Have you ever seen the show Shark Tank? If you haven’t, it is a reality show that features various inventors and business owners pitching their businesses to a panel of entrepreneurs (sharks). The goal is to strike a deal that exchanges entrepreneurial funding for a percentage of the business.
Shark Tank is immensely popular, and when a plucky business owner strikes a deal with one of the sharks, the music swells and the audience is led to believe that this is the beginning of their success.
It makes me cringe.
I have been working as an entrepreneur in Los Angeles for more than twenty years. I have founded and sold a variety of businesses, and the companies I have developed currently exceeds $1.1 billion in valuations.
I have been fortunate to enjoy tremendous success, and in my experience, it is always better to grow a company without the interference of investors. Investment is not the way to launch your company into the stratosphere, despite what most people believe.
Once you accept funds from an investor, you are beholden to them.
Their ideas, desires, and financial considerations cannot be ignored. The moment you accept external funds, you relinquish control of your business. I firmly believe that start-ups will soon have more options for funding, but at the moment, I encourage entrepreneurs to chase success without the support of investors.
After all, bootstrapping is the American way. We need to stop seeing investment as the finish line and start seeing it as an albatross. If more people found ways to keep their start-ups independent, the creative minds that are responsible for these startups could retain control.
I have been starting and running businesses without investment for years, and I have developed a few key practices that have allowed me to avoid outside funding. Here are the six tips every business owner and entrepreneur needs to do in order to achieve success without external investment.
In recent years, businesses operating in the red have become trendy. Amazon famously spent more than they made for over a decade, but companies like Amazon are the exception, not the rule.
I see a lot of business owners overspend on office spaces, branding, marketing stunts, and corporate perks when they should be focused on creating a product or service that people will pay money for. Investor money tends to lull business owners into a false sense of security.
They think: Well I have all of this money, why not go on a golf weekend with my executives to inspire them? Instead, business owners should be using profits to inspire their executive team, not perks.
I see the generation of revenue as the turning point of a business.
Before your company actually starts making money, it is nothing but a foundation. Too many people get stuck on the foundation phase and forget to focus on the build of the actual house. They spend hundreds of thousands on a gorgeous website, rent a luxurious office space, and launch expensive marketing campaigns before ever selling a thing.
As a business owner, you are responsible for setting a profit-first culture. Get your executive leadership aligned on profit goals early, and reinforce them often. Remember that a company does not need a huge trade show installation, catered lunches, or celebrity endorsements to succeed.
All of those things can certainly help to grow a business, but the first stages of any company should consist of a strict strategy that focuses on bringing in more money than is spent.
If you are worried about this attitude creating dejection among your team, don’t be.
People respond to the culture you set up for them. Instead of handing your team perks before they deliver results, offer them perks as a reward for results. Instead of treating your team to lunch every Friday, only treat them to lunch when revenue goals have been met.
So many business owners have this backward. Prioritizing profits is the only way to achieve financial success without relying on external investors.
When most people think of business owners and entrepreneurs, they think of the fun and flashy side of things. They picture Richard Branson and other rockstar entrepreneurs enjoying the spoils of their good ideas and creative leadership.
The reality is that any given snapshot of a business owner’s life should see them pouring over spreadsheets, tracking every single dollar that their company spends.
This tip goes hand-in-hand with the first one on this list. Without a complete understanding of every expense your business is subject to, prioritizing profits becomes difficult if not impossible. Knowing your budget is absolutely vital. If you do not know how much you are spending, you cannot know how much you are making.
Nothing makes me crazier than when I see a budget presentation from a business owner who cannot speak to their entire spend. I like to ask these people things like: How much money does your company spend on coffee on a monthly basis? And What kind of per diem do you offer to employees who travel? How much travel do your employees do in any given month?
If they cannot tell me off the top of their heads what their current spend is, then I know that they do not fully understand their budget, and therefore cannot give me a confident answer about their profits.
Watch your dollars like a hawk!
If you want to grow a business without the interference of investors, then you need to watch your dollars like a hawk. When there is no stream of incoming investor money, it means that you are fully responsible for making and managing your own funds, and both your customers and your employees are relying on you to do it right.
