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"The Art of Finding Winning Products"
No one can deny that since COVID-19 stormed the globe, the world has changed. But that doesn’t mean we can’t embrace the “new normal” by using everything at our disposal to stay productive, happy, and connected.
For a while now, the majority of office workers and entrepreneurs have been working from home. And during that time, we’ve uncovered the best practices and tools for working remotely - and practicing self-care while we’re at it. So, we’re going to reveal everything we've learned thus far in the hopes this will help you enjoy a more positive and connected remote working experience.
Does that sound good to you? Fab. Let's dive in!
Some of us find self-motivation more of a challenge while working remotely, making time management all the more vital. Although there are plenty of perks to working remotely, it can be a shock to the system. Deadlines may be different, meetings too, and the office's 'buzz' that prompts productivity is sorely lacking.
So, here are three of the best free tools to help you with your time management:
RescueTime's award-winning software offers:
Why we like it: RescueTime provides an excellent insight into how you spend your day. It's just as suitable for individuals as it is for teams. RescueTime works wonders for highlighting time-wasting activities, freeing up more opportunities to be productive.
Everyone’s heard of Google Calendar, but not everyone uses it to its full potential. For instance, did you know this tool provides all the following features?...
Why we like it: Google Calendars helps you manage your time alongside your colleagues. Sharing calendars with workmates is a breeze, so you'll reduce the chance of timetable clashes and misunderstandings about deadlines. There’s also a free 30-day trial and a free plan available!
This popular time tracking app comes with a basic free plan. It's ideal for remote workers that need a bit of help keeping their schedule in check and boosting productivity.
Here’s some of what Toggle has on offer:
Why we like it: Toggl's easy-to-read dashboard makes it simple to manage your schedule in real-time via mobile and/or desktop devices.
As we've already hinted at, it’s easy to become your own worst enemy while working remotely. There are so many distractions!
Unfortunately, apps and software can only help so much. The key to successfully working remotely mainly comes down to your own personal habits and mindset.
Start your day at the same time you would usually if you were heading to work. Set an alarm if you have to. Not only does this provide some much-needed structure to your day, but it also helps get you in the right mindset for hitting the ground running.
"Carrying out routine activities reduces stress by making the situation appear more controllable and predictable," says Indumathi Bendi, M.D.
So, if you already have a daily routine, try and stick to it as much as possible while you’re working from home. You may be at home, but that doesn’t mean you have to work in your pajamas or underpants. We advise taking your typical office routine and mimicking it as closely as possible while working remotely. Write a to-do list, get coffee, get dressed even when you don’t have meetings, and act like you’re in an office.
It’s tough enough managing our own time and schedule, but if you’re working on multiple projects that involve team members and stakeholders, you’re going to need more than a traditional to-do list.
Luckily, there are plenty of free software packages out there to help with project management. Here are three of our free favorites:
This project management platform allows you to plan, track, and review your work daily, weekly, or per project.
Some of its features include:
Why we like it: Jira's free plan allows you to register up to ten users, making it perfect for small businesses.
AirTable's a cloud-based tool that says it’s part spreadsheet, part database. It's an “entirely flexible” all-in-one project management tool with a free plan that enables you to:
Why we like it: AirTable's dashboard is colorful and easy-to-read, with sufficient features in its free plan for small or lone operations. However, you may need to upgrade to one of AirTable's paid-for packages to access more features.
Asana allows you to manage projects, tasks, and deadlines. There's a free trial and a free basic plan too. It's ideal for individuals and/or teams who are just getting started with project management.
Here are some of its free features:
Why we like it: Asana's free plan permits you to collaborate with a generous number of people and provides all the basics you need to get started with project management.
Utilizing the right software for your needs is just one part of successful project management when working remotely. But what about other techniques and tips?
Unfortunately, most organizations have a project failure rate of 70%! So, familiarize yourself with every aspect of the project. Not only does this help you to monitor your own work and to stick to deadlines, but you can keep better track of others’ work too. You’ll also be in a better position to watch out for any potential pitfalls and budget overspends.
Clear communication with your team is imperative. Yes, firing off emails and setting deadline reminders have their place, but remember, humans aren't machines - they need encouragement and appreciation.
Interestingly, 28% attribute poor communication as the main reason for not delivering a project by the original deadline. So, every now and then, set up times to speak with colleagues on Zoom or Skype. This creates an opportunity for you to show your gratitude for all their hard work, and trickier workstreams are often easier to resolve via video conversations. You can iron out the project's finer details and double-check everyone knows what they're responsible for - clear communication is essential for avoiding any misunderstandings.
