Thanks to modern technology, working remotely has never been easier. From web app developers to personal assistants, countless people all around the world are enjoying the perks of working from home. It’s estimated that the number of remote workers will equal, if not surpass, the number of workers who work from fixed office locations by the year 2025.
However, working remotely isn’t all sweatpants and jammies. Many remote workers struggle to stay productive without a boss looking over their shoulders and while distractions abound. When productivity stalls and deadlines are not met, the dream of working remotely can quickly turn into a nightmare that doesn’t end at 5 pm sharp.
The good news is that it’s possible to enjoy the perks of working remotely while also being productive. To help you achieve this goal, we’ve put together a list of top 10 tips and tricks for staying productive while working remotely based on the experience of successful remote workers across many different industries.
1. Learn to separate personal and work life
The number one problem that people who work remotely struggle with is keeping personal and work life separate. When you can work from anywhere and at any time, you can find yourself working everywhere and all the time.
To prevent this from happening, you should designate an office for yourself—or at least some sort of work area. Don’t eat in your office, don’t watch videos or play games in your offices, and definitely don’t sleep in your office. The only thing that should happen in your office is work.
You should always enter and leave your office at a certain fixed time each day so that both you and people close to you can get used to a regular work schedule and plan around it. Yes, adhering to a fixed schedule may conjure up memories of working in a company office, but this productivity tip can’t be stressed enough if you want to stay productive.
Finally, make sure to always have a task list for everything you need to accomplish that day. You can use various mobile and desktop apps to keep your task list synchronized between devices, but a paper planner works just as well.
2. Use technology to your advantage
Most remote employees are responsible for their equipment, such as a computer with internet access, a webcam for remote meetings, and a smartphone for calls. Those who equip themselves with the right tools and use technology to their advantage find it much easier to stay productive because they don’t constantly run into equipment-related issues.
Instead of using a convenient but less powerful laptop, why not purchase a desktop computer and use it as your workstation? The performance-per-dollar of desktop computers is significantly better compared with laptops, and you can even customize your desktop computer down to individual components so that it fits your needs as best as possible.
If your work involves a lot of typing, you can get a mechanical or ergonomic keyboard to reduce the risk of developing RSI. A second or third screen can help you stay productive when multitasking and juggling several applications, which is what most software developers do on a daily basis.
3. Keep your communication channels open
To stay productive, you must remain connected to your team even when working remotely. This means keeping your communication channels open and attending remote meetings. Remote employees who don’t remain connected to their teams often don’t know what things need to be done, and they miss out on valuable opportunities to provide their feedback.
It’s also a good idea to see your coworkers in person from time to time, regardless of whether your job requires it or not. Even in this digital day and age, the value of face-to-face personal contact remains unchanged. If there are any other telecommuters working for your company, develop relationships with them to avoid feeling that you don’t have a tribe of your own.
Modern communication and collaboration tools such as Skype, Slack, a VoIP system, Jira, Github, GitLab, G-Suite, Zoom, or Asana are your allies, but make sure to play with their notification settings so they don’t become your enemies.
4. Curb your social media addiction when working remotely
Social media networks can be massive time-thieves if you let them. It’s impossible to stay productive with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and Reddit notifications going off on your smartphone every few minutes. To curb your social media addiction, start by turning all notifications off—you most likely won’t miss out on anything important anyway.
Next, install another web browser on your work computer and use it for work only. Don’t log in to any social media networks so that you don’t get into the habit of checking if there are any new posts every five minutes. If your addiction is stronger than your willpower, use a web browser plugin to restrict access to social media networks you visit.
Time trackers like Toggl, RescueTime, Everhour, DeskTime, or Hubstaff can keep you on the right track by monitoring everything you do on your computer and alerting you when you stop doing what you’re supposed to do. They can even generate comprehensive reports, so you can know how much time you actually spend working each day.