There is no one to call for a bailout. You are the last line before bankruptcy, and you need to take that responsibility seriously.
Success is a game of inches. It does not happen overnight. You can obsess about your budget and prioritize profits all you want, but it is equally important to understand that money will not magically start rolling in. At the beginning of any business, the wins are small.
The goal should be to develop a steady stream of small wins that swell and grow into a massive over-all win. Every dollar of revenue, every sale, and every customer conversion should be celebrated since it contributes to a larger whole.
I said earlier that business owners set up a culture of profit prioritization. Similarly, they set up a culture of celebrating any and all wins so long as each win is understood to be in service of their profit prioritization.
Think of it this way, success on day one may be one customer conversion. Success on day 365 might be 200 customer conversions, but does that make a single customer conversion any less important? It does not, since your success on day 365 is actually made up of 200 small wins.
Incremental improvement is what success is.
It does not look the way most people expect it to since it happens gradually and over time. This fundamental misunderstanding of business success is why so many contestants on Shark Tank are thrilled when they get their investment. They think that a big sum of money equals success when in reality true and independent success happens gradually.
As a business owner, if you take a moment to celebrate each achievement as it comes in and reward your workforce for contributing to your bottom line, eventually your entire business will be a success.
Hard work is absolutely necessary for starting and running a successful business, but unnecessary work can mean the death of a small business.
When I was 13 years old I found work on a cattle farm at the California/Mexican border. It was grueling, dirty work (often in 115-degree heat), and I went home every day absolutely exhausted. One day, my boss approached me about a special project. He asked who I would like to select to help me. I chose the man who was the hardest working and most eager to help out. He never shied away from a task, and always did what was asked of him without complaint.
Shockingly, my boss told me that he believed the hard-working man to be the wrong choice, and gestured to a man who was literally sleeping in the dirt. He explained to me that lazy men were often creative thinkers, and pointed out several homespun inventions and pulley systems around the farm that made our job easier every day.
Up until that moment, I did not realize that the lazy man was actually responsible for these inventions. In his desire to avoid hard work, he had come up with creative solutions that made life easier for all of us.
Man hours are one of your most expensive resources.
That lesson has stuck with me ever since, and I have applied it to every company have I founded and run. Man hours are one of your most expensive resources. Do not waste time doing things manually when they can be automated. Always ask yourself and your team: Is there an easier way to do this? And always, always, always, choose the easier way. As a result, your team will be more efficient, your expenses will be lower, and everyone will come to work happy.
So many successful people claim that they have a “knack” for recognizing a good business opportunity, but the truth is that intuition is nothing more than years of experience at work.
When you are starting a business, you absolutely should not “go with your gut” because your perspective is limited. With every business I have ever started, I have built an airtight model that was designed to generate revenue, and I have lived and died by that model.
Throughout the course of business, people will come up with fun and flashy ideas. They will case study themselves and think: Well if I was the customer, this is what I would want to see. But the thing is, if an idea doesn’t fit the model, it simply is not worth exploring.
Don’t make guesses about your customers.
It is vital to put time and effort into understanding your consumer, build your strategy around that, and then put every new idea through that lens. Do not try to make guesses about what people may like or respond to. Perform tests, lean on what has already been successful, and never let someone’s intuition be the reason behind a major decision.
Foster Strong Relationships
The people you choose to surround yourself with have a massive influence on your life. Your friends, spouse, and business partners will all impact the way you think, the way you make decisions, and how you feel about yourself. It is supremely important to be discerning about who you let have your ear.
By extension, who you choose to form relationships with is incredibly important to success. Hard work is not enough. Knowing the right person can open doors that you didn’t even know were there.
I have found business partners, incredible team members, and tremendous exit opportunities through networking. I am ruthless about keeping my network tight and about only allowing in people with a positive influence, and in that way, I have fostered some fantastic and incredibly beneficial relationships.
Who do you know? Who knows you?
Hard work is only part of the equation. The other part is who you know and who knows you. If you only ever work with your head down, doors of opportunity will always remain closed.
When in Doubt, Don’t Take the Money
An investor flashing a check is incredibly appealing, but remember that all money comes with strings attached. It is possible to found and manage a successful business without venture capitalist funds. I have done it.
