Working remotely offers many benefits, but it takes a little structure and a lot of discipline to be a productive remote worker. These tips will help you make sure you’re using your day wisely when you work from home.
1. Give yourself a commute.
“Wait, a long commute is the reason I chose to work from home!” you may be saying. Hear me out: The typical drive from home to work (and back again) signals a change in focus, and it subconsciously prepares us for what’s ahead (whether it’s in the office or back at home).
Instead of waking up and hopping to your computer, give yourself a “commute”—it could be a walk around the block, entering your office and shutting the door, exercising before your workday starts, driving to Starbucks and ordering a latte, or any number of other rituals. Whatever you do, choose something that will help you focus on the day ahead and that you can repeat every workday. Stumbling out of bed and right into your desk chair is a sure way to begin your day distracted and groggy.
2. Dress for success.
Trust me—you will feel (and work!) better when you wake up, shower, and put on nice clothes to go to work. Just try it and see—those few extra minutes you spend preparing yourself for your work day will pay dividends in how efficiently you work.
3. Make sure you have a designated workspace.
People may think one of the benefits to working remotely is being able to lie in bed and work, but in practice, this is a terrible idea! To be productive, you need a designated workspace. That means a desk, chair, and a power supply. Whether it’s a corner in your dining room or a set-apart office, your workspace should be a consistent (usually), quiet (if possible), and tidy (hopefully) area.
3. Fight the temptation to do housework.
It’s amazing what lengths you might find yourself going to in an attempt to avoid starting your next project. That’s where things like housework can become a big, problematic distraction—it’s easy to look around you and feel the need to jump back into “home” mode. You may not be able to resist this completely, but you can use it to your advantage—keep reading below to see what I mean.
4. Get up and get moving.
Instead of letting your work-at-home life keep you from accomplishing anything, use your chores as your “alarms.” Once you’ve completed a task, go start a load of laundry. Then, go back to work and focus until it’s time to move the laundry. This gives you manageable chunks of time to work along and provides time for breaks, which science tells us actually make us better employees. Even if you don’t want to do housework, you can take a walk around the neighborhood or go to the gym—no matter what you do, it’s important to get up and clear your mind during the workday.
5. Make sure you’re communicating with the rest of the office.
Technology makes it easy for you to be a part of the team no matter where you’re located. Make sure you’re using all of the tools your office uses on a consistent basis. For most workers, that means signing in to the team chat (Slack, Skype, and HipChat are a few notable examples) and being communicant daily. I recommend using video conference tools when possible—even though you aren’t in the same office, there’s something about seeing your team (or clients) that makes you feel like you’re working toward something together.
6. Set up (and abide by) office hours.
Want to avoid missed meetings, spending your nights and weekends at your desk, embarrassing scheduling mishaps, and burnout? Then do yourself a favor and schedule office hours. If your company abides by the normal “8 to 5,” you’ll already have a structure to follow. But if you’re like most remote workers, you may find yourself with more scheduling freedom than you expected.
It may sound counterintuitive, but if you want to maximize that freedom, you need to give yourself some confinements. That means plan your daily office hours and then stick to them. By establishing and then following the calendar you plan for yourself, you’ll not only be more efficient, you’ll (most of the time) avoid the dreaded nights-and-weekends, after-hours work. (That is, unless that’s part of your personal calendar.) The goal here is to stop your work from encroaching on the time you should spend in other areas of your life—areas that promote rest and well-being.
These six tips are just a few of the proven methods you can use to be productive when you work from home. Which ones are we missing? Leave a comment below, and let us know what we should add. You may see your suggestion in a future article!