Managing your time is already hard, but working from a remote location can become even more challenging. Unlike in a traditional office setting, there are no set parameters to stand by. Following their new year’s resolutions, many people are trying to improve their time management skills. They also want to boost productivity and focus on what is important.
These types of personal growth goals indeed influence career success. Large-scale work surveys always identify time management as one of the most in-demand skills in the workforce. At the same time, it is one of the most challenging to master. With work from anywhere becoming common, you must have a good grasp of time to balance work and personal life.
Here are nine tips to help employees who work from anywhere:
1. Set Aside A Dedicated Workspace
Having a dedicated workspace is vital for remote workers. It will help you focus and make it easier to switch off from work when you are done.
“A clearly defined workspace, no matter if it’s at home or in an office, can bring mental clarity and help you be more productive and engaged,” shares Jacob Morgan.
He is a best-selling author and professionally trained futurist. He is also the founder of The Future of Work University.
“Find a quiet place away from distractions. Bonus if you can close a door so you don’t have to look at it after work hours.“
Try to keep your workspace separate from the