13 August 2015 / 6 minute read
Working from home can be a real pain and is incredibly difficult to do well. I've put together my top tips to be productive when working from home.
The biggest problem I've come across as a remote worker is a constant fluctuation in my overall productivity. One of the hardest parts can be feeling like you've never really "completed" a full day worth of work. I find that 2 pm rolls around and I'm struggling to push through.
The good news is that we no longer have to struggle, as below are my tactics, strategies, thoughts and whatever else on being a productive remote worker.
Being a freelancer or remote worker means having a lot of freedom to work where you want. Over the years, I've come to see this as a double-edged sword.
On the one hand, there are no constraints forcing you to work somewhere you don't enjoy. On the other, having no fixed work area can really hinder how much focus you can maintain over long periods of time.
Sometimes it's not about doing the work you want when you want. Rather, it's about just sitting down and delivering.
I highly recommend setting up a special area in your home designed specifically for work and nothing more. That means no games, social media or anything else that might distract you.
Recently I've taken to using Pomodoro, which a time management technique designed to keep you focused on the current task.
It's a way of blocking off "sessions" of time to work on a certain item that needs completing. Each session is kept short, usually around 20 minutes. The basic idea goes like this: Work for 20 minutes, then take a 5-minute break. Once you've done 4 of those 20-minute work sessions, take a larger 15-minute break.
The benefits of it are huge, especially if you're struggling with procrastination. In fact, I'm using Pomodoro right now to write this article. My timer says I have 10 minutes and 52 seconds until my next break.
A really good idea when you're struggling to push through is to simply change your surroundings. I like to do this by taking my laptop over to the sofa or kitchen to get some work done. As you may notice, this goes hand-in-hand with my first point on setting up a dedicated work area.
I don't recommend sitting in the kitchen or in the garden if you're going to be writing hardcore code or making screencasts. However, it's incredibly useful when you've got smaller tasks to accomplish like replying to important emails, fixing simple bugs or writing some more of your book.
Another option is the classic coffee shop, which doubles as a good way to get out for a bit, get some fresh air and a little exercise.
As I've written before, some people decide to work remotely because they're looking for an easy ride. It doesn't take long before they're proven wrong.
Working from home and staying productive is dependant on a number of things, but one of your main concerns should be how you go about your day, more specifically the schedule you follow.
I have a pretty rigid morning routine which I always make sure is followed to the letter. It goes like this:
It may seem like a lot to remember every morning, but that's not the case. I built that routine up over time, simply starting with a coffee and breakfast. At this point, it's ingrained in me a solid habit, and habit is my key to a successful morning.
If you want to be a success while still working from home, planning is your best friend. Setting goals, completing the right tasks and getting the important work done is crucial. But that's easier said than done, so let's look at how...
It should all start the weekend before with a few broad goals for the coming week. This will give you an outline and a good idea of what you want to have accomplished by this time next weekend.
After you've set those broader goals, you need to take some action to get there. You've may have heard of the acronym S.M.A.R.T. which stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-Bound.
To be honest, S.M.A.R.T can be a little overkill sometimes, especially if you're new to goal setting. My advice, and what's worked wonders for me, is to simply make your tasks actionable and measurable. That's it.
All you need to do is create a goal and make sure there's an actionable step to take, like "buy groceries". Then create a way to be held accountable. A good way is a reminder that goes off in a few days to check if you've done it or to simply leave it in your task management app until it's been completed.
Working remotely, or more specifically working from home, can be a real challenge. However, with the right mindset, you can make it work for you and even give you an edge on your competitors.
Always be looking for ways to improve how you're doing things and remember these key points:
I'd love to hear what you do to stay productive as a remote worker. Please let me know with a comment below!