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Productivity Tips for Work That Every Remote Employee Should Know

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work from home

17 pro tips to work from home effectively

Productivity at work determines how fast we get the things done, how we progress in our careers as well as how fulfilled we are at work. Getting more things done in less time not only helps you maintain a healthy work-life balance, but also helps us feel a better version of ourselves in the office.

Keeping highly organized and productive in the office is quite challenging as it requires us to develop a specific approach to managing time and tasks. However, things get even more complicated with remote work as the number of distractions arises. This is especially true to those who have recently begun working remotely because of coronavirus.

To avoid procrastinating and ensure high productivity even if you work from your living room, our career consultants have collected the 17 tried-and-true strategies. Use them to prioritize tasks, eliminate distractions, shift your mindset and eventually achieve peak productivity.

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17 productivity tips for remote workers

Whether you’re only getting started as a remote employee or have worked from your home office for a while, follow these tips to make a difference:

1. Monitor how you spend time  

To manage your time successfully, you need to identify how you spend this time first. If you think that you are super busy but still cannot complete all items in your to-do list by the end of the working day, try tracking your time. Use a time tracking app such as Rescue Time or Toggl. They allow you to plan, schedule and track time spent on tasks and projects. You may be surprised to find out that you complete financial analysis tasks pretty fast, but then procrastinate on answering emails and writing reports.

2. Set time frames for each task  

If the task or an assignment doesn’t come with a sense of urgency, there’s every chance we’ll spend more time on it. Use the insights you’ve gained from a time tracker to set time goals for each item in your to-do list. The practice shows that when we’re not time-pressed, we procrastinate. A deadline you’ve set will give you a healthy dose of stress and will stimulate you to complete each task faster so that you fit into that deadline. As a result, you’ll finish with your daily tasks and projects much faster – maybe, even before the working day is over.

By the way, if you are stressed at work all the time, take a look at some strategies for coping with workplace stress efficiently.

3. Take scheduled breaks

Don’t confuse the planned breaks with interruptions. When someone interrupts you as you’re immersed in the task, you lose focus and it takes you a while to concentrate again. On the contrary, the scheduled breaks in-between tasks stimulate productivity as they let your brain rest and unwind. Take such breaks every hour or 90 minutes, whatever is more comfortable for you. Use these short breaks to have a hot beverage, stretch your muscles or do the laundry. Don’t try to complete all day’s work in one sitting – it will only exhaust you.

4. Protect your time during working hours

When you work from home, one of the biggest challenges is that your roommates or family might assume that you are always available. They might ask you to help with cooking the dinner, invite to watch an HBO show or simply break into your room with a chat. So, you want to set boundaries and ask others not to interrupt you as you work. Set hours when you wish not to be disturbed, and if you work from your room, keep the door locked.

5. Minimize interruptions

Reducing interruptions caused by others is not sufficient for effective work. Even if you’re alone in the room or apartment, there are lots of possible interruptions tempting you to put the work aside. TV, social media, a sudden need to clean the place, a cat asking for your attention or simply a good weather inviting to go for a walk… If you don’t manage interruptions, your 8-hour workday is likely to stretch to 10 or even 12 hours. So, restrict yourself from any activities other than work during the business hours, put the smartphone aside and block notifications.

6. Use the two-minute rule

For completing simple, quick tasks such as responding to an email or calling the client for a quick clarification, use a two-minute rule. It means that any task which can be completed in under 2 minutes should be done immediately. Putting it into your diary or planner and returning to it later will take you more time than completing it at once. By developing this habit, you’ll release yourself from the mental pressure of small and urgent tasks and will be able to concentrate more on complex, project-critical tasks. As a result, you’ll get more done in less time.

7. Set a routine for answering emails

Emails are well-known productivity killers. Many people respond to them first thing in the morning, and then get back to it a few times during the day. To save time on handling ever-filling inbox and not to miss an important memo from the boss or client inquiry, follow these rules. First, mark the letters from your boss or the most important clients as important so that they are the first thing you see and can respond do. Second, give yourself fixed time frames for emails. It can be 30 minutes in the morning and in the evening. And finally, use canned responses to use in similar situations.

8. Minimize meetings

When you work from home, conference meetings are the only way to stay in touch with the rest of the team. Yet, even here they can turn into pointless discussions that only take everyone’s time. The rule of thumb here is that you call a meeting only if the issue cannot be resolved through email or a phone call and requires the presence of several people. Similarly, avoid joining the meeting if your presence is not absolutely essential for the success of the project. Minimizing meetings is an untapped time reserve that can boost your productivity.

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9. Design a place for work

Some remote employees work from their kitchen, sofa in a living room or even in their bed. Yet, all these locations make you feel relaxed and don’t stimulate for intensive work. Pick a corner or an entire room in your apartment and turn it into a home office. Furnish it with a computer table, a comfortable chair, the right amount of stationery and other accessories needed for effective work. Once you’ll get into this place, set yourself for work and don’t get distracted until the working day is over. In a stimulating environment you’ll find yourself more productive.

