Updated: Nov 18, 2019
9 Tips from The Island Creative Team
You might be surprised to learn that here at The Island Creative we don't actually have an office. That's right, our entire team work remotely or wherever we choose! We're a team of 6 women who work together every day, but some of us have never actually met each other face-to-face, bit different, hey? Some of us have kids at home, the majority of the team live in Tasmania, but Erin lives in Western Australia, and although Maddie calls Tasmania home, she is currently travelling around Australia in a 4WD.
Working remotely has been amazing for our team and the business, it gives us all the flexibility to mould work around whatever lifestyle we choose and still have the security of a steady income & a job we love. All we need is the internet and it's like we're all sitting in a virtual office working together! Although working remotely online sounds like the dream lifestyle, it still has its challenges - productivity and staying on task being a major one!
Being a business who helps other businesses with their online presence and marketing, we work with a lot of other online businesses and people who manage their business from home, who no doubt face the same challenges of working solo and remotely as we do. So how do we do it? How do we get the job done efficiently and produce amazing results for our clients, while staying focussed and on task? Well, we sat down together as a team (online, of course) and discussed our top tips for working from home/remotely & being productive, and we thought they were too good to not share with you!
1. Plan Your Day
Being organised and knowing what you've got to get done for the day/week will make a huge difference to how efficiently you work for the day. Otherwise, you start doing the first task that grabs your attention and bounce from job to job without getting the important tasks done, sound familiar? Yep, same!
Everyone has a different system for planning their day and it's important to find what suits you best. Lists… who doesn't love a list? Know what you need to get done for the week and then schedule it into your week, leaving room for breaks and unexpected jobs that pop up. You might go as far as planning each hour of every workday. Another trick is spending your last 10mins of work each day planning out your following day, so the tasks are there ready to go as soon as you dive into it tomorrow.
‘I'm a list lover, anything and everything that needs to be done goes on my list for the day. I'm talking old school pen to paper list. It's incredibly satisfying crossing items off and seeing everything "done" at the end of the day (even if that means adding them to the list after they're done just so I can cross them off!)’ - Erin
2. Set Your Work Hours
Anyone who works from home would probably agree that there's a very fine line between work and home and it can often become a very blurred line. To maintain a healthy work/life balance it's so important to treat your work from home like any other job and have a clear line between when you're at work and when you're at 'home' (even though they're technically the same thing). Not only will this help you enjoy your home life and create a healthy work/life balance, but it will help everyone at home know when you're 'at work' and when you're 'home', allowing you to be present.
When setting your work hours, decide when you're most productive. Are you a morning person? Get stuck straight into work when you jump out of bed, and knock off in the early arvo! More focussed in the afternoons? Get your home tasks done at the beginning of the day, pop something in the slow cooker and smash out a heap of work between lunch and dinner. This is one of the bonuses of working remotely - you choose when you work and mould it around when you know you're most productive.
‘Working from home gives me great flexibility but I'm always cautious about cutting into my family time, I set my hours for the week around any appointments I might have and always make sure I am finished up before I have to get the kids from school so I can focus on them and their activities.’ - Erin
3. Design A Workspace
This leads us to the next point, it can be tempting to grab the laptop and work from bed or chill out on the couch (no judgement here, we've all done it!), but it can also be very handy to have your own workspace. This also helps with the point above, distinguishing work and home from each other.
Design a space you really love working in, it might be your favourite spot in the house, an area with no distraction, somewhere you can leave your work set up and come back to, and get yourself a comfortable desk and chair. Stepping into that space, you will feel like you’re 'going' to work, and leaving ‘home’. When you're in this space, you'll instantly switch into work mode, when you're not you can relax back into home mode.
‘I don’t actually have a house to work in, so when I’m not working from our campsite I find libraries super handy! Free power, no distractions (except the 10am toddler nursery rhyme session), comfortable chairs and tables, air-con, it’s a dream and I always smash out heaps of work! A handy space to work when you don't have an office at home.’ - Maddie
4. Get Out Of The House
Working remotely can often make you feel a little isolated from the rest of the world. Especially if you wake up, get into work, work through the day and never leave the house. It can get a little monotonous and lonely if you don't interact with anyone but your cat for the day, but it's also easily avoidable!
As a team, we are interacting with each other on a daily basis, numerous times a day and we have handy programs we use to do this (will mention them below soon!). Some of the team in Tassie often get together to work on projects or to just work in the same space to change up the 'office'. It might mean popping out and grabbing a coffee from your favourite barista just for a bit of human contact, or going for a walk out of the house to just smile and say hi to other humans!
‘I like to meet up with our clients in a public space. To be honest, I don't really want to talk about strategic marketing plans from my lounge with clients, but most importantly it's a great way to get out of the house and away from the screen. We could easily organise phone/skype meetings, but sometimes it's just as nice to meet up at a local coffee shop or have lunch while discussing their marketing plans.’ - Erica
5. Create A Routine
Creating a routine for work and starting your day right can set you up for a productive day of work. Decide on a healthy routine that works for you; when you start work, when you'll have breaks and when you 'knock-off'. This might include doing a workout in the middle of the day if that's what works for you, or getting out of the house to run some errands at a certain time of the day that you know you regularly hit a wall.
