Jamie Johnson is an experienced freelance writer who teaches others how to start their own careers as independent professionals. In this post she shares some of her best tips for increasing your productivity and finding work-life balance as a remote worker.
Whether you’ve been working remotely for years or were forced into it due to the pandemic, there are a number of challenges that come with remote working. Depending on your work style, you may struggle with managing your time or feeling engaged with your work.
Fortunately, just making a few small shifts can help you get out of a work rut and improve your work-life balance. Let’s look at six steps you can take to get started.
1. Find a daily routine you can stick with
The best way to improve your working habits is by finding a daily routine you can stick with. Spontaneity sounds fun, but if overused, it can actually cause you to feel insecure and out of control.
Routine gives you a sense of stability, especially during times of uncertainty. And once you get in the habit of a regular work routine, it helps you overcome mental barriers to doing certain tasks.
For instance, if you set a goal to follow up with three people every day, you probably won’t feel like doing it in the beginning. But over time, it will become routine, and you’ll start to act without thinking about it.
To create a positive work routine, take some time to think about the activities you would like to do in a typical week. Then identify any obstacles that could get in the way and how you can manage them.
From there, you can come up with a daily routine. However, it’s essential to give yourself some time to settle into the new routine — don’t try to change it up too soon.
2. Manage your energy through the day
Have you ever noticed how different people function best at different times throughout the day? Personally, I like to wake up early and finish any pressing tasks by the early afternoon.
In particular, I’ve noticed that my most challenging articles need to be finished by noon at the latest. But I know other people who work best in the afternoons or evenings.
We can’t function at 100% capacity all the time, so it’s important to pay attention to when your energy levels are at their highest point. If you’re not sure when your optimal working hours are, it can help to note how you feel throughout the day.
Pay attention to how long specific tasks take in the morning versus the afternoon. You may notice that a task that you took an hour to complete in the morning takes three hours to finish in the afternoon.
3. Get ready for the day
I know, I know. Part of the reason why people want to work from home is so they can hang out in their sweats all day. But one of the best things I’ve ever done for my overall productivity is to start getting ready for my workday.
Make a habit of showering, wearing a nice outfit, and making yourself look presentable. When you get ready, it signals to your brain that you’re in work mode. It also changes your mental attitude and how you feel about your work.
4. Deal with distractions
I can’t write an article about improving your remote work habits without discussing distractions. Distractions come in all forms, and you need different strategies to deal with various distractions.
Email, social media, and YouTube videos are the most obvious examples of distractions and are probably the easiest to overcome. They’re apparent time wasters, so for the most part, you can just decide not to engage in them until you’re done working.
But the more insidious distractions are the ones that feel productive even though they really aren’t. Here are some examples of this:
- Doing households chores
- Scheduling appointments
- Going to midday appointments
- Going grocery shopping or running errands
Unfortunately, it’s not possible to eliminate all distractions, but you do need to set boundaries around your workday. You can do this by scheduling specific times to check your email throughout the day and setting all chat tools (Skype, Slack, etc.) to Do Not Disturb while you’re working.
I also like to keep a notepad and pen on my desk while working. That way, if I suddenly remember that I need to complete some “urgent” task, I can make a note of it for later.
5. Get out of the house when you can
Confession: I don’t really like working in coffee shops. There’s always music playing as well as a chatty group of people talking nearby.
I’ve found that I get my best work done when I’m in my home office with the door closed. But it’s all too easy to let a week go by and realize I haven’t left the house once.
Spending too much time at home can lead to boredom and feelings of isolation. This is especially true if you don’t have a team of co-workers you regularly interact with.
So if you enjoy varying your working location, then go for it. If not, keep working from home full-time, but prioritize getting out of the house periodically.
Go grab a coffee before you start your workday, or take your dog for a walk on your lunch break. You’ll feel better by hanging onto your connection with the outside world.
6. Schedule a time to sign off every day
Many people mistakenly believe that remote work will solve their work-life balance problems. In my experience, it’s actually the opposite — when you work from home, it’s harder to unplug at the end of the day.
It’s easy to find yourself answering emails from clients at 9:00 at night or letting work creep into every conversation you have with family members. Before you know it, you’re overworked and burnt out.
That’s why it’s a good idea to choose a certain time when you’ll sign off every day. Take some time to go through your inbox one last time and reach “inbox zero,” if possible.
Take some time to reflect on how your day went and what you would like to improve the next day. Then set your laptop aside, and let yourself be done working for the day.
The Bottom Line
For many people, remote work will be the norm for the foreseeable future. Mastering the art of working remotely can improve the quality of your work and set you up for a successful career. By starting small and focusing on your daily habits, you’ll continue to improve over time.
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