Staying productive when working remotely can be a real challenge for me at times.
While working remotely, it can be easy to lose focus, get side-tracked and ﬁnd yourself pondering on where the day’s hours have gone. Organisation and time management can be an issue when working from the far corners of the planet.
Here are some tips I use on a regular basis to help keep me on the laptop and off the beach.
To avoid the entire day going down the pan, I find one of the best ways to stay organised is writing to-do lists.
To-do lists help me stay on track for the days and weeks ahead. They also help me keep organised when juggling more than one job at once. I keep one list for the following day and one list for the long term.
Short term: My short term to-do list for the following working day is written out at the end of the day. The list has all import points in regards to ongoing projects and intertwines with my long-term list. To avoid putting jobs off, I find it’s helpful to number the list about task significance and importance.
The short term list benefits me as all I need to do the following morning is sit down and follow the list, without having to decide what to work on ﬁrst.
Long Term: The long-term to-do list runs in parallel to the short term list but covers the wider scheme. It has every project that is currently ongoing or coming up in the future, and what is essential to them.
It also has all the other side bits required for being productive when working remotely.
One thing I noticed is that l would put off the larger more complex tasks until later in the working day. As the day passed by I would begin to feel weary and would then skip these difficult tasks for hours, or even days. They would often mount up to the point of urgency, and naturally, I would stress trying to finish them.
Schedule these unpleasant tasks for the first job in the morning. That way you can get them done and dusted and leave the smaller easier tasks for later in the day.
Writing out your to-do list the day before benefits productivity because it leaves you to focus on what’s most important and not what you ‘feel’ like doing the following day.
While working a previous job, I was required to fill in time sheets at the request of the project manager. Realistically this was designed for the powers that be to monitor what I was working on and if I was on track to meet the deadline.
However, I found time sheets do have another use – keeping track of your day is essential if you’re freelancing and plan on charging by the hour.
Even if you don’t, it’s a sensible idea to monitor how long certain tasks and projects take to finish. Knowing how long tasks take, or what times of the day you perform best is vital when quoting accurately for future jobs.
Keeping time sheets can help being productive when working remotely as they direct to when you waste time and where you’re killing it.
There are plenty of apps to help you out and Evernote seems to be one of the most popular online tools to use at the moment, but If filling a time sheet is a requirement then the client will usually specify you use their preferred program.
Working in an ofﬁce environment is completely different to working for yourself.
After I had finished my last full-time job, it was a strange feeling having massive amounts of freedom. All of a sudden no boss or manager was pushing me. At 9 AM no one is here to care if I’m at the office. No one was calling up asking where the best employee they’ve ever had is!
Ok, maybe that last statement was a bit much 🙂
Without a driving force, the temptation to sleep until noon, or to fall off the rails completely is very real.
Unless you’re currently paid commission, as a full-time employee, you still get paid the same amount whether you work hard or not. Ok granted you might get pulled into the manager’s office for a ‘talk’ or even a warning, but keeping a low profile can mean getting away with below average performance.
When working for yourself, if you don’t turn on your laptop and start doing something you don’t get paid.
If Dave you met at the expat bar last night texts asking if you fancy a game of football, there’s no one around to make sure you stay behind the computer. If you plan on being a professional digital nomad while traveling, then it pays to set up a good work ethic.
I believe work should be fun because you spend a big part of your life doing it. Part of the reason why I’m traveling and working on the road as much as possible is that I enjoy the lifestyle. The odd distraction can even liven things up and break up the hours of slogging away.
However, when it’s time to to get stuff done, it’s just impossible to manage five tasks at and once.
If I’m juggling more than one task at a time, it will take forever for them to get completed. A big part of me being productive when working remotely involves concentrating one task at a time, blocking out everything else, and focusing 100% on it.
Only once the job is finished is it time for a reward and some distractions.
When it comes to working ethics, it can be different strokes for different folks.
At one point, I was sharing a beachfront apartment with a flatmate who used to wake up mid-afternoon and work until sunlight.
Unless a client specifies I need to be available at gone midnight, then this routine would be a recipe for disaster for me. Early mornings helped to improve my A game. A morning routine typically will mean waking up at around 5 AM. Once hydrated then I will head outside for a morning run or gym session, grab some breakfast, before heading back for a shower and getting ready to work.
Being productive when working remotely means it doesn’t matter if I’m working from an apartment, hotel room, coffee shop, or library. It revolves around being up, awake and behind my laptop at breakfast time anywhere in the world.
Working around normal business hours is a must if you want a healthy relationship with your partner or making plans with friends.
Like most who work remotely, I am known to work from early mornings until sunset on a regular basis. Weekends do not guarantee safety either. From time to time, this is a necessary evil for an upcoming deadline.
However, putting jobs off until the evening or weekends is just another way avoid harder tasks until they mount up. Being productive revolves around having a stable social life and working semi-normal hours with days off.
Setting a limit to leave the laptop at 5 pm can help the incentive to smash out a job.
Yes, there may be a rush or urgent job that require working all-nighter every now and again, but these should be the exception, not the rule.
We have all been there, messing around so much that that job appears to go on forever.
To try and counter messing around often make up an artificial deadline. For example, I will make a note in my planner the task must be completed by the end of the following day.
Setting harsh goals if one of my greatest weapons for being extra productive when working remotely.
By imagining the client is expecting the job to be finalised, you have no choice to knuckle down and get it done and dusted by the imaginary deadline. Even if the customer isn’t key player or the task isn’t so important, imagine they are!
Creating harsh goals can work wonders for freeing up time when working on multiple jobs. Ok, you might have a few stressed out days until you get used to working to these tight deadlines. But trust me when I say it’s an effective method for getting low hanging fruit picked and money in the bank.