Tuesday, 4 August 2015

11 Pieces of Advice for Avoiding Home Working Loneliness

I woke up this morning (after a wonderful and sunny week away in beautiful Devon with friends and family) to a dull, grey and windy (almost Autumnal) day. Yuck.

Working from home can be absolutely brilliant. It has been a great fit for my business and my family but it's no secret that home working can also be very isolating and often lonely. There's no office based banter. No conversations by the water cooler. No secret santa. Just you, the radio and your desk.

 Home working is certainly not for everyone but it CAN be a great fit for many people. This being said, and having talked to many other home workers, almost everyone can have some days where they feel isolated and alone.

This is perfectly normal but there are ways you can combat it...

These pieces of advice are perfect for helping to avoid any home working loneliness

Set your work area - This is HUGE. A turned on computer sitting in your 'non-work' space is hugely distracting. You just can't get away from it and getting away from it is really, really important. I'm not saying you can't sit down of an evening to get some work done but I am saying you need to have a set place to do that. Otherwise you will find yourself sitting at your computer 'just because it's there' when you should be spending time not working. Really important to have that time too.

Set your hours - If you can you really should set your work and non-work hours. This will give you the chance to escape from your desk and do something which is not work related. Very important for your mental well being. Again, i'm not saying you can't work outside these hours, if you were in a job and your work wasn't finished 9 times out of ten you'd stay late or come in early. That's fine to do when home working too but the temptation when home working is you're never done with it. You really need to set your boundaries and give yourself a break

Get away from your desk - during your 'downtime hours' try and make sure you get away from your desk. It's so easy when you're working away with no distractions to totally fly past lunch or a coffee break. You wouldn't do that (generally) in an office environment so don't do it at home. Your brain and your body need a break. I like to take my lunch into the garden for twenty minutes or into another room and read my book.

Get some fresh air / take some exercise - This one is another big deal. Get yourself out of the house and get some fresh air. This is a big thing for your mental health. Change of scenery, fresh air and a chance to not be stuck to the desk. I have a friend who swims for an hour every day during their lunch. I get to walk every day to go on the school run which helps to break up the day. I also like to find time to exercise of an evening once my husband is home. Fresh air and exercise is brilliant for your overall mental health and, if you are feeling a little low or isolated, a burst of exercise, fresh air and the subsequent released endorphins will do wonders for you.

Pick up the phone - If possible rather than sending an email I will pick up the phone. Contact and interaction with another person really helps to combat any loneliness. It's not the same as replying to an email and will make you feel connected with other people

Make a meeting - If you can meet people instead of emailing or phoning then try and do that where you can. I personally set myself an hour for a meeting otherwise the temptation is to spend longer with the person as you are enjoying the contact but this is not productive

Skype - Make the most of technology. Skype and others like it are brilliant for keeping in touch and a great tool for homeworkers. I use it to sit in on meetings and catch up with clients face to face. Brilliant to help break up the day and interact with people. Also important not to be 'faceless' to your clients.

Embrace social media - Loads and loads of self-employed home workers are active users of social media. Not only is it great for networking and learning but it is also great for staying connected with the outside world. Short interactions with other users throughout the day help you feel in touch with others and stop you feeling isolated.

Join Groups - whether networking groups such as the popular 4N or other sites such as Meet Up you can always find other people in the same situation as you which will also help to get you out and about but also help you to build your business and contacts at the same time.

Find like minded people - Whether you find them online through social media or through joining a group finding others who are in the same boat as you is key. You can use them a confidantes, sounding boards and, of course, friendship. You will have a great deal in common so use it!

Find self employed co-workers - There are all sorts of schemes now which allow home workers and self employed people to actually work together and share a workspace. Websites such as UK Jelly are perfect for this! Their website claims 'Our aim – to bring home workers, freelancers, small business owners and entrepreneurs together in a relaxed, informal, working environment to maximise creativity and minimise the isolation that being your own boss can bring!'

I'd say that is pretty much the ideal solution to banish those home working blues!

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Monday, 30 March 2015

Top tips for achieving 'Zero Inbox'

How to make your email work for you - Top tips for achieving 'Zero Inbox'
  • Do you spend most days hearing the relentless 'ping' of yet another email notification? 
  • Do pointless 'non-urgent' emails push the important ones out of sight on to page two?
  • Have you ever 'lost' an email and forgotten to reply?
If you have done any of these things you need to be working towards operating a 'Zero Inbox' policy.
Seriously, ZERO emails in your inbox at the end of each day. How good would that feel?

But how I hear you cry? Okay, i'm  not going to lie to you...if your inbox is in a state of flux it is not something which is going to be instantaneous.

You are going to have to put in the man hours to clear the backlog which will take probably a whole evening (or you could outsource this part to a Virtual Assistant to do for you *blatant plug) but once you do you can then take full control going forwards.

Once you have cleared your inbox, unsubscribed from those pesky emails you forgot you even subscribed to, replied to the urgent ones and filed or deleted the rest (If this sounds like hell then seriously just outsource it. It'll take a few hours for a VA to do it for you for at a minimum charge) you will be in a good place to begin Operation ZERO INBOX.

Here's how it works...