The sharks on Shark Tank are referred to that way for a reason. They are not your friends. They will keep you lean, hungry, and constantly chasing their goals instead of your own.
Before you find yourself on ABC celebrating a new burden disguised as an opportunity — try these six tactics and see if you can’t do it by yourself. You may be surprised by what you can accomplish.
Image Credit: karolina grabows; pexels
B2B Growth in the Light of Digital and 5G Era – Middle East Market – ReadWrite %
The telecommunication industry in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region grew moderately between 2010 and 2014. Increased revenues resulted in a 1.2% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) in 2014. The market flourished even when compared to the American and European telecom industries.
B2B Growth in the Light of Digital and 5G Era
Notably, most operators have invested in mainly the fiber and mobile markets (4G and 5G). The industry’s revenue is anticipated at 1.7% CAGR, which amounts to $7.1 billion. This rapid growth can be ensured by deploying innovative digital transformation and technologies.
The Telecommunication Industry in MENA Region
MENA Telecommunication market growth in B2B, especially in the context of their ongoing Digital Transformation and the preparation of 5G network and new services deployments.
The MENA Market Trends and Forecasting
By 2025’s end, the MENA region will mark its stellar achievements in the telecom sector. This will be done with digital revolutions and the integration of new technologies and services—the data provided below spells out the telecom industry’s potential milestones by 2025.
There were 375 million mobile users in the MENA region in 2017. This amounts to 64% of the total population. It is projected to increase to 69% (459 million unique mobile subscribers) by 2025.
Mobile Operator Revenues
The revenue generated from mobile users was $68 billion in 2017. Trends and forecasts show that this will become $78 billion by 2025. The operator capital expenditure (CAPEX) from 2018-2020 is $34 billion.
In 2017, smartphone connections were 49%. This percentage will be 74% by 2025’s end.
Telecom Market in the Digital Transformation Era
Evolving Core Telecom Market
- A great demand for data.
- The decline of voice revenue due to the high demand for over-the-top media services.
- A challenging regulatory environment.
Growth in digital services
- Growth in B2B (Business to Business) services such as IoT, cloud, cybersecurity, and megaprojects (E.g., smart cities).
- Growth in B2C (Business to Consumer) services such as digital across entertainment, digital lifestyle, and emerging services.
- Growth in areas like mobile financial services (MFS), digital advertising, and e-commerce.
- Deployment of new access technologies (E.g., 5G, Fiber, Edge, NB-IoT, LTE-M).
- Network virtualization and digitization of front-end and back-end.
- IT full-stack modernization and Exchange-to-Exchange (E2E) orchestration.
Changing Consumer Behaviors
- Demand for a seamless customer experience.
- Increasing demand for digital interactions across the customer journey.
- Evolution of enterprises powered by Industry 4.0.
Internal efficiencies and transformation
- Enhancement of efficiencies and agility with Robotic Process Automation (RPA), analytics, and AI.
- Optimization of operating models and process re-engineering.
- Culture change and talent acquisition/ re-skilling for new capabilities.
Industries that will be impacted by 5G
5G technology will ensure the efficient control of energy and power production. Furthermore, it will be used to process tower monitoring and remote transmission. It will also improve security.
Manufacturing 5G use cases are tied to the mission-critical concept of factory automation (the processes that must happen in extremely tight time frames to ensure revenue stability without any loss).
In this industry, 5G will also enable abilities like real-time production inspection and assembly line maintenance.
5G will facilitate remote telesurgery and patient monitoring. This will enable doctors to provide care from afar. The network could help augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) applications.
5G will improve smart cities’ prospects, including transportation, smart buildings, and smart metering.
Thanks to 5G, the emergence of vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) is growing faster than expected.
Enterprise concerns regarding 5G and Internet of Thing (IoT)
1. IoT Use and Cases
IoT is associated with a positive investment profile. It is a key driver of the fourth industrial revolution. However, a surprising number of enterprises are still unconvinced about it.
40% of enterprises cite poor understanding of its benefits and use cases as a concern, the joint-top answer. IoT’s game-changing potential may be lost if these basic concerns are not addressed.