10. Handle complex tasks in productive hours

Although many remote workers are confined by standard 9-to-5 schedule, since you work from home, it gives you some flexibility. For example, you can adjust your schedule depending on your peak productivity hours. If you’re a morning person, it makes sense for you to ‘eat that frog’ early in the morning when you’re most concentrated and energized. Are you a night owl? In this case, devote the daytime to routine, less important tasks and work on that important project late in the evening. Use your unique working rhythm to get more things done, career experts recommend.

11. Write a to-do list in the evening

How often do you get up trying to recall what should be done in the first place or trying to organize your day in a hurry? Start a habit of writing to-do lists in the evening. At the end of the working day you’re fully immersed in the tasks and processes. Thus, you can prioritize things and activities for tomorrow, set deadlines, and organize your day efficiently. All you’ll have to do in the morning is to open that to-do list and act on it rather than trying to pull yourself together. This simple step will save you a lot of precious morning time.

12. Exercise and eat healthy

As all your commute now is getting from your bed to a desk and then to a kitchen, it’s more important than ever to stay physically active. Physical exercise not only prevents you from putting on weight but also keeps your mind sharp and maintains mental wellbeing. Exercise during your regular breaks. Take at least 30 minutes every day to jog, cycle, practice yoga or work out. It’s also important that you eat healthy snacks during the day rather than chips and chocolates. Healthy food such as fruit, vegetables, and nuts keeps you energized and helps you stay in shape.

13. Declutter and organize your working space

When there isn’t a boss hanging over your shoulder, it’s easy to get relaxed. You might find yourself working from a desk cluttered with magazines, books and checks. Yet, career experts insist that decluttering your working environment reduces anxiety and makes you more productive. So, clean up your desk, getting rid of everything which is not essential for daily work. Keep the most important items (such as phone, notebook, or printer) within a hand’s distance. Surround yourself with aesthetically pleasant things, such as paintings, plants, photos of your loved ones, etc. These simple steps will help you keep inspired for work.

14. Overcommunicate everything

While you work in the office next to your colleagues and boss, there’s an option to clarify and ask something. But as you work remotely, communication setbacks can lead to misunderstandings that sabotage the working process. That’s why when you communicate via Google chat or slack, overcommunicate each point. Repeat it several times, explain, and repeat again until you are 100% sure that the person has understood you right. Communication issues in remote teams occur, and it’s better to be too detailed than cause misunderstandings which are costly for your employer.

15. Get clear on policies of remote work

Once you start working from home, make sure that you and your boss are on the same page about terms of work and expectations. Review a remote work handbook from your employer or have a meeting with a supervisor to clarify key aspects of work. Are there regular team meetings and chats where everyone is expected to present? Do they want you to be 100% available from 9 to 5 or allow some flexibility as long as the work is done? What are the preferred means of communication and during which hours you can contact your boss? Knowing this in advance will help the work of the entire team more productive.

16. Keep in touch with coworkers

If you work as a part of a team, remote work is a challenge. To handle it and stay productive, always be in touch during the working day. If the designer can’t reach you for two hours to get an approval of the site’s visuals, you slow down their work and productivity. The team’s final outcome depends on each member, so you want to be in touch to keep the process going. Additionally, it’s a good idea to have casual conversations with your team members. Keeping personal connections is important for productive work and communications. Moreover, you’ll feel less lonely at home.

Is groupwork vs individual work your ideal option? Check out our guide to find out.

17. Non-conventional ways to boost productivity

Staying organized, prioritizing things and setting boundaries between work and time off are important. But you might also want to try the extra ways of improving productivity:

➤ Use a white noise app or switch on classic music on the background – these sounds impact positively on our focus without distracting from work.

➤ Use aromatherapy – lemon, rosemary and cinnamon scents have a positive effect on our mood, concentration, and fight physical exhaustion.

➤ Take a nap during the lunch break – napping for 15-20 minutes improve our creative problems solving and logical reasoning.

Bonus: 3 tips to write a resume for teleworking position

Are you specifically looking for a remote position? If so, your resume should reflect that. When updating your resume, be sure to incorporate the following changes to make it more appealing for recruiters:

  1. Mention that you’re after a remote opening – consider adding the statement (i.e., Looking for a remote administrative assistant position) at the end of your career summary. You might also want to mention your interest in remote openings in a cover letter. Thus, you make it clear for recruiters what kind of role you’re after.
  2. List previous remote experience – if you’re worked remotely or as a freelancer before, create a relevant section (i.e., Freelance work) to list these positions in a resume. Or, you might list all experience under the Professional experience section. In this case, specify that it was a remote position along with the job title.
  3. Highlight skills needed for remote work – remote employees are required to have a specific set of skills. You need to be familiar with video conferencing tools such as Skype or Google Hangouts, and office software such as MS Office or Google Suite. Hands-on experience with project management and time tracking tools also counts. Be sure to highlight soft skills such as self-motivation, organization, flexibility, and more.

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