Creative industries and modern technology often allow for workspace freedom. We can get things done almost anywhere, provided there’s a good internet connection. While the ability to work remotely can be convenient, there are challenges that come with it. Here’s a few things we can do to maximize productivity while working remotely.
Plan your day.
A solid game plan will help you prioritize tasks and keep you on schedule. You’ll be able to measure your progress against your plan throughout the day, which will let you know if you’re on schedule or if you’ve been slacking. A plan is a reminder that we need to hold ourselves accountable. If we’re working remotely, we’re the only ones responsible for the work that gets done. If we miss a deadline, there’s no one to blame but ourselves. We’re less likely to become distracted and more likely to stay on task when we’re working under time constraints, too.
Planning for task completion and working under self-imposed deadlines are valuable skills in the long run. anyway, because practice becomes habit.
Sometimes, when people hear the works “working remotely,” they assume it means to sit at home in front of the tv while wearing pajamas and chipping away on a laptop. Such a work environment may seem appealing, but it’s rarely the case for anyone who’s successful at working remotely. Unless you’re really, really disciplined, such an environment will hinder your ability to work effectively.
Rather than staying home every day, try to change your environment on occasion. Work from coffee shops, restaurants and the library. Be around people and culture. It’s important to keep your mind sharp, and unfamiliar environments (and people) can be helpful in terms of creativity and inspiration.
Make sure you don’t overdo it and spend too much time by yourself, either. Days spent in an office are broken up by conversations in the staff lounge and gossip by the coffee machine. You can remedy the loneliness that sometimes comes with remote work by inviting a friend or colleague to come work “with” you. My friend Brett sometimes comes with me to grab a coffee and read while I get things done on my laptop. It feels nice to have someone around, and can be helpful in case you need a second opinion about something.
Group tasks by type.
Knock out all your phone calls for the day at once. Run your errands in a single trip. This tip is related to time management and helps us to see tasks in groups rather than singularly, which is effective because we’re more likely to knock out a group of things before taking a break. If our phone calls are spread throughout the day, for example, we’re likely to pause to eat or scroll through Instagram after each phone call, wasting time instead of utilizing it.
That doesn’t mean breaks shouldn’t be taken, but rather seen as tasks in themselves. It goes back to my first tip about planning the day. Breaks prevent burn out and help us stay focused, but they should be scheduled and monitored just like our work tasks.
Utilize small (or large) pockets of time.
It’s so easy to lose time throughout the day by mismanaging the small pockets of time, or in-betweens, of other activities. You can make a phone call or two while waiting to pick up your sister from school. You can make a task-list and prioritize the next day while waiting to pick up your to-go food. You can write an article from an airplane (I’m somewhere over the North Pacific Ocean now, flying to Reykjavik from Chicago.)
My point is, you can do things actively while doing other things passively. If we maintain a low level of productivity throughout the day, we’re less likely to be stressed out by having too much to do later on. Having an attitude of professionalism even if no one’s watching helps us to feel confident in our ability to stay responsible and get things done, which is a win for both our professional lives and our personal lives, too.