5. Take healthy breaks during the day
Taking healthy breaks from time to time is important regardless of whether you’re a remote employee or an in-house employee. A healthy break is basically the opposite of Netflix and potato chips. It’s a 10-minute jog around your block, a walk with your dog, a short yoga session in your living room, a few pushups and sit-ups right in your office, or 5 minutes of mindful meditation, just to give you some ideas.
With deadlines seemingly approaching at the speed of a large asteroid, breaks of any kind are often thrown out of the window in the name of productivity, and that’s a very bad thing. Your physical and mental health determines your ability to stay productive, and healthy breaks contribute to both.
6. Make any public space your office
When working remotely, any public space, like a relaxing park or a cozy coffee shop, can be your office—you just need to learn how to make it work. When it comes to working in public spaces, noise is your number one enemy. A good pair of active noise-canceling headphones can effectively eliminate the distracting hum of traffic, especially if you also cover it with music that matches the project you’re working on.
Instead of relying on public Wi-Fi hotspots, which are a huge security issue anyway, consider getting an unlimited mobile data plan and creating your own Wi-Fi hotspot. Since your smartphone most likely won’t last more than a few hours as a Wi-Fi hotspot, don’t forget to bring your charger, USB cable or a powerbank.
Each and every public space has its own dos and don’ts when it comes to working remotely and staying productive. When working remotely from a coffee shop, be considerate and spend money. Most remote workers buy a drink every two or three hours, but there is no strict formula to apply.
7. Change things up from time to time
Humans are not machines, and chances are you won’t be able to stay productive indefinitely without changing things up from time to time. Tired of working on a desktop computer? Why not use a laptop instead? Getting lonely at home? Visit a coffee shop and socialize during your breaks. Sick of waking up at 7 am? Why not wake up at 9 am?
As a remote worker, you have countless variables you can play with to achieve maximum productivity and stay productive. These variables include where you work, what you wear, what time you work, the type of work you do during the day, what you eat, what you listen to, and so on.
Many online articles advise remote workers to wear formal clothes as if they were in an actual office, working next to other people, but such advice doesn’t really take into consideration the fact that we are all different, and what works for one person isn’t guaranteed to work for you.
8. Stay productive by changing your eating habits
Food is fuel for the body and brain, and its quality largely affects your ability to stay productive. A large carbohydrate-heavy lunch, such as spaghetti with tomato sauce, is guaranteed to make you sleepy and unproductive for the rest of the day, while a balanced meal that is rich in protein and includes plenty of veggies can do the opposite.
To avoid spending hours every day on cooking, consider cooking in bulk every Sunday and storing microwave-ready boxes of food in your fridge and freezer. There are entire communities of people dedicated to meal prep on the internet, so you shouldn’t have much trouble coming up with interesting ideas.
Also don’t forget to stay hydrated, which helps you to keep focused. Keep water at your desk, take regular hydration breaks, choose hydrating healthy snacks like watermelon, cucumber or berries.
9. Familiarize yourself with time management techniques
Your time is the most valuable resource you have, which is why you should learn how to use it as efficiently as possible. Of course, you will never have more than 24 hours to work with in a day, but if you can control how you spend each and every hour you have by eliminating time wasters and staying productive, you shouldn’t have trouble achieving all your goals when working remotely.
There are many time management techniques that you can use to break down work into easily manageable intervals. Perhaps the most popular time management technique in the world is the Pomodoro Technique. Developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s, this technique breaks down work into 25-minute intervals, followed by a short break.
Feel free to experiment with the length of your work intervals and breaks to find an approach that works for you. If you’re a software developer, for example, you might prefer longer work intervals and longer breaks than someone whose work doesn’t require much concentration.
Remote work has its pitfalls, such as how difficult it can be to stay productive, but it also has many benefits that you should remind yourself to enjoy. As a remote worker, you can create your own schedule, work from anywhere, socialize with friends and family during business hours, avoid office politics, save money on commuting, and actually get more work done in less time.
If you ever start to feel that remote work just isn’t working out for you anymore, you can always come back to the office to remind yourself of its benefits.
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