Yes, remote work sounds like a dream to many of us: no daily commutes anymore, not getting up super early in the morning and working whenever and wherever you want. To me personally, it is a dream come true. There is absolutely no way I would ever go back to a location-bound 9-5 office job. However, this way of working is not always easy and many people will struggle with it. That’s why I gathered the most important tips for working remotely that helped me a lot in the beginning to increase my productivity. Have a look at the following best practices and learn how to maximize your outcome while working online.
Best Practice Tips for Working Remotely
Tip #1 – Chose The Right Job
I know, I know. You should always pick a job that you like and can easily stay motivated doing. But this is even more important when you work remotely. When you can work from home or any self-chosen location and are allowed to make your own schedule you will need more motivation than when you sit in an office with your boss behind your back.
If you are just about to start working remotely, make sure to go for the right job straight away. Go for something that you love doing and are passionate about. It will help you so much staying motivated and productive throughout the day.
No idea how to find a job that you like and that pays the bills? Check out this post and learn how to choose the right remote job for you.
Tip #2 – Create a Working Environment
Yes, I love working from my couch, too. But if I would do that every day I wouldn’t get much done. If you are working from home, make sure to set up a proper working space (the kitchen table won’t do it on the long-run).
Get a decent chair (don’t underestimate potential back pain from a terrible sitting position all day) in a bright spot with much daylight and maybe a big screen instead of a laptop if that works better for you. Create an environment where you can easily focus on your work without facing too many distractions.
In case you are a digital nomad and move places a lot, you probably won’t be able to set up your own little home office. But maybe you can pay attention to this when you are about to rent a short-term place? Or maybe you could be even more productive in co-working spaces? In every place you go, try to find a space where you can work comfortably and productively.
Tip #3 – Get Proper Equipment
This one goes along with the right working environment. It can be such a pain if you have to work on a slow computer or your smartphone runs out of battery every couple of hours or your internet connections breaks all the time.
It is definitely worth to invest in decent equipment when you are about to start working remotely. Think of devices such as laptop, phone, noise-cancelling headphones, mouse or keyboard, mobile hotspot, or an external hard drive.
If your equipment is reliable and has a good quality, your working life will profit a lot from it.
Tip #4 – Use Specific Software & Apps
In the same range of tips for working remotely is the recommendation to use certain apps and software that helps you survive your day. Just to give you some examples:
Trello is one of the most popular apps for remote workers and digital nomads. It is a project management program that helps you organize your work and exchange with your coworkers.
Workfrom is an app that helps you find co-working spaces around the world. It also lists cafés and restaurants which are suitable to work from.
Every Time Zone is a super simple and handy tool that allows you to easily see what time zone your clients, bosses or co-workers are in.
Time Doctor will track the time you work for your client or employer and lets you generate powerful reports and bills with only a few clicks. It also reminds you to stay focused in case you get distracted by Facebook and such.
If you want to find more apps that help you organize and optimize your remote lifestyle check out the linked article.
Of course, you would also need software that is more specific to the kind of job you are doing, e.g. translation software, grammar tools, or graphic design programs.
Tip #5 – Make & Stick to Your Schedule
One of the most important tips for working remotely: Always, always, always make a schedule for your job and treat it accordingly. Sit down once a week and plan your upcoming 7 days. What day and time will you do which task? Make sure you treat these to-dos just as important as business meetings. Just because you do them remotely doesn’t mean they are no business, right?
Make realistic schedules that you can stick to. In case you won’t make all of your tasks for the day, schedule them to the next available timeslot. Plan your deadlines and prioritize tasks.
A good organization is the key! It will help you a lot to not forget important work and to keep your (often very unstable digital nomad) life structured.
Tip #6 – Find Your Perfect Working Hours
There is no secret to it: Some people perform better in the mornings, some in the evenings. Luckily, many remote positions (or time zone differences) allow you to create your own working hours. That means you can schedule your work at times where you are most productive.
I’m definitely an evening person. I’ve tried a couple of times to start working early. Sometimes my performance was alright. But overall I struggled a lot to concentrate and the outcome was miserable. So today I do other stuff early in the morning – I work out, go grocery shopping, do my private emails – and schedule my work tasks later in the day.
As mentioned before, it is also important that you stick to your scheduled working hours. Don’t postpone everything just because you can. Treat your remote work just as important as you would any office job.
Tip #7 – Create Routines
Say what? A reason why you want to become a digital nomad and work remotely is that you want to escape your boring daily routines and now you should create new ones? Exactly!