Get email organised with Folders & Files -
  • Your email should have a multitude of folders within it. Up to you how you use them. Personally each client of mine has a file (and sub-files if you want to get SUPER organised) and their emails (and all replies) get filed into those folders and out of the inbox.
  •  I also have a 'Personal' file so any personal mail or anything have subscribed to can be filed easily too. 
  • Once an email has been actioned it is moved out of my inbox into a named folder. The only time I have email in my Inbox is if it hasnt been actioned and hasnt been transferred onto my master Task List. Once it has been moved to the To Do list it can be filed. 
  • Not being faced with 100's of email can really help take the pressure off and help you to really focus
Set aside 'Email Hour' 
  • I always try to action all my emails in one go. Again it helps to focus on what I need to get done that day/week. Email can really affect your productivity as it is always there lurking in the background. Set aside that time then don't check again till later. If someone really needs you they have your number
Use your downtime wisely 
  • Instead of idly browsing on the internet looking at your favourite sites spend five minutes deleted or filing your emails if you know you can. You can do it in the queue at the supermarket or while you're sat waiting to pick up your children when you're being a parent taxi. Anytime when you might idly reach for your phone/tablet
  • Before you have period away from your business make sure everything you have to do is done or hand it over to others to deal with. Then put your Out Of Office on and don't keep checking. The next stage from this is... 
Out-of-office EXTRA 
  • I always put an extra day of Out-of-Office on when i've returned from a break. This really gives you breathing space to sit and spend the time tackling the inbox and getting back to zero.
Pick Up the phone!  
  •  Want to have less emails to deal with? Send less emails. There is sometimes no better way to save time than to pick up the phone. That email conversation turns into Email Ping Pong with 20 emails whizzing back and forth. 
  • Think of all that time spent writing emails when a five minute conversation would have sufficed? Think of all those replies which now need filing. 
Can't use the phone? Use a messenger service rather than email
  • Perhaps the person you need to speak to is abroad and it is expensive to call. If you want to Mhave an online chat rather than utilising a call then use a service such as Messenger or Whatsapp or any other messaging based service and avoid clogging up your inbox with further emails if an online chat would do the trick just as well.
Avoid Essays
  • Try and avoid sending long essays of email. You are not being rude if you keep email short but sweet. 
Use an app
  • If you don't think you can be relied upon to keep on top of your inbox you can use an app. App's such as Mailbox to help you run an empty inbox policy
So there you have it! Top tips for achieving a Zero Inbox. 

I promise it will revolutionise your life and make you MUCH more organised and much less stressed out.

 If you need more support with this then why not contact us, We would be more than happy to help!

Thanks for reading :)

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Make Monday the MOST PRODUCTIVE day of the week

Monday morning. Always a tough one. Emerging from our warm beds, following a nice weekend with family and friends and right back into the working world and the latest blast of cold weather.

I've had friends and ex-colleagues say it can take them till at least lunchtime to get back in to the swing of things workwise but there is research which says we are at our most productive on a Monday morning. Specifically at 10.10am.

So why waste that productivity? Yes it's cold outside and you've had a lovely time over the weekend making the most of that precious time but work can be equally fulfilling if you give it all you've got. Not much feels better than smashing a good day at work and achieving your goals and more. The sense of pride, that happy feeling when you achieve your goal. It's all good.

So let's forget that Monday morning feeling and make it the best day of the week. But how I hear you ask?

Here are some simple tips for smashing it on a Monday...

1/ Get a good nights sleep on Sunday - Simple right? Winding down on a Sunday and having a good night's sleep means you start the week on the right foot. This has EVERYTHING to do with your attitude and state of mind. Go to bed early, get up a bit earlier. You'll be amazed how positive you feel when you're mentally ready to go on a Monday

2/ Get prepared Sunday Night - Pack your bag, get the kids bags ready, sort your lunch, choose your outfit. Shower or bath, check if the car needs fuel. ANYTHING which you might need to think about before work get sorted Sunday. It will take half an hour! All you need to do on a Monday is dressed and get everything you've already prepared and leave the house. If you're not rushing about like a maniac Monday morning you will feel calm and prepared. It's all about your state of mind

3/ Eat a good breakfast - If you're prepared you should have time to make yourself a good, healthy breakfast. Eating a good breakfast will give you energy and not let you go to work hungry which affects our levels of concentration

4/ Don't check your email first thing - However tempted you are to check your email first thing...don't! Nothing you see on an email wont be able to wait for an hour until you've properly planned your day. Once you see an email you start to think about it and you're then not working to your own timetable but to that of the person who sent the email. You are in charge. Decide what needs to be done. Then read your emails and factor them in according to importance

5/ Don't play catch up. Okay so this actually really needs to start on a Friday. In order to have a great Monday you need to have a productive Friday. I know it's easy on a Friday afternoon, with one eye on the weekend, to take those tasks on the list and move them on to the Monday list. Don't do it! They'll only hang over you in the back of your mind the entire weekend and slow down your productivity on a Monday. You should start Monday's with a blank sheet of paper.

6/ Plan your Monday - Before you check your email, before meeting requests come in, before messages get put on your desk sit down and work out what needs to be done. Having your day set out in black in white is the best way to be productive. only then can you factor everything else in and have a real plan for the day/ week

Simple stuff but easy to achieve. Start the week as you mean to go on and the week will just keep getting better! Have a great Monday!