10 kick-ass tips to help you stay focused while working remotely
Let’s face it, working remotely sounds like the perfect job situation. As long as you meet your deadlines, you can pretty much do what you like, when you like, where you like.
Sleep in until late? Check!
Work in your pyjamas? Check!
Work from anywhere that has good internet? Check!
Have breakfast cereal for lunch? Check!
Nap whenever you want to? Check!
But the freedom of remote work comes at a cost: without having to be at an office and eyeball your manager every day, it can be difficult to stay disciplined, focused and on-task. Our hints and tips (in no particular order of importance) will help you stay motivated and deliver timely, quality work that will earn you the respect of your colleagues and clients.
#1 Treat remote work like an actual job
Remember that time when you used to have to go to an office? And that you would drag yourself to that office even though you didn’t feel like it? That treadmill, as much as you wanted to escape it, you can work for you as a remote worker. Getting up at the same time every day and going to work is a daily routine, and a daily routine is habit forming. Habits mean you don’t have to think. Before you know it, your brain switches automatically into work mode at a certain time of day.
#2 Location, location, location
Maintaining workplace discipline is challenging, especially when you’re a few steps away from your bed. While it’s super tempting to work from home (or home office) in your pyjamas (yes, we’ve all done it), it’s worthwhile scoping out an alternative space to refresh your ideas. This could be a favorite café, co-working space, start-up hub or even your local library, but the point is to get out of your apartment (or hotel room or beachside villa) at least three times per week. A different environment stimulates the creative center in the brain and improves focus, so you’ll be solving complex problems and innovating the next million-dollar disruption.
#3 Find your people
Human beings are social animals — yes, even the most introverted of us. No work gets done in a vacuum, even as a remote worker: you have a manager and colleagues — and possibly clients — even if you don’t “see” them often. As a remote worker, it’s tempting to not bother with “meeting and mingling” but it’s important to find your people so you can stay connected socially. You don’t have to do this every week, but you should schedule in some kind of professional event every month so you can have those creative conversations that aren’t possible with your cat
#4 Take regular breaks
Despite what they try to instil in school (you remember all those time when Sister Mary told you off for inattention?), the human brain works better if you take breaks. It’s like a refresh or reboot. Stop work when you are on a roll (not when you are spent), and run an errand or two. Go for a coffee with a friend, or a walk or run. Make lunch an occasion and go somewhere you’ve been meaning to try. Pay a bill or book your next trip or order your groceries. Learn that new guitar song. Your brain will thank you with renewed focus.
#5 Switch off social media
I’m just going on Facebook (or Twitter or Reddit or Instagram) for one minute… said no one ever. We’ve all been sucked into the social media vortex — and before you know it, a few seconds of posting and scrolling and liking and commenting has turned into half an hour… or more. Mostly, it’s unproductive and a waste of time. And then you beat yourself up because you’ve been unproductive and wasted your time. To overcome procrastination, you can delete social media apps from your phone, or use an app to the hours you are on social media. If you use social media as a reward or break, or consider replacing it with an online learning, or finish off that online course you’ve been meaning to do.
#6 The power of three
Got a million things on your to-do list? Don’t know where to put your focus because everything is important and/or urgent? Then cut down your to-do list to the top three things you absolutely, positively have to get done today (or tomorrow, if you plan the night before). Three is the perfect number for your list: five things is too many, one is not enough, but ticking three items off makes you feel productive and it’s doable. If you tick off all three items, make another list with three things on it. Rinse and repeat. You can even use the Pomodoro method here or track your productivity via Traqq. Watch your motivation and focus increase as you power through.
7# Build exercise into your day
One of the most fundamental things you can do to aid your focus is to do regular exercise. Whether it’s an early morning run, Yoga, or a Zumba class or a team sport, exercise does wonders for both your brain and your mood. You can build walking into your scheduled breaks if you aren’t big on getting cardio. If you can, walking or cycling to your co-working space will build incidental exercise into your day without you having to schedule our blocks. Even a 20 minute walk will clear the mind, boost your endorphins — the feel good hormone — and help you stay focused
8# Reward yourself
You’ve worked hard today. You’ve kicked goals. You’ve nailed your to do list. You’ve met your timelines and delivered a quality product or service, on time and to budget. Now is the time to reward yourself before you start that next task or project. Factor in a smaller reward — maybe get that new gadget you wanted or try that restaurant you’ve been eyeing off — or a bigger reward, like a trip away, or jewellery. Rewards are key to helping you push through difficult tasks, or just helping you keep focused on the bigger picture.
9# Keep learning
One of the reasons people quit their jobs is because they are stale and looking for new challenges. As a remote worker, it’s easy to fall into a rut where you are working on the same old thing. It’s comfortable and it brings in the bucks. But boredom is the ultimate demotivator. Challenging yourself to learn a new skill —something completely out of your comfort zone — will keep you fresh, and allow you to take on new clients and other work that could help you grow professionally. There are a gazillion providers of courses on the internet, and they are free or inexpensive.
10# Report in regularly
In an office, your manager — or you, if you were leading a team — would schedule at least one meeting week, maybe more depending on the project. Just because you are remote doesn’t mean that you should be left alone to do your own thing. You are still part of a team, still part of an organisation. You should still be scheduling regular meetings or check-ins with your manager and team, by Skype or similar. You may be lucky enough to have someone who looks after remote teams, and if you do, make the most of opportunities to connect with your colleagues. Accountability and knowing how you fit into a team and that people depend on you and aids motivation.
Traqq is a desktop application that is one of the easiest and simplest ways to track your time and productivity, and that of your staff.
Suitable for freelancers of large multi-national teams, activation of your account is free and includes access to the full suite of tools and features including encrypted data and ethical tracking. Try it now to see how powerful Traqq is — sign up here for free.