Maintaining focus is the hardest part of working remotely.
You’ve got a kitchen to clean, a bed to snuggle up on, a few YouTube videos you saved from Twitter to watch. In every direction you look, distractions call to you now that you work from home.
You know you have to say no. You have that power.
But willpower alone isn’t enough to stay productive throughout the day.
To keep you on track, these tools, tricks, tips, and habits will come in handy to ensure that your remote work schedule stays effective.
1. Get Off Social Media
If you can’t trust yourself to keep Twitter or Facebook closed for the day, get an app like Self-Control.
No, I’m not being sarcastic. Self-Control is a site blocker that allows you to customize how much help you need, like choosing what sites to block and for how long. For example, maybe you can leave Facebook off the list since you work in social media management, but Pinterest has got to go.
If you prefer positive motivation, try an app like Forest that grows a tree for every 30-minute increment you leave your phone untouched.
2. Take Regular Breaks
Being productive doesn’t mean incinerating any candles you’re burning or sitting in the same place for 9 hours. Get up every 2 hours and stretch, go for a quick walk, or make yourself a snack.
And yes, if you’re wondering, this would be a good time to check Twitter—for a few minutes.
3. Set An Actual Schedule
Don’t just work “whenever” because you’re at home. Your brain will feel the most focused and you’ll accomplish your best work if you set a routine schedule.
Think about it this way: What would you do if you were in an office?
You would show up at the same time every day, take breaks at the same time, and leave at the same time. Most people find having a set schedule like this helps them get into a focused mindset for work.
Working remotely is no different.
You just get to pick which office you’re showing up at today—Starbucks, Peet’s, or your couch.
4. Eat Regularly
This is especially important if you’re the type to hyper-focus. You may sit down to work and not get up until your next project is done…10 hours later.
Since we’re already talking about setting a schedule and taking regular breaks, be sure to build in time to eat during those intervals. And I don’t just mean a bag of cheetos—you have to eat real food. Cooking ahead on weekends can make this easier, as you’ll just have to reheat some leftovers. If you’re like me and cooking relaxes you, build a quick and easy menu for your lunch breaks.
5. Silence Your Phone (Or Turn it Off)
Look, I love text flirting as much as the next person, but sometimes you gotta tell the cutie on the other end “ttyl” and put your phone down.
Leaving texts for later or not taking calls until your lunch break can help you stay focused on the task at hand. Besides, demonstrating dedication and ambition in regards to your career can stoke those love fires.
6. Wake Up Early
If you have the luxury of working remotely and setting your own schedule, you may be tempted to sleep in until all hours and then start work whenever.
Don’t do this.
Remember: Setting a schedule and a routine gives you the structure you need to treat work like work. Get up early when you’re rested and fresh, make some coffee, and then hit your to-do list like it’s going out of style.
7. Prioritize Tasks
Speaking of your to-do list, make sure you’re topping it with the most important or urgent tasks first.
If you don’t have anything urgent or time-sensitive, pick the one thing you’re dreading the most and do that first. Some people call it “eating the frog,” and it can really help. Your whole day will sail by if you dedicate the first hour to conquering that spreadsheet you hate or scheduling company tweets (please don’t pretend you like that last part—everyone hates corporate Twitter).
8. Set a Work Playlist
Creating a conducive ambiance is a big part of building your workspace.
I know how that sounds—trust me. But you have playlists for getting ready on a Friday or going to the gym, so why wouldn’t you have one for accomplishing “Inbox: 0?”
Spotify has some killer workplace playlists curated for you already, whether you’re looking for some good ol’ Top 40 background noise or you need calming piano to really tune in your focus. Personally, I’m a fan of Microtherapy, which is a mix of electronic music and white noise-type songs.
9. Skip the Meetings
Try to keep meetings to a minimum.
There’s this thing that happens when you have a lot of meetings lined up in a day—you don’t get any work done.
Sure, collaboration is important, but you’ll spend so much of your day preparing for the meeting and then trying to get your head back into a focused space after that you may as well call it a day.
Obviously, meetings are unavoidable in a professional environment, but they don’t need to happen at the drop of a hat. If you’re not sure if you should schedule a meeting, consult this flowchart.
10. Clear Your Clutter
Look, we all know you’re going to use clearing off your desk as an excuse for procrastinating. You may as well do it beforehand to eliminate the temptation. Besides, you’ll feel better with that stack of CVS receipts banished to the recycling bin where it belongs.
The bonus is that a tidy workspace will help you feel calm and ready for your day—every day.