Identifying and defining project milestones for all team members and stakeholders is crucial. That way, everyone is working toward the same goals. This means taking a massive project and breaking it down into bite-sized chunks so that every step can be carefully planned and evaluated.
If you’re a manager with the challenging but not entirely impossible task of leading your team remotely, you’re going to need some help.
So, here are a few free tools we think will come in useful. Of course, some of the above solutions will come in handy for task and project tracking, so we’re focusing on tools for communication and virtual meetings below:
Slack has a basic free plan, as well as more sophisticated paid-for options. For the uninitiated, Slack is a collaborative hub where you can message colleagues via 'channels' organized by topic, team, or project.
Here are some of Slack's basic features:
Why we like it: It’s a simple way for individuals and teams to talk in real-time and share files. We also love that you can integrate with apps like the aforementioned Google Calendar and Jira.
If you or your company uses G Suite, you'll automatically get access to Google Hangouts Chat. This app supports 28 languages, so if you have an international team, that's no bother. You can create rooms where up to 8,000 members can join, where you can do the following:
Why we like it: Google Hangouts Chat is part of the all-powerful G Suite. It offers a secure and easy-to-use platform for you to communicate and share files with your team.
Chanty is an AI-powered platform that facilitates team chats. It comes with a free plan that supports up to ten people - which you can use forever!
Here are some of Chanty’s most notable advantages:
What we like: With Chanty, you get a lot for free if you have a team of ten (or less). We also love that you get access to free audio calls.
Software aside, nothing beats a personal touch. So, what can you do as a manager to ensure your remote workforce stays motivated and engaged?
Don’t make the fatal error of never speaking with your team members. You may be working remotely, but that doesn’t mean 'out of sight out of mind.'
Sometimes people feel awkward putting something in an email, that they'd otherwise feel comfortable discussing over video chat or an audio call. Keep the lines of communication open by ensuring team members know how to reach you if they need - video calls, live chat, voice, and so on.
Some people take to remote work better than others. If this is a new situation for you and your team, be crystal clear about timetables, expectations, and behaviors from the get-go. Ensure your team understands your company culture still applies even if they're in their pajamas!
If you’re new to working remotely, keeping an organized and comfortable workspace goes a long way. So, here are some tips on how to make your at-home office work for you.
How you start the day is essential - especially when you're working remotely. When we work from home, our workspace might be the living room, bedroom, kitchen, etc. When the lines between work and home begin to blur, getting into a productive mindset can be challenging. This is where adopting the right morning habits make slipping into 'the zone' much easier!
‘The early bird catches the worm’ is true for many. In fact, Forbes highlights tons of studies that show the benefits of getting up early. One of which suggests early risers are more likely to better plan their days for productivity. Often they take some quiet time in the morning for goal-setting and planning their schedules.
But there's something to be said for getting up when it suits you. Not everyone is a morning person, and often, you can’t force yourself to change your inner clock. Sleep.org argues that your body knows exactly when it wants to be awake and working. If you can’t fall asleep any sooner than midnight, forcing yourself to get up at 5 am, will only leave you tired.
So, enjoy the freedom remote working provides and settle into a schedule that suits you. The most important thing is consistency.
Set your alarm at the same time every day and go to bed on schedule. This will help you fall asleep quicker so that you get enough rest to feel refreshed and ready to tackle your working day.
Unless you’re someone who can jump out of bed at five in the morning and straight into a cold shower, feeling energized and ready to take on the world, you might find the mornings a chore.
When we work from home, we don’t have a commute that enables us to mentally prepare for the day. This sometimes makes motivating ourselves all the harder. So, make your life easier by preparing ahead. This could include anything from choosing your outfit the day before, writing out a to-do list, organizing your desk, etc.
You get the idea.
Do as much as you can the evening before, so you don’t have lots of chores in the morning. Starting the day with a clear plan helps to sharpen your mindset from the get-go!
No gym membership needed! A 20-minute at-home exercise routine is an excellent way to kickstart your day. In fact, participants in a recent study showed a 12% improvement in cognitive ability after exercising - which is more than a cup of coffee, which only gave a boost of 6%!
Exercise gets the blood flowing, gives you an energy boost, and stretches out your muscles; it's a healthy habit for mind and body alike. Needless to say, it's the perfect way to switch your brain into gear for the working day!
