With the rise of remote work, many workers have been left to self-motive. While finding the skills to manage your time, maintain motivation, and stay on task may not come easy to everyone, there are steps you can take to make remote work easier.
Keep reading for 12 tips on how to manage your time while working remotely.
1. Eliminate Distractions
Distractions may be the hardest obstacle remote workers encounter. Unlike an office environment, our homes are filled with people and tasks that can pull focus. While eliminating distractions completely may not be possible — especially if you have kids or pets at home — you can stay on task in a few ways.
“If something is pulling your focus, eliminate it to the best of your ability. Don’t make work harder on yourself than it needs to be,” says Brianna Bitton, Co-Founder of O Positiv.
If you have an extra room to dedicate to a home office, you’ll want to take advantage of it. Having a dedicated space that is free from distractions makes a huge difference. If you cannot have a home office, set your desk up in a quiet area and make sure all of the equipment you need is nearby.
2. Have a Plan for Each Day
Research supports the concept of simple planning to increase engagement at work. Staying engaged during the workday is essential when it comes to being productive. Before you start your work each day, plan how you’d like the day to go.
“Success doesn’t happen by accident. Success happens when you plan for it,” shares Richard Li, Co-Founder of July, a company that offers a versatile line of expandable luggage.
When planning, it’s helpful to divide your larger tasks by breaking them down into more manageable ones. You’ll also want to start with the most taxing or high-value tasks. This way, you can end your day with smaller, more manageable tasks to avoid burnout.
3. Make a To-Do List
When planning out your day, making a simple to-do list can be helpful. This will help you prioritize which tasks need to get done first and ensure that you aren’t overlooking some of the smaller tasks that need to be completed. In addition to a daily to-do list, you can make a weekly one for more long-range tasks.
“Managing time when working remotely isn’t always easy. Something as simple as a to-do list can help ease the burden of being in a self-managed position,” suggests Scott Chaverri, CEO of Mito Red Light.
Refer back to your list throughout the day and check off items that are completed to boost productivity. The feeling of accomplishment you’ll get from checking items off a list makes it easier to get through the workday.
4. Have a Routine
Routine is important, especially when working a flexible job. The advantage (and danger) of a flexible job is that you get to dictate your routine. Take the time to figure out what works best for you, and stick to it.
“Working from home makes it much harder to delineate work time from personal time. Employees should have a disciplined schedule for when they will work and when they will not, and stick to that schedule,” shares Dan Springer, CEO of DocuSign.
Try to start and finish work at the same time each day. Also, try to plan your breaks around the same time too. You can adjust your routine as needed, but having some consistency can help you stay productive and focused.
5. Have a Morning Routine
In addition to having a daily routine, you’ll also want to have a solid morning routine in place. With remote work, it can be easy to roll out of bed and crawl to your desk five minutes before you start your work day. However, this is not good for productivity.
“If a big portion of what you do doesn’t have a rhythm or predictable cadence to it, you should make it an even bigger priority to create routine where you can,” says Sara Blakely, Creator of Spanx.
Take the time to get up, make breakfast, have a coffee, do your skincare, exercise, or do whatever else you need to do to start your day. It’s better to take some time for yourself in the morning rather than starting work immediately after you wake up.
6. Get Dressed
Part of your pre-work morning routine should include getting dressed. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to put on a three-piece suit before logging on for the day, but changing out of your pjs is a must. Even if you change from your pjs to a pair of sweatpants, changing from your sleep clothes to your work clothes affects your psychology.
“Find ways to create motivation where you can. Play soft music, light a candle, or drink a cup of coffee before sitting down to work. Find the things that work for you,” explains Saad Alam, CEO and Co-Founder of Hone Health.
Many standard motivation tactics involve playing tricks on the mind. Even though you aren’t leaving your house, putting on a fresh outfit will help get you in the mindset of “going” to work. And if your job involves attending meetings through zoom, you’ll definitely want to employ this tactic.
7. Plan Breaks
One of the greatest advantages of remote work is deciding how to use your downtime. Make sure to plan out your breaks to avoid taking too many or too few. When you take breaks, plan to do tasks that help reignite your desire to work.
“Don’t allow yourself to get burnt out. Take time for yourself when you need it. If you don’t, your work and mental health can suffer,” advises Brandon Adcock, Co-Founder and CEO of Nugenix.
Go for a walk, do some light stretching or yoga, or grab a coffee at your favorite spot. Take advantage of things that you wouldn’t be able to do if you were in an office. Then when your planned break is over, get back to your desk and finish the day strong.
8. Know Your Strengths
Knowing your strengths is a large part of keeping up with motivation and time management when working from home. Identify the things that make task completion easier and play to those strengths while eliminating obstacles that slow you down.
“Work from home isn’t for everyone. Knowing yourself and what you can handle is what will make you a successful remote worker,” says Ryan Rottman, Co-Founder and CEO of OSDB.
For example, if you know that you work best in the morning, schedule your more difficult tasks for that time. Or if you need to work up to big tasks, start your morning with something simple. Know what works best for you and plan for it as much as you can.
9. Set a Timer
If you tend to dwell on certain tasks for too long, set a timer to remind you when to move on to the next one. Knowing you are being timed can prevent you from taking too much time in one area. They can also be good for knowing when to start and end your breaks.
“Regulate yourself as you see fit. This may take some time, but eventually, you’ll be able to identify what works — and what doesn’t,” explains Maegan Griffin, Founder, CEO and nurse practitioner at Skin Pharm.
Using an actual timer is sometimes better than a phone timer. If picking up your phone is a distraction in and of itself, you’ll want to avoid using the timer that comes with it. You can find timers at a low cost at any place that sells office or kitchen supplies.
10. Don’t Task Switch
Try to avoid switching between incomplete tasks. This may work for a select group of people, but it can be distracting and time-consuming for most of us. Try to finish each task in its entirety before moving onto the next one.
“Do one thing at a time. Multitasking may work for some people, but does it work for you?” asks Max Ade, CEO of Pickleheads, a company that helps athletes of all skill levels find the best pickleball paddles.
Don’t let your focus get pulled from one task to the next. This is one of the distractions a to-do list can prevent. If you go down your list in order, you can prevent yourself from task-switching too frequently.
11. Turn Off Notifications
If technology itself is your main distractor, you are certainly not alone. Many remote workers struggle to stay focused when they have new Instagram stories to watch, messages to respond to, or TikToks to browse. Many people find it helpful to turn their notifications off during work hours.
“Phones are the number one distraction for remote workers. Think about it like this: If you wouldn’t do it at an office, don’t do it at home,” says Andrew Chen, Chief Product Officer of Videeo.
If turning off notifications isn’t enough, you can also take it a step further and block any websites that you find yourself navigating to during work hours. So, figure out what’s pulling your focus online and eliminate it.
12. Don’t Guilt Yourself
Make sure not to dwell on lost time. If you’ve spent a chunk of time distracted by your phone, don’t beat yourself up about it. Just move past it by getting back to the task at hand. Dwelling on your mistakes will only waste more time.
“You can’t create more time, but you can maximize the time you do have,” suggests Hetal Dodeja, Senior Brand Manager of Avenue B.
It’s easy to feel guilty about wasted time, but you can’t get it back once it’s gone. The best way to deal with wasted time is to forgive yourself in the moment and find ways to prevent it in the future.
Become a Successful Remote Worker
If you are a remote worker, try out some of these tips and tricks for time management. Staying motivated when you are at home can be tricky, but with the right tactics, you can find your groove. Just remember to stay away from distractions, have a plan, and quickly move past any setbacks.