Working from home conjures up peaceful images of sitting down with a cup of coffee on a nice comfortable couch and knocking out a project in a few short hours, giving you more free time and relaxation than you could ever imagine at a regular day job.
Unless working from home means an eighteen-month-old running around in a diaper, doorbells ringing frequently, and the constant temptation to turn on Fixer Upper so you can “rest your mind” for a few minutes.
Remote work can be a confusing and complex thing, as more and more jobs transition to offering flexible options.
Regardless of what your situation is, distractions can build up quickly.
Surveys have shown that 52% of remote workers do not believe they use their time efficiently, and 70% of employees, remote or not, have said that they believe training would help them focus better at work.
Let’s look at 5 ways to manage your time effectively when you’re working remote.
One of the most common methods of managing time is prioritization.
Label each project in terms of criticality, ease of completion, deadline, or another criterion, and order them so you have a plan in place for which projects to work on first.
Maybe you want to take a bite out of the biggest projects first, and then tackle a few small ones, or perhaps your focus is on the projects with the closest deadline, or maybe the most enjoyable ones to complete.
The criteria are up to you, but whatever it is, categorize every project so you can figure out where it goes in the workflow.
2. Batch Work
Batch work is another form of grouping your assignments so you can work on them more efficiently.
Instead of prioritizing projects by a deadline or some other criteria, however, batch work takes like projects and fits them together, so it is easy to transition between the projects and accomplish multiple tasks in a short time.
Working in manufacturing will give you an idea of batch work – between different products you must change over the machinery to make the next product, so for efficiency’s sake, it’s best to do as many of one product before switching.
This is the mental equivalent to changing your machine setup and batching will reduce the number of times you do that.
3. Proactive vs. Reactive Assignments
Another form of categorizing your projects, labeling proactive and reactive assignments should take place concurrently with whatever other systems you’re implementing for efficiency.
A proactive assignment is one you complete on your own and rely on no one else.
A reactive assignment is a response, maybe answering a customer’s questions, or doing specific changes to a piece of work that has been edited.
You should balance proactive and reactive assignments properly.
A proactive assignment can be started and completed at your leisure, so it’s best to schedule these out, either using a batch method or prioritization of some sort.
Then, you can build in an additional period for reactive work.
Perhaps this could be its own batch, even – a separate time in your day reserved for responding to the editor’s remarks or answering customer complaints.
4. Maintaining Focus
Obviously, this is vital. Maintaining focus is the hardest thing when working remotely.
Honestly, it’s difficult in an office, because you have co-workers chatting and coming by your desk.
Find a specific, isolated spot for your work. Designate an area, and free it from distractions (for instance, a television or an eighteen-month-old).
Making sure you have a productive work environment is important or else you’ll get no work done, no matter how many batches you create.
Set a business casual mood – make sure the lighting and atmosphere are conducive to work and helps you stay alert, meaning no working in a half-lit room where you’re liable to fall asleep.
If you can’t keep focused, none of the other steps will be of any use to you.
5. Deep vs. Shallow Work
The final thing here is to separate deep work from shallow work.
This is a scale of mental effort – a deep project requires you to spend a lot of time laboring over it mentally and is more exhausting.
That doesn’t mean the project takes longer.
Some shallow projects can be lengthy, but the low effort level means you can sustain working on it for long periods of time.
You can work on deep projects first thing in the morning to get them out of the way, or you can get the ball rolling in a more relaxed way with some shallow work.
The first way removes difficult obstacles so you can speed through the rest as needed, while the second builds up momentum to tackle deeper projects better.
These are just five ways to maintain focus and maximize your effort level while working remotely.
It becomes easy to zone out and lose your focus, especially if you’re working in your own home. And let’s be honest, as romanticized as working in a coffee shop is, I’ve hardly ever successfully accomplished anything with the distractions of a bustling Starbucks around me.
The benefit, however, is that the more efficient you become at working remote, the more you’ll be able to do it.
Whether you plant to batch your projects by style, so you don’t have to switch over frequently, or you prioritize each assignment by difficulty and work on them in your preferred order, you need to have a game plan.
The best way to fail is to have no clear path forward.
These are just a few suggestions for how to maximize your time when working remote, but I think you’ll find that applying any technique and sticking to it will make for a more efficient workday than leaving it up to fate.-
Joe Peters is a Baltimore-based freelance writer and an ultimate techie. When he is not working his magic as a marketing consultant, this incurable tech junkie devours the news on the latest gadgets and binge-watches his favorite TV shows. Follow him on @bmorepeters