Staying productive can be challenging in any environment, but working remotely poses some unique obstacles. Not only do you contend with common workplace focus-zappers such as email, factors like family members and a sink full of dishes can compete for your attention. It can be difficult to make remote work work.
To increase the likelihood of staying on task, try these tips to make remote work work.
1. Designate a work area.
Every telecommuter needs a space that can be used exclusively for work.
While it needn’t be a fancy office, it should be a quiet place with enough room to keep necessary materials handy. Not only does such an arrangement prevent important documents from accidentally mixing in with household junk mail, but also going “off to work” (even if just down the hall) helps your mind make the shift from personal to professional.
Likewise, closing a door reminds others that you’re working. Post a sign stating when you’ll be available to let them know when to return.
2. Eliminate distractions.
Working at home requires a good deal of self-control. Without co-workers and managers around to help regulate your actions, it becomes easier to give in to time-wasting temptations. Thus, it pays to keep your work area as distraction-free as possible.
Proactive measures such as relocating a television set to another room and closing all online sites not directly related to the work at hand can cut down on the urge to “peek” for a minute (or 10).
Watch out, too, for self-interruption. Since we often worry that we’ll forget something if we don’t act on the thought immediately, keep a notebook by your desk. Quickly write down whatever pops into your head that threatens to throw you off-course—be it what needs to be thawed for dinner tonight or checking if you have carpool on Thursday.
Then, pick a time later to deal with this list and assign each item a place in your master schedule.
3. End today thinking about tomorrow.
Lay the foundation for a productive day the night before while thoughts are fresh in your head. Trying to figure out where to begin kills momentum, so jot some notes about where you left off before calling the workday quits.
Create a new to-do list that’s ready to be followed immediately when you step into your workspace, and gather materials so that you can dive into projects rather than waste time hunting. A strong start can set the tone for the whole day.
4. Take breaks.
Regardless of environment, every worker needs time to refresh. Be sure to schedule in time for a proper lunch and regular breaks. These physical and mental respites will enable returning to duties with more energy and focus, and looking forward to them will help the day pass more pleasantly.
Go ahead and throw in that load of towels or chat with a neighbor during these planned interruptions.
You needn’t feel guilty about it!