Working remotely comes with various distractions you otherwise wouldn’t have working from a traditional office space. At the office, you have regularly scheduled meetings, work time, lunch breaks, and deadlines.
Working remotely allows you to work from wherever you’d like. You can work from your bed with a packet of chocolate in your pyjamas, and nobody would be the wiser. You’re able to pick your own schedule and make your own home office any way you’d like it.
However, working from home brings to light new challenges, especially for the first-time remote worker. If you are working from the comfort of your own home, your beloved family members become your top distraction.
If you have children, they will be so happy you’re home when you’re typically not that they’ll make you their own personal jungle gym. You now know your spouse likes to sing during their work shift, and you were unaware that your dog barked at everyone walking by the front door during the day.
You’ll be tempted to work on chores around the house, that you otherwise would be unable to do working from the office. You find out your neighbours have some boisterous daytime activities they enjoy doing. You become overwhelmed, full of anxiety. Full of stress. You’re going to miss that deadline if you don’t get some peace and quiet quickly.
Don’t panic. Relax. Breathe. We’ve got you covered.
Welcome to the ultimate guide to productivity while working remotely.
This is an ultimate guide to maximizing your productivity from the beginning of the remote work process. It will take you from the first moment your boss informs you that you’re working from home to a seasoned pro in a matter of minutes.
Don’t worry if you’ve been finding it difficult, even ancient philosophers were obsessed with trying to boost productivity.
Get yourself a pair of noise-cancelling headphones
The first thing you need to do is go out to your nearest electronics store or log in to your favourite online marketplace and get yourself a pair of noise-cancelling headphones.
Maybe you are a copywriter who needs to crank out 2,000 words of copy for a client, a business manager with a project deadline looming, or a user experience designer working on the second iteration of wireframes.
Need a creativity boost? Put on the relaxing folk music playlist. Need to focus and pump out some volume? Perhaps it’s time for some smooth jazz. Need to get pumped up for a client-facing meeting? Maybe the hip hop or reggae playlist is for you.
Whatever music you like or mood you are in, jamming out with some tunes can make your productivity levels shoot through the roof. Better yet? Listening to that music in the comfort of your noise-cancelling headphones to drown out all the excess noise.
Did you know that your brain starts to correlate specific playlists with different business tasks? If you set a playlist for each type of work you do and listen consistently, you can expect an additional uptick in performance.
Choose a dedicated workspace
It’s time to choose where your home office is going to be. Often, people don’t have a whole room to dedicate as an office, which is a bummer. The best thing you can do for yourself, your employer, and your career is to have a door you can close if working from home.
Now, that doesn’t mean shoving your laptop and a notebook in your pantry and typing up that report next to the canned corn and box of muesli, but a door is crucial.
If you are unable to find a closable door to make your office, then make sure you have a dedicated portion of your house or flat to make your own.
This space is your professional sanctuary, and its quality is vital to productivity. Avoid places with a lot of foot traffic, such as the kitchen or bathroom (I hope the bathroom wasn’t at the top of your list, if so, sorry to disappoint.)
The quality of your workspace is vital to productivity. Think about it: You’ll be spending anywhere from 35 to 50-plus hours here per week. It needs to be quiet, thought-provoking, creativity-inspiring, and clean.
If there really isn’t anywhere at home where you can work, there are additional places to consider as your new workspace.
Have your workspace picked out? Perfect. Now, it’s time for decoration.
Invest in a standing desk
You have a few options for how you interact with your computer and other pieces of tech in your workspace. The most common? That super comfortable office chair that promises it’s ergonomically correct for workers who suffer from back pain. Sure, its rolly wheels allow you to scoot around your new workspace quicker than a hiccup, but is it driving down your energy level, mood, and productivity?
The smart choice alternative? A height-adjustable standing desk. This sleek and modern alternative to the traditional office chair allows you the flexibility to sit or stand at your desk, any time of day. It also gives you immense health benefits. Human beings were not meant to be stagnant, sitting creatures. Our bodies are made for movement and motion. Just by standing, you encourage movement throughout your workday.
Investing in a standing desk gives you various health benefits, such as:
- Weight loss
- Reduced back pain
- Lowers risk of heart disease
- Lowers blood sugar levels
- Increases mood and energy
- Increased productivity
Set up your space
Whether you like having a sleek and modern minimalist workspace, or a space that is jam-packed with a bunch of stuff from all corners of your house or flat, you need to make your workspace work for you. The bottom line is that different people work best under different circumstances.
