Working remotely definitely has its perks. You get to take advantage of your newfound flexibility. Not only do you get the choice of how you work, but you also get to choose where you work. If anything, it can be more freeing than working in an office all day long.
However, along with that freedom and flexibility comes the struggle of overcoming the distractions while working from home, or any place that isn’t the office. Hours could quickly pass by, and you’ll end up wondering where the time went.
For people who are new to remote work, time management can be a major problem. If left unaddressed, it can lead to unproductivity, ultimately affecting your overall performance as a business owner or employee.
Fortunately, there are ways to beat unproductivity and procrastination. Here are five tips you can follow to maximize your working hours:
1. Have a dedicated workspace
It can be tempting to work on the couch or the bed when working remotely. However, this could easily alter your comfort, and you could end up with a backache or sleeping the day off.
Once you decide to work remotely, one of the things you should prioritize is building a workspace. If you have a spare room in your house, consider switching that to a home office. If not, pick a quiet corner in your home and set up your workspace there.
Here are some of the important things to keep in mind:
- Invest in ergonomic desks and chairs. It will help prevent body aches as you work the whole day.
- Use lights. Natural lights are the best as they can play a role in boosting productivity. But artificial lights like lamps could still work to brighten up your workspace.
- Keep your desk clean and free of clutter. Arrange papers and documents properly. This will help you find things quickly, saving you time and effort.
Once you’ve set it up, avoid doing anything but work in this area. That way, when you settle in your workspace, your brain sends signals to the rest of your body that it’s time to be productive.
2. Write all of your tasks down and prioritize
Even if you’re not good at making lists, creating a to-do list for your day will help you stay organized and focused. The night before or early in the day, make a list of the things you need to do. It could be meeting up with a client or your boss, checking and replying to emails, working on a very important project, etc. No matter how minor, fit it in your list of to-dos.
Next, prioritize your tasks according to their level of urgency. If you need to follow up on your business’ inventory financing or reply to an email ASAP, do that first, then work your way down. Keep referring back to your list and crash them off as you go. Seeing all the things you have accomplished for the day will keep you motivated and inspire you to do better by the next day.
It also helps to keep a calendar to keep track of your tasks and when it’s due. You can even color-code your tasks according to their level of priority, so you’ll know which task to tackle next.
3. Keep a schedule
This might be a no-brainer, but it’s sometimes the most overlooked tip for many remote workers. When you switch from an office to a home setting, your routine and schedule are usually the first ones that go, making you lose control of your working hours and working around the clock.
To avoid this when switching to remote work, keep a detailed schedule. Research shows that daily planning increases employee performance. Your daily schedule, in this case, will serve as your plan for the day – guiding you in what to do to maximize your time.
As much as possible, stick to “office hours” – whether it’s 9-to-5 or 8-to-4 – from Monday through Friday. If you’re transitioning from office to remote work, your body is probably programmed to be productive during those hours. And, don’t forget to schedule breaks in between to avoid burnout.
Once you have your schedule, stick to it. As you continue doing activities according to your established schedule, it will eventually become a habit.
4. Reduce distractions
According to Gloria Mark of the University of California, Irvine, it takes about 25 minutes for the brain to get back to a task after a distraction. Imagine how much productive time you lose if you keep getting distracted from work.
While it may be impossible to avoid these distractions altogether, you can take steps to minimize them.
For instance, if one of your major distractions while working is your phone, remove or at least disable the apps that take up much of your time during your working hours. It could include social media apps, games, and others. You can also inform your family members or roommates of your working hours. They’re less likely to talk to you or ask you for a favor during those times. Be sure to clean the clutter in your desk after working to eliminate the time you spend cleaning it the following day. Plus, a clean desk can help you focus better on your tasks.
5. Avoid multitasking
It’s natural to think that doing many things at once can help you save time and effort. But in practice, multitasking has proven to be an inefficient approach to mounting tasks.
It takes about 15 minutes for the mind to refocus after switching from one task to the other. In multitasking, chances are, you aren’t just doing two things. You could be doing more. With that, your mind has to shift its focus continuously, losing its momentum and hurting your productivity.
Instead of multitasking, try focusing on one task at a time and switch tasks only when you finish. This way, you’ll be able to focus more on the task at hand and complete it much faster than when you’re doing multiple things at once.
Time management is key to anything – including productivity. Whether you’re new to remote working arrangements or you’ve been at it a long time, the tips above can help improve your time management techniques and make sure that you’re as productive as you can be.
You don’t have to start doing it all at once. Take one or two each time and once you’ve mastered it, incorporate the others. You’ll eventually notice a big difference in your ability to manage your time and productivity as you continue with these practices.
About the Author: Roel has broad experience in public relations and marketing communications for the lifestyle, travel, tech, and banking industries. He is now a co-owner of a growing franchise food business and a full-time Content Promotion Specialist for SMB Compass. Outside of work, you’ll find him backpacking Asia and training for the Spartan race.