One of the biggest challenges faced by remote workers, especially those new to the lifestyle, is how to manage time effectively. The flexibility and freedom that make remote work so appealing also make it hard to stay productive 100 per cent of the time. If you’re making the shift from a 9–5 to remote work, the most important thing you can do to start off on the right foot is creating good time management habits and stick to them.
Try to Have a Wake-Up Schedule for Yourself
When you don’t have an office schedule that dictates what time you have to get up each day, it’s easy to fall out of any semblance of a routine. However, creating a personal routine that includes getting up at the same time each day is one of the biggest productivity hacks for remote workers. You might be thinking that this defeats the purpose of having a remote job with a flexible schedule, but we humans are most productive when we stick to some kind of routine. Set your alarm for the same time each day, get up and get the coffee brewing, then start tackling your to-do list to maximize your productivity.
Create a To-Do List the Night Before
To-do lists are a tried-and-true method of managing your tasks and time more efficiently. They are especially useful for remote workers who are completely responsible for managing their own time and tasks. Make a to-do list each night, either at the end of your workday or before you go to bed, so you know exactly what you need to prioritize the next day. You can do it the old-fashioned way with a pen and notebook or choose from the myriad of apps or cloud-based platforms to create an online to-do list. I’ve tried many different task management apps, but more often than not I just use Apple Notes to create my to-do lists.
Do the Hardest Tasks When You Feel Most Productive in the Day
We all feel most productive at different times of the day. Try to pinpoint when you generally feel most focused and productive, and use this time to tackle the most challenging items on your to-do list. For example, many of us don’t feel very productive in the early afternoon hours, especially after lunch, so don’t put off high-priority items until then. I generally feel most focused in the morning, about an hour after getting up, and in the late afternoon or early evening, so I try to do my most important tasks around those times.
Start Omnitasking (it works!)
Many of us have been taught over the years that multitasking equals higher productivity. This is simply not true. When you are trying to do two or more tasks at once, your brain is constantly shifting focus, which actually detracts from your productivity. Any time you switch tasks, it takes approximately 15 minutes for your brain to fully refocus on the new task, so you actually lose productive time. Instead of multitasking, focus on a single task at a time and you’ll notice how much more focused you are on that task. Avoid mini distractions, such as incoming emails or instant messages, by snoozing the notifications on them while you work on a specific task. Then, dedicate 5 minutes to check your emails and messages before starting on the next task.
Take Active Breaks
Taking active breaks is another time management technique for remote workers that helps increase focus and productivity. The human mind works best in creative bursts of 60–90 minutes, so plan active breaks every hour to an hour and a half that include some kind of physical activity and a break from sitting in front of a screen to give your mind time to refocus. Go for a quick walk, do a short bodyweight exercise routine, or just get up and stretch. I like to include a longer active break in my schedule at least a couple days a week, during which I go to the gym for 45 minutes to an hour right before lunch. This way, I utilize my most productive period in the morning to get important work done, then take an extended active break and lunch, and ease back into work later in the afternoon when I feel refreshed and productive again.
Schedule Social Time (Social Life Matters too!)
One of the pitfalls of remote work is that it’s very easy to isolate yourself. Since you don’t have the daily social interaction that occurs in a traditional office setting. Though the pros of working remotely by far outweigh the cons, it’s important to make an effort to not become too isolated. Reward yourself for productive days by scheduling social activities in the evenings. If you’re a travelling remote worker, it can be harder to do this since you might not have a local social circle, so try to find local groups that you can meet up with to socialize. These could be groups of other remote workers or freelancers or just people who share an interest in a hobby that you like. You can even look into local classes and sign up for something that you’ve been wanting to learn.
Create or Find a Productive Workspace
Our environment plays a huge role in how we manage our time and how productive we are. If you prefer to work from home, then create a dedicated workspace that you feel focused and productive in. Keep in mind that your productive space doesn’t necessarily have to be in your home — it can even be a combination of several spaces if you like to change up your environment. For example, you may find it’s easiest to get the more challenging tasks done in the comfort of a quiet home office space, but you like to get out of the house and take care of administrative tasks like emails and invoicing in a different environment, such as a coffee shop. Another option is renting a desk at a coworking space where you can go to some of the time to get work done and maybe even interact with some other remote workers.
While there are days when you’ll hate that remote desk, or scheduling your precious time over deadlock projects. I hope these productivity tips would help you find a way out. Further, feedback is always welcomed in the comment section below.