a 30 minute exercise break during their workday, even though this reduces their work time by 6.25 percent. Another perk of giving yourself a weekend is that you can get personal tasks done on your off time instead of attempting to combine your professional and personal lives.

7. Carefully Choose Work Assignments

Do you have a client who is overly demanding and always trying to get something for nothing? Working with these individuals or other businesses may initially seem like a good idea because you want to boost your numbers, but the truth is that they will end up costing you more in lost opportunities and morale. With this in mind, it is best to carefully consider each work assignment or new client and give yourself permission to say no when necessary.

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8. Create an Environment that is Conducive to Work

Regardless of whether you have an office or work out of your home, it is vital to create an environment that will help you stay on task. Make sure you keep your daily supplies easily accessible, and place distractions out of view. A workplace productivity study determined that having a private and quiet work-space can make a worker 10 times more productive than their peers who deal with noise and a lack of privacy. This highlights just how important it is to build the right work-space to meet your specific needs.

9. Set a Start and Quit Time Each Day

Self-employed individuals are often looser with their hours, but this is not conducive to getting the most out of every day. Instead, part of your daily structure should include a specific start and end time. Sticking to these guidelines will keep your structure in place, and it will guarantee that you do not work too many hours per day. You will also find yourself being more productive when you need to hit deadlines within a predetermined time frame instead of giving yourself an open-ended quitting time.

By following these basic guidelines, you can achieve a higher level of productivity during each day without sacrificing your personal life. You can also take advantage of several bio-hacks to put your mind and body in the best possible state for remaining productive throughout the workday.

Featured photo credit: Victor Hanacek, Picjumbo via picjumbo.com

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Last Updated on December 5, 2018

How to Lead a Team More Effectively and Be a True Leader at Work

How to Lead a Team More Effectively and Be a True Leader at Work

Being an efficient manager and a charismatic boss at the same time can seem like an impossible task. Is there a way to deliver the desired results for your business while remaining liked and respected by your staff?

We all know bad examples of team leaders who seem to fail at one aspect or the other, or even at both. But we’ve also heard of awesome managers who seem to juggle both things well enough.

How do they do it?

By sticking to few proven ways that let them maintain a positive karma score while remaining efficient. In this article, we’ll guide you through 11 smart management tips on how to lead a team and become something more than a boss – a leader.

1. Find a Management Strategy and Stick to It

There’s nothing worse than a boss that keeps changing his or her opinions and assignments depending on their mood or a book they read this week. Chaotic decisions increase the insecurity and frustration of your team, so you better find your strategy and stick to it.

If you do find some new methods you want your staff to follow, make sure they don’t contradict the general direction you are taking. Otherwise, you risk making your team take one step forward and two steps back.

2. Set Goals​ and Track Progress in Reaching Them

Set individual and collective goals​ for your team and track the progress in reaching them. This might sound obvious at first, but too often we find ourselves stuck between daily customer requests and monthly reports, and the bigger goal or vision seems to fade away.

According to Elon Musk (and many other successful CEOs around the Globe), it’s crucial to have a clear and motivating aim to where the company is heading. His aim for the space transportation company SpaceX is “to make humankind a multi-planetary species”.[1] That’s a huge goal but the company is slowly moving closer to it by reaching smaller steps and milestones, like launching self-landing rockets. This is also a very inspiring and meaningful goal that helps employees endure the company’s extremely high expectations and 60 to 70-hour work weeks.[2]

Even if your goals are not as grand, setting and reaching milestones will give you a clear insight into the team’s overall efficiency and daily progress. With time, you will be able to see the weak spots and improve your results.​

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3. Demand Learning from Your Team

CEO of print on demand startup Printful, Davis Siksnans, believes that:[3]

“The key for a company going through rapid growth is to empower your employees’ self-development.”

His company with 500 employees spanning two continents demands a culture of learning and provides all the tools necessary to do it.

Their idea is –  as the company scales, people have to grow in their positions too, which means that they have to be constantly learning. Siksnans says:

“We try to hire people for what they might become, but they need to have that drive.“

Alternatively, you can provide educational courses for your employees or invite informal lecturers to educate and inspire your team. You can also encourage peer-to-peer learning by asking employees to teach their particular experience or skill to co-workers.

4. Invest in a Pleasant Work Environment

Studies show that a well-designed office environment can increase your team’s overall performance by as much as 20%. You’ll be surprised to see that even very small interior tweaks that don’t require major investments can improve your workers’ performance.

Some ideas for a more productive and pleasing work environment:

  • Invest in modern furniture – offer ergonomic chairs, standing desks, and individually arranged workplaces​.
  • Start an in-house library – reading for pleasure just 30 minutes a day is proven to be enough to become more effective at work,[4] improve focus, and deal with problems like depression and anxiety.​
  • Play jazzy office music – rhythmic background music will help workers feel more energetic and enthusiastic while doing everyday tasks.​
  • Set up entertainment or break rooms – being able to relax and have fun at work creates a strong commitment, helps employees relax and clear their minds, and boosts productivity.​
  • Bring in uplifting office decor – it’s been found that art in the workplace can boost productivity,[5] lower stress, and even encourage employees to innovate.​
  • Decorate the office with live plants for freshness and a welcoming feel. Furthermore, plants are found to ensure better air quality and increase workers’ productivity by 15%.[6]

5. Be Kind and Sincere to Your Team

Did you know that 50% of employees quit because they dislike working with their manager?[7] In fact, most times when people leave their jobs they actually leave their managers. Being friendly and sincere may not be enough to be a successful manager, but it’s a big part of it.

