I’ve been working at least partially from home since 2006. I love it, but it does require some deliberate effort. I find that I’m actually more productive working remotely than I am working in an office. Here’s how I do it.
1. Set a Schedule
I set an alarm and get up in the morning like I always have. I have a normal schedule of when I work, when I take lunch, and when I stop in the afternoon. That schedule is somewhat fluid, and I often work an hour or two late in the evening after my daughter is in bed. I find that having a baseline schedule, even a flexible one, makes it easier to separate my work and personal life.
While many employers worry that remote workers will be too distracted by home and not get anything done during the work day, I find the opposite is true for me. I find it easy to get sucked into email or work when I should be “off” in the evening.
2. Get Dressed
I get dressed in real clothes every day; if I stay in my pajamas I’m not motivated. I wear comfy clothes, but I know people who wear nicer clothes even working from home because it helps their mindset. I once worked with a woman who wore a suit every day working from home for years because it was how she could be most productive.
3. Seek a Change of Scenery
I work from Panera or a coffee shop once or twice a week because the change of scenery is helpful. In fact, if I’m running a little behind on a project and need a really solid day of work to get caught up, taking my laptop to work from another location for a few hours is often the jolt I need.
4. Plan Face-to-face Interaction
Working remotely can be isolating. I’m happier if I schedule lunches with friends or former coworkers. Once or twice a month is enough for me, but you need to find the right balance of interaction for your personal needs. That face-to-face interaction is important, even for introverts like me.
5. Pay Attention to Your Natural Rhythms
I pay attention to my natural rhythms. For example, I know I have an easier time writing in the mornings, so that’s when I do my heaviest work. I leave boring administrative tasks like invoices and accounting for the early afternoon when I hit the post-lunch slump.
I take a 20 minute nap nearly every afternoon. I learned years ago that I’m more productive with the nap than without. If I don’t get a nap, I at least take 5-10 minutes to close my eyes and meditate or do progressive muscle relaxation. You might not need that, but listen to your body and figure out what you do need. Maybe you need a walk in the afternoons or a few minutes outside in the mornings. Maybe your most productive time is after lunch, so you can schedule your heaviest work for that time.
6. Keep a To Do List
I use Remember the Milk for my daily to do list. I use Google Calendar for my schedule, and I use various spreadsheets for specific projects. I am always more productive when I have a prioritized list of my tasks to complete. Breaking larger tasks into smaller ones also helps keep me on track.
If you currently work remotely (or have in the past), what did you find helpful in maintaining your productivity?