One of the things that I love about teleworking is the ability to work independently. I can perform my tasks in my own time, using my own process. This also means that I don’t have to spend a lot of time dealing with office politics. These points make it easy to assume that teleworking by yourself is excellent for productivity, but that’s not always the case.
When we work alone, away from the constant prying eyes of colleagues and supervisors, we tend to lose our competitive edge. I’ve noticed this in myself, too. I haven’t exactly been slacking off or taking my work for granted, but I feel like something’s missing — as if with a bit more push I can get a better, more inspired output. Here’s why:
Competition keeps you on top of your game. Research on social facilitation seems to back up the idea that having an “audience” competing with your or simply observing your work may boost performance. This effect appears to be more pronounced in smaller groups and if performance is tracked individually.
For more complex tasks, though, competition might end up impairing your work because of the distraction involved. Because of this, it helps to find out the depth and amount of competition that would be helpful to your performance.
Competition reminds you of what makes you different. Apart from focusing on your own performance, you also tend to assess the abilities of your competitor. You’ll try to look for the skills and qualities you have that will stand out from the usual criteria that supervisors and clients are looking for. While everyone else presents relatively the same level of skill, pricing, and schedule, you’ll need to identify what’s unique about your services. Once you identify this, you need to work on how to bring it out and enhance it even further.
Competition may lead to collaboration. While this may sound antithetical, in my experience a healthy amount of competition can help expose your weaknesses and strengths as much as your competitors’. If you find a way to work together, you can help compensate each others’ weaknesses and build on both your strengths. For example, I’ve teamed up with another blogger who has skills I lack (Internet marketing, business building). It’s been one of the most educational collaborations I’ve had.
- Freelancers should use some of their downtime to check out the track record and portfolios of their competitors. For employees, examine the habits and performance of the colleagues you admire. How is their approach different from yours? What can you learn from each other?
- Look for other people working in the same field or niche as you do and collaborate on a small project together.
- Review your business or performance statistics from last year. How do you think you’re doing so far? Sometimes you only have to look at yourself to find an ideal competitor.
When we think about competition, we shouldn’t associate it with things like playing dirty or focusing too much on the work of other people. If approached in the right way, a competition — no matter how informal — can help us work better.
How do you stay competitive when you work independently? Does competition affect how productive you are?
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