Working from home is the dream for most employees, but it’s not without challenges.
To stay accountable, productive and focused, try these 11 time management tips:
1. Set up a dedicated, quiet workspace.
If your plan is to just work from “wherever,” you could be in for a rude wake-up call. Don’t settle for your couch or kitchen. Establish a workspace that minimizes distractions, and cordon off a specific area that trains your brain to distinguish between work and personal matters.
2. Pretend you’re going to work.
Remote workers, when’s the last time you got up, put on business attire, and prepped yourself as if you were heading into the office?
You don’t have to don a pantsuit first thing in the morning, but create a schedule with defined working hours. Establish a routine that mirrors the mornings of your office-bound colleagues—without all the dreadful hours of commuting, of course.
3. Keep track of your time.
Are you underestimating how long it takes you to complete tasks? Are you spending too much time on Instagram or Netflix?
There’s no shortage of time-tracking apps, such as Clockify and RescueTime, which can help pinpoint platforms or projects that are sapping your productivity. Whichever technology or tactic you use or choose, track your time fastidiously.
4. Identify and eliminate (or at least minimize) distractions.
Kids, pets, TV, radio, cooking, tinkering, chores, home renovations—working from home is like navigating a minefield of distractions.
Be honest about the distractions and interruptions that get the best of you. From there, find ways to reduce or minimize time-wasting temptations. Block off time for breaks, give yourself small rewards for accomplishing tasks, or try the Pomodoro technique. If all else fails, work at the library for the day.
5. Watch out for displaced productivity.
“Displaced productivity is when you replace what you’re supposed to be doing with something else that still seems productive but isn’t a priority,” Amanda Abella writes in an article for Calendar.
Doing laundry, for instance, might seem a productive use of your time, but it’s still preventing you from completing your work. You can clean the bathroom after your work is finished.
Instead, tailor your day according to what’s most urgent.
6. Start and end the day with a win.
Remote workers often operate under the radar, receiving little praise, acknowledgement or positive feedback. To stay motivated and engaged, set yourself up for small victories throughout the day. Accomplishing tasks—even minor ones—releases dopamine, which makes us feel good.
So, start your day with something easy, such as knocking out a couple of emails. Also, try ending your day with easy activities, and jot down your top priorities for the next workday.
7. Establish and enforce boundaries.
If someone asks you to do something during work hours, politely decline the requests. To head off such situations, establish clear expectations with your family, friends and colleagues—and firmly enforce boundaries to protect your productivity.
8. Take frequent breaks.
It’s easy to get lost in your work. It’s also tempting to view more time sitting in front of the screen as more productivity.
If you take small breaks throughout the day to stretch, exercise, grab a healthy snack or chat with a friend, you’ll recharge your mental batteries. When you return to work, you’ll be more focused and energized to tackle the next task.
9. Prep your meals.
Cooking can spark creative energy and relax your mind, but it is time-consuming.
If you’re preparing three meals a day, on the fly, that’s a huge chunk of time. Try batching your meals before your workweek. For example, on a Sunday, make a large portion of dinner food for the entire week, or prep salads for lunch. Even preparing healthy snacks for the week can help save time—and benefit your health.
10. Don’t isolate yourself.
Flying solo can be a lonely gig. You might also crave collaboration and cooperation with colleagues, which so often sparks creativity.
If you’re missing the social aspects of work, let your boss know. Sometimes, just a Skype call or a video chat will scratch that itch. You might also consider a coworking space.
11. Break big projects into chunks.
Instead of putting huge, monster projects on your to-do list, list smaller pieces of the project and related tasks.
Break projects down into more manageable portions, and let the positive momentum of crossing off each task propel you forward.
Over to you, remote workers. How do you stay productive and focused while working from home? Leave your suggestions in the comments, please.
A version of this post first ran on the Calendar blog.