How to manage your time and stay focused when you work remotely
Working from a home office offers many appealing benefits. You skip the rush hour commute and working a traditional 9-to-5 is optional.
- With no geographical limits, you can serve more clients.
- No interruptions from co-workers.
- Flexible schedule that lets you integrate life and work.
- Fewer overhead expenses – your home office is a tax advantage write-off. No commute expenses or building a substantial “work” wardrobe.
Like anything, pros and cons exist. Some accounting professionals who attempt to work at home soon realize it doesn’t suit their personality.
Whether you’re in an office cubicle, at home or on the other side of the world, your work still needs to be done. Some basic planning helps you avoid the drawbacks that affect productivity. No matter where you work, your deadlines and commitments remain your responsibility.
If you decide to work remotely, then watch out for these productivity challenges.
- Distractions. Email notifications, text messages and social media can easily disrupt your concentration. It can take 20 minutes (or more) to regain your flow of concentration. It’s okay to turn off notifications when you’re working.
- Lack of Structure. You set your own schedule. Do you possess the discipline to sit down at your desk and get to work when no one is watching? How can you create your own structure and then follow through with your plan? Plus, you’ll want to set some guidelines for those times when you’re not the only one in the house.
- Follow through. Remember to finish what you start. Find the right tools, like QuickBooks® Online, to help you manage and track your work.
- No prioritization. Without prioritization you end up missing deadlines. You’ll find yourself rushing to complete important tasks because you let them slide.
- Multitasking. Yes, you’re the boss and in charge of everything. Multitasking, however, isn’t the answer. Studies reveal that multitasking actually slows you down.
- Non-Work chores. Allowing non-work chores to enter your work time is a productivity killer. You would never leave the office to hang up your laundry. Save home chores for “after work” hours.
- Chasing squirrels. Minutes can quickly turn into hours when you start surfing the Internet. Although you were researching something on your computer, one link led to another.
- Wrong setup. An uncomfortable work chair or slow Internet connection affects your productivity. When your workspace isn’t comfortable, it’s difficult to spend any length of time there. One client set her workstation in the living room but family life interrupted her concentration, especially when working on more complicated projects. She eventually turned a spare bedroom into a home office.
- Questions. An accounting professional whom I worked with closely missed talking with co-workers about accounting procedures. He realized they were a valuable resource. So he gradually developed a remote network with other accounting professionals to fill that gap.
In order for your remote work to be successful, plan to minimize the distractions and create a structure that fits your lifestyle.
Work focus solutions
Remote work offers many benefits for accounting professionals. However, it requires structure, initiative and discipline. Decide whether your entire accounting practice is virtual or simply a part of it.
Whatever you did in person can easily be accomplished virtually. Client communications, meetings, marketing and daily responsibilities don’t need to be in-person anymore.
Working effectively requires planning, prioritizing and investing in your business. Here are some best practices for working remotely:
Optimize your time
Organize your workflow to get the most out of your day. Create a daily structure that you will follow.
- Best time. Do you do your best work during the early hours of the morning or late at night? Plan to concentrate on your most important projects during this time. Save social media, email or phone conversations for another time.
- Manage your calendar. Identify related tasks, then block out time to work on them together. Schedule client meetings during a block of time. You don’t want to keep switching back and forth between client meetings and computer work. Your brain is more effective when you do similar tasks.
- Schedule breaks. Your focus improves when you take breaks instead of pushing through a project. Unless you are “in the zone” take regular breaks. I encourage my clients to work for 50 minutes and then take a 10-minute break. Get up, move around and go outside. Then, start another work session.
- Build a team. There’s an entire world of high quality people who work remotely. I coached one enrolled tax agent on how to build a remote team. Although her business is based in the US, she hired an American CPA who lived in Israel. Because of the time zone difference, he did tax work while she was sleeping. This meant a faster turnaround time during tax season.
Conduct quality virtual meetings
Your client meetings can easily be held virtually. Several clients remotely train their clientele to use Quick Books Online. The clients receive a link to meet virtually; the remote meeting allows for screen sharing and everything is automatically recorded.
Your meetings become more effective when you follow a few simple steps:
- Prepare your technology. For a clear video call, reduce the bandwidth. Close tabs or save them to quickly open later with an application like OneTab. If possible, hardwire your computer to your router for your Wi-Fi connection. About 40 minutes before your scheduled meeting, restart your computer to ensure that all updates are current. This also allows time for any updates to finish before the meeting.
- Enhance the quality. Enhance audio and video quality with an external microphone and video camera. Use your cell phone ear buds to reduce audio feedback.
- Additional distractions. Minimize audio and visual distractions. Have a light in front of you to keep your face out of shadow. A small ring light fits your phone or your laptop. Also, improve camera focus by reducing backlight from windows by pulling drapes or shades or adjusting the angle of your computer.
- Agenda. Create a meeting agenda and stick to it. Spend the first 3 minutes or so catching up and then get to the point of the meeting.
Enjoy the freedom of a location independent business. It’s possible for you to work with clients while you’re anywhere in the world – and, to expand your client base outside of your geographical location, working with clients around the world. Technology continues to improve productivity for accounting professionals who work remotely.