When you first begin working remotely, you feel like the luckiest person alive. You get to work wherever and whenever you want, all without a boss looking over your shoulder. You bask in your independence and make sure that your work life looks nothing like it did when you were traditionally employed. You work all night and sleep all day; you always say yes when your friends invite you out for drinks at 10pm on a Tuesday (It’s cool. You can sleep in and work later, right?); and you work from anywhere and everywhere you can. But it doesn’t take long before you realize all that freedom has the potential to be a hindrance to your best performance. Working remotely is great, but you also have to be productive during your work time. If you’re not, you might not have that great remote position much longer. Fortunately, there are a few secrets you can use to make your remote work experience both more productive and more enjoyable.
Track your time
Have you ever looked back on your week, your day, or even your morning and asked yourself, “Where did the time go?” Turns out this is no mystery of the universe. You don’t have to wonder. All you need to do is track your time. I use a free online time tracker tool called Toggl, that makes my work life so much more productive. It might be hard to believe, but you won’t have to change any other aspect of your work time in order to see a real improvement in productivity. Simply turn Toggl on when you’re working and turn it off when you’re not. Handy charts in the app show how long you worked compared with other days. Each Monday, you get an email with your Toggl report that depicts how many hours you worked the seven days before. In just a few weeks, you will notice that you’re a lot more productive without even trying to be. All you did was start to become aware of how you’re spending your time.
Get a work accountability buddy
Part of the reason it’s easy to get off track when you are working remotely is because much of the time, you are doing it by yourself. When you work alone, there’s no one around to hide Facebook or Gchat from and no one to tell you what to do. To remedy this, consider getting a work accountability buddy. This can be a friend, fellow remote worker, or coworker with whom you pair up to keep each other on task. You don’t need to physically be in the same location with your buddy in order to hold one another accountable. Here are a couple of ideas you can try with your accountability buddy:
- Have a daily or weekly “check-in” with your buddy: Exchange Toggl reports, share the things that steered you off track that week, and brainstorm ways you can improve for the next week. You can even make it a competition to see who wasted the least amount of time on certain days or worked the most hours.
- Have a designated “check in” time: Having a set time to work, even if it’s a few hours a day or a couple of days a week, can do wonders for productivity. When you’re working a traditional job, you have to show up at 9am (or else!).
But when you’re a remote worker, it’s hard to be anywhere at a specific time unless someone is waiting for you to show up.Enter your work buddy. Set a time when you both have to “check in” online. The method isn’t important; it could be via Skype, Gchat, email, or whatever you prefer. The important part is that when you do check in, you’re working.
Having an accountability buddy is not just great for productivity, but it’s fun. You might not realize just how much you’ve missed having others around when you’re working – to bounce ideas off of, to chat with on a (short) break, or just so you aren’t alone all the time.
Pay attention to what works for you and implement it into your routine
Some people say that you need to maintain a routine, while others say to break up your routine. Some say to work during the day, whereas others swear by working through the night. And while some do well at a coworking space, others do best when they are at home or in a coffee shop.
The truth is, there is no secret recipe to working remotely. Success comes from paying attention to what works for you and integrating that into your routine. Do you work best in the morning? Then set a goal to be up at least 4 mornings per week to ensure you’re using that time to work. Do you work best from a coffee shop? If the ambient atmosphere and free-flowing caffeine help you focus, then set up camp at your local coffee shop every Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. If you can manage to work there every day, that’s even better!
For some, it’s starting work that’s the problem. But for others, remote work means you are always in “work mode.” While working all the time may sound pretty productive, it’s usually not. Take into consideration that always being “on” puts pressure on your mental focus and your health. That said, you’ve got a productivity problem on your hands. The first thing you need to do is set some goals that are easily measurable. Why? So that you can stop working when you reach them. Otherwise, how will you know when it’s time to quit?
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Create a list of the “big things” you want to get done each day. There should be no more than 2-3 things on this list. When those things are done, you’re done working for that day.
- Put in a certain number of hours each day. This only works if you make sure you are productive during that time.
- Accomplish a certain number of items that need to get done each day.
When you’ve met your goal, it’s time to quit for the day. No excuses! Put away the laptop, turn off email notifications on your phone, and relax like it’s your job.
You can even indulge in a weekly or daily treat as a reward for a job well done. This could be a piece of fancy chocolate, 30 minutes of mindless YouTube consumption, a trip to Starbucks, or a weekly standing appointment at the spa.
Working remotely doesn’t mean the end of productivity, and productive remote work doesn’t have to mean the end of fun. Using these tips, you can be sure that your remote work not only gets the job done, but ensures your work life is fulfilling and enjoyable as well. What productivity tips do you use to keep yourself on track?