If you want to work from home successfully, you need to find a way to structure your remote work day. Because if you don’t, your productivity and overall performance will likely suffer big time.
To make the most of your remote job, have a look at the following tips and learn how to structure your day best for success.
Table of Contents
Prepare your Remote Work Day
Before you can start your remote workday, it is important to prepare it. This is what you should do:
Schedule your Workweek
One of the most important tips for working remotely: Always, always, always make a schedule for your work and treat it with high priority.
Being able to set your own working hours can be a blessing and a curse at the same time.
On the one hand, it gives you plenty of flexibility. You can schedule private appointments whenever you want and work at hours you are most productive.
On the other hand, many people struggle with too much freedom of choice. It’s very tempting to do private things all day long, which results in a lack of productivity.
That’s why it is important to schedule your tasks.
Sit down once a week and plan your upcoming 7 days. What day and time will you do what task?
Make sure you treat these to-dos with the same importance as business meetings. Only because you do them remotely doesn’t mean they are no business.
Create realistic schedules that you can stick to. In case you are not able to finish every task of the day, schedule it to the next available timeslot. Plan your deadlines and prioritize tasks.
A good organization is key! It will help you a lot to keep your life structured.
I use a normal calendar to write down and track my daily and weekly tasks. This helps me a lot in getting things done.
Others prefer working with priority lists for every day. For instance, they set 3 tasks that they have to do that day, 3 additional tasks that would be nice-to-have and maybe 2 more as a bonus, in case they are very motivated. See what works best for you.
Extra tip: I prefer batch working. That means I try to bundle many similar tasks and do them in one work session. For instance, I only reply to my emails once a week (unless it’s something urgent). I also try to work on one blog or one project at a time.
Doing a little bit of everything every day is usually not the best idea in terms of productivity. You constantly need to focus on a new task or a new project which takes time.
Know your Schedule
Knowing your schedule and knowing what is going to happen that day helps a lot in starting your day as organized as possible.
I highly recommend you have a quick look at your schedule for the next day every evening before you go to sleep. That helps you prepare mentally for the next day.
When you wake up in the morning you know exactly what your first task is going to be and when. Is it a video call that you have to get ready for? Or maybe you have to write an important article and need to get coffee to have the energy for it.
Whatever your day may look like (and remote workdays can look quite divers) it helps a lot if you know your tasks for the day in advance.
Prepare your Meals
Working from home is a great way to eat fresh and homemade meals. But make sure you prepare your food in advance or at least have a plan for what you are going to cook.
If you sit around at noon every day, thinking about what you could have for lunch, this will not end well. You will spend time going through your options, then you might have to go to the grocery store to get missing ingredients, you need to prepare it, and, of course, clean up the kitchen.
Times flies and suddenly you spent 2 hours on it.
Do yourself a favor and plan (and ideally prepare) your meals in advance. This will save you time, money, and it’s probably healthier since you don’t need to go grocery shopping hungry.
And yes, this sounds like a very basic thing to do but after all, food is a big part of our everyday life so we need to look at it, too, when we talk about productivity when working from home.
Improve your Remote Work Day
A remote work day can look different for everyone, depending on facts like having kids, the type of job you have, private things you need to do during the day, etc. Have a look at the following tips to see how you can improve your current working situation.
Start your Remote Work Day Early
It’s no secret: Some people perform better in the mornings, some in the evenings. Luckily, many remote positions allow you to set your own working hours. That means you can schedule your work when you are most productive.
I’m an evening person. I’ve tried to start working early so many times. Sometimes my performance was alright. But overall I struggled a lot to focus and the outcome was miserable.
But that doesn’t mean that I sleep in every day. Quite the opposite. I still get up early every day. I just do other stuff in the morning, like working out, going grocery shopping, practicing gratitude, or doing my emails. My business tasks are scheduled later in the day.
Go and test what works best for you. Either way, staying up late to watch Netflix and then getting up late the next day is usually not the best idea to improve your productivity. Just because you can theoretically sleep in every day because you work from home, doesn’t mean that you should do so.
Create a Morning Routine
Routines are important because they can increase our productivity a lot. Start with an energizing morning routine.
Maybe meditation helps you get your day started, maybe a quick workout. Go for a run or walk the dog first thing in the morning.
You could also stack a few positive habits together. For instance, you could make a cup of tea, turn off the radio, go to our desk, write down three things you are grateful for, and three things you want to achieve today, then you turn off your phone, and start working.
Your brain remembers that procedure after a while and it will trigger your “working mood”.
Find what helps you be productive and motivated and make it a routine.
