The other day, I was conversing with one of my friends who works from home.
We were discussing our schedules. And she confessed that she felt unproductive while working remotely.
“It’s so much better at the office. At least I get more work done and can keep my professional and personal life separate.”
So I probed deeper to ask what her daily routine looked like. And after hearing her routine, it was clear to me why she struggled to manage her time.
As someone who has always worked remotely, this wasn’t surprising for me. Working from home while squeezing the most out of your time is a skill.
And in this article, I’m going to share the tips and methods you can use to improve your productivity working remotely.
1. Write A To-Do List
Without having clear priorities for the day, it’s easy to get lost. And it gets even worse when there’s no one to remind you of what needs to be done.
To create such lists, you can use an online to-do list from apps like Evernote and Todoist or a physical journal or pocket notebook.
2. Communicate Your Expectations
If you’re working from home alone, you’ll likely have someone staying with you. It could be your roommates, spouse, or parents. If they see you at home, they’ll assume you’re available.
As a result, they might call you whenever there’s anything they want to say.
That’s why you should clearly communicate your expectations to them. You need to convince them that whenever you’re at work, it means you’re “physically absent” from home. In such a case, they shouldn’t disturb you unless there’s a big emergency.
3. Design a work area
This was one big mistake I saw my friend make. She had a work table right next to her bed. So after waking up, she first turned on the computer and started working.
While this sounds like a good way to save time, working from bed is actually the main reason behind low productivity levels.
Here’s why: Your mind associates the bed as a place to rest, not work. So when you begin working from bed, your mind still thinks it’s resting. It doesn’t get into the work mode.
So the solution is simple – Keep a separate area for resting and working.
This way, your mind associates the working area with doing actual work.
4. Have A Dedicated Workspace
A well-organized and decluttered workspace is crucial for productivity. On the other hand, a cluttered workspace can cause distractions and make getting work done difficult.
When you see unorganized items lying nearby in your peripheral vision, they catch your eyes’ attention. Your eyes send this information to the brain, which has to process it. This eats into your focus as your brain is ‘actively ignoring’ the information it’s receiving.
When you don’t have anything to look at, there’s no such information for the brain to process. Instead, you save your power to focus. And as a result, it’s easier to pay attention.
If you have an unorganized workspace, start by cleaning it up. Declutter and organize everything. Limit the number of things you have on your desk to what is necessary and what helps you get work done.
5. Keep Work Hours and Rest Hours Separate
When there’s no structure, work hours could eat up the rest hours. This is because our mind believes we have a lot of time to complete our tasks so we can do them as leisurely as possible.
At first, you might ignore this problem and allow work to seep into your rest hours. A little extra hour of work won’t matter. But once you get used to such a habit, it gets frustrating.
That’s why you must keep work and rest hours separate.
6. Setup your room with a good lighting
Good lighting affects your mood and, thus, your ability to work. Natural lighting works out to be the best. So if you can, set up your workspace next to a window that gets lots of sunlight.
And when the room gets dark, make sure to use bright bulbs.
7. Dress as a professional
This is another mistake my friend made. While working, she would wear shorts and casual clothes. It signals the mind that it’s time to relax. And this was killing her productivity.
The key is to dress like a professional. Wear the same clothes you’d put on at the office. Once again, the key is to trick your mind into getting into ‘work mode’.
8. Wake up early in the Morning
Since you’re working from home, you’ll be saving so much time you could’ve spent commuting otherwise.
It also means that you can start working earlier than most office-going people! And the best time to work is in the morning when you are fresh and energized.
Tackle your toughest project at this time because you have the energy for it! Or, in the words of Brian Tracy, “Eat that Ugliest Frog!”
Another benefit of working early is you’ll have enough time in the evening to spend with your family or on your passion projects 🙂
But remember, if you are lazy and wake up late in the morning, you’re wasting the most precious resource. In this case, there’s no difference between you and the person who’s forced to lose time by commuting.
9. Set deadlines for tasks!
A deadline creates a sense of urgency without which we could never complete our tasks in time.
I’m sure you’ll be familiar with what happens when you don’t have a deadline. Most would procrastinate, and the task takes forever to complete.
This is one of the most important things I learned from my mentor. He asked me to finish a task in 20 minutes, and I managed to finish it. In the past, the same task would take around 45-50 minutes to complete. A deadline and a timer made all the difference.
Since then, I’ve consistently used this strategy whenever I set out to finish a task. Before starting a task, I estimate the time it would take me to finish it. Then I use the online timer before diving into the task. And it has helped me save days of work!
10. Reward Yourself Whenever You Are Productive!
We, humans, are simple creatures – We run away from pain. And we run towards pleasure.
Rewards make your brain want to repeat that behavior. So if you want to stay productive every day, reward yourself when you get things done.
It is not only a way of feeling good but also a way of controlling your future behavior.
Many people will think that rewarding themselves is an expensive pleasure. But there are many ways to do it without spending money as some people think — take rest, enjoy your favorite TV show for some time, have a walk outside, eat your favorite meal, etc.
11. Setup a specific schedule for checking your emails
Checking emails is a digital distraction but necessary if you’re working remotely. And everyone who writes you an email wants your attention so that they can sell you on their agenda.
If you check your email too often, it can become time-consuming and make you feel unproductive.
On the other hand, if you don’t check your emails, you might miss some critical messages. Maybe you could drop that difficult project and save time, but because you didn’t check your email, you didn’t know!