Personally, I like the minimalist look and feel. My workspace includes:
- Desk lamp
- Bonsai tree
- Coffee mug
My setup is next to the largest window in my flat with a nice view of a river and a now-leafless tree. It allows me to combine my love for nature and living things (view, tree) while minimizing distractions.
Pro tip: Notice how my phone is not part of my home office. That is a specific omission and one we will get to shortly.
If you find yourself being distracted by various objects in your workspace, you’ll need to adjust. Keep fidgeting until you have the perfect balance of happiness and productivity.
Have a schedule and separate work and life
For first time remote workers, separating work and life while working from a home office is very difficult. Often, there is a minimal amount of space between their working space and living space, and sometimes, when square meters at a premium, there’s no difference at all.
This makes for a sort of identity crisis that is hard to deal with.
That’s why it is crucial to make sure you have a routine and a hard stop time while working remotely. It doesn’t matter if you want to get up before dawn and work from 5 in the morning until 2 in the afternoon or if you want to press the snooze until noon and work a day shift until 8 at night.
Whatever you fancy, pick a schedule, and stick to it.
Remember that work is not your life and that you have interests that extend outside the scope of your home office.
If you are a social being by nature, and especially if you have recently adjusted to working remotely full-time, you’ll need to find a way to connect with others during your remote work experience. Just because you are working from home does not mean you can skip out on meetings, pitches, and other interdepartmental initiatives throughout the company.
Applications such as Zoom and Slack have become synonymous with remote working and allow employees to connect and work with colleagues and managers.
Additionally, the social networking platform LinkedIn is a great way to connect with other workers who have recently switched and adjusted to remote work arrangements. Gaining connections enhances your overall network, which in turn gives you more perspectives on the current scope of employment in your town, city, or country.
Remote working can be incredibly lonely, especially for single people. For extroverts, this can be an intimidating and scary experience. Ensure you take care of your mental and psychological well-being by (virtually) socializing as much as you can.
Do the five most important tasks every day
To-do lists can often get extremely long. So long, in fact, that it is nearly impossible to finish all the tasks laid out for the day, week, or month.
A simple way to combat this to-do list fatigue is simple: At the beginning of the day, write down the five most important tasks you need to do today. These can be anything and can be related to your professional or personal life. Sometimes getting out and exercising is better for your overall personal and professional well-being than finishing that article on dumbbells for your client a day early. Make sure you also take Parkinson’s Law into account, as this can also be unconsciously affecting your productivity.
Do not add to this list of five tasks and if you’re unable to finish all of them, roll the remaining tasks over to the next day. This business mindset aims to have achievable and realistic goals you can complete every day to maximize productivity without feeling overwhelmed and burnt out.
Check your email twice each day – in the morning and before you log off
One of the lovely parts of remote work is the ability to work how and when you want. There are, of course, still daily and weekly meetings you must attend at specific times. Other than that, you are free to complete your work at your leisure.
Some of you may have read The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss. One of the main points of this book is to maximize life living and minimize working. In the book, Ferriss recommends checking email just twice a day, every day. It is a wonderful productivity hack as checking emails can be a complete time suck.
Unless you work in an emergency room, nursing home, or another line of work that directly contributes to human beings’ life and death, nearly everything can wait 24 hours.
Check your emails in the morning and address everything that needs to be communicated to your boss, colleague, or client, and do the same at the end of the day.
This emailing strategy enhances productivity. Instead of sending 10-word emails like text messages, you relay all pertinent information for the day, week, or month in one email. If done correctly, checking emails just twice a day can save you a day every week.
It might not be a four-hour workweek, but it’s better.
Turn off the notifications on your phone
Think for a moment the number of times per day you hear your phone call out to you with a loud ding or customized section of a song. It happens every time your favourite influencer posts a new photo on Instagram, every time you get a text from Mum, and every time you get an email from that magazine you signed up for seven years ago.
Depending on the number of apps you have notifications set up for, that’s about 85 push notifications per day. You spend about two minutes per notification looking at the notification and are now distracted. That’s nearly three hours of wasted time.
To add proverbial insult to proverbial injury, a recent study suggests that to get back to work after being jolted out of coherence due to a notification takes a blasphemous 23 minutes. Simply put, you are losing days and weeks of your life looking at random mumbo jumbo by enabling your notifications. Talk about a wasted opportunity to jack up productivity levels. For goodness sake, turn them off.