Work is no longer confined to a desk or office. In fact, worker assignments are continuing to expand beyond standard business hours and locations. In today’s digital world, there are many different ways for professionals to work remotely.
With remote work opportunities on the rise, it’s more important than ever to manage your time effectively and get more done. Working from home or another remote location can feel liberating—no commute, no annoying coworkers, no awkward water cooler small talk—but it also has its challenges.
It’s much easier to fall into a trap of procrastinating or staying up too late at night with the added benefit of being able to work in your pajamas whenever you want. Using these 15 tips will help you stay productive while working remotely:
1. Create a routine and stick to it
If you don’t have a daily routine, it’s much easier to fall out of a healthy work/life balance. Creating a routine is the first step to making the most out of your workday from home. This includes setting up your workstation (with ergonomics in mind), forming a daily work schedule and even getting your energy levels and mood swings under control. You may want to consider a few different ways to structure your workday.
Some remote workers prefer to work in a few long chunks of time. This might mean working from 9:00 AM until 2:00 PM, with a few hours off in the middle of the day. Others prefer to work in short blocks of time each day.
This can help make your day go by faster and makes it easier to get in the right frame of mind for work. You can use a variety of apps and tools to help you keep track of your work schedule and stay on task.
2. Use email as a to-do list
You may have heard of the ancient Chinese proverb “New year, new you.” Well today’s mantra is “New year, new email inbox!” It’s not uncommon for an inbox to grow to 10,000 unread emails, especially if you work remotely.
The trick to keeping your inbox manageable is to use it as a to-do list and then marking items as completed. If you receive an email that requires you to take action, don’t just push it to the bottom of your inbox and hope you remember to act on it.
Instead, flag the email and then transfer it to a folder that’s dedicated to all of your outstanding tasks. This is much easier than trying to remember everything you need to do while going through your inbox each day. You can easily search your email to look up what you need to get done, and your message labels will help you sort and prioritize your to-do list.
3. Establish working hours
Just like you would at an office, you should try to stick to your working hours. Working on your own schedule can be a huge benefit of remote work, but it can also lead to distraction and procrastination. Setting up boundaries for yourself can help you stay focused and committed to your work.
There may even be certain hours of the day that are better suited for certain types of work, depending on your job and lifestyle. You can use a tool like RescueTime to track and monitor your computer’s activities, like the websites you visit or the apps you use.
This can help you identify problematic remote work habits so that you can set boundaries for yourself and stay productive. You may also want to consider joining a work-from-home or remote work community to stay accountable and connected to others who are also working remotely.
4. Block out times for email checking
As you’ve learned from the previous two tips, it’s important to block out specific times during the day for checking your email and other remote work tasks. This will help you stay focused and more efficient with your time.
You can set up your computer to notify you when you’re close to hitting your email-checking time, so you don’t fall behind. There are many email programs and apps that can also help you set up specific times for checking your email.
If you work in sales, customer service or another occupation that requires you to regularly respond to emails throughout the day, it can be challenging to stick to a schedule. But even if you need to respond to emails as they come in, it’s important to try to stick to a schedule and block out times for email checking.
If you try to continually squeeze emails into your day at random throughout the day, they can quickly become a distraction.
5. Don’t work alone
If you’re working remotely, you’ll likely be spending much of your time alone. This can take a toll on your mental health and social skills, even if you’re an introvert. It’s important to stay connected with others and not let your remote work assignment become too isolating. You’ll want to keep in touch with your colleagues and managers on a regular basis.
You can also consider joining a work-from-home community or online forum to connect with others who are also working remotely. You can also consider finding a coworking space near you to meet up with other remote workers. A lot of coworking spaces host events and workshops that are open to the public, so you don’t have to be a member to join in on the fun.
6. Don’t forget about exercise and diet.
Working remotely can be a great way to stay in shape and eat healthy. However, it can be easy to fall behind on these goals while working remotely. Make time for workouts and make healthy eating a priority. You don’t have to go overboard.
Just try to stay consistent with your normal routine and be mindful of your choices. Although you don’t have a boss or coworkers watching over you, you should still strive to be professional and presentable at all times. This can help you avoid feeling overwhelmed and stressed.
7. Block out times for meetings, interviews and group projects.
Even if you’re working remotely, you’ll likely still have to attend meetings, host interviews or participate in group projects. Follow the same rules you would if you were working at a traditional office. Make sure you’re committed to being on time and prepared for these events.
It’s important to remember that working remotely takes effort and diligence. You’re still working, and you have to make sure you treat it like a real job. If you make a few small changes to your routine, you’ll likely find that you’re more productive and more satisfied with your work from home experience.
8. Set time aside to work on big projects
If you have a big project that you’ve been avoiding working on, you might want to consider switching to a remote work arrangement. Working from home on a project that requires lots of face-to-face interaction or that only you can do is an ideal scenario for remote work.