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Some ways to show you appreciate and care for your staff:

  • Celebrate the progress and achievements of your employees. And don’t be shy to simply say thanks.​
  • Talk to your employees regularly and really listen to what they have to say. Address their concerns, help them reach their goals and do your best to improve their work and daily life.
  • If you’re having a bad day, don’t pour out your stress and anger on the staff. Instead, try to recharge yourself by appreciating the achievements of your team and setting the next goals.
  • Try not to overload your team with work. Every company has rush periods when it’s okay to have more work than usual. But remember that people cannot work under prolonged pressure and stress.
  • Don’t be selfish – it can be very demotivating to see that the manager only focuses on what you can do for him and doesn’t care about your goals and well-being.​ As the CEO of Xerox Anne M. Mulcahy put it,[8]

    “Employees who believe that management is concerned about them as a whole person — not just an employee — are more productive, more satisfied, more fulfilled.”

Whenever you are having doubts about your kind attitude, remember – satisfied employees are productive employees which lead to satisfied customers and eventually – success for your company.

6. Offer Flexible Work Hours

The traditional Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 job is beginning to slip away. Increasingly more people are working remotely or having flexible work hours, and we can expect this trend to continue. To adapt to these changing habits and remain competitive in the labor market, more employers are offering the chance to choose your own work hours, work from home or even from another city or country.

Offering flexible hours is a powerful way to inspire your existing staff and give them intrinsic motivation. Why not let your employees choose their preferred working hours while keeping the 8-hour day? For example, night owls are unhappy and unproductive if they have to come to work before 10 AM, while others might prefer to start at 7 and finish earlier.

You can go even farther and hire remote workers – this way you’ll be able to recruit from a global talent pool and even save money on office expenses like desks, stationery, electricity, etc.[9]

7. Track Your Team’s Productive Time

Not monitoring your employees’ progress and efficiency can result in poor performance and slacking. Instead of letting things go with the flow, you should consider installing time-tracking software on your employees’ computers and see who’s doing great and who might need a productivity boost.

But don’t get it wrong – there’s no need to become big brother and watch every step your employees take. If you use the time-tracker as a spying tool, you will only see increasing suspicion and insecurity around you, and your employees’ happiness levels will drop.

On the contrary, choose software that allows employees to mark private time that won’t be tracked. In addition, consider these time-management tactics:

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  • Allow flexible work hours. (see Tip No 6)
  • Encourage breaks – studies show that employees who take regular breaks are more productive than those who don’t.[10]
  • Enable remote work to show your employees that you trust them and that they can work from home or even from another country (if they can maintain sufficient productivity).
  • Consider offering bonuses to your most productive employees (those who show productivity levels above 90 or 95%).

8. Use Only Constructive Criticism

Constructive criticism means offering valid and rational opinions about the work of others, involving both positive comments and remarks about what should be improved. Constructive criticism is usually expressed in a friendly manner rather than an oppositional one.

When you evaluate your team’s work, give them feedback that’s helpful, specific, and sincere. Don’t be shy to praise, but also be direct and even strict when necessary.

9. Don’t Give Special Treatment to Yourself

The boss’s actions are – directly or indirectly – observed by your team. This means that your employees look up to you and often mimic your attitude towards your work and the company – especially if your actions don’t show commitment. Nobody wants to work for a leader who doesn’t go all in or inspire motivation.

What you should do is lead by example. If you expect your employees to arrive at work on time and work 8 hours, do the same yourself. If you want them to show initiative, show it yourself and encourage others to do the same.

Jeff Weiner is the CEO of LinkedIn – a company of 3,000 employees that consistently ranks as one of the best workplaces with a 92 percent employee-approval rating.[11] Weiner’s workdays are reported to be equally long or even longer than those of his employees, allowing him to stay “extremely credible as a leader.”

10. Empower Your Employees

Here’s a common mistake many managers make:

They don’t motivate their staff and assume they simply love to work for their company.​ Such belief can result in painful losses for the company – especially these days when many companies are in desperate need of a reliable workforce.

Instead of directly thinking about bonuses and perks, consider intrinsic motivation. For example, enable flat organization in your team and listen to your employees’ ideas when they come up with opinions and suggestions. Your company might actually benefit a great deal from the feedback, and the unique ideas employees come up with.

You can also start an initiative where employees can freely share or pitch their business ideas to you or the founders of the company. If the idea is accepted by the management, the project can be developed, and the employee can have equity options.

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If people feel they have an impact in the company, they become more motivated, engaged and interested in the company’s growth.

11. Nurture Your Company Culture

Company culture is the personality of a company that defines the overall work environment and relationships between teammates. It also includes company mission, values, ethics, and goals.

Some examples of company cultures are the Horizontal corporate culture (collaborative and equal; popular among startups and free-spirited businesses) and Conventional corporate culture (a more risk-averse and hierarchy-based approach common in traditional companies).

However, you don’t have to stick to pre-existing boxes when creating your corporate culture. You might think of your team as a family, a sports team, or even a hippie camp if it fits your business and purpose. But keep in mind that by the time a company’s size reaches 20 employees, the company culture is set,[12] and any changes will need to be implemented in smaller teams.

Whichever personality you choose for your company, make sure to live by it and nurture it. Some things that might help:

Team building events, relevant books in your office library and proper on-boarding for the new employees to get everyone on the same page from the very beginning.

Be a Leader, Not a Boss

Using the words of Printful’s CEO Davis Siksnans, the ultimate goal is to “Hire great people who don’t have to be managed.”

However, when you do need to demonstrate some initiative and control, act as a leader rather than as a boss.

In other words, don’t be afraid to show the personality behind your role. And keep these 11 tips close to your heart.

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

Reference

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