2. Immature Strategy
While the 5G investment is set to catch up with IoT spending over the next two years, doubts surround its readiness and relevance. 34% fear that 5G is immature, while 32% believe it is not relevant to overall technology and business strategy.
This is instructive since Telecommunications, Media and Technology (TMT) providers position 5G as much more than just a better mobile connection. Findings suggest that 5G has yet to punch its weight as a driver of strategic change.
3. Security and OPS
Both 5G and IoT will give rise to a new horizon of connectivity endpoints. While this can help catalyze new value propositions and closer customer relationships, it may also open the door to new cyber threats. Tellingly, this ranks as the highest concern for both technologies.
Enterprises also struggle to see how both technologies integrate with legacy systems or function with other emerging technologies.
Select 5G use cases for enterprise and B2B
Here are the three main pillars in which 5G might affect the use cases for KSA:
- Mission-critical utilities –water active grid & energy active grid
Global electricity demand is growing at a tremendous pace. To manage this demand, new technological solutions such as smart grids and virtual power plants have emerged.
Virtual Power Plants (VPPs) are connected entities that optimize energy flow through the entire network. VPPs help owners gain maximum profit while keeping the electric network’s balance at the lowest cost available. Typically, they combine several types of resources.
Semi-Autonomous vehicles: Fully autonomous, self-driving cars may not be a reality just yet. However, semi-autonomous vehicles with intelligent driving systems installed by default will take to the highways in 2021. And by 2022, 100% of the new vehicles shipped by OEMs will have smart telematics and other connectivity systems.
New Solutions for vehicles: The greater state of connectivity will result in multiple new technological innovations and business models. These include new fleet management solutions, in-car payments and connected commerce, remote diagnostics and OTA updates, predictive maintenance, usage-based auto insurance, and more.
Smart Street Lights: A connected system that manages street light schedules, combined with LED lights, can decrease energy costs by up to 77%. This will generate a positive ROI in four years.
Connected CCTV Systems: They can streamline more data in real-time to ensure better monitoring of traffic conditions and public safety. For example, smart streetlights equipped with a video camera and/or gunshot detection sensors can deliver real-time information to officials so that they can respond faster.
Intelligent Parking: Smart parking stations can send 5G data about free parking spots and pricing straight to the driver’s onboard vehicle system. Such solutions can reduce traffic congestion by 8% and generate $93,700 in monthly revenue per parking space.
Connected Traffic Lights: New real-time traffic management systems can emerge and deliver a greater level of control over traffic flow in response to specific demand levels. The integration of 5G will allow for the creation and deployment of traffic strategies in response to real-time conditions like rush hour and congestions.
City managers could also use other strategies to prioritize public transport and optimize the overall traffic flow to reduce stop-start driving. This will reduce pollution.
How can 5G contribute to MENA operators?
1. Customized Pricing
Most providers offer multiple pricing plans with different data limits and other features. One plan might have low set-up fees and high overage charges, while a second offer the inverse.
When evaluating their options, most companies choose a standard plan rather than requesting a customized offering. This is because they lack insight into their connectivity needs and usage patterns.
Without this information, they often pay for unnecessary features, such as a data-volume allowance that far exceeds their requirements.
2. IoT Solutions
Solutions that are easy to adapt must be implemented. Real-time data analysis and the provision of rapid actions to changing needs will drive various sectors. Considering the MENA region and KSA landscape, smart cities, health care, and energy will be the leading sectors.
3. New Products & Services
With the enhancements of 5G, businesses will further change their working traditions. Virtual offices, holographic communications, and real-time live translations might easily become part of the new business environment and customer services. As Saudi is a service-oriented country, some of the new solutions could easily be monetized.
4. Smart Cities
Due to the government’s investments in improving the nation’s quality of life, there is vast potential in the adaptation of these services with a particular focus on security.
This article concludes that introducing the 5G network with digital reforms will create many opportunities for the MENA Region. It will assist investors and the telecom industry. Furthermore, it will lead to economic growth potent enough to enable the region to compete with the rest of the world.
Additional sources you may wish to read:
GSMA – The Mobile Economy Middle East and North Africa 2018
Ericsson, NGMN, TechRepublic, Tech Pro Research, ZDNet, CNET
TM forum Analysis, And Press Releases of Telco Op.
