12 January, 2018
We might be stating the obvious but if you can improve the combination of your effectiveness and efficiency at work then you’re less likely to need to take work home. The thought being that if you can get more meaningful work done, in a shorter amount of time then you won’t feel the need to take things with you at the end of the day – to finish of that last task, email, line of code, e.t.c. If you’ve been suffering from work creep into your personal hours it’s definitely worth taking a some time to review your working day, with the view to looking at how you can become both more effective and more efficient.
For example, we all need breaks but are you taking a little extra time over lunch that means things aren’t finished before the end of the day. Or are you consuming a bit too much content on Facebook when you’re meant to be creating content for Facebook! Perhaps you could learn how to batch certain processes too so that repetitive tasks could be done all at one time.
This is particularly important if you are self-employed or work from home as it’s so easy to let the end of the day spread into your down time or for you to go back to things half way through an evening. Have a look at our articles on improving your productivity and time management to help with this.
It’s really easy to think “I just need to do this one last project and then I’ll figure out how to balance things better after that.” But you probably realise that this almost never happens and you move on to the next urgent thing still not having made any changes to your daily life.
Until you set and stick to the rules there’s always something that’ll fill whatever time you have. So set them and then stick to them.
Of course this is easier said than done because it might mean making changes that show up in the office and unsettle the status quo, or maybe your changes will start to affect your clients relationship with you. Think carefully about your goals and the broader spectrum of outcomes before just diving in.
Let’s imagine you’re a freelance web designer for example. You’ve recently completed a new site for a client and it all went well and you now provide an ongoing support package too (congrats on the upsell!). However, more often than not a client will want to be able to contact you at the moment they feel it’s important to them, which literally could be any time of day or night. And usually they’ll presume they are the most important person to you at any given moment. Of course you want to do the best for them but being “always on” as a freelancer will only ever lead in one direction… and it’s not pretty!
So you’ve decided to setup office hours and you make that clear to the client up front, maybe even in your T&C’s. But then comes the key, you stick to the rules so that the client knows you’re serious about where the boundaries lie. The difficulty is that sometimes in the moment this might seem hard nosed but if you look at the bigger picture you’ll realise that this isn’t just for your personal benefit. If you’re able to maintain a good work life balance, you’ll be able to provide a better service to more clients. You’ll have happier customers and you’ll be able to keep on keeping-on for the foreseeable future instead of risking the dreaded burn out, or worse still disenchantment with something you used to love doing. Of course there’s the need to be flexible in certain circumstances, but exceptions to the rule really must be that, exceptional.
In one of our previous posts we talked about how to have a difficult conversation. And often they don’t come more uncomfortable than saying no to someone. But there is something really important about saying no. Not just for the sake of it but when it defines the boundaries you’ve decided to set it helps others know where they stand. In fact, more often than not it’s worse saying yes to something you don’t want to do or can’t do, as this often ends up in poor quality or incomplete work.
Don’t just say no for the sake of it but define your boundaries and understand why they are there and you’ll be able to much more easily and comfortably give a “no” that has no malice or animosity involved at all. And that’s a nice place to come from.
How are you doing the things you do? Start by taking a look at all your big processes and then ask yourself if any of these could be automated for the first time or an additional layer of automation be added in.
For example if you are keeping your accounts as a freelancer, are you just writing out invoices in Word? Maybe it’s time to start using a simple online accounting package like Xero. You can have the template set up so you never have to format an invoice again. Repeating invoice can be sent out automatically (you could literally be asleep!). Once payment is due you don’t need to remember deadlines yourself, you can set the system to remind you and even follow up clients if they are late. And at the end of the year you’ll be able to have your entire revenue analysis ready at the click of a button. No more late nights trying to figure out how much you earnt this year.
Alright, not in a selfish way! This isn’t about putting yourself first in every situation but it is about realising that if you don’t take care of yourself, eventually you’ll underperform and start to produce work that’s not good enough for your client. Eventually this will be bad for both of you and usually means losing clients. Don’t be tempted to think you have to be always on, there are very few people in the world whose personality and physicality enable them to do this. For the rest of us we need enough rest, to eat well and maintain a general level of fitness and health, without these you just won’t be able to keep doing the things you love to do.
Don’t think that you need to make all these changes in one fell swoop. This will almost certainly lead to difficulties of its own, not least of which your peers or clients might start considering you have finally lost it! Instead think about easing both yourself and your clients into the changes you’re going to make.
So, where are you going to start? Do you need to change your working hours? Why not give your client advance warning and maybe talk to them about how this will help you serve them better? Or maybe you want to start increasing your hourly rate, perhaps you could schedule this at a time in the year when people are already expecting change. For example, at the start of the new year or perhaps at the start of the new tax year in April. Let us know how you get on.
The Hoxton Mix provide cheap virtual office services with a prime London address, if you want to save money when looking for office services get in touch. If you’re on the look out for a receptionist take a look at our cheap telephone answering service.