When your office is in your house, there’s always one more load of laundry that can be washed, or a room to declutter, or maybe an excitable pup that could be walked a third time.
A distributed worker’s biggest challenge revolves around the infinite number of distractions while working from home.
Here are some steps to develop a system that works best for you; that is, one that scratches the proverbial itch of attending to home-based chores while ensuring ample time for job-related productivity:
Know your energy levels.
This is the first step toward maintaining your focus as a remote worker. If your energy tends to peak in the early hours, maybe that’s the best time to take your dog to the park, head out for a run, do some yoga, or hit the gym. Then you can return to your desk refreshed with a renewed ability to concentrate on important projects, leaving the afternoon for routine meetings and more ad hoc tasks. (However, if you’re foggy in the A.M. but can crank out great work or lead amazing client presentations in the afternoon or early evening, then your schedule would be the inverse of the above.)
Review your priorities each morning.
It’s best to kick off the day knowing what lies ahead—not just within your immediate working hours, but also for the week, month, and quarter. Taking the time to briefly re-orient yourself to current milestones and looming deadlines is a habit worth forming for several important reasons. You’ll become more goal-oriented and strategic and will have a greater sense of how your daily work contributes to your organization’s big picture. Bonus: once you’ve crossed off your daily list’s highest priority tasks, consider rewarding yourself with a half hour to tackle personal items.
Build in routine chores.
Everyone has job-related housekeeping to do, no matter their role. This could involve filing regular reports, responding to support tickets, updating project management platforms, or cleaning up spreadsheets. And while it’s hardly inspiring work, these tasks are often the necessary incremental steps on the way to major progress. Once you’ve allocated time to address the mundane items on your plate, you’ll be mentally free to brainstorm creatively and focus on priorities without those nagging to-dos on your mind.
Schedule focused time.
Just as you’ll need to block out time for routine items, you’ll also need to reserve chunks of your workday specifically for quality heads-down work. If you haven’t done this yet, you may already have fallen victim to meeting-invite-overload. Simply because a calendar slot isn’t occupied by something else, you appear to be available to colleagues, team leads, and others. (Uh oh!) When you carve out time to be focused and work on your most critical tasks on your shared calendar, you’re publicly demonstrating your commitment to your work.
Get ahead for next week.
In many companies, Friday has become “Fri-yay”—a time for more laid-back task management or relaxed project maintenance. The end of the week is a valuable (and relatively quiet) period for you to reflect upon where you’ve been able to move forward, and where you may have fallen short of your goals. This isn’t intended to be a practice of self-flagellation, though! It’s a means for you to exit the workweek with a deeper understanding of what you’ve accomplished, as well as what you’ll need to put on the fast-track come Monday morning.
Leave room for growth (and the unexpected).
Remote workers are productive folks, and as a result, we sadly tend to neglect our own professional development. Investing 30 to 60 minutes of each week on viewing relevant webinars or conference talks or reading recent research or industry blog posts can have a significant long-term impact on your current role—and your remote career. Additionally, it’s impossible to predict when work-related emergencies may require immediate attention, so having some buffer time embedded into each week will help you address issues without disrupting your plans.
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