Routines are not bad per se. In fact, they increase our productivity. Start with an energizing morning routine. Maybe meditation helps you get your day started? Or a short workout?
A call-it-a-day routine is also a great idea. Implement something that helps you to turn your brain off of work. Maybe shutting down all business apps or a proper stretching session?
Find what helps you being productive and motivated and start making it a routine.
Tip #8 – Take Breaks
This is one of the tips for working remotely that I myself struggled with 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 much done.
I soon had to realize that I was wrong. Everyone needs breaks. It enhances your productivity so so much! Take a longer break for all your meals and small breaks in between. Once your brain had a chance to relax, you will start your next working session with new energy.
Tip #9 – Pomodoro Technique
Have you ever heard of the Pomodoro Technique? Short version: This is a time management technique, which uses a timer to break down your working day into short intervals.
You work in sprints of traditionally 25 minutes followed by short breaks (3-5 minutes). After four pomodoros you take a longer break of 15-30 minutes.
This method helps you reduce interruptions and increases your ability to focus. You get more done because of the slight time pressure and the breaks.
If you want to give it a try, check out free apps like Marinara Timer or Tomato Timer to track your intervals.
Tip #10 – Avoid Distractions
Especially, when you work from home or at your own terms in general, you can easily get distracted. You check social media all the time, do the laundry, quickly watch the newest episode of your favorite TV show and so on and so on.
Make a list with everything that usually distracts you from work. Now schedule these things in your daily to do list. Yes, you can do your laundry, but do it after work. Yes, you can go and get your nails done, but schedule it outside of your working hours.
Become aware of your usual distractions and don’t give them a chance. A great tool that helps you tracking your online distractions, like email or Instagram, is the free app Rescue Time. You will be surprised how much time you actually spend on certain activities!
Tip #11 – Cut Out Bad Habits
Similar to distractions, you should also eliminate bad habits that stop you from reaching your top performance. Do you constantly check your Facebook newsfeed? Do you run to the fridge a hundred times a day to get a snack? Do you smoke so much that you spend more time outside than in front of your laptop?
Whatever it is that reduces your productivity, work on it!
If you struggle with getting rid of your bad habits, I highly recommend the book/ebook “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg. This bestseller is absolutely life changing and helped me oh so much with getting rid of my bad habits and replacing them with good ones. It’s a great read, trust me!
Tip #12 – Set Office-Only Times
As I have mentioned before, when working remotely you need to treat your job with the same importance as you would do with any other office job (it’s easy to get the feeling it’s only a part-time fun side activity).
Once you have set your office hours, also make sure that nobody disturbs you. If you work from home and your family is around, hang a “Do Not Disturb” sign on your door. If you use online communication like Skype or WhatsApp, set your status on busy and let others know that you work right now and are not available.
Tip #13 – Plan Private Interactions
Ok, now you have eliminated all distractions from your daily schedule, it’s time to plan some in again. It would be crazy to think that we can happily get along without things like private interactions. But we should set times for them and not have them all over the place.
How about checking your social media accounts only during your long breaks, like breakfast and lunch? How about calling your best friend after your working hours? Why not sending your WhatsApp messages during lunch and in the evening instead of all day long?
Of course, there is always a case where you need to connect with your family and friends immediately. But often it doesn’t make much difference to wait a couple of hours. Your productivity will profit a lot from this little change.
Tip #14 – Become & Stay Visible
One of the very important tips for working remotely with employers or clients: Make sure you are visible! Although, you know what you have to do and don’t need any feedback, stay in contact with them.
If clients only hear from you every couple of weeks they might get the impression that you don’t really work or that they actually don’t need you (despite of seeing the results of your work). Send them little status updates during the week, ask for their opinion or let them know about helpful ideas you have.
Let them know you are still there and working. Make sure to always stay in touch and stay visible.
Tip #15 – Plan Meetings
A good way to stay visible is to schedule regular meetings with your clients or coworkers. It is also a great opportunity to give updates about your work progress or upcoming issues and to clarify tasks that may not be fully clear.
When you sit in the same office it’s easy to just go over and ask. When you work remotely you will probably not call your employer because of every tiny little question you have. This can result in quite a few misunderstandings and trouble.
So make sure you have enough opportunities to connect and talk to coworkers.
Extra Tip: Video calls are a great way to enhance the connection between you and your clients/employer. Once they see your face, it feels more like you are a “real” part of the team.
