🖊 This article was last updated on October 3, 2019
Many equate remote work with living a dream life–working anytime and anywhere, on projects and with clients you’ve chosen yourself.
But as a popular quote goes: “With great power comes great responsibility.” In the case of remote work, well, that power to run our own show also implies that we are solely responsible for our success. How we manage our time, navigate the challenges of remote work, and grow our careers are entirely on us.
Below are my best remote work tips to help you succeed as a solopreneur.
1. Create a schedule and stick to it.
Identify your personal prime time of productivity. Some of us work best in the morning, while others focus better at night. The saying that “the early bird catches the worm” isn’t always true. So if you’re not an early morning person, don’t force yourself to get down to work at dawn–a groggy bird won’t catch any worm.
Once you know your peak hours, decide on your daily schedule and stick to it. Here’s why:
First, it helps create a new habit. Your mind and body are conditioned to work during these hours. By forming this habit, you minimize the internal resistance you may feel whenever you’re about to work.
Second, it helps you manage other people’s expectations. If you’re a parent, your kids will eventually learn when you’re on “Do Not Disturb” mode and when it’s playtime. The people you work with–from clients, suppliers, co-workers–will know when they can talk to you or expect a reply from you.
Third, you rely less on feeling motivated. Instead of waiting (in vain) for inspiration to find you (or bewitch you) every day, you tell yourself: “Dear motivation, I’d love it if you can join me today. But if you don’t come by [insert the hour you start working], I’ll start being productive anyway.”
Fourth, it helps you set limits on how many hours you work. Yes, remote workers occasionally plow through sleepless nights and long work hours. But doing so regularly is a recipe for entrepreneurial burnout.
Observe how many hours you can effectively work each day. After your work hours, unplug physically and mentally from your tasks.
2. Minimize, if not eliminate, distractions.
Apps and gadgets have become more and more habit-forming by design. We impulsively check our phones multiple times each hour. This prevents us from doing what Cal Newport calls deep work, “the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task.”
Instead of relying on sheer willpower to keep yourself from checking social media, you can try some simple solutions:
- Put your phone on silent mode and out of your reach.
- Close browser tabs not related to your priority tasks. (yes that includes your email as well)
- Set a specific time for responding to emails and messages.
Sometimes, the distractions are in our heads. We remember something we need to buy, or an idea for another project pops up. List them down on a piece of paper or type them on your computer. Parking them somewhere will help free up your mind so you can laser-focus on the task at hand.
You can also use music to block the noise around you. Choose tracks that can help you get into the flow state. In my case, brain music tracks help me focus faster. If you’re up for it, look for tracks online or try sites like Brain.fm free of charge.
3. Know how much time you need to complete tasks.
Avoid overcommitting or taking on simultaneous projects unless you have a plan on how to get them done. It’s tempting to say yes to everything, but keep in mind that you have a reputation to nurture. To be able to get and keep repeat clients, you need to be reliable.
Also, refrain from allocating too much time to finish a task. Remember Parkinson’s Law: Work expands to fill the time allotted for its completion.
If you’re not sure how long it takes to complete a task, start tracking your time for each project. You can either list this manually or use an app like Toggl that lets you track work hours online and offline.
4. Choose projects wisely.
As you get better at managing your schedule, you will have more free time on your hands. It’s tempting to take in the next client that comes along but…
Remember that time and energy are more valuable than money. So be clear about your ideal clients and projects, and work arrangements you can or cannot commit to.
For example, you may love a proposed project but it will require you to work on weekends. Is this something you can do? What are the possible opportunity costs? Do you feel it’s a risk worth taking?
As author and sports agent Molly Fletcher advised: “Don’t make the mistake that any deal is better than no deal.”
5. Remote work and solopreneurship don’t mean you have to go it alone all the time.
Solopreneurs wear many hats, but that doesn’t mean you can’t hire an extra pair of hands. See if it’s time to delegate some tasks so you can focus on higher-value assignments.
If you want to improve your business, why not look for an expert and hire him/her as a consultant? If you want to polish your skills, invest in yourself by joining online courses, enrolling in local workshops, or attending mastermind events.
Expand your knowledge and your network. Join communities and business support groups. But go beyond work and find time to pursue activities you love–volunteer at an animal shelter or join sports, dance, art, or language classes.
Your work days don’t need to be intolerably lonely. Keep engaging with the world–both online and offline. Share what you know and allow yourself to learn from others too.
6. Celebrate your wins
As solopreneurs, it’s important to celebrate our wins–both the big wins (ex., publishing your book) and small wins (ex., completing a chapter or section of your book). It keeps us motivated to reach for our next goal. It also keeps us grateful for how far we’ve come.
Speaker and author Lisa Nichols explains how celebrating ourselves help propel us forward: “Success happens when you’re consistent, meaning you do it, you celebrate it, you do it again, you celebrate it, you do it again. All of a sudden, you see consistent results.”
Creating Habits That Protect Your Freedom
If you love unstructured days, the tips above might feel constricting at first.
I hear you. But consider this: constantly feeling rushed, compromising work quality, losing sleep, or even skipping meals and nights out to beat deadlines–this isn’t what freedom looks like.
By building new habits and structuring your day, you can work calmly and deliver outputs ahead of time. This frees you up to acquire a new client or two, exceed your target income, or have longer quality hours for yourself, the activities you love, and the people you cherish.