You can set your own hours and break times, work in your pajamas, and have the flexibility to schedule time for appointments and child care without having to make up the time. Because you don’t have coworkers to distract you, you’ll have the mental space to get the project done.
You can clear your calendar of other work and put a reminder on your calendar to come back to the project when your break is over.
9. Only respond to urgent tasks
Especially when you’re just starting out with remote work, be wary of becoming inundated with emails from team members and clients who don’t understand the difference between working remotely and working remotely with discretion.
Most companies that use remote workers require their workers to respond to emails within 48 hours. While it’s important to take the time to respond to all emails and tasks, it’s also important to know when to put the brakes on. It’s easy to feel pressured to respond to every email, but it’s also important to set boundaries.
It’s important to remember that you don’t have to respond to every email right away—even if you’re working remotely. In fact, it’s better to wait a few days to respond to emails (except the ones that require a prompt reply).
If you take your time to respond to emails, you’ll be able to more clearly articulate your ideas and provide a more thorough response. Plus, if you respond to emails as soon as you get them, you’ll have a hard time separating work emails from personal emails.
10. Turn off your email reminders
If you’re working remotely, you’re likely using email as your main form of communication. As such, you might have reminders popping up on your computer or phone with emails that need to be sent, received, or replied to.
This can discourage you from taking necessary breaks from work and from diving into new work when you’ve finished your current task. While it can sometimes be helpful to get reminders of emails that need to be sent, received, or replied to, it can also be very distracting and discouraging to be constantly interrupted by pop-ups on your screen.
Additionally, clients who send emails might expect a prompt reply, even though you’re working remotely and can’t respond as quickly as someone who works in an office. Turn off email reminders either on your computer or on your phone. You can also try disabling your internet connection for certain blocks of time (like when you’re at lunch or on a break) to help eliminate the temptation to check emails while you’re away from your computer.
11. Use a task manager
Task managers and to-do list apps are a great way to stay on top of everything you need to do. These apps let you organize and prioritize tasks, set due dates and reminders, and even collaborate with team members in real time. If you have trouble staying organized and prioritizing your tasks, using a task manager can help you stay on top of your workflow.
You can break up tasks into different categories or buckets, such as social media, emails, or other tasks that you need to complete. You can also set different levels of urgency for each task, which can help you prioritize your work more effectively.
12. Estimate how long tasks will take
If you’re new to remote work, it’s important to get a feel for how long different types of work take. If you work on a variety of projects, you might be able to estimate how long they’ll take based on your past experience.
However, if you work on ongoing projects that require ongoing work, such as emails sent to different departments or clients, it’ll be more difficult to gauge how much time they take.
If you’re struggling to estimate how long certain tasks take, try using a timer. Using a timer for emails can help you gauge how long it takes you to respond to particular types of emails. Alternatively, you can use a timer for social media posting. After you use a timer for a few weeks, you’ll likely be able to gauge how long certain tasks take and have a better understanding of how long your workday really is.
13. Block out times for different types of work
If you work with multiple clients, it’s important to block out times for each client. For example, you might want to block out times for emails or scheduling calls, times for social media posts, and times for other tasks that need to be completed regularly.
Blocking out specific times for certain tasks will help you stay focused, as well as help you avoid getting behind on your work and feeling overwhelmed.
It’s also helpful to let your clients know when you’re available, so they can schedule calls with you when it’s convenient for you. Furthermore, blocking out times for each client allows you to be more efficient, since you don’t have to try to squeeze all of your work into a few blocks of time throughout the day.
14. Don’t forget about calendar blocking
If your company uses a project management tool, such as Asana or Trello, you might be using a calendar that’s integrated with your account. If so, it’s important to stay on top of your calendar schedule.
Block out time for appointments that you have to attend, client meetings, and other important events that may require you to be away from your computer. Blocking out times on your calendar will help you stay organized and will also let your clients and team members know when you’re available and unavailable.
If you work with people in different time zones, it’s important to remember to update your calendar times when your times shift due to time zone changes.
15. Make a to-do list and stick to it
To-do lists are a great way to stay on top of your tasks and ensure that you’re not forgetting about any important projects or tasks. To-do lists can be especially helpful when you’re working remotely, since it’s easy for distractions to keep you from getting important work done.
If you work with a remote team or with people in different time zones, you may have no idea what hours are convenient for you to collaborate on certain tasks.
Plus, you may want to collaborate with other people on certain projects throughout the week. Or you may want to do certain tasks at a certain time throughout the week because it’s more convenient for you. To-do lists can help you stay on track and keep you focused on important tasks throughout the week.
Plus, they can be helpful if you want to collaborate with other people on certain projects. You can put the tasks you want to collaborate on in a to-do list, along with the dates and times when you want to collaborate on them.