Independent & Accountable: Don't Let Your Newfound Liberty Affect Your Work Ethic

Answering to a managing partner is a good reminder to be punctual, productive and professional. Once you leave an accounting firm to start your own business, suddenly the external accountability of a boss is gone. For some, that independence is simply motivation to work harder, but others have a hard time remaining accountable. Don’t let your newfound liberty affect your work ethic! Here are five tips to do so that you don’t fall into unproductive habits.

1. Limit distractions. Networking and social media marketing can be valuable for your business, but they can also be terrible time wasters. Limit the temptation to get dragged into browsing Facebook or Twitter by turning off alerts from your email and social media apps. Block out time each day to check email and social media accounts, and stay away from them at other times.

If you're working from home, let family and friends know that working from home doesn’t mean you’re available for random visits, phone chats or running errands on their behalf. Establish boundaries early on by letting them know what time your workday ends and when you're available for lunch.

2. Take regular breaks. Do you try to cram as much work into the day as possible, but become burn out in the early afternoon? Try thinking of your workday not as a marathon, but rather, as a series of sprints. Most people are more productive when they work in shorter bursts of 15 to 90 minutes, with short rest periods in between.

Set a timer for a 15- to 90-minute work sprint, and spend that time focused on the task at hand. When the timer goes off, take a five- or 10-minute break. Get up and stretch, grab a cup of tea or a snack, or check Facebook. It may sound counterintuitive to improve productivity by taking more breaks, but research shows that taking short breaks actually help you maintain focus. Try the Pomodoro Technique— 25 minutes of work, followed by five minutes of break.

3. Set deadlines. Accounting is a deadline-driven line of work. No matter the obstacles that come our way, accountants simply must meet deadlines to do the job. Use that mentality to your advantage by self-imposing deadlines for any open-ended tasks and projects. Mark those deadlines on your calendar and then stick to them. You'll get in the habit of getting more done.

4. Be proactive, not reactive. Before you quit working each day, write down your Most Important Task (MIT) for the following day. The next day, work on your MIT before you answer any calls or check email. When you start taking calls and emails before you tackle your own to-do list, you’re letting other people dictate your agenda for the day. Have a plan of attack, and then stick to it as best you can.

5. Reward yourself. One of the best parts of being your own boss is doing whatever you want, whenever you want. However, that freedom requires discipline. If you’re tempted to do something other than work, use that activity as a reward. Watch one episode of your favorite TV show after completing an important task, or pop out to your favorite coffee shop after you clear your inbox.

Being your own boss gives you flexibility and freedom, but it also takes a lot of self-motivation. Remember, it’s all on you now – if you don’t work, you don’t get paid. That’s why you need to stay productive each and every day.