I’ve been working remotely for the last 3+ years. During that time, I faced many obstacles to improving my work productivity, but through trial and error, I’ve prepared the five golden rules to increase your work output.
Here they are:
1. Clear work expectations from day 1
Productivity is ultimately doing your work efficiently and on time. That will only happen if you know what the company expects from you, what good work looks like for the manager, and which metrics they will use to judge it. So, hold a 1-on-1 meeting on day 1 to get these answers.
You should also ask for regular feedback on how you’re fairing. That way, you can double down on what you’re doing best and cut down on the things that reduce your work output.
2. Energy Management
Time management refers to planning without considering the intangible aspects: the feelings one may experience, energy/productivity levels during a particular time, working conditions, and more.
On the contrary, energy management is planning your day to account for your energy levels. For example, if you feel energetic during the night, you schedule your work accordingly, despite the traditional wisdom being you should work from 9-5. Remote work gives you the flexibility to prioritize energy management. That way, you work on your terms—you decide when and where to work.
Start with listening to your biological time—note when you’re at peak energy levels/the highest productivity levels and schedule the most crucial tasks (that require 100% attention and peak creativity) accordingly.
For example, if you are a morning person, do the most critical tasks in the morning, and schedule the trivial tasks for afternoons.
The next step would be to find what drains your energy levels and discard them. For example, if you hate working around constant noise or disorganization, choose a peaceful and clean place (you can even organize your workspace the day before).
Another way to manage your energy is to have a strict sleep schedule. Ensure you get 7-8 hours of consistent sleep every day. The final thing would be to embed rest in your working schedule. Take breaks between two large tasks, don’t work on weekends, and indulge yourself in a hobby or anything that relaxes you. These two things will help you recharge, improve focus, and keep you energized.
3. Tune-out distractions
While working from home has plenty of advantages, it still has its share of disadvantages—easy access to distractions being one of them. There’s no one to monitor your never-ending internet surfing/social media scrolling. Plus, you must deal with family members constantly passing by and chattering.
Here are some ways to avoid distractions:
a) Communicate your work schedule to your family and ask them not to disturb you during that time.
b) Use Freedom to block distracting websites (social media sites) and apps. You can set a schedule to block them when you work and unblock them after those hours.
c) Use Krisp to block unwanted background noise during online meetings.
d) When you work, keep your phone in another room and always have a water bottle—so you don’t leave your place for it.
e) Stick to a working schedule—so it becomes a habit for your body to work during that time, and avoid wasting unnecessary hours trying to do it.
4. Set boundaries
Don’t treat remote work as being available 24/7 for your company. It sets the wrong expectations that you would agree to any request, which leads you to work overtime, ultimately causing burnout. Therefore, set boundaries.
Start with communicating your working hours and when someone can contact you with your team. Don’t collaborate beyond those hours (I understand if it happens occasionally, but it shouldn’t become a permanent thing).
Also, have strict criteria to accept meeting requests. Meetings are the biggest productivity killer—so ensure you participate only in the important ones. Prepare a decision tree to help everyone decide which conversations need a 30-minute meeting and which don’t.
You should also say no to protect the time you can use for your work and family/friends.
Delegation is the secret many remote workers do not use. It not only gives you time to focus on the important stuff, but builds trust with your team (that you trust them to do the job) and improves team collaboration, increasing team productivity.
Here’s how to get started:
a) Short-list tasks you can delegate. These could be tasks that are other people’s responsibility or are tedious and time-consuming.
b) Pick the right person. Ensure they are free, qualified, and have time for the work.
c) Provide the instructions, work expectations (be specific in what you want them to do), resources, and other help to help them succeed.
d) Entertain questions to clarify their doubts.
e) Don’t micromanage them by asking for work status every 30 minutes or for them to do the work your way.
f) Provide feedback to help them improve next time.