I didn't know how much I wanted to ride my bike through Times Square in NYC until I realized it might be impossible!
For our two-month stay in Manhattan I was going to rent a bike but when I saw the crazy rental prices at the hole-in-the-wall bike rental shop in Tribeca, I decided to buy one of those cool turquoise city bikes instead.
That bike was my favourite way to get around NYC.
We were close to central park so that was a natural place to ride around. Don't get me wrong, I did love the park but I wanted to go all over the place and check out the different neighbourhoods.
I was constantly plotting routes that were bike-friendly, from Harlem to Soho. There were so many options and I was trying different routes, to different places, at different times to find the best routes with the least amount of traffic. NYC was very bike friendly, if you knew where to go - and when!
Most days, I stayed on bike trails and paths (and stayed off the main streets) The traffic was CRAZY. (Like - I kept getting hemmed-in by taxis, unable to move type-of-crazy.)
I finally figured out the trick to easily ride right down Broadway and through Times Square - get your butt up early on Sunday mornings! From the upper west side right down to Times Square, and beyond, all the streets of Manhattan were bike-friendly on Sunday mornings.
I loved riding down any street I wanted, sometimes right down the middle, to wherever I wanted. I loved my free-wheeling Sunday morning bike rides.
And this got me thinking that this is exactly the same process I use on the regular in my business.
Once I'm determined to do something, I try different things, at different times to figure out the best, most efficient approaches. From finding the best time to send an email newsletter to figuring out the right time of day to write, it's fun to figure it all out.
This was especially true when I first started working from home, almost 20 years ago, when everything had to be figured out, and quick!
I know some of you - possibly many of you - have had to temporarily work from home over the last few months during the pandemic, and some will probably continue to in the foreseeable future. I thought I'd share some tips and approaches that I took to improve productivity while working from home and while abroad (as a digital nomad).
Don't work more than 27 hours on a rainy day
When I first started working from home, I worked ALL the time. Slowly, I started making rules; stop working before dinner, don't go back to my desk til the kids are in bed, save certain projects for rainy weekends. (On a rainy day, I can get enough work done to take the next 2 SUNNY days off!) (funny how productive I can be in bad weather!)
You have to be flexible and focused to combine your home and work life. Make your own rules to stay productive, and stick to them.
Where to work? (don't say couch or bed)
An office with a door is ideal but I started working in our bedroom, perched at the end of our bed at a small desk and rickety chair. I was thrust into working from home after losing my job and starting my own biz during the high tech meltdown in '01. We eventually renovated our attic so I could stop waking my husband every time I printed a document after his bedtime!
My ideal equation: A good chair + strong internet + nice view + a few good tunes = productivity for me.
Don't be lonely unless you want to be (and get organized)
Being organized is the key to getting your work done. It took some time for me to get a rhythm from my home office but once I started making weekly goals and planning every morning, tracking time including blocking time for projects, it helped me stay on track. (Nothing like a solid deadline to boost productivity.)
I try to walk outdoors every day, play hockey with the girls a couple of mornings a week and take breaks when I'm tired or losing focus. And up until the order to stay home in March of this year, I was starting to get out more, for lunch meetings, networking events and coffee breaks with clients and friends, to help with the work-from-home loneliness that has been plaguing me in the last few years. Turns out, extroverts need people. Who knew?
What can you not live without?
I need fast internet, Toggl to track my work hours, Google Docs & Evernote to keep everything in the cloud, a good planner, Spotify playlists to match the level of concentration needed for each project, ZOOM (lots of ZOOM!), Quickbooks, Hootsuite and PayPal to name a few of my favourites.
Since my first overseas work away experience in 2009, it is SO MUCH easier to work while away with all the tools at our fingertips now. And on my "start figuring out these tools" list...IFTTT, Rescue Time, LastPass, and Trello. (wish me luck!)
Avoid the midnight oil bonfire if you can
My most productive time to work used to be between 8 p.m. and 2 a.m. Unfortunately, those hours make for groggy mornings. So lately, I have been getting up early and establishing a morning routine that has allowed me to slowly get more productive between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. ...a more human time to work, apparently. I still feel the pull to stay up late, especially when writing or researching - it's that quiet time with no interruptions that appeals to me.
Are you as distracted as me?
Battle distraction by working on one thing at a time. I firmly believe that multitasking kills productivity. Easier said than done, I know, but try. Stay out of the kitchen except for quick coffee refills and your lunch break. Keep only the browser windows open that you need for the project you are working on.
I close social media apps and sites on my laptop and shut down phone notifications when I'm working. Except when I'm posting and reviewing social media for my clients - which makes it really hard not to scroll, scroll, scroll!
Combining work and home under the same roof is great, but watch out for signs of loneliness and a drop in focus. Find your balance and it'll be a win-win-win!
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The Small Business Guide
Kim Houlahan is a marketing consultant who loves helping small business owners improve their marketing.
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