Additional Links on this Subject from ReadWrite:
- As Oil Flags, Middle Eastern Capital Flowing to IoT, Smart Cities
- Big Data in the Telecommunications Ecosystem
- Are Telecoms Being Overlooked in Smart City Deployments?
- Not Just Connectivity, Telecom Must Leverage the Most of IoT to Deliver Value-Based Services
Top Image Credit: jo kassis; pexels
The Link Between Diversity, Inclusion and the Use of Technology – ReadWrite
It’s not news that technology has become an important factor in almost every aspect of our lives. More people are getting rid of traditional satellite TV and moving to streaming services, Alexa letting us know when to water our plants, and the average person spending almost 3 hours and 30 minutes of their day just on their phone. It’s safe to say technology is an essential part of our day-to-day lives.
It isn’t just limited to entertainment and convenience in our personal lives either; many of us could not do our jobs without technology. Whether we’re graphic designers whose entire role exists within a computer, to supermarkets whose tills use complex software to keep the shop running.
The Link Between Diversity, Inclusion and the Use of Technology
Our lives revolve around technology in many ways, which raises the question of why the UK is falling behind in adopting newer technology such as AI and deep learning in the workplace?
What if diversity in the technology industry is a related factor in whether or not your business will fall behind.
What does diversity have to do with technology?
A criticism often given to technology is that its level of diversity and inclusivity fall behind many other industries.
The technology sector is currently expanding 3 times faster than the rest of the UK economy, but the diversity numbers fall beyond other areas. Gender diversity is estimated at just 19% in tech, and this is compared to 49% in other industries. When you get to higher-level executive roles within the tech industry, gender diversity falls to just 5% of women in senior positions.
From a business perspective, McKinsey’s Diversity Matters Report found companies with high diversity levels are 33% more likely to outperform competitors.
There are four types of diversity that can be found in the workplace.
- Internal – These are things individuals are born with that are difficult or impossible to change, such as ethnicity, age and gender.
- External – Refers to characteristics an individual is not born with, but are shaped by their experiences and circumstances such as education and appearance.
- Organizational – This refers to whether organizations have a wide variety of job functions, union affiliations and work locations.
- World View – Dealing with the experiences that shape how an individual views the world, such as their political leaning or cultural background.
When a company looks to create all four types of diversity, they create an inclusive environment where there is no status quo on how an employee should look, or be. Research shows employees who feel they work in an inclusive environment work harder and are more likely to tackle difficult tasks with a positive attitude due to their sense of purpose and loyalty.
These varied issues don’t just lead to a better work environment — they lead to a better product.
How does diversity create a better product?
Timnit Gebru, a Microsoft researcher and co-founder of Black in AI, says the lack of diversity will definitely affect the development of artificial intelligence and progress in computers:
“There is bias to what kinds of problems we think are important, what kinds of research we think are important, and where we think AI should go.
When problems don’t affect us, we don’t think they’re that important, and we might not even know what these problems are, because we’re not interacting with the people who are experiencing them.”
Gebru’s argument is that because there is a lack of diversity within technology, there is a lack of diversity in the technology it produces, especially when it comes to complex artificial intelligence.
When we look back at only 19% of tech workers being female and how Apple’s first promised “expanse” health app tracked blood alcohol but not menstruation cycles, you can understand why a more gender-diverse team may have seen this addressed before public release.
For many people, adopting new technology can be difficult because the technology is simply not built for them.
We’ve seen soap dispensers with sensors programmed to only recognize lighter skin tones that simply don’t register darker skin tones. Then there is voice recognition, with many examples of people having to fake southern English accents so that Alexa can actually understand requests and statements.
If the newer technology can’t recognize your voice — this creates an idea that technology is not designed with a diverse society in mind. Therefore, it can’t be used by a diverse society. Some of the voice programs have AI — so it’s just a matter of ML that will eventually get your voice tones — so keep trying to be understood!
A Microsoft report shows only half of UK employees use AI to work faster, compared to 69% of employees worldwide.
The demand for AI and deep-learning technology is not going to slow in demand anytime soon.
