The telecommuting boom is in full effect, which means embracing the idea of how this method affects your life and work habits. Remote work lends itself to the idea of “working your way,” and whenever you want. The problem with this is it’s easy to become lost in a sea of unproductive habits. Staying productive can be a challenge.
With remote work, you have the opportunity to escape traditional constraints, but you can also lose motivation. The freedom of working from home may lure you into a false sense of security. It can also hinder productivity and motivation as much as help them.
Considering that about 37 percent of all American workers in 2015 were telecommuting, that’s a big risk for companies—and you—to take.
How can you be sure to stay motivated and productive, no matter where you work?
Here are four important tips and strategies you can use for staying productive:
1. Create a Schedule and Remain Consistent
Just because you have the freedom to work whenever you want doesn’t mean you should be reckless. Create a schedule for yourself—just as if you’re working in a traditional office—and stick with it.
The beauty of telecommuting is that you can choose whether you want to work a regular 8-to-5 job or move everything to an evening shift. While the precise timing isn’t the focus, the actual schedule is. If you absolutely have to, make sure you set daily alarms and calendar reminders to keep yourself on task.
Furthermore, a deviation is acceptable, but it’s something you want to avoid as much as possible. Only move away from your regular schedule when it’s absolutely necessary. Obviously this includes things like family emergencies, accidents (like power surges), and more.
2. Eliminate Distractions and Find an Exclusive Space
One benefit to working outside the home is that your mind and body enter “work mode” as soon as you make it on the property. This is because you condition and train yourself that it’s a place where work happens.
You need to do the same for your home office or personal workspace. Get rid of as many distractions as possible by removing things from the equation. Don’t choose a room where there’s a TV handy or a game console to pop on quickly. We all have our vices, just make sure they remain separate from your work environment—wherever that may be.
3. Choose the Right Tools
Choosing the right tools for the job not only includes the software and physical tools you need but also the hardware. For example, if you’re less productive on a laptop, you should switch to a desktop instead.
If you absolutely have to work on a less productive tool—like a laptop—there are ways to boost your productivity. For instance, with a laptop you can plug in a mouse for enhanced navigation and interaction. You’d be surprised at how much an action like this can help boost productivity. While this is just one example, it applies to every piece of software or tool you use. Always be on the lookout for ways to improve your experience even if you do have the right tools.
Choosing the right tools also involves coming up with a project management plan. Having a breakdown structure for your projects and tasks can help improve your productivity by keeping you moving and on task. Set phases and deliverables that can be completed as you work through projects. Further break down those deliverables into tasks and schedule them into your day to hold yourself accountable.
Just because you’re working alone doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have an efficient system in place!
4. Block Nonproductive Channels
If you find yourself migrating to websites like Facebook or Reddit often, then it’s time to stop. During work hours, you should take every measure to block nonproductive channels like these.
Why? Because even a single slip up can lead to a habit or pattern of unwanted behavior, at least when you’re working out of your own volition.
Tools like StayFocusd, FocalFilter, and Cold Turkey can help you block problematic websites altogether. You can disable them once you’ve completed your work. Cold Turkey alone claims to have saved a total of over 10,000,000 wasted minutes by blocking unnecessary sites for its users.
Telecommuting certainly has its benefits, but it can have some drawbacks in terms of staying productive. However, with a little planning and acknowledgement of your potential bad habits, you can be exceedingly productive no matter where you set up shop.
Sarah Landrum is a freelance writer and the founder of Punched Clocks, a career site all about happiness and success. Be sure to subscribe to her newsletter and follow her on Twitter @SarahLandrum for more tips about creating a flexible career.