Without your boss hovering over your shoulder, it's easy to procrastinate. At home, everything is calling for your attention. Your spouse, children, the dog, the TV - they’re all combatting for your time. Not to mention the bed is right there - it’s so easy to nip back under the covers for a 'quick' nap.
If you’re struggling to focus, don’t worry. There are plenty of tried and tested techniques for staying productive...
As we've just hinted at, distractions are a massive threat to your productivity. That’s why it’s essential to eliminate them where possible. Of course, you can't get rid of your kids, housemates, spouse, etc. (as much as you might want to!). However, you can make it clear, unless it's an emergency, you shouldn't be disturbed during working hours.
Likewise, if you're easily distracted by social media, log out of these platforms in the morning, so you're not tempted to quickly scroll through your feeds.
Procrastination often results when we waver in resolution. When we don’t know what our next step or task is, it's easy to go down a rabbit hole of distractions and switch off from work. Avoid those moments of uncertainty by setting out a clear to-do list.
This may involve breaking larger tasks into smaller ones to provide a better sense of direction. Ticking off things on a to-do list generates a sense of achievement, which, in turn, helps to keep you motivated until you get the job done!
Sometimes the best way to stop yourself from procrastinating while working is to permit yourself a set amount of time to actively delay. This acts as both a reward for your hard work, and it breaks up your day - win-win!
Try using the Pomodoro method designed by Francesco Cirillo. First, decide on how long you'll work on a task without distraction (traditionally 25 minutes). Once this time's up, you can take a short 3-5 minute break and then get back to work. Once you've completed four cycles of this, you can allow yourself a longer break.
Use these breaks for whatever you like - this is the time to actively procrastinate. Put a load of washing on, buy something on Amazon, take a quick walk around the house, etc.
The principle is simple - work for short bursts with greater focus and get more done!
When we work with others, they keep us accountable - either directly or indirectly. So, there's value to checking in with your colleagues every now and then while working remotely.
If you're using one of the project management apps mentioned above, you can see what your team is working on. Ask how their tasks are going and, likewise, report to them your progress.
Staying in tune with your colleagues is a constant reminder that your productivity affects others. So, be proactive about connecting with your team. It may seem trivial, but it's a really effective way of staying on track!
Offices often provide ergonomic and healthy workspaces for their workers. But, when working from home, you might face a different setup. If you're experiencing back, neck, shoulder, and/or wrist pain after a few days of working remotely, you might need to upgrade your at-home workspace.
For a few days, working from the comfort of your bed or sofa might sound tempting. But after a while, you'll quickly notice your back suffers as a result.
Instead, use a desk or table where a monitor can be placed. Utilize a traditional office setup with a chair, keyboard, mouse, and monitor set to the right height.
If this is new to you, here are some tips on positioning your equipment to stop those niggling aches and pains:
Monitor: Elevate your computer monitor so that your eyes are leveled with the top of the screen when you look straight ahead. You should neither have to glance down nor up to perform your work.
Desk: Your desk should be heightened so that when you extend your forearms at a ninety-degree angle, they're level with the desk.
Chair: Your chair should be at the right height so you can plant both feet flat on the floor with your knees at a ninety-degree angle. Use a seat cushion and a rolled-up towel for lower back support if you don't own an ergonomic chair.
If possible, avoid using a laptop on its own. Usually, laptop screens are too small and low down to sit and work comfortably.
One of the simplest ways to alleviate stress on the body as you work from home is to get up at least once every hour to briefly walk around and stretch your muscles.
Here are some stretches you can do to prevent cramps, aches, and pains:
Open your shoulders. If you’re prone to slouching, scoot to the edge of your chair and sit straight. One arm should be dropped to your side, the other can be raised over your head while you lean to the opposite side. Repeat with the other side. Stretch both arms behind you and grab the edges of your seat while pushing your chest out.
During times of stress and upheaval, self-care is more important than ever. So, take time to develop healthier habits to stay productive and motivated while working from home. These apps will help you to de-stress, stay fit and healthy, and reduce anxiety as you go about your day-today.
Let's see what each of them has to offer...
The Headspace app guides you through relaxing meditations. Whether you're after a basic meditation or a specific practice to help you sleep or enjoy healthier relationships, Headspace offers both. With hundreds of meditations to choose from, this app works wonders for helping you to relax and set yourself up for the day.
If stress and anxiety are getting in the way of work, then Headspace is undoubtedly worth a try.
