By Izzy Koch
Remote work. The “new normal.” Work from home. Whatever you want to call it, working somewhere other than your traditional office has become an exciting option for many workers. But working from home, or a coffee shop, or your local library, isn’t as easy as simply plopping down with a laptop.
As human beings, we thrive off routine, so what does it mean for us when we lose the (admittedly outdated) commute to and from work every day? That commute isn’t the whole routine either. Think about how you plan your days– from your first cup of coffee to that break you take at three in the afternoon to walk outside.
Our whole lives have been structured around going TO a place for work. Now it’s up to us to start creating new routines and setting up a structure for our days.
Your work-from-wherever setup is going to look different, depending on who you are. Maybe you’re a “sit in one place and power through” person. Or maybe you enjoy moving from place to place because you find the change in scenery to be inspiring. The first step in making remote work productive is finding out what you enjoy. Some of us never had the opportunity to do this, our workplace always decided how we worked. Don’t worry! Enjoy your great experiment. You are about to learn a lot about yourself!
Try out different options. Start out by designating a place in your home for work. This doesn’t have to be a whole room or even a desk. Maybe you enjoy working from the kitchen floor, that’s great! If you have the ability to choose a space that is used for nothing but work, that’s ideal. But if that’s not possible, don’t worry; you can still be productive.
Once you’ve found your space, try different ways of being in it. Maybe you like to sit in a chair or stand, or even pace around. The beauty of remote work is that if you want to run on a treadmill while working, no one knows but you! Maybe you find that you’re quickly bored with your space, then you might be someone who would benefit from finding a local coffee shop or library to work in. These spaces can provide more options for moving around. Just make sure you’re comfortable with the noise levels!
Speaking of noise levels, are you a work-in-silence person or a work-in-chaos person? I know for me, it changes. Some days I need the chatter of people around me. On other days I need quiet to get my thoughts in order. For those who need noise, you don’t necessarily need to travel to a public place. The internet holds many playlists designed to mimic the noise of a coffee house, or a workplace, without the distraction of a cup breaking in the kitchen or a child throwing an unexpected fit.
So, now you tried a couple of different working models for location and noise. It’s time to put together your work kit. Your work kit is one place where all the things you need for your job live. If you are a mobile worker, this could be your backpack. And if you are a stationary worker, this could be your desk or a box you keep under the kitchen table. One thing must be true for ALL work kits– it must be SIMPLE.
Keeping your workspace streamlined helps you stay focused on the tasks at hand and avoid getting distracted. I suggest having a work coffee mug, a work pen, and a work chapstick. These things live with your work kit, and they make it so that your station doesn’t get cluttered. You may be someone who enjoys working in minor chaos, that’s ok! Make your chaos inspiring. Posters or quotes or cute little toys. Avoid things that can get dirty, gross, or lost. Having a single mug or plate dedicated to your work zone means that when that plate’s dirty, you have to clean it. No other plates can exist in your zone. You’ll be shocked at how much this cuts down on clutter and mess.
Your workplace is prepared! You are getting ready to start work. Oh, but wait – your best friend has just sent you a text asking about next weekend’s plans. Suddenly it’s eleven am, and nothing has gotten done. I’m about to tell you the secret to self-management. It sucks, and it’s unfortunate, but it’s true. GET RID OF YOUR PHONE. Get rid of it. Lock it in a drawer, throw it over a bridge, hide it in a potted plant. Do whatever it takes to get away from it. Listen, phones are fantastic tools. No one’s arguing that. But with great power comes great responsibility, and without the proper management, your cell phone will drain the life and time out of you.
The only thing your phone should be used for is if you don’t have a company phone and you need to be calling or texting with people for work. My recommendation for this situation is to install an app blocker and get a close friend or family member to set the password on it. Now you can take calls and see texts, but anything other than direct human contact is blocked. You will be shocked at how much gets done when your phone is out of the equation.
Still feeling scattered? It might be time to try some new time management methods. One method is the Pomodoro method. In this method, you work for twenty-five minutes, then take a five-minute break. After you’ve completed four cycles, you have a fifteen to thirty-minute break. This method often works well for people who feel overwhelmed by projects and deadlines because you break up your focus, and there’s less pressure to do it all in one straight go.
Another method is the 80/20 rule. This rule states that eighty percent of life’s outcomes result from twenty percent of your actions. The goal of this system is to prioritize tasks that will have the most impact on your day. Say you need to get a report to a supervisor that they will use to begin another long chain of work. You also need to file some expense reports and email a coworker to schedule a meeting that needs to happen next Friday. The task with the most impact will likely be getting the report to your supervisor because it affects so much down the line. Next is probably expense reports because there are deadlines for payroll. Finally is scheduling a meeting. If you don’t get to it today, you can move it to tomorrow’s task list. This method works well for analytical thinkers and gives you a clear starting point so that the important things always get done.
There are lots of time management techniques out there, but just like where you work, it’ll take time to find the ones that work for you. You may find it helpful to keep a journey of your findings while trying out new methods. That way, you can look back and remember how you felt. Do you leave a day of work feeling drained and brain-dead? That might not be the method for you. Your goal is to clock out feeling productive and happy with what you’ve accomplished.
There are many other tips and tricks to working remotely, but we can’t cover them all here. From co-working stations to body doubles, the wonderful world of the internet is full of ways to maximize your time. With Magnifi U Professional, we want to give you some of the basic starting points so that while you continue testing and refining your system, you have the strongest basis possible for success. If you’re looking for more details on managing remote work or setting work-life boundaries, check out our courses, we know you’ll find a fit!