Avoiding shiny object syndrome — it’s easy to want to learn new skills and try new things all the time, which can be great, but it’s also important to focus on your main goals and make sure those get done.
As a part of our series about the things you need to successfully work remotely, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ryan York.
Ryan York is the owner of WebPossible LLC, a Michigan-based digital marketing company focusing on helping businesses get found online. He’s been work with businesses on web development, SEO, and PPC for over 8 years. He’s built his entire business out of his home office where he still works successfully today.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. What is your “backstory”?
I actually did quite a few other jobs before settling in with my own digital marketing company. I have a degree in Chemistry which I never use but pay for every month, and I worked as a mortgage banker as well, spending 10–12 hours per day in an office. I quickly grew tired of that and started learning about web design and development and SEO through websites like Coursera and Udemy. I worked on my own sites in the mornings and over the years, improved my skills, and started selling my services as well. Now I run my company from my home and it’s my main source of income.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
I’d say it’s more the little things than big stories. I just get so many more opportunities to do and try things that I want, from learning languages to flipping houses, to spending time with my wife, golfing and so much more.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Expecting a regular voice call, I’ve answered a couple of video calls shirtless, unfortunately.
What advice would you give to other business leaders to help their employees thrive and avoid burnout?
Definitely continue to provide structure somehow, whether it be check-ins or daily/weekly scheduling. It’s very easy to get sidetracked at home. Even if you’re working on your own schedule, I’ve found it very helpful to put timelines in calendars, build in work time, lunchtime, family time, etc.
Ok, let’s jump to the core of our interview. Working remotely can be very different than working with a team that is in front of you. This provides great opportunity but it can also create unique challenges. To begin, can you articulate for our readers a few of the main benefits and opportunities of working remotely?
The biggest benefit for me is flexibility. I can work any time of day and anywhere I have my computer and Wifi. I’m able to travel often and take advantage of things during the day that a normal 9–5 type couldn’t. I’ve even worked on road trips using mobile hot spots.
Plus, people underestimate how much time they spend getting ready for work and traveling to and from. I used to drive close to an hour to and from work every day, which I don’t think is uncommon. If you figure that hourly amount into your 40 hour work week, that’s like taking a 10–20% pay cut.
Can you articulate for our readers what the five main challenges are regarding working remotely?
- Staying focused throughout the day
- Avoiding shiny object syndrome — it’s easy to want to learn new skills and try new things all the time, which can be great, but it’s also important to focus on your main goals and make sure those get done.
- Get some social time — I could go 10 hours some days without speaking to anyone. Take a break here and there to go for a walk or go to the gym
- Avoid unhealthy snacking
- Avoid too much alcohol or another potential “vices” — it’s easy to want to have a beer on a nice afternoon sometimes.
Based on your experience, what can one do to address or redress each of those challenges? Can you give a story or example for each?
A lot of it goes back to focus and scheduling, especially for business owners or employees with a lot of freedom. Just because you’re at home or running your own business doesn’t mean you shouldn’t set deadlines and expectations for yourself.
Having a clear picture of what your day will look like is very helpful. It’s a lot easier to get sidetracked when you’re not sure what your next task will be.
Do you have any suggestions specifically for people who work at home? What are a few ways to be most productive when you work at home?
Schedule work, social, and self-help blocks into your day. There is so much wasted time in an office setting. I’ve found I can be extremely productive when I focus for an hour or two versus just casually working for 4,5,6 hours in a row. Schedule 2–3 hours of work time, then a break for the gym or for lunch, then another few hours of work, then an hour or two for learning something new, etc. This keeps your brain focused.
Can you share any suggestions for teams who are used to working together on location but are forced to work remotely due to the pandemic? Are there potential obstacles one should avoid with a team that is just getting used to working remotely?
I don’t have a ton of experience here, but I know a lot of my colleagues have success with zoom and Skype. I’ve heard gathering large groups together can get really hectic, so it might be best to schedule smaller group meetings where you can still talk and interact online.
What do you suggest can be done to create an empowering work culture and team culture with a team that is remote and not physically together?
I think anyone who is going to succeed remotely will succeed because they enjoy freedom. If someone really likes the office vibe, it will likely be tough for them to work alone all day. With that said, I think the ones who are going to thrive will thrive because they have that freedom, so give it to them.
Give a little leeway on work hours and face time on the screen, but of course, make sure to still provide deadlines and clear objectives. If they want to work at 4 am or midnight, let them do it if the results are there.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would try my hardest to get people to learn more. There is so much opportunity to learn for free or close to it.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Do better.” It’s annoyingly simple but, in work, in life, with friends and family, we can always do better, and we should always try to.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Thank you for these great insights! We wish you continued success.