Remote work has become increasingly popular in recent years. And, I’m one of many who has ridden this wave.
For some, remote work means a full-time lifestyle as a digital nomad. For others, it means supplementing your income with paid blogging, ghostwriting, or researching.
Whatever your situation, all remote workers face similar challenges when it comes to productivity. Everything from pets and deliveries to social media and personal phone calls can disrupt your workflow.
I know this from first-hand experience, because I have been working from home for over a decade.
While I do have office space now to help manage the media and real estate companies that I own, I use it part-time because I like splitting my time about 50/50 at the home and at the office.
Meaning, each of the tips below has been “battle tested” in the real world.
5 Tips for Remote Work
If you think remote work is the right choice for you but you worry about productivity, keep reading.
I’ve got several key tips for staying productive in a world full of distractions.
1. Set Up a Dedicated Workspace
Working from home makes it incredibly tempting to just drag your laptop over to the couch. Unfortunately, this breaks one of the cardinal rules of working from home:
Keep your workspace and relaxation spaces separate.
If you live in a studio apartment, you can’t get around mixing those spaces. If you live in anything remotely bigger, though, carve out a dedicated workspace.
A dedicated workspace provides at least one key psychological benefit. Your brain avoids confusion about what mode it should operate in.
It knows that when you go into your workspace, it’s work time. You’ll find it much easier to get into the right headspace and start working.
A dedicated workspace also prevents your work from spilling over into every other part of your home. That lets you actually relax when you wander over to the couch to watch an episode of something.
If you see a spreadsheet or a rough draft of something sitting on the coffee table, it will be tempting for you to work while you should relax.
2. Develop a Firm Schedule
Working remotely makes you subject to all kinds of distractions. Some of those distractions will come from you, like the lure of the fridge or pressing chores. Some of those distractions will come from other people, like a spouse asking you to run errands during the day.
All of these distractions can add up very quickly. In the worst-case scenario, they leave you scrambling at the end of the week to meet a deadline.
One way you can fight distraction is with a firm schedule you use from the outset. That doesn’t mean you must still get up at 6 am every day to shower, eat, and dress. It does mean that you must set a firm getting up and sitting at your desk time.
If you struggle with this, take advantage of technology and set up alarms on your phone for key moments in the day. These alarms will alert you when you’re falling behind or even when you’re ignoring lunch.
Make sure your significant other, family, and friends know your work schedule. That will make them far less likely to interrupt your day with non-essential distractions.
3. Figure Out Your Prime Working Times
Everyone’s overall productivity waxes and wanes over the course of the day. When working remotely, you must capitalize on your alert periods.
Once you establish when you do your best work, schedule your most demanding tasks or projects for those periods. Whenever possible, avoid scheduling calls or meetings during those times of the day.
If you’ve never tracked your productivity, it can take a little time to sort out your most productive times of the day. Using a productivity diary can help you find out when you accomplish the most.
Keep it informal. If you feel most comfortable with Excel, track it in a spreadsheet. More comfortable with paper? Use a small notebook.
The diary is only for your reference, so keep it honest. Write down what you accomplish and how long it took. After a week or two, you should start seeing a clear pattern of when you do your best work.
4. Take Real Breaks
Working remotely leaves some people with a vague sense of guilt. If this describes you, then working remotely might tempt you into skimping on breaks.
Some people take a break by only kind of working for 10-15 minutes. Some people skip those breaks entirely. It’s a recipe for burnout.
The human brain only focuses well for about an hour and a half up to about two hours.
After that, work quality will fall off dramatically.
For example, you may notice yourself making more grammar errors or spelling mistakes. You may feel yourself getting distracted by low value tasks. Or, you might close out a program without saving your work.
These kinds of mistakes provide clear evidence that your brain needs a break.
Get up and walk away from your workspace. Go outside and get a little fresh and sun. Eat a healthy snack.
But whatever you do, take your breaks!
5. Set High Priority Goals
Productive remote work depends as much on setting the right goals as setting up the right workspace.
Ever kill an hour answering low priority email at the office at the expense of a key project? It’s infinitely easier to get sucked into these non-productive tasks at home.
Work with your clients or manager on setting out clear goals and timetables for deliverables. Knowing that you must complete X, Y, and Z tasks by A, B, and C dates help focus your work.
You can use those key dates to break down your daily workload so you’re working on the right things at a reasonable pace.
Parting Thoughts on Optimizing Your Remote Work Productivity
Remote work lends itself to distraction, but it’s not inevitable that you have to give into them.
You can use things like a dedicated workspace and firm schedule to limit distractions. Tailor your schedule so that you do your most demanding work during your peak productivity hours.
Work on setting the right goals, so you focus your working hours on the most critical tasks. Give yourself real breaks. It lets your brain recover for a little while.
Have questions on maximizing productivity, boosting your work life, or navigating the murky world of personal finance? Explore the blog for more tips and tricks.