Industries increasingly see uses for it, not only to solve complex data problems but to predict customer behavior and habits. However, only 32% of UK employees actually feel their workplace is doing enough to prepare them for the growing necessary use of technology.
Technology relies on not just testing in developmental stages, but real-world applications to evolve and improve.
With the UK’s slow adoption rate of some technologies, it limits a technology company’s ability to fully realize the potential of some applications.
When you look at technology through the lens that it may not be made for you, and therefore may not work for you — it becomes easier to see why people have a negative bias towards it in some countries.
Is there any way diversity and technology can work together?
Part of why it’s important to be critical of technology is because it’s become so important to us, and we’ve seen the incredible work it can do with regards to diversity and inclusion.
One of the many ways technology can improve diversity and inclusion in the workplace is through dedicated diversity and inclusion technologies. 43% of D&I technologies are used for the purpose of talent acquisition, including candidate sourcing and selection, and the key to many of these technologies is artificial intelligence.
Artificial intelligence can help remove unconscious bias in recruiting throughout the entire hiring process.
AI has actually been used to write job postings, where it can write factual descriptions without leading statements or biased language that could be seen as exclusionary.
We’re also seeing AI being used in applicant screening, where it can be programmed to ignore demographics like race, age – all of which have been shown to give candidates an unfair disadvantage whilst applying for jobs.
Research shows applicants with “white-sounding” names have a 25% chance of being called for an interview, whereas applicants with “BAME-sounding” names only have a 10% chance of being invited to interview.
AI will screen CVs without registering this information instead of focusing on relevant skills, experience, and keyword matching to ensure it’s the best talent for being interviewed for roles.
Technology can also be used to improve existing problems in the workplace, not just focus on finding new talent. We’re seeing increased use of intelligent automation in employee benefits and compensation.
By combing through multiple sources, a cognitive bot can offer accurate insight into the compensation and benefits patterns across your organization, giving an unbiased view of gaps across your workforce and creating an even working environment.
Technology has its part to play
Compared to many industries, technology as we know it is an incredibly new industry. But, it’s important to note that while it still has a long way to go to become the diverse, inclusive space it needs to be to create the most cutting-edge technology, it is actively working towards this and helping support other industries in this pursuit.
The biggest takeaway is that technology is still a product of human design, which means it is not a completely unbiased creation.
If we want to create programs and tools that the wider workforce can adopt, it needs to be designed by groups that represent the wider workforce and can look from a variety of angles.
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5 Remote Working Tips for the Modern Workplace – ReadWrite
It’s not an exaggeration to say that the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has changed everything, including how we work. Many people have become remote employees, at least temporarily, for the first time in their careers.
While remote work has many benefits, it can be a difficult working arrangement to adjust to for some people — especially when other family members and/or roommates have been forced into quarantine at home. Home and work-life are constantly colliding.
We’re here to help and have created this brief guide with remote working tips to help you be as productive as possible during this new remote working era. Let’s dive in!
The Remote Working Era
Remote work has been growing in popularity for some time. In fact, in 2019 48% of U.S. workers worked remotely at least once per week. But since the COVID-19 outbreak, pretty much everyone has become a remote worker.
While the current circumstances are quite undesirable, remote work, in general, has numerous benefits — even as we all shelter in our homes and practice social distancing:
- Most employees are 22% more productive when working from home.
- The average person has 43% less meetings than they did before the pandemic.
- Most people have 2.5 more hours in their schedules than they did before COVID-19.
These are promising stats and proof that there is a silver lining, albeit a small one, to the current pandemic we’re all facing. We just have to take advantage of it.
5 Remote Working Tips for the Modern Workplace
Remote workers have the potential to be more productive than their in-office counterparts. But you have to follow a few tips, tricks, and best practices to reach this level of efficiency. Here are five remote working tips you can implement right now to become super productive during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.
1. Remove Distractions
Distraction is an ever-present concern, whether you’re working remotely or in-office. In fact, one in three millennials list chatty co-workers as their biggest distractions in the workplace. Now that we’re all working from home due to social distancing best practices, chatty co-workers are much less of a concern. But self-quarantined family members can make it hard to focus, too.
