5 Ways to Maintain Productivity While Everyone Works Remotely

When you’re working remotely, others aren’t around to keep you accountable. This means it’s entirely on your shoulders to find ways to stay motivated and productive at home.

 (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)

Working remotely can feel pleasantly liberating at first. The short commute time from your bed to your home desk can do wonders for the amount of time you’re sleeping each night, and being able to connect with your family or your pets all day is a blessing. However, you’ll quickly realize that motivating yourself to work can be difficult – especially with all of the distractions that surround you. 

Offices are designed surprisingly well to ensure that you stay motivated. There, the main distractions are your friends and co-workers stopping by to chat. But this still keeps you in a work-related mindset, unlike a home office. When you’re working remotely, others aren’t around to keep you accountable. This means it’s entirely on your shoulders to find ways to stay motivated and productive at home.
That’s why you’ll find a curated list of five of the best ways to stay on top of your work while you’re working from home right here. These tips apply not only to the current COVID-19 pandemic mandating most workers to stay home but also to general telecommuting if it’s already a part of your daily life or if you plan on working from home more in the future.


1. Plan Your Breaks

It’s extremely easy to lose track of time when you’re working intensely on something at home. Sometimes you’ll wake up, put a pot of coffee on, blink, and it’ll suddenly be noon. To counteract this blurring of time, it’s important to plan out your breaks.

While there’s no clear consensus on how often you should take breaks, a few studies indicate that taking a break roughly every 50 minutes for about 5-10 minutes can do wonders for your productivity. According to Michael Dadashi, CEO of Infinite Recovery,
“Taking a break not only helps your mental and physical wellbeing, but it also enhances your productivity by spurring you to complete set tasks within a limited time.” 
Setting a timer on your phone when you sit down to start working will remind you exactly when to detach from your computer and take your mind off of work. By allowing your brain time to reset, you’ll actually boost your efficiency the next time you sit down to work.


2. Start Your Day With A To-Do List

Without a manager or executive checking in with you regularly, it can be hard to sort out a list of task priorities for your workday. That’s why many experts suggest that the first thing you do is make a simple to-do list before anything else (including emails). Co-founder and COO of The Muse, Alex Cavoulacos, suggests a to-do list that follows the 1-3-5 rule, noting that this method “means that the things you get done will be the things you chose to do – rather than what just happened to get done”.

The 1-3-5 rule is a structure that assumes you can fit 1 big item, 3 medium items, and 5 small items on your list each day. Your definition of the big, medium and small tasks will change over time, but this template will help you generate a list of tasks you need to finish on any given day.


3. Internet Connectivity

One of the most frustrating things that can happen during the workday is an Internet outage. One moment, you’re 90% through downloading a large file – and the next, that download has been permanently canceled. This is an instant productivity downer since you’ll need to seek out a solution immediately to continue working. Some Internet issues can take hours or days to fix, so you may want to consider upgrading your Internet speeds or robustness to ensure that productivity is maintained.

There are some factors to consider if you do decide to upgrade your Internet. Ryan Thompson, home security expert, and CEO of Smith Thompson
suggests that “when you upgrade your Internet, check that your security network can seamlessly connect to the system,” as some security systems supplement regular measures with Internet-based activity monitors.


4. Stick to One Task

Everybody thinks that multi-tasking is easy, but it makes you less productive long after you’ve stopped multi-tasking. Because our brains are wired to focus on one task, switching among multiple tasks many times in a row takes significantly more energy than maintaining focus on each task alone would. In the end, this will leave you mentally exhausted – and worse, you likely won’t have completed any of the tasks you set out to do.

If you want to increase productivity, you’ll need to focus entirely on a single task until you take a break or are done with that task. A popular method to achieve this is called the Pomodoro Technique, which trains your brain to devote focus to one task during a self-designated block of time. If that method doesn’t suit you, experiment with ways to make yourself stay on task and you’ll quickly find your productivity increasing.


5. Find an Accountability Partner

Even if you aren’t working in the same physical location, you can still find a coworker you trust to keep you on track. Once a week, you can share your work goals for the week – and at the end of that week, check back in with each other. By knowing that someone else is going to check on your progress (without judging you, of course), you’ll actually be more motivated to complete important work on time.

Remote work can be difficult to get used to, and it can be easy to find your productivity slipping. Once you find your footing and establish a grounded home office space, act on some of these productivity-based suggestions. By experimenting with to-do lists, focusing on a single task on that list, and keeping track of what tasks have seen success with a work friend, you’ll quickly master the art of working from home.