How to stay productive working from home.

With more and more people moving to working 100% remotely, how do you succeed? I hope to help below!

Make your work environment comfortable

In my opinion, this is the single most crucial piece to being successful while working from home. Having a space you enjoy spending 8+ hours in every day will help, as you’ll enjoy your time there and work will feel more natural and you’ll be in a better state of mind.

For me personally, the things that mattered most in my home office were some house plants, a nice desk setup, and a way to listen to music. These are the things that bring me the most joy. This strategy has worked, as I tend to be productive in the space I have created. This isn’t always the case, because we all have bad days, but generally I have found great success.

I cannot recommend a voice controlled assistant device enough(I have the Google Home mini), as it allows me to create calendar events, set alarms for breaks and lunch, and control music all without needing my phone or tablet. This helps boost productivity while also staying modern.

Limit the things that distract you

This is the most difficult thing on this list to control, depending on your circumstances at home. In life, distractions happen. They are inevitable and unforgiving. This is out of our control. However, there are some things you can do to help, and I will give some recommendations.

During working hours(8–11, 12–5), I keep my phone away from my desk. It stays in the adjoining room so I can hear it in case it rings, but this prevents me from doing mindless, non-productive work. This also limits ‘the twitch’. The twitch is that need to pick up your phone. We do it dozens of times each day, and is a terrible habit that is easily formed. If you’ve not heard of Anthony Ongaro, I highly recommend following him here.

Inside of Chrome, I have browser plugins that also help to limit distractions. Two of my favorite plugins are StayFocused & Forest. StayFocused helps me to block off certain websites that I consider ‘time wasters’, which when paired with not having my phone, really increases how much work I accomplish. Forest is nice because it allows me to follow the Pomodoro Method, which I’ve found success in. It also rewards my work by adding trees to my growing forest, which is nice!

Form a realistic schedule

This one seems like a no-brainer, but this is another powerful, easy tool that will make you feel like you’re in control. I’ve learned over time that setting blocks of time in your daily schedule to complete tasks really help you win the day. This also ties into the pomodoro method, which is awesome!

The method I have had the most success with is looking at my work meetings calendar every Sunday evening. I block off the times where my meetings lie, as these are generally planned at in two week blocks, and that gives me an idea of my ‘free’ time slots. I then look at the things I need to accomplish for the week, and plot these points out based on estimates I’ve given for completion. Then, I plan for things like taking breaks and for short walks.

I break down my day into two categories, constant and flex variables. Constants are things like the time when I wake up, time I start my work day, lunch time, known meetings, and end of work day time. The flexes are things like tasks, breaks, any unforeseen meetings or calls, etc…

If, for whatever reason, my day gets shifted around, I will reorganize the days following so I still meet my goals for the week. All of this is recorded in a physical calendar as well as a digital calendar I share across my devices.

Get up and move

Exercise isn’t necessarily something that is baked into productivity, but studies show that exercise is healthy for overall health. Even if this is getting up and going for a 5 or 10 minute walk a few times a day, it helps clear the mind and get things done.

Physical productivity tools

My go-to physical tool is a notebook. Now I know what you’re thinking. Notebooks aren’t exactly what the kids these days would call flashy or exciting, but there is a reason they have been around for ages and are continued to be used. They do their job and they do it well.

I take notes during meetings, as I plan tasks, and over anything I don’t want to forget. The only real downside to having a notebook is once you’re done with it, you have to have a physical location to store it in, and they can accumulate. To combat this, I go through my notebook collection once a year, and I use the Microsoft Office Lens app for my iPhone to scan in important notes to my cloud account for safe keeping (link for both stores is here iPhone or Android).

However, not all notebooks are created equal. Sure, any old notebook will do the job, but in my experience I find a hard covered notebook to be the most ideal. I also prefer ruled notebooks, as it prevents chaotic note taking. My notebook of choice is here. Pair it with a nice pen, and you’re in business.

A good pair of headphones also does wonders. While I could make recommendations, this comes down to personal preference. Listening to music helps me with staying focused and productive, and there have been studies (heres one for example) that show the same.

The apps!

Next up are the applications I can personally recommend. I have used a variety of tools and apps, and I have listed them below in order of preference in their respective categories.

– iTunes
– Stitcher

Productivity Tracking
– Trello
– Asana
– Github Project Management

Messaging & Video
– Discord
– Google Hangouts
– Microsoft Teams
– Zoom

If there are any tools or advice you have for working remotely, I’d love to hear over on my Twitter account!

The Author: Jeremy Grice. If you’d like to follow me, here are my Twitter and GitHub accounts.


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