Did you recently make the switch from cubicle-dweller to telecommuter? If so, you’re probably looking forward to sipping coffee in your PJs while you get down to business.
However, working from home entails a whole new level of distractions. With no boss hanging over your shoulder, the temptation to waste time on social media can eat up precious hours. Here’s how to bolster your productivity as you navigate the transition.
1. Define your workspace
Virginia Woolf once wrote that a woman needs a room of her own to write. Whether or not you’re female or a scribe, you need a dedicated workspace. Even if you live in a studio apartment, you can create an office zone with wall storage dividers or a screen. This defined area makes it more natural for you to indicate to other family members that you’re at work — when you go into your office, they should consider it as if you left for the day.
2. Use a planner system
Why plan to fail by failing to plan? Take a few minutes at the beginning or end of each day to write down your tasks for the coming 24 hours and establish a priority system for how you’ll accomplish them. It doesn’t matter if sync your planner electronically or use a paper book — as long as you choose a system and stick with it. It’s a wise idea to spend some time on Sunday evening, plotting your schedule for the coming work week.
3. Make a “do not disturb” sign
Sometimes, other household members forget that you’re telecommuting, even when you enter your office. Interruptions cost the U.S. economy an estimated $588 billion per year. Your spouse may think he only has one quick question — but it can take several minutes to restore your train of thought once the distraction occurs. If your children are old enough to read, you can use a printed sign. If they’re younger, or if you have noisy roommates whom you can’t shush, a pair of noise-canceling headphones can do the trick.
4. Keep open communication lines
When you work remotely, your boss doesn’t know if you’re running late on an assignment due to technical difficulties or illness unless you communicate. Make sure you know how to reach key members of your organization — preferably, they provide an emergency number to call in case of an internet or power outage. Also, regularly send your supervisor status updates, especially if a project takes more or less time than anticipated.
5. But set limits
That said, you might feel tempted to remain available at all hours of the day and night — after all, you might work in your PJs, anyway. However, using devices in the bedroom interrupts the production of melatonin and can make catching your Zzz’s more challenging. You can’t focus efficiently when you run yourself ragged. Set limits such as no work-related calls or emails past 8 p.m., and stick to them.
6. Ask for feedback
Do you want to continue to advance in your career? You need to communicate your aspirations to your supervisor the same way you would if you still worked in-house. Ask for feedback on your performance on a routine basis. It’s okay to directly say, “I would like to advance to the next level. What do I need to improve to achieve this goal?”
7. Set your alarm clock
If you work in a customer-facing role, albeit virtually, you might follow a set schedule. However, if you’re an accountant or programmer, you might set your hours as you wish. Pass on the temptation to sleep in until noon. Many peak performers get their start early in the day. It’s okay to work with your body’s natural rhythms, but maintaining a regular sleep schedule is critical to overall productivity.
8. Eliminate distractions
Do your phone’s pings create a Pavlovian response in you? If you have to respond to every alert, lock that puppy in a drawer while you work — or keep it elsewhere in the house. The average U.S. adult spends 38 minutes a day on Facebook alone. If you check in during the workday, that’s considerable time lost.
9. Prioritize self-care, too
When you telecommute, the lack of defined structure can make you slip into unhealthy eating and exercise habits. You might graze your way through an entire bag of crisps before you realize you skipped lunch. Set a defined time to eat, and strive to take 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of more vigorous movement each week. Keep up with healthy meal-prepping on your off days, so that you don’t feel tempted to snack on junk at your desk.
You can stay productive when working remotely
If you’re new to working remotely, you have much to look forward to — and adaptations to make. By following a few simple tips, you can supercharge your productivity while skipping the commute.