This article will address a specific concern that came to my mind not long ago: how can I be more productive and deliver for my clients if I can’t be productive and deliver for myself or even the people I work with every day? especially during Coronavirus and of course, working remotely. With this premise in mind, I want to share with you some good habits to have when working from home that has made my life (and my team’s) way easier both in the past and at WEBITMD.
This is not your typical article about ‘setting up a place at home that feels nice and is quiet’. Nothing against those blogs and videos but frankly, there are tons of them out there and I want to seize the opportunity to go a little deeper on the way we work at home and even in a regular office situation. Some of the things I’m about to list may even sound a little obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many errors happen (and how frequently) when you don’t take an extra moment to contemplate these healthy habits I’m about to share with you.
1) Divide and Subdivide your Schedule
That way you can set realistic goals, schedule them, and allow yourself not only to deliver but even make it easier for you to over-deliver, if possible. What client or supervisor doesn’t like it when you not only come up with a job well done (and in time and form) but also, give a little extra? Organizing your personal virtual workspace in a way that you can have a smarter use of your time will be a double win: you gain peace of mind and enjoy your work while your client or supervisor gets the job done… and maybe even a plus!
I know every situation and industry is different, but for example, I tend to use certain days and timeframes to do specific jobs. I usually use the first hours of the day for meetings, then focus on clients and use the last few hours of my schedule to work on things related to my company (like this article!). After making my main schedule division, I create sub-divisions of each timeframe prioritizing what needs to be done earlier, their level of emergency, etc. (at this point, you need to use your own criteria).
2) Make Love, Not War, with Deadlines!
I know not many people like them but deadlines are your friends, not your enemies. If a deadline is not set beforehand, don’t be afraid to ask for them. I know that you may risk yourself hearing “yesterday” but if you’re dealing with professional people, they will very likely provide a reasonable delivery time… and even if the deadline you got is not reasonable, you can always negotiate it or even make it clear that you won’t be able to deliver at that time (he who warns is not scorned!).
This might be a risky move, especially if you’re a freelancer. But in my experience, this has definitely been more productive and fruitful. Overpromising and not being able to deliver is a sure way to burn yourself out and water down your deliverables.
3) Swift Communications
Especially nowadays that we can’t have our coworkers or bosses right next door, it is crucial to explain things in detail; whether it is a specific task or just an idea you are developing. I’m not saying you should write a bible, or get lost into way too many details. But you should definitely explain the nature of the topic you’re working on, and what are the options or alternatives you propose. This last trait is very important: if it’s in your power and you can contribute with solutions, do so! Your clients, coworkers, and superiors will definitely appreciate it.
This applies to tasks on your favorite project management platform, emails, and any form of internal and external communication. I’ve also found it very useful to:
- Set a clear title.
- Use short paragraphs (no more than 2, 3 sentences – as it makes it easier to read and thus, to follow).
- Start your communication with the topic or problem in question and then develop in the subsequent paragraphs.
- Propose alternatives or solutions, or provide an approximate deadline to get the task done.
- Clarify if you’re attaching a file or adding anything relevant (external link, etc) and if necessary, explain why.
The idea is for you to maximize your time by reducing the need for meetings as much as possible; especially when working from home. Still, there will be moments in which you have to brainstorm, discuss, and share words with your clients or team. Keeping these communications swift is also fundamental for a successful work from home experience.
So if you set up a meeting, make sure your application is properly linked to your calendar (and the other attendees’); send invites and corroborate they were accepted, add comments or reminders about the meeting or even use the title of the meeting as a way to know what it is: are you discussing a budget? Is this about a new client? Whatever the reason for the meeting, add it to the title of the event in your calendar. Also, take your time to set the right day and time for the meeting and that the attendees receive the right link to avoid any last-second confusion and the now-infamous “hey, the Zoom link is dead!”.
4) Make a Good Use of Project Management Software
Nowadays, there are plenty of tools you can use for free to make your workflow and your team’s easier. Asana, Trello, Basecamp, Monday, and many more. Keeping these spaces organized is crucial to maximizing time, track what’s being done (and what’s not), and basically strengthen the items I’ve detailed before.
One of the best ways to do this is to make sure everything is properly named: tasks, files, notes, etc.
For example, if you’re assigning a blog post for yourself don’t just upload the file and put “blog”. You may know exactly what it is about but first, you know now; you may not remember tomorrow or even in a few hours. And second, your coworker, boss, even your client; whoever you assign it to will very likely waste useful seconds (even minutes) trying to figure out what you were trying to do (yes, even if you talked about it in the meeting early today).
Part of this applies to the next (and last) bullet point on our list.
5) File and Link Sharing
Just like with the tasks you’re assigning to yourself and others, make sure that the files you’re sharing have a proper naming with a specific, clear pattern. For example, I like to use:
Name of the project_topic_what is it_date
The very same video file you’re watching in this blog was named following that criteria:
There is a reason behind this. It’s not only about staying organized or to make things look good. Imagine you need to find this very same document in a few months. You might remember what it was about, but it’s very likely you won’t remember where you left it and even less, how the file was named. So if you get used to having a pattern like the one I showed before, you will eventually save tons of time in a situation like this.
It is also good to take the extra second to make sure that whatever you’re sharing is accessible to other people. If you’re sharing a Google doc, it’s never over to click on Share and add the other person’s email. Something so simple, even basic, can save you tons of back and forth emails and frustration for both your clients/team members and yourself. If this is a recurring task, you can also set the whole Google Drive folder to be shareable; which extends the permission to the files within it. To do that, open the folder in which you place the files you want to share, right-click on its name and follow this pattern (as for August 2020):
Get shareable link – Anyone with the link-viewer/editor
Staying Productive while Keeping your Peace of Mind
As I mentioned earlier in the article, keeping healthy habits in a new setup like the one all of us are going through has one main goal: to keep your clients or team’s peace of mind as well as yours. As a digital marketing agency, we strive to deliver quality work not only for our clients but also, among ourselves. We’re a small team of young professionals that not only provides quality paid media, SEO, creative web development, sales enablement, etc. but also works really well internally. This is certainly reflected in our client’s satisfaction; even in these turbulent, bizarre times. And this article is partially a way to share what works for us with you.