So how can you avoid such a problem?
First of all, don’t check your email first thing in the morning!
In his famous book 4-hour Work Week, Tim Ferriss recommends checking emails twice a day:
- At 12 noon, before you have lunch
- At 4 pm
So ideally, set aside 30 minutes (15 mins per time block). This will ensure you get all the important updates.
12. Set up a morning routine
One of the past mistakes I’ve been guilty of is waking up and diving into work. Because of this, I would often:
- Skip breakfast
- Miss my self-pump routine
- Skip setting the priorities for the day.
So even if I started working early, I would feel grumpy at one point in the day. The lack of priorities would only have me running in circles.
A simple morning routine is an anecdote to all these problems; set the tone for the day before dive into work!
13. Find an Accountability Partner
Working alone can make you feel lonely. You might not feel like finishing your tasks. In such a case, you need external help. And this often comes from an accountability partner.
They don’t just hold you to higher standards but also force you to utilize your time better!
To know more, read the detailed article on finding an accountability partner.
14. Get Feedback and Learn the Right Things
Our peers often give us a benchmark to measure our progress. For example, when you see someone in your office ace your work and receive compliments, you’re likely to feel ‘socially pressured’ to give your best! And often, this form of competition fuels growth.
But when you work alone, you miss out on this. Since there’s no one you’re competing against, you could end up with a distorted view of the world and lacking in skills compared to your peers who go to office.
In your eyes, you might think you have the best skills. But in reality, you could just have basic, surface-level knowledge.
The anecdote to this is to get active feedback. Understand where you’re going wrong, your mistakes, and how you can improve. This is super-important so that you don’t lag behind your peers in terms of skill.
Hiring a coach, taking feedback, and being part of a professional community can all help you get feedback.
20. Learn and Upskill Yourself Constantly
This is a natural extension to the previous point. When you work at the office, your colleagues could get many opportunities to train and improve their skills. For example, you might miss these because you’re working on your own.
This could lead to a skill gap. And to prevent this, you must keep learning and improving. Invest in good courses, books and coaches.
You can check out the article on this website that talks about how to learn things faster.
15. Open Important Apps Before Beginning Work
Imagine you’re in the kitchen, preparing to create a recipe. Before cooking, the first thing you’ll do is organize the ingredients.
In the same way, before you begin work, open all the important tabs and apps you need before you start. Some of the main ones could be a project management app like Asana, Microsoft One Drive, an online to-do list app like Evernote and a communication channel like Slack.
16. Invest in a Good chair
Sitting long hours in front of the computer can strain your eyes and hurt your back. And any form of physical discomfort eats into attention, affecting your ability to get things done. Not to mention the long-term consequences of bad posture.
So save yourself this trouble by investing in a good chair. It’ll be worth it.
Exercise has a direct impact on your mood and energy. And the more energized and upbeat you feel, the faster you complete your work. Also, this is a great way to stay in shape, and you’re probably aware of a host of benefits.
18. Keep your mobile in a different room
A phone call, an online ad, an Instagram post, and a Facebook message are all competing for our attention through smartphones.
When you feel a little bored, it’s easy to pick up the phone, scroll through some posts, and chat with your friend before you realize 1 hour has passed and you’ve not finished the task.
So you want to keep the mobile phone as away from you as possible. Research has proven that keeping the mobile in the same room, you sit in makes concentrating harder.
In fact, you can try these 3 experiments on 3 different days:
- Work with a mobile phone next to you.
- Put the mobile phone in the same room as yours but hide it in a drawer, closet or under a pillow.
- Put it in another room.
Compare the results after 3 days. You’ll find many valuable insights. The 3rd option is the best for maximizing productivity.
19. Turn on important notifications. Block the unimportant ones.
Notifications – those innocent-looking pop-ups are again competing for your attention. But some notifications could be more important.
Imagine you’re called for an urgent virtual meeting. You have no phone (because you’ve already started applying the previous tip :D). So how should someone contact you?
In that case, you need to tell your colleagues/clients how they can reach out to you if it’s urgent. So let’s say your emergency communication channel is Skype. Then you should turn on this app’s notifications while working on the desktop.
At the same time, you don’t want a Facebook or a Twitter post to cause distraction. In that case, blocking the notifications from these apps is better.
21. Take Breaks
Do you feel guilty whenever you aren’t working? If that’s the case, then this tip is for you!
Remember that no human can stay at their productivity peak forever. Everybody needs to rest to recharge their energy. That’s why taking breaks is essential to maintain your peak productivity stage.
Also, there are different methods through which one can take breaks.
The worst one is scrolling through Instagram or watching mindless Youtube videos. They only increase your screen time, putting more strain on your eyes.
The better options are to meditate, go for a walk, or just lie down.
22. Don’t guilt-trip yourself when you’re unproductive.
Remote work gives you a lot of freedom. But at the same time, it comes with many temptations – finding the next vacation rental on Airbnb, booking a flight to a secluded island, finding cafes nearby, etc. So it’s easy to get distracted when one’s around.
It happens. Just be aware when it does, and then switch to work. No need to beat yourself up for it.
I hope you found these tips useful. Begin applying them to your daily life and see how they boost your productivity.
Hello! It’s Rana here. On this blog, I write about productivity and self-help. I share my personal experiences and offer solutions that you can use in your life 🙂