What’s the game plan? How can you concentrate on your work for solid stretches of time, even when the world around you seems intent on distracting you? We have a few suggestions:
- Lock Your Door: This is one of the most important things you can do to avoid distractions. Why does this work so well? Because you’re physically blocking distractions from entering your workspace. Your family members won’t be able to just burst in and ask you a million questions that take your mind away from the task at hand.
- Wear Headphones: We also recommend working with headphones on. Again, this is another way to block out distractions. If you can’t hear what’s going on in the room next to your home office, you won’t be tempted to postpone your work and engage with the commotion. Similarly, when your family and/or roommates see you in headphones, they’ll be much less likely to interrupt you unless absolutely necessary.
- Turn Off the TV: You know what really kills remote productivity? Netflix, Hulu, Disney+… The streaming networks are so convenient and will suck you in if you’re not careful. For most people, it makes more sense to never turn the TV on during work hours, that way they’re not tempted to watch “just one more episode!”
- Mute Your Notifications: If possible, turn off your phone and log out of your email while doing your most important work. A text or email, even if it’s job-related, is a distraction that will keep you from doing your best work. If you’re not willing to turn off your phone and log out of your email because you need to be reached in case of an emergency, try silencing your notifications so that you’re not breaking focus as often.
- Prioritize Deep Work: Deep work is a popular phrase that was originally coined by Cal Newport in his 2016 book of the same title. According to Newport, deep work is “the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task.” In other words, it’s the practice of setting aside time to focus on one (keyword, one) important task. By doing this, you naturally eliminate distractions.
If you follow these five quick tips, you’ll be able to quickly reduce distractions and focus on your work for longer stretches of time, guaranteed.
2. Keep a Standard Routine
It can be tempting when working remotely to wake up late, wear your pajamas all day, and start work whenever you feel like. You don’t have to commute to the office, so what’s the harm in a more relaxed schedule and work wardrobe? A lot actually…
Many experts encourage remote workers to keep a standard routine that’s very similar to the office schedule they’re accustomed to. Get up in the morning, take a shower, get dressed, etc.
For some folks, setting a standard routine is difficult when working from home. Without a standard time to clock-in, it’s too easy to base your day around how you feel in the moment. But this rarely leads to high levels of productivity.
Instead, follow these three tips to help you keep a standard routine:
- Know Yourself: When are you most productive? Some people work best in the morning, others excel in the midnight hours. Neither is right or wrong, they’re just different. The key is knowing how you work best and then planning your schedule around your natural tendencies and preferences.
- Have an Accountability Partner: Just because you work best in the morning, doesn’t mean you’ll automatically be excited to get up, get ready, and start working every morning. That’s why having an accountability partner can be so effective. If you know that your colleague is expecting you to check-in at a specific time before work, you’ll be more incentivized to get yourself out of bed on time.
- Reduce Meetings: We suggest scheduling company and team meetings for specific days only. Meetings are widely known to be incredibly unproductive for most organizations. But you can’t simply not meet. Instead, plan meetings for specific days and then give your team the autonomy to complete their work by the required deadlines.
- Have Fun! It can be easy to forget to have fun, but its important to help with mental health.
3. Use Calendar Blocking
Calendar blocking is the practice of blocking out time on one’s calendar to focus on specific tasks. Simple, right? Unfortunately, very few people actually do this consistently. Here are a few tips to help you properly calendar block:
- Prioritize: There are a million things you could do every day. But some projects and tasks will be more important than others. You need to prioritize these activities and make sure you block off enough time on your calendar to accomplish them.
- Eliminate: Look at your list of tasks and ask yourself, “What does not need to be on my calendar right now?” After you answer that question, cut any tasks (especially meetings!) that don’t fit your current schedule or aren’t one of your immediate top priorities.
- Prepare: You want to be ready to hit the ground running as soon as you begin working. This means starting the day with preparation is unproductive. Before you clock-out, decide what you’re going to work on and when the next day. Then block out time for each one of those tasks in your calendar.
- Review: There’s one final task you should accomplish before you shut down your computer and exit your home office: a daily review. How was your day? Did you achieve everything you planned to? Were you able to stick to your calendar? Now use these insights to plan an even better day for tomorrow.