Establish Productive Working Hours
Since you have created a schedule, you also have set your working hours. As said before, you need to treat them with high priority.
If you work from 9 am to 12 pm, you will not do your laundry during that time. You also won’t watch your favorite Netflix show or exchange 167 text messages with your best friend.
Make sure to eliminate all distractions: Turn off your phone or at least your social media accounts during your working hours. If you live in a shared flat or have kids or a partner, hang a sign at the door to inform them that you are currently working and cannot be distracted.
In case you struggle with staying focused, try the Pomodoro technique: 25-minute high-focused work sprints followed by a break of 3-5 minutes. After about 5 sprints, you take a longer break. Use apps like Forest or the Tomato timer to help you stick to those times.
If you want to learn more about helpful remote work apps, check out the linked blog post.
Dress for Success
I know it’s tempting to just roll out of bed and work in your pajamas all day. But if you do so, your brain will stay in a sleepy / chill mode. You will find it much harder to focus and get things done.
That’s why it can help a lot if you take the time to get ready in the morning. You don’t have to go for a suit and tie, but something that is not too casual would be a great start. Have a look at this article on how to dress when working remotely.
If you want, you can also do your hair or put on some makeup. Whatever works for you and makes you feel more professional.
Pretending like you are going to work will help your brain to switch to a work-mode which will, in turn, help you focus and increase your productivity.
Having a spare room in your apartment or house for a home office would be perfect! You can close the door and call it a day after work is done.
If you don’t have that much space, don’t worry, I’m sure you can still find a space. Maybe you can move your couch a bit to the side or can clear up a corner in your bedroom?
You should definitely try to separate your workspace from your private space – even if it’s just a little corner in the living room. If you combine both areas, you may find it hard to shut your brain off after work.
If you work at the kitchen table or from your bed, you will condition your brain that this is a workspace. This will make it much harder to enjoy your leisure time or go to sleep without constantly thinking about work.
Use a dedicated space in your home that you use exclusively for work.
If you want to learn what type of furniture or technical equipment you need to set up your home office, check out the linked blog post.
Make Time for Coworkers
Although you are working remotely, you should still try your best to stay in touch with your coworkers. That means scheduling regular meetings, e.g. a team meeting every Monday.
Don’t hesitate to use different kinds of remote communication methods. That means either calling your coworkers or use emails or live chats, such as Slack, in case you need to clarify something, need help, or have suggestions.
It also helps a lot to let your coworkers know when you have scheduled your working hours and when you are away for a break. After all, in an office, they can see you and know when you are available. When working remotely, they have no idea.
Plan in Breaks
This is one of the things that I struggled with a lot for a long time. I always thought I don’t need breaks and have enough energy to work all day. I wanted to use every minute and get as much done as possible.
I soon realized that I was wrong. Everyone needs breaks. They enhance your productivity so much!
Take a longer break for all your meals and small breaks in between to stretch your body. Once your brain had a chance to relax, you will start your next working session with even more energy.
Make sure to schedule those breaks in and stick to them.
End your Remote Work Day
Since you are strategic about starting your remote workday the right way, you should also end it professionally.
We’ve talked about the benefits of starting your day right and use routines to get your brain in a work-mode.
For the same reasons, it a great idea to have a call-it-a-day-routine as well. Implement something that helps your brain turn off of work.
For instance, shut down your computer, stretch your body, turn off the light, turn on your phone again, and close the home office door behind you.
Once the door is closed, it stays closed for that day. Don’t be tempted to go back to get “just one more hour” of work done. You wouldn’t do so if you worked in a normal office building. So for your own sake, make sure you don’t work 24/7 just because you can.
When you work from home without any coworkers around you, you might feel lonely at some point. Make sure to get out of the house at least once a day.
Go to a coworking space, walk your dog, have lunch at a public space, or go and meet with friends. It’s important to keep social contacts alive and to stay part of the community.
Don’t make the mistake of locking yourself inside of your apartment for days and not talking to anyone. Make sure you plan enough (social) activities into your weekly schedule, for instance:
- go to the gym 2-3 times a week,
- meeting family and friends 2-3 times a week,
- connect with coworkers 3-4 times a week,
- work from different scenery, like a coworking space, every 2 weeks, etc.
Your Remote Work Day Structure Makes the Difference
As you can see, there are plenty of things you can do to improve your productivity and your performance when working from home. How you structure your remote work day has a huge impact on how you spend your day and thus, how much you get done.
Make sure you implement as many of the above tips as possible. This will help you make the most out of your remote job.