Working remotely may look like an utterly positive thing. After all, you get to stay in the comfort of your own home, completing tasks the way you like it, and probably wearing your pajamas. While those are great benefits, indeed, the reality is more complex. No fixed working hours mean you can postpone your job uncontrollably, and no supervision leaves you vulnerable to all kinds of distractions.
As a result, working from home requires great discipline and focus – or else you risk falling behind every next deadline and outright suffering all the way. However, these traits can be rather quickly developed and retained by following a couple of simple rules. Let’s have a look at these rules and find out what you really have to do in order to stay productive and focused most of the time.
This advice sounds like an obvious one, but the trick is to stick to your self-made working schedule no matter what. Sure, working from home allows you to choose your own office hours, but you still have to choose them and do at least something productive during that time. It doesn’t matter if you don’t feel like working today or have chores – just sit down and start doing your job.
When you have plenty of different tasks, there’s always a temptation to choose the easiest of them – even if they are not that urgent. This can also be considered a form of procrastination, and you want to avoid that. Be honest with yourself and learn to prioritize your tasks, always doing the most important things first. This alone should give your productivity a huge boost.
Prioritizing your tasks is important, but it’s not going to work without setting deadlines for them. Most of the tasks have their own deadline – after all, somebody else expects this work to be done. But even if there are no clear limitations, you should set them yourself. Deadlines help you organize your working schedule, adding a sense of meaning and accomplishment to your work.
Be sure to estimate the time you need to complete a specific task realistically. Use your own experience or ask colleagues, but don’t set deadlines at random. Being too careful makes you postpone simple tasks and directly affects your productivity, but being too optimistic is even more dangerous. It makes your working schedule a lot less stable and adds a lot of unnecessary stress to it.
Working while sitting in your kitchen is pretty nice, but it doesn’t help you concentrate. If everything around you is a potential distraction, you have to spend too much energy on ignoring it. The solution is your own little home office – a place where you can really focus on making things done. Surround this place with things you need for work, like your laptop or a sketchpad, and get rid of anything else.
And the same goes for your appearance. It doesn’t matter if nobody is going to see you, you should still brush your teeth and put on some decent clothes before work. Looking professional not only helps you concentrate, it also makes your day more structured. And it doesn’t have to be a three-piece suit, just wear something clean and comfortable.
Remember that home office thing? Well, it doesn’t have to be a part of your house. Just find a place that allows you to concentrate and do your job for some time. It may be your favorite coffee house, a coworking place, or just a park bench – what matters is this place should be comfortable enough. Nothing too noisy or distracting, of course, or you will probably just end up wasting your time.
Maximizing concentration is crucial for your productivity, but you can’t stay that focused all the time. It means you need to learn how to organize your working hours in order to remain productive in the long term. One of the best ways to do it is following the 52/17 rule, which is quite simple: for every 52 minutes of work, take a short 17-minute break. You can track these breaks by setting a timer on your phone.
The 52/17 ratio is considered perfect, but you can adjust it to yourself. Try taking a 7-minute break after every 35 minutes of work, or relax for full 20 minutes every hour. Just make sure these periods of work are more or less equal, so your day gets divided into even portions of high concentration followed by short breaks. It will help you fight procrastination while making you less tired and stressed out.
Another great way to retain your focus is the Pomodoro Technique. It is very similar to the 52/17 rule because it makes use of short intervals of time as well. These short intervals are called pomodoros here, and typically they are 30 minutes of intensive work with 5-minute breaks that divide them. You can convert almost any task to a series of pomodoros, making it easier to complete.
Daydreaming is the exact opposite of work – and yet, an extensive study has found that it actually can improve your productivity. Roughly half of the participants spent a huge portion of their waking time daydreaming and not thinking about anything in particular. And instead of lowering their ability to concentrate, it helped them complete their tasks more effectively.
Turns out there are two types of memory. Your working memory is used for focusing on tasks and complete them successfully, but it is rather limited. It’s this kind of memory that we hope to improve by setting our deadlines, creating a home office, and so on. And there’s this probing memory that simply drifts from one thing to another but has much greater capacity.
Daydreaming seems to activate your probing memory, adding its resources to the efforts of your working kind of memory. Basically, that means that the more you daydream, the more your problem-solving skills improve, making you more productive. Daydreaming also helps your mind relax and prepare itself for the next task. So if your mind wanders during work, it might be for the best.
Working remotely can make anyone get a little lonely after a while. However, this feeling of complete isolation can be removed by making yourself concentrate on your urgent tasks more. After all, the more you work, the less time you have for negative feelings. So check your list of important tasks, choose one of them and get to work. It will make you more concentrated in the long run.
If you are focused enough, you won’t even notice this solitude of yours. Make sure not to run out of working tasks to complete – their flow is what will keep you satisfied. You only need to worry about your productivity, because the more productive you are, the more difficult tasks you can complete. And that means you grow as a professional, which is crucial for anyone working from home.
These tips may point out different aspects of improving your productivity while working from home. But you need to remember only the main idea behind them all: when organizing a home office, be your own supervisor, and don’t do anything you wouldn’t do at the office. Choose a permanent place to work and show up on time, dressed accordingly and focused on your most important tasks. And don’t be afraid to experiment – this will help you adjust your schedule and make it more comfortable.