It's a free app, but you can pay $12.99 a month to gain access to more meditations. A lifetime subscription is also available at a one-off fee of $399.
Looking for a surge of motivation? Shine sends you daily motivational texts, self-improvement audio, and self-care challenges. Topics often include productivity, mindfulness, and sleep. You can also track your gratitude and save your favorite messages to remind you of things that make you feel good.
These daily messages are free, but you can subscribe to receive more 'mindful moments' for $9.99 a month, or $53.99 a year.
If you suffer from anxiety, breathing sometimes feels difficult. If you can relate, Breathing Zone might be the self-care app for you. It focuses on defusing stress by encouraging you to breathe rhythmically.
You can customize the breathing exercises to whatever you find most relaxing. These guides are accompanied by calming graphics on the screen. Just set a target number of breaths you’d like to achieve per minute, and you're good to go.
Breathing Zone can be downloaded from iTunes or GooglePlay.
Get in the habit of stretching regularly by learning yoga moves with this app. These five-minute workouts are super easy to fit around your schedule. The exercises are practical but simple, so rest assured, it's very beginner-friendly.
The app is free, but you can upgrade to a monthly or annual subscription ($1.99 a month or $5.99 a year), making it a genuinely affordable self-care app!
If you're more advanced at yoga, Yoga Studio might be your app of choice. You can choose from 65 premade classes or select your own set of exercises. These sessions range from 15 to 60 minutes, and span three experience levels- beginner, intermediate, or advanced. Just pick whatever best suits your ability.
The app teaches nearly 280 poses! You're bound to learn a thing or two with Yoga Studio. Available at the modest price of $4.99, this is another excellent yet affordable self-care app.
If you find yourself suddenly working remotely, several of your habits and routines might be disturbed. So, it's no wonder lockdown presents a challenging time for our mental health. Checking in with ourselves and observing our emotional needs has never been so vital as we self-isolate.
The mental health apps listed below might offer some much-needed relief as you combat stress and anxiety while working from home.
Moodfit is free to download from GooglePlay. It provides the tools you need to help improve your mood and exercise your mental well-being. Moodfit analyzes the severity of your mental health symptoms with a questionnaire and then furnishes articles and audio files to help you understand your experience better.
You can use Moodfit to track your mood to better understand what affects your well-being. For instance, you'll see the impact medication, exercise, diet, etc., all have on your state of mind, which puts you in a better position to adopt healthier habits.
You can design your own experiments if you suspect a particular element in your life is causing you distress. For example, you can track whether a specific food has an influence on your mood.
Moodfit also provides daily mindfulness and gratitude challenges to help increase positivity and teach you better-coping skills.
Talkspace is a therapy app that allows you to speak to a licensed mental health professional. If you’re self-isolating, this might be an essential way of seeking the treatment you need. Therapists on Talkspace all boast over 3,000 hours of clinical experience and have been carefully trained to provide online therapy.
For $65 per week, you get access to unlimited messaging therapy, i.e., you can send as many texts, video, and audio messages to your therapist as you need. You'll receive one to two responses a day, five days a week.
Whereas for $79 a week, you'll get unlimited messaging as well as one live session with your therapist each month, and for £99 a week, you gain four live sessions each month.
Journaling is a fantastic way to check-in with yourself every day. It's a simple technique for observing your habits, identifying what makes you happy, and reminding yourself of your achievements.
Writing daily journal entries can help you stay grounded and deal with your day-to-day in a meaningful and productive way. Whether you're journaling for the mental health benefits, as a hobby, or to set reminders and keep productive, a journaling app is a great way to kickstart this new habit.
Day One is available for Mac, Android, and IOS devices. This app offers a wide array of features. You can use templates that automatically add info like your location, weather, step count, the music you played, etc. You can tag your entries, insert photos and videos, and password-protect your journal.
The free app offers all of Day One's core features. But you can upgrade for $2.99 a month to access handwritten and audio entries, multiple journals, unlimited photos, and syncing across all your devices.
Being stuck at home doesn’t mean your ambitions have to stagnate. If you suddenly have more time on your hands, due to a lack of commute, a slow down in work, etc. - now might be the best time to start your business. If that's something you want to achieve, here are five apps to help you do that...
To start a new business, you need to plan your first steps, and this app helps you do just that. It provides you with a template for creating a business plan. This prompts you to answer all the critical questions any entrepreneur should ask themselves before getting started.
