Seven Productivity Hacks for Working Remotely
Freedom and flexibility. Two of the most compelling reasons to take a job these days, and exactly what we’re all asking for, right? The millennial generation is getting to a point in their lives when their day-to-day is no longer dictated by parents, teachers, coaches or bosses. They’re transitioning from entry-level to middle management and demanding the right to work on what they want and the flexibility to do it where they want to do it. While working from home may up your productivity (according to a new study by Porch), many newly remote workers don’t know where to start. Here are a few tips and tricks I learned to keep myself on track:
1. Set S.M.A.R.T. goals for what you want to accomplish while you’re remote.
If you’re remote for a day or remote for your entire career specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound (S.M.A.R.T.) goals will not only provide you a target to aim for, but will force you to think through everything you’re asking of yourself so you can evaluate the trade-offs of various tasks early on. This is important because remote work requires more organization than working in an office. In an office, colleagues can remind you of upcoming deadlines or priorities. When you’re remote, you must remind yourself. I check in on myself each morning and on my SMART goals at the start of each week, so it’s easy to hold myself accountable. The key is that once you meet one goal, don’t be afraid to set a new one. Continuous progress is motivating in a way that I cannot describe, and once you’ve got your initial momentum, your productivity will be hard to stop.
2. Plan your day, either the night before or in the early morning before you get to the office.
Some people even like to do this on a weekly basis (still leaving room for pop-up opportunities and emergencies). Maybe you’re a morning person (like me), and you need to do all your heavy lifting before lunch. Maybe you’re a night owl and want to tag-team with your early-riser teammate on a special project. Whatever you need to do to set yourself up for success, plan it out. (Things like bullet journals, wall calendars and online schedules can be effective tools to help.) The less time you spend wondering OK, what should I do next? the more time you spend actually working toward your goals.
3. Use checklists to keep track of the action items you own.
Not only is it extremely satisfying and motivating to cross things off your list, it’s incredibly inspiring to see everything you were able to accomplish at the end of the day. Sometimes I realize that even when I don’t feel as productive or focused, looking back at my completed checklists helps ground me and show me everything I was able to get done. You get to create your checklists any way you want. Get a notebook that has some personality, or buy fun-colored pens to design and doodle with. It doesn’t matter how you use your checklist—it only matters that you consistently use it.
4. Set regular touchpoints and deadlines with colleagues to keep you driving towards the finish line.
If you have to shift things around it’s fine to be flexible—but aim for something specific in the meantime. Having deadlines and touchpoints with other people on my own calendar keeps me productive, because I know I’m accountable to deliver in that meeting or on that output. It’s like having an accountability partner for dieting or the gym: If you have to answer to someone else, you’re more likely to make sure it gets done (and gets done well).
5. Choose the environment in which you plan to work.
Be deliberate when you do this. Some people like a nice view. Some people need an isolated space. Some people need to switch it up every now and then. Don’t just sit wherever is convenient and comfortable, find a place where you can get in the zone and work. I make sure to get out of my bedroom (no working from bed!) and find a place where I can easily spread out with everything I need. I also try to find space to easily reference my plans and checklists, so they’re a constant reminder of what I need to do in order to stay on track. You’d be surprised by just how affected we are by our environments. Surround yourself with what you need and take the time to find a place that is just right for you.
6. Get moving around your remote space.
There are several ways to “stay active” when working remote. You can use a standing desk so you’re not just sitting at your dining room table all day; take a walk when you have a call that doesn’t require you to be at your computer; find a coffee shop nearby and walk there for your morning caffeine kick before you start your day; treat yourself to lunch outside your remote “office” (or wherever you’re working from) and walk to a new restaurant once or twice a week. The important thing is to get the blood flowing throughout your body, and not to let it settle the way it does when you sit still for eight hours at a time.
7. Finally, drink water, because one of the first symptoms of dehydration is sleepiness.
One of the healthiest (and most effective) ways to prevent the 3:00 p.m. slump is to keep yourself well-hydrated. If nothing else, it will also help you keep moving (even if it’s only to and from the restroom). Make sure you’re getting enough H2O to keep you going.
As your career grows and opportunities for freedom and flexibility arise, you can set yourself up for success from day one and reduce the stress that comes with figuring something out from scratch. You may find you have to tweak and massage some of the above advice to fit your own life the way you want it to, but think of these tips as a starting point—and then build your routine from there. At the end of the day, only you know what works for you, and research shows that employees working remotely (or splitting their time) are more productive. Get out there and establish your goals, make your plans, create that checklist, set regular touchpoints, choose your environment deliberately, move around your space a bit, don’t forget to stay hydrated—and enjoy the freedom and flexibility you’ve worked hard for.
Hillary works as a Senior Strategy Consultant at IBM. She found her passion for her new job in the two years she took off work to pursue a full-time, Global MBA degree at George Washington University in Washington DC. She is driven by her constant curiosity and her truest love is for travel and adventure. Having moved to California in early 2019, outside work you can find her planning her next trip, exploring her local beaches, reading a book, or wandering along a new hiking trail.