Ahh the life we all fantasize about as an employee…working from home. Well, okay. I suppose the REAL dream involves a nice beach and a few tasty beverages. But, we’ll keep on track with the remote working life for now.
Remote working, or even working from home a day or two a week can sound amazing and appealing. Like, really appealing. The tempting ideas of waking up a little later than normal because you don’t have to sit in traffic today, working in your sweatpants, and having other comforts of your own home at your disposal throughout the day.
All sounds great, right? Well, those parts are. But, what about all of those distractions from being in your own home. Yes, you know what I’m talking about. After a while, you sleep in a liiiiittle longer than you should, you notice that every corner of your house needs dusting right this second, you take longer “breaks” than normal, browsing social media or tv a little too much, and motivation starts to dwindle. How are you suppose to combat these distractions and not let them get the best of you?
As a remote worker myself I have experienced ALL of these situations and then some (add kids in to the mix, oh boy) over the past year and a half, and I would love to share with you my tips for staying focused and productive.
1.) Set an alarm and/or Allow more light into your bedroom. This one may sound somewhat obvious, but in all honesty, it is really easy to oversleep when you work from home. I’ve found that in the past, setting an alarm….even though I thought working from home would eliminate that annoying device…is a great way to keep your morning routine on track and get you moving.
Recently though, I moved my family out of the city and into a more rural area where we are removed from city lights and are able to keep one of our bedroom windows uncovered. Living in the city we were always trying to block out street lights and whatnot, making our room a cave of darkness. In that situation, an alarm clock was much needed. But, in our new home we’ve found that (aside from our child waking up before the sun) waking up to natural light has made it much easier to rise to. Getting up with the sun is an incredible feeling and so natural. With the sun rising between 6am-7am, I am able to get up and start my day at a reasonable time.
2.) Set a schedule and Write it down. This may seem super obvious, but I think the key here is to write down your schedule in a way that you’ll see that schedule everyday.
I’m a very visual person myself, and I’ve tried every sort of “digital calendar” and schedule reminder that I can think of and though they do help, none of them really worked for me as far as keeping my routine intact. That being said, if a digital calendar or reminder works for you, do that!
I finally got myself a white board that has a calendar outline on it, as well as space for additional notes and so-forth. I’ve hung this right by my desk and filled it out with what times of the day I’m working on certain projects, when to take breaks, upcoming deadlines, etc. Having a visual reminder right in front of my face each day has really helped me stay focused on just how many hours in the day I have to work on certain items. It allows me to focus my energy, and has helped increase my productivity overall. Plus, I love physically writing and checking off my to-do list. It’s so satisfying!
3.) Find time and ways to communicate with co-workers. The home life can be a lonely job, but somebody has to do it!
Okay, but in all seriousness, after your first week or two of working remotely the “honeymoon phase” tends to wear off. You start to feel the effects of working by yourself and having co-workers to talk to and keep your mind stimulated. Oddly enough, you start to miss your co-worker John’s stories about how his band played at the local pub over the weekend, and longing to hear about Karen’s macrame class.
At Syngency, we’ve been able to establish a solid routine of setting up weekly team meetings, department meetings, virtual hang time on Zoom or Google Hangouts, and we also use Slack to communicate ideas quickly. By setting reoccurring days/times for our team members to meet virtually, we have been able to eliminate a lot (not all) feelings of being isolated. Try to set up some weekly times to meet or talk with coworkers, and don’t forget to write in in your calendar!
4.) Exercise, even if it’s just a little bit. It’s really easy….and I mean REALLY easy to forget to take care of yourself when working remotely. I don’t know about you, but I have a tendency to want to jump into work right away and then never leave my desk. I just end up working with my head down and sitting still all day, moving only to get more water and snacks. By the end of the week, my mind feels so cluttered and blocked that I welcome the weekend with wide open arms in hopes of resting and recharging.
Though I’m not the best at this part, I do try to exercise in some way throughout the week. Weather that’s scheduling in time to exercise for an hour in the mornings before work, working in the yard, or just simply doing jumping-jacks in between walks to the kitchen. I’ve noticed that exercising has more benefits to it than just keeping my body in shape. Exercise helps circulate blood flow to the entire body keeping you healthy, it helps relieve stress which can help clear the mind; and with a clear mind comes more focus and creativity.
At Syngency, we incorporate this into our weekly team meetings, and share what everyone is doing to exercise that day/week. It’s a great way to hold yourself accountable and have support from others.
5.) Focus on one thing at a time. It’s easy to get ahead of ourselves when working at home. No matter how hard I try, I easily get distracted by all of the other ideas and work that may come in to my mind. Soon enough I find myself working on 10 partial projects, all of which stay unfinished for longer periods of time than if I had just focused on the one most important item.
Though I don’t have any great words of wisdom here, I do try to remind myself to focus and finish one piece of work at a time. This is a daily, weekly, monthly reminder to myself and will take continual practice. But, once you can sit down and focus on one task at a time, you will definitely become more productive.
Thanks for reading. We would love to hear what tips have helped you work from home better, and for more great tips check out this blog article by Buffer.com