4. Take Productivity Breaks
As the old saying goes, “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” While it may seem counterintuitive, breaks throughout the day will actually increase your productivity levels. They’ll also make your day more enjoyable, which is equally as important and worth mentioning.
But breaks can be tricky when working remotely for a couple of reasons.
- First: It’s easy to get so wrapped up in your work that you forget to stop for a quick breather. When working in a regular office, this is less of an issue because you’re usually able to see your colleagues take occasional breaks and are reminded to do the same.
- Second: Some remote workers are afraid to take breaks at home because it’s so easy to become distracted while doing so. What if your significant other has the TV on in the living room and you hear it when venturing to the kitchen for a snack? Do you have the willpower not to sit down and watch with them? Not everyone does. To combat this issue, use the techniques we outlined above in the “Remove Distractions” section.
It’s crucial that you don’t just try to take breaks, but you actually schedule time for them in your calendar. That’s right, use the calendar blacking strategy for breaks too!
If you’re wondering how to take a productive break, we have a couple of ideas for you:
- Go Outside: Enjoy the sun and listen to the birds. Sip a cup of coffee or tea while you’re out there or consider meditating if that’s your thing. Whatever you do, plan two or three times (at least) during the day that you can break from your work and reset in nature.
- Leave Your Work Zone: What if it’s raining and you can’t go outside? Simply go to another room or area of your home. This physical split from your normal work environment will help your brain “turn off” for a few minutes and rest.
- Play a Team Game: Get your colleagues involved in your break time and play a game with them while you all rest and rejuvenate. There are plenty of apps that will allow you and your remote teammates to play trivia, go on digital scavenger hunts, and more. To really up the ante, divvy out rewards for those who win the games!
Breaks, as crazy as it sounds, will definitely help you become more productive as you work remotely. Give them a try and see for yourself!
5. Manage Your Technology
Technology can be a great asset when it comes to productivity and time management. From communication tools to automation solutions, allow the various software applications available help you get more done in less time. Here are a few top options in this regard:
- CloudApp: CloudApp combines screen and webcam recording, GIF creation, and screenshot features into one solution that makes team collaboration between remote employees quick and easy. Why send a long-winded email when you can simply record yourself explaining your thoughts or an annotated image pinpointing your exact areas of concern?
- Calendar.com: Calendar is a popular calendar app used by industry heavyweights like Fox News, Forbes, and CNN. Your most precious asset is your time. This app helps you spend it wisely by allowing users to quickly schedule meetings and block off time for productive deep work. It also features AI and machine learning to tailor the Calendar experience to each user and detailed analytics so you can discover exactly how you’re spending your time and refocus your efforts when needed.
- Slack: In all likelihood, your organization has been using Slack for years. Now that your entire team is working remotely, it’s an even more valuable tool. If you’re not familiar with it, users can converse with each other via text, voice, and video chat; organize conversations into specific channels; and easily search past conversations with Slack’s handy searchable history feature.
- Zoom: Zoom has held the title of “most popular video conferencing app” for quite a while. But ever since the novel coronavirus pandemic began, usage of the tool has really exploded — with good reason. Zoom is a great way to connect with your team and host meetings. It also comes with some useful features including HD audio and video, meeting transcripts, and virtual backgrounds.
- PandaDoc: We all create, send, and sign documents regularly. PandaDoc will help you do it much more efficiently with its suite of time-saving features that include customizable templates, a drag and drop editor, esignature capability, convenient document storage, and integrations with other top tools.
- Google Docs: Many companies already use Google Docs to craft blog posts, proposals, and other written documents; then easily send them to each other. But if your organization doesn’t use the tool to collaborate on specific projects as well, it’s missing out. Google Docs is a quick and easy way to work with your team and get writing jobs done faster than ever before.
- Project Management Apps: Tools like Trello, Asana, and Airtable help keep teams on the same page and focusing on the right goals. They also allow colleagues to converse about projects, send important files to each other, and more. We suggest researching each of these three apps in greater detail (if you aren’t already using one of them) and choosing the tool that best fits your team’s needs.
At least a piece of the modern workplace is remote. These tips will help you to maximize your place in the future of work.
Top Image Credit: kelly fairytale; pexels