It’s a fact: remote employees are more productive than their non-remote counterparts. So then why do so many remote workers flounder?
It all has to do with a little something called structure. Structure provides us with direction. It takes the indecisiveness out of decision-making. It facilitates communication and collaboration. And it’s an essential ingredient to the success of any remote worker. It all boils down to this: The successful remote workers structure their workdays. The unsuccessful ones don’t.
Intrigued? Here are some tips on how you can establish structure into your life.
Tip #1: Plan Out Your Day (the Day Before)
Any productivity article you read will tell you the importance of writing out a plan or schedule for the day of what you plan to accomplish. The thing is, it’s great in theory, but how many people actually do this? For that reason, at SUCCESS agency, we’ve made this nonnegotiable.
Before starting the day, each team member must submit a Daily Plan, which, just as it sounds, is a plan of action for the day, with estimations of how long each task will take to complete. Then at the end of the day, everyone submits a Daily Recap, which summarizes the day’s tasks and how long was spent on each. They also must mention their tentative plan for the next day.
This little routine helps to ensure that everyone stays accountable for their own tasks; on an individual level, it helps each team member maximize productivity and remain cognizant of their time. And knowing what we plan on working on the following day makes it easier to jump right into things at the start of the day.
Prioritize your tasks (or write them out in the order that they should be accomplished). And if it helps, create a schedule with the hours that you plan on working. It might look a little something like this:
7:30AM – Wake up and shower
7:45AM – Make coffee and breakfast
8AM – 10AM – Work on blog post for 5/20 and collaborate with team
10AM -10:15AM – Break
10:15AM -12:15PM – Work on emails for 5/21 and 5/22
12:15-1:15PM – Walking break
1:15PM – 3:15PM – Meetings with clients
3:15-3:30PM – Break
3:30-5:30PM – Site audit
Writing out a schedule like that each day (or at least writing out your day’s objectives) will remind you where to focus your energies and will help you stay on target. Plus, it will be harder to procrastinate or put things off if you have a schedule written out telling you what to do.
Tip #2: Set Aside a Time to Focus
At SUCCESS agency, we set aside about four hours of the day (3 hours and 45 minutes to be exact) where everyone must be “in the office” or logged into Slack and available. We then try to leave the afternoons free of collaboration, so that everyone can devote full attention to their own tasks.
Try to carve out a chunk of time each day where you can collaborate with your team members; answer and make phone calls; and respond to emails. Then you could take an hour-or-so break and plan on being distraction-free for the rest of the day.
Tip #3: Find a Productive Workspace
When you work remotely, it can be tempting to work from places like the beach…or your bed if you are feeling particularly lazy. But your workspace should be a place that motivates you. So if you are surrounded by distractions (like a white-sand beach or a comfortable bed), chances are, you will have a harder time focusing.
Wherever it is, determine the type of workspace that best meets your needs—so that you can maximize your productivity. And make your workplace a zone free from distractions so that you can really focus.
Tip #4: Keep Your Personal Life Separate from Your Work Life
When you work in an office, it’s pretty easy to keep your work life separate from your personal life. You go to the office and you’re at work. You go home and leave work behind (let’s hope anyway). But when you work remotely, it’s easy for that line to become blurred.
This goes back to finding a productive workspace. For starters, try not to mix your personal space with your workspace. If you do, then you will start to associate work with that personal space, which will make it harder to relax when you’re there. And vice versa.
This also means that you’ll have to schedule your day and set aside a time for work. As our CEO, Avin, says, it’s crucial that work not even be a question. If it is, then every single day will be a constant battle between to do and not to do. The trick is to not even start that battle.
At the same time, make sure that you finish work by a certain hour. Then, when it’s time to have fun, set aside all things work-related.
Sure, it will require a little self-discipline and you may cross the line from time to time. But try your best not to.
Tip #5: Fit in Time for Exercise
By now you surely know that exercise is one of the keys to productivity. Whether you prefer to wake up at 5AM each day to do yoga or wait until the workday is over to head to the gym, fit in time for a workout—even if it’s just a 15-minute brisk walk in the middle of the day. You’d be surprised how much a little exercise can go a long way to clearing your mind and recharging your batteries.
Tip #6: Stick to a Daily Routine
Daily routines can make a massive difference in productivity. Even if it’s just making yourself a cup of joe in the morning and listening to a motivational podcast, getting into a consistent daily routine will help add structure to your professional life. How? Creating a routine is about building (good) habits, which help boost your productivity (more on building habits in our next blog post—stay tuned).
Tip #7: Take Regular Breaks
However you end up structuring your workday, make sure that you take regular breaks. Some people might need to take more breaks than others to maximize productivity. One study found that the most productive people took 17-minute breaks every 52 minutes. Set timers to remind yourself to step away from your computer. Then go read a book, chat with a friend or get a little fresh air—whatever helps you reboot your brain.
There’s no doubt that establishing and enforcing a structured work environment takes more effort and discipline for remote workers—but it’s certainly not impossible.
Like anything, structure takes time to build; you can’t expect for everything to fall into place overnight. So if you are currently location-dependent with ambitions of going remote, before taking that leap, first take the time to ensure that your day is structured.
And once it is, you’ll have opened the door to productivity…and success.