Find a routine that works for you and stick to it, it's surprising how much the body and mind crave routine and it will start to adapt to your routine, being focussed and on point when you need it to be. The best part is, when you work remotely, you get to decide on your routine, it's not based on when your boss wants you to turn up and leave, you choose what works for you and go with it.
‘I have a super-strong morning routine and I stick to it every day! Wake, Coffee, Read, Yoga. I get up at the same time every day and I get ready for work as though I am going to be going to the office. This helps me to feel like I am ready to take on the day.’ - Amy
6. Take A Break
One of the bonuses of working remotely means you can take a break whenever you like! You don't need to sit at your desk half-asleep needing a break and waiting for lunch, you can jump up, move around, make yourself a drink, take 10 and then come back to the task. It's okay to take breaks, our bodies and minds aren't designed to sit and work for hours on end, reward yourself with a break each time you finish a task and you'll move on to the next task with as much efficiency as the last.
'If I feel creatively blocked, I go for a walk. I don't sit there and try to force anything. I just go for a walk, then come back, make a tea, and I always find I work much better then.' - Amy
7. Treat It Like Any Other Job
We've touched on this a little above, as much as it's very different to an everyday office job, it's important to treat it like a 'normal' job. This will allow your mind to be in a work mindset and stay on task. There are a lot more distractions when you’re working from home, but remember if you were to do everything else other than work, you'd never get work done! If you need to hang the washing out, schedule that into your work routine as mentioned above, but don't use it as an excuse to get away from the desk, finish the task at hand and then do a little house job if need be.
‘Treat your workspace like you would an office anywhere else, so don't start vacuuming when you should be working (also a great excuse to just not vacuum)’ - Erin
8. Get Techy
There's a huge variety of programs and tools you can use when you work remotely to communicate as a team, track jobs, and get projects completed together. We might be a little passionate when it comes to the programs, systems and tools we use, but it makes a huge difference to how we work as a team and get our projects done together. Here's 3 of our favourite tools/programs (you can thank us later):
Use the Cloud: This might be a no brainer, but it's so handy to have everything in the cloud and accessible to the entire team. ALL our work is done online, not only meaning it can never be lost, but we can easily share work with one another, we can be working on the same project together, and then also give the client access to the same file, saving any unnecessary double handling.
17Hats: This is where we manage all our projects/jobs. Every client we work with is on some sort of contract and each of those contracts has a set list of jobs that need to be completed each month. We can assign tasks to the correct team member, check up on what's overdue, ensure nothing is ever forgotten and there's never any miscommunication. We can use this program to schedule our day/week and see a to-do list of every task we need to complete; with a dead-line, the details of each task and any other relevant information.
Slack: Contrary to the name, this is not a space for slacking off… this is basically our virtual office space! At The Island Creative, we work as a team on client projects, all doing different parts of the contract, so it's important we can communicate efficiently about the client and the projects we are working on. Using Slack, we have a different channel for each client and can discuss whatever necessary, share documents/files, set reminders, create tasks, etc - we love it! We may also have a channel for general chit chat and sharing memes… because you know, team morale is important too! Using this program we feel like we're all working in the same office together and we don't get so lonely!
‘I love using the clockify program to track the job I’m working on and stay on task. It motivates me to get a job done in a certain amount of time, but to also stay focussed because I don’t want to be starting and stopping the clock on a job.’ - Maddie
This one’s a bit obvious… but it can be hard to get away from distractions when working from home. Having an office space can help with this, lock yourself away from the rest of the house. Everyone’s different and there are different things that distract each of us, you know yourself what distracts you, so do your best to eliminate it from the equation.
If you’re the type of person who can’t stand to leave the house in a mess, give it a quick 15min clean up before you get started on work. TV drawing you in? Make sure you don’t turn it on at the beginning of the day. Getting sucked into social media? Put your devices away OR download a social media control program to stop the mindless scrolling.
A really cool app for your phone is called ‘In Moment’, it tracks the time you spend on the different apps on your phone (which can be embarrassingly high for a lot of us!), and allows you to set daily limits for the time you allow yourself to spend on these apps. Or simply pop it on aeroplane mode until you’re finished work for the day.
‘I find playing a podcast I love, a playlist or just having the radio on keeps me from feeling lonely and my thoughts wandering but a hot tip for you: DO NOT put the midday movie on in the background, the bad acting and swiss cheese plots will suck you right in!’ - Erin
‘I never swap between a few jobs at once. I find it really unproductive and I work much quicker if I just focus on smashing out one task at a time.’ - Amy
There you have it! The top tips from the girls at The Island Creative for how we work from home and still get the job done. Working remotely can be really rewarding and great for your lifestyle, as long as you can be organised, plan ahead and work out how/when you work best. We hope you can implement some of these tips into your work at home and knock off early this week!
Ps. When all else fails, from the boss herself:
‘My tip is to leave things to the last minute so you nearly die trying to get it done haha!’ - Erica