Remote work isn’t easy, especially during times like these. Some have always worked remotely, while for others, this is brand new – and may be permanent.
The home office has replaced the corporate office. Some of us have kids running around. Others are battling slow internet connections or pets trying to hop into video calls.
It can be tough to focus and get real work done while working online. If this is you, you’re not alone. Thankfully there are ways to combat the chaos and focus. Here are ten ways to stay productive while working remotely.
1. Set Strict Hours
Most humans aren’t wired to be productive for twelve hours straight. Some studies show that we’re probably only productive for around three hours a day.
It may be tempting to draw your day out and work a little here and a little there. Or instead of working for eight hours, you might stretch it to ten with some news on in the background.
This mindset can destroy your productivity.
Your mind simply can’t go for that long, and you will benefit from the time you spend utterly free from work.
So set strict hours for yourself. Don’t start working until the clock starts on your set time and be done entirely when your time is up. Focus and work hard during this time. You’ll find yourself much more productive.
2. Shut It Down
When the end of your set hours arrives, be done. Be all-the-way done.
As mentioned, your brain will thank you for the complete shutdown, and you’ll wake up tomorrow ready to get right back do it.
In Deep Work, Cal Newport encourages a strict “shutdown ritual” to end your working day. He walks through a few recommendations starting around fifteen minutes before your day is done:
- Reschedule any task you didn’t get to
- Fire off any emails you can quickly tackle
- Snooze the rest until tomorrow (or a later date)
- Turn your computer off
- Say something to solidify the end of the day (something like “day complete”)
Don’t check email in the evening, think about tomorrow’s tasks or stress about an upcoming meeting. Cease to work.
In the same book, Newport describes a phenomenon that occurs when we allow our minds to rest from work. Often, in our subconscious, our brains will keep working on problems. But only if we allow them to sleep.
So in ceasing to work, you may be more productive than you were while working.
Shut it down at the end of the day. It’s worth it.
3. Plan Every Hour of Your Day
If you struggle to stay focused on tasks or suffer from decision fatigue throughout the day, consider mapping out every hour of your day.
It may seem like an extreme measure, but having a plan like this will prevent you from wasting brainpower between each task. Answer the question of, “What do I do next?” at the beginning of the day, rather than five times during the day.
When planning every hour, be honest with your time estimates. There’s nothing worse than not giving yourself enough time, rushing to finish tasks, or not completing them in time and having to rework the entire schedule. Err on the side of overestimating.
4. Create a Productive Environment
Your workspace at home is everything. You are a product of your environment.
Work while lying in bed throughout the day and you’ll produce lazy work. Stick your desk in a dark, dusty basement, and you’ll make uninspired work.
Work in a space you enjoy being in that allows you to accomplish your best work. Here are some tips for doing so:
- Find some natural light in the house
- Use a desk/chair that allows for good posture
- Decorate a bit (don’t go overboard to the point of distraction, though)
- Put things around you that inspire you
Do work in a productive environment to do productive work.
5. Embrace the Change
It can be easy to trudge through remote work – especially for those of us who didn’t exactly ask for it but were forced into it.
Complaining and wishing things were back to normal will put you in an inadequate mental space. Instead, lean into the learning curve and embrace the change.
Don’t beat yourself up for not adjusting perfectly – this is not easy stuff. Give yourself some grace and some time to get the hang of it.
Feel free to hope that things get back to normal, but for now, embrace remote.
6. Invest in Helpful Tools and Tech
On that note, even if your company won’t be remote forever, it’s worth it to invest in tools and tech to help you get more done. If you wind up going back to the office in the near future, just sell it or keep it around for future use.
Here are some tools and technology to consider to make you more productive:
- A standing desk that allows you to switch things up
- A nice office chair you don’t hate sitting in
- Fast WiFi that doesn’t drive you crazy
- Something like weBoost cell phone booster to strengthen your phone signal
- A nice pen and journal for going analog
Though some of these items can be pricey, it will be worth it to increase your capacity to get more done.
7. Get Out of the House
Being stuck in the home for 8+ hours is not suitable for the soul (unless you have no choice). It’s also not good for the body or mind.
Getting some fresh air can work wonders for your mood. It’s easy to get bogged down or stressed cooped up indoors. Seeing the outside world can help provide perspective.
Stepping out of the house can also help the body. Being idle all day is terrible for parts of your body—even something as simple as a fifteen-minute walk once a day can reverse some killer backaches.
8. Stay Connected to People
Some remote work jobs are lonely. Tools like Zoom and Slack keep us connected, but not every company has a culture that stays connected.
If that applies to you, fight for connection. Loneliness can quickly lead to low morale. Low morale is a fast track for producing terrible work at a slow pace.
Not only do we need a personal connection for our mental health, but your work depends on it, too. Find an online community, join an industry Slack group, or participate in forums.
If none of that entices you, schedule weekly calls with friends or family. Do whatever it takes to stay connected.
9. Know When Productivity is at its Peak
When planning your day, consider when you’re most productive. For some, it’s the first thing in the morning, while others thrive in the evenings. Figure out when you do your best work.
Once you know your productivity peak, schedule your most important or involved tasks during these times. Another option is to schedule the work you least enjoy when you’re at your most productive.
Sometimes we can psyche ourselves up for exciting work even when we’re not at our peak. But trying to do tedious work when we’re not feeling is nearly impossible.
Set yourself up for success by scheduling your day around your tendencies.
10. Minimize Distractions
There’s nothing more tempting while working remotely than to do anything other than work. Right? It’s tempting to surf the web, check social media, and go down online rabbit holes.
And because you’re at home, it can also be tempting to do the dishes, check the mail, and vacuum the floors.
Distractions kill us. Experts say it can take twenty-three minutes to get back in the zone after giving into a distraction.
When your mind wanders during the day, gently rein it back in. And fight distractions at all costs.
11. Be Fully Present in Meetings
It can be easy to zone out or check email during meetings, but this is a quick way to kill your organization’s productivity. Operate in meetings as if you were present with your team.
If your meetings cease to be productive, it’s only a matter of time before your entire company begins to suffer. And it starts with you. Set the tone in meetings by being:
- Energetic and encouraging
- Invested in the topics at hand
- Prepared for the agenda
This is a great way not only to keep yourself productive but your collective as well. There may be distractions – pets or children in the background – but these are usually unavoidable. Do what you can to make meetings awesome.
12. Be Honest with Yourself and Others
As mentioned, remote work can be difficult. It can be lonely. Sometimes it can be completely draining.
You must be honest with yourself about how you’re doing. How’s your productivity? How’s your morale? Are you doing your best work?
And when you’ve been honest with yourself, do it with others, too. This will help you hold yourself accountable and make changes when they’re necessary. Don’t allow yourself to stay in a slump just because it’s comfortable.
Get transparent before your work – and your mental health – suffer.