You can create this plan privately or share it with your business partners. The app provides tutorials to walk you through each section of your business plan. You'll also get a step-by-step timeline to map out the 'planning phase' through to the 'starting phase.'
Once you're done, you can send your business plan to your email address, and maintain a to-do list to help you stay organized. You can even receive advice from the community - all for free!
Before your business starts to draw attention, it'll need a professional-looking logo. Luckily, the Logo Maker Plus app can help you with that. They provide tons of icons, symbols, and monograms to suit a wide range of industries. You can easily edit the colors and use a texture image for your logo.
You can also use this same app to quickly create social media graphics, including Facebook cover pictures, Twitter posts, and Pinterest images.
If you're selling products locally, say, at fairs or conventions, taking payment can be a hassle without a way to accept credit cards. The Square Point of Sale app makes this possible. You can download it to accept card payments anywhere you go. Although Square charges transaction fees, it affords customers a much easier way to pay. So, if you haven't already, it's certainly worth considering.
Quickbooks by Intuit is accounting software available via an internet browser, or as a desktop and/or smartphone app. Quickbooks helps even the smallest businesses manage and track their expenses, by scanning and recording receipts, tracking payments and invoices, and noting your income and bills.
Freelancers can use the most basic version of the app to keep track of their yearly profits. Any small business owner should look towards an app like this to keep their cash flow visible and maintain accurate records for their end-of-year taxes.
For freelancers, Quickbooks is available for $15 a month, and their basic plan for small businesses costs $25 a month.
On top of the apps above, here are are the top three platforms for building your online business:
If you want to set up your first-ever online store, then Shopify might be the perfect ecommerce platform. It’s incredibly newbie-friendly, and the ideal choice if you already have an in-person business. You can link Shopify POS with your online Shopify store.
Today, Shopify is a leading e-commerce platform, powering over 800,000 online stores around the world.
Suitable for businesses of all sizes, you can design, launch, and manage a fully-fledged ecommerce website without writing a single line code, install any software, or purchase web hosting.
Shopify’s subscription plans range from $29 to $299 a month. If you use Shopify Payments, you won’t be charged transaction fees when customers make a purchase.
If dropshipping is something you want to pursue, you can’t go wrong with Spocket. You can integrate Spocket with both Shopify and WooCommerce, and start selling products from the UK and EU-based suppliers within minutes. Spocket boasts a mammoth-sized marketplace with literally tens of thousands of items to choose from, including print on demand goods.
You can also order sample products to quality control all your merchandise before selling it online. This also comes in handy for testing the speed of delivery. You have the opportunity to snap your own product photos.
Then, once you're happy with your choice of Spocket product(s), you can upload them onto your e-store and start selling!
If you’re looking for an ecommerce platform that facilitates scalability, then you can’t go wrong with BigCommerce. It has the largest number of built-in tools than any other website builder on the market. Most notably, you’ll get access to robust SEO tools and fantastic multi-channel integration, which makes omnichannel selling a breeze!
BigCommerce isn’t ideal for newbies, because the platform uses a lot of jargon. So, if you have some experience in digital marketing, this will come in handy. As such, it’s the perfect choice for a large and rapidly growing business.
At the moment, the paradigm of our working world has shifted towards working remotely. While this is a challenge for many, working from home isn't all doom and gloom.
As we've explored throughout this article, there are plenty of tools that can help keep you productive. With so many communication apps, timekeeping services, and productivity trackers on the market, it's never been easier to stay focused and connected with our teams.
Now's the time to develop healthier work-life balance habits and practice the art of self-discipline and motivation. You can actively improve your quality of work by establishing good routines and improving your mindset.
Adopting the right morning habits, exercising, and sleeping well are all vital to maintaining a sharp mind. Instead of seeing remote work as a challenge, look at it as an excuse to enjoy a more flexible schedule. You can use this time to plan your day around your family, exercise, work on your own projects, etc. There's lots of opportunity for self-growth, so don't waste it!
Have you already been working from home for a while? Share with us your tips for staying productive in the comments box below. We'd love to hear from you!
Also, don't forget to join our Facebook community. It's a great place to connect with other entrepreneurs and is another fabulous source of motivation. Here we all share handy hints and tips for growing our businesses and working from home.
So, what are you waiting for? See you there!
Rosie Greaves is a professional content strategist specializing in all things digital marketing, B2B, and lifestyle. In addition to Spocket, you can find her published on Reader's Digest, E-commerce Platforms, and Judicious Inc. Check out her website Blog with Rosie for more information.