Tip #16 – Professionalize Communication
If you don’t constantly see each other, make sure your communication is on point. Means, write down every issue you want to discuss during meetings and calls. Make an agenda and send it around before the meeting so everyone has the chance to come up with their own thoughts regarding a subject.
Also document the results of the meetings, e.g. by taking minutes. Write down action items and deadlines and if necessary distribute them again to colleagues.
The more professional your communications, the better your performance.
Tip #17- Connect With Like-Minded People
Of course, you have your family and friends and you have still coworkers – they are just not sitting right next to you. But still, it can help a lot if you connect with other remote workers every once in a while.
See how they do their work, learn what they struggle with and how they overcome these issues or simply exchange experiences. You can only learn and grow from it.
To get in contact, try co-working spaces near you, Facebook groups like “Work Remotely”, MeetUp groups or go on a retreat which is designed for remote workers and digital nomads.
Tip #18– Change Scenery
Especially, when you work from home and don’t come out or meet new people often, you should go and change scenery every once in a while. You won’t believe how much this little trick will help your brain to get new energy. A true creativity boost!
That can be anything from going to the park and work offline for a bit (a piece of paper and a pen can be such a welcoming exchange!), working from a café or test different coworking spaces around you.
Change your surroundings and see how much your productivity will profit from it.
Tip #19 – Look at the Bigger Picture
Let’s assume you are doing this remote work thing for a while. Now it’s time to step back and look at your performance from a bigger picture. Recap your last couple of weeks or months and analyze your performance.
What are you doing at the moment and is it actually helpful? Does it bring you closer to your goals? What methods worked really well for you? Where are your weaknesses and what could be improved? Are there any lessons learned or best practices you can use in the future?
Everyone has different preferences and performs differently in a given situation. Find out what works best for you and improve that strategy in the future.
Online Job? No Problem!
As you can see there are plenty of tips for working remotely. You can increase your productivity in so many ways. You only have to find the one method (or maybe even a few) that work best for you. A remote job can sound a bit intimidating in the beginning and you might be scared that you won’t get anything done and end up in a chaos of to-do-lists and unanswered emails.
But I promise you if you stick to the mentioned tips for working remotely and if you keep yourself structured and motivated, you can do this. It is a great way of working and you can profit so much from its benefits.
What are you experiences with online jobs? Do you have any other tips that are great for working in a remote position? Let us know in the comments below!
Need some more ideas to increase your productivity? Check out the linked post and get some super helpful inspirations.
If you work from home, try to get out from time to time to work. Just to change the scenery. It will help you to keep a work-life balance. For this, you can choose something like a local cafe. However, if you quickly lose concentration, the talks of cafe visitors can also distract you. In this case, consider the coworking space. Even though it’s not free, there is the most favorable environment for work. And many people notice that they work more productive from there.
Thanks for the recommendation, Tamara! I’ll check it out!
Using the right apps is very important. To be honest, I can’t imagine my work without kanbantool.com anymore. It makes it a lot easier. It’s a great project management tool, but I use it also as a time tracker and a to-do list. It helps me to save a lot of time.
I love the first tip. It’s obvious but a lot of people seems to forget about the importance of choosing the right job. Also, I think using tools helps a lot. I don’t really like Trello that much, I prefer Kanban Tool. Have you heard of it? It’s easy to use and works really well. Plus it has a time tracker. Tracking the time your activities take is actually a good way to boost your productivity as well, since quite often we don’t even realize how much time we waste.
Haha, I did the same! :D Although it’s super tempting, it’s not productive at all. A proper home office really is the key. Thanks for sharing your experience! :)
Thank you for sharing all these Tips!
When I started working remotely, I believed that I was going to be working in pajamas from my bed, but I realized that was not productive at all, So I took myself and went to buy a small desk, an office chair and started my home-office. I set up daily schedules, breaks for lunch/breakfast, have my office at home and put my phone away while working. I agree with all the tips you shared!
Thanks a lot, Kalpana!
Your tip on setting office only times is a collectively great way to have an office beginning and an end time to mentally deconstruct your day before entering into your next phase of life whether its dinner, carpooling the children, or attending a job related in-person function for clients. You provide a surreal way to mentally break from your “non-negotiable structured work time” to recharge and move forward effectively without creating a “work-layover” that stalls the daily balance you need in your personal and work life :0)!!.
Secondly, thoroughly enjoyed your perspective on connecting with Like-Minded people to tackle the isolation issue of working remotely. The benefits and harsh realities can balance themselves with effective coping skills such as the one you suggested in this particular category :0)!!!~PDBS!