Your New Remote Life: How To Work From Home and Find Productivity & Motivation In This New Normal
People have structured their lives around 9-5 in-person jobs for generations. Now use these work from home productivity tips to set new routines and thrive remotely.
What are the best ways to boost your work from home productivity levels and find motivation?
If the coronavirus pandemic suddenly means you have to work from home without having any prior remote work experience, you’re not alone.
Current estimates report that 20% of the world is under a COVID-19 lockdown, and three out of every four Americans are in some form of lockdown, or soon will be[*][*].
With no end date in sight, working remotely may be your new normal for a while. So this guide is here to help.
We’ll show you how to get back to a regular work routine and get your tasks done for the day (without losing your mind in quarantine).
4 Simple Steps to Boost Your Work from Home Productivity
People have structured their lives around 9-5 in-person office jobs for generations.
But without the physical cues of an office and coworkers to help you focus, you may find it harder to stay motivated and on-track at home.
This is especially true if your new office is just a few feet away from your bed, kitchen, or TV.
So follow these four simple steps, and watch your work from home productivity levels soar:
Step 1: Establish a New Routine (It May Look Similar to Your Old One)
Most people thrive on structure, and telecommuters are no different.
Just like you probably have a morning routine for your traditional office gig, you should also create one now that you’re newly remote.
With the right routine in place, you’ll feel ready to produce your best without feeling overwhelmed or distracted. To do this:
Prepare the night before. Rather than staying up late to binge-watch more Tiger King episodes, it’s important to remember you’re still working the next day, not on vacation.
So even though you’ll be home, you’ll want to wake up early and energized to tackle your day and your to-do list.
Set an alarm and get up as usual in the AM — don’t sweat it if this is a tad bit later than you usually wake up, that’s okay during this tough time. We’ll discuss your work schedule in the next section.
Squeeze in self-care time. Without wasting time on a commute, you can add a quick workout, yoga session, or meditation/journaling practice into your morning routine.
These activities will all get your body and mind in the right space to work. These important activities are also great for keeping you sane and improving your mental health, which is so crucial right now.
Get dressed and ready for the day. Shower, get out of your pajamas, eat breakfast, etc. Basically, do all your morning routines and rituals just like you used to do before going remote.
By getting dressed and out of your pajamas, you’ll be more motivated to show up to work instead of feeling like you want to crawl back into bed.
A good rule of thumb in the remote world is to wear your standard work attire, or maybe dress a bit more like a casual Friday at the office.
Don’t worry if you decide to work in sweatpants in the end -- what matters is that you try to show up and do your best, even if that’s slightly less than you’re used to. These are tough times and it’s okay (and encouraged) to adjust.
It may feel silly at first, but it will help your mind make the connection that it’s time to work, even if you get a little dressed -- brushing your hair and teeth are both a great start.
So while your remote work routine will help you stay on track and avoid procrastination, a schedule will show you exactly what needs to be done and when.
Step 2: Create Your Schedule for the Day
Flexible work often comes with flexible work hours. But how you structure those hours impacts how productive you’ll be.
Stuck on the clock? If you’re still being asked to keep your old 9 to 5 work schedule, just transfer all your regular activities to your new remote plan.
Did you typically start your day checking emails before creating your to-do list? If so, leave the first 15 minutes of your remote schedule for answering emails just the same.
Write out your schedule and don’t forget to pencil in breaks you’d typically take at the office.
You may need a few more breaks during this time and, once again, that’s okay too. This pandemic has put a ton of mental strain on most people so it’s okay if you need a little extra time for yourself right now. Don’t be afraid to take those breaks.
Create a schedule around your productivity levels. If you’re not stuck in a traditional schedule, feel free to work when you have the highest amounts of mental energy.
Marketers may want to send out emails before the team wakes up while coders may want to burn the midnight oil, for instance. Do what works for you (as long as it doesn’t interfere with team deadlines).
If this pandemic has put you behind schedule, don’t feel overwhelmed. Instead, let your team lead know ahead of time so you can both agree on an adjusted schedule before any deadlines are missed. Most bosses will be understanding right now as long as you give them a head’s up beforehand.
Schedule in blocks of time. Chunking your duties in blocks of time helps you outline what you’ll be doing from one hour to the next.
So a typical work from home schedule may look like:
- 9:00–9:15a Emails, prioritizing, and creating a to-do list
- 9:15–10:00 Deep, focused work on your most important task for the day
- 10:00–10:10 First morning break! Get up for a quick walk, check social, etc.
- 10:10–1:00 Deep work on your most important tasks
- 11:00–11:10 Second morning break!
- 11:10–12:00 More deep work
- 12:00–1:00p Lunch
- 1:00–1:45 Deep work
- 1:45–2:00 Afternoon break
- 2:00–2:45 Email check, follow-ups with your team or clients, etc.
Then just continue this pattern until you end for the day.
You can adjust as needed or add/shorten your breaks, depending on the intensity of your work.
It also helps to set a timer here. You won’t have to keep checking the clock to see where you’re at in the schedule; you can keep working until you hear the buzzer signaling a break.
Always schedule breaks. Remote employees tend to clock more work hours than their in-house counterparts during the week. But your mind and body deserve much-needed breaks throughout the day, especially right now -- this is so important and we cannot stress it enough.
The Pomodoro Technique — where you work in 25-minute increments before taking a 5-minute break — may be helpful here.
By scheduling your time in chunks of work and breaks, all you have to do is show up and follow the plan.
Take advantage of this time blocking technique, and you may find that your day flies by while all your work gets done.
Plus, if you replace your in-office vending machine breaks with walks around your neighborhood, you’ll be productive and recharged at the same time.
So take a few minutes to create your schedule for the day, and you’ll find it’s much easier to stay on track.
Step 3: Tune Out the Noise and Settle Into a Deep Focus
Your work from home productivity largely depends on how well you can:
Minimize distractions. Instead of being tempted by your phone, kids, or fur babies, it’s essential to set yourself up for success.
Deep, focused work can only be achieved when you minimize distractions.
This may mean moving your phone to another room, X’ing out of social tabs, and ensuring that your loved ones know not to disturb you during work hours.
Listening to instrumental, lyric-free music on Spotify or Pandora may also help you zone in and get your work done faster.
Simply pop on some noise-canceling headphones if you’re quarantining at home with your spouse or children.
Carve out a dedicated workspace. Instead of posting up on your dining room table or on the sofa where the TV starts calling your name, try to lock down a dedicated workspace elsewhere.
This space should be free of distractions and clutter so you can get to work immediately. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or fancy, just enough space for you to focus on the tasks at hand.
It should also have a door to close. This keeps your work zone quiet and offers privacy during video conference calls.
Step 4: Debrief for the Day, Check-In, and Reward Yourself
At the end of your day, check in with your to-do list to see how well you did.
You can also use this time to check-in with your team, let them know how you did, and what you plan on achieving tomorrow.
So were you able to accomplish everything you planned?
If not, don’t beat yourself up. Simply make a schedule for the next day using what you couldn’t get to as your starting point.
Cross off the items you did tackle for the day, and you’ll gain a sense of accomplishment and pride. This forward momentum will propel you to put your best work forward even while remote.
It’s also a good idea to reward yourself for a job well done.
While happy hour may be out of the question, you can always try an afternoon hike, reading a good book to unwind, or indulging in Me time.
Final Thoughts on Working Remotely in this New Normal
Follow these four steps, and your work from home productivity will impress your team, your boss, and even yourself.
If you’ve been anxiously counting down the days until you can return to the office, you may be surprised by how efficient you become as a telecommuter.
With each passing day, you’ll find that your new normal (i.e., the remote routine you’ve created) is just as effective as your former routine — if not better!
You’re doing a great job, and we will all get through this together.
If this pandemic has you reconsidering what you do for a living, use this time to research other career possibilities. You can even look for remote-only jobs if this new work style has you feeling more productive and energized. Visit our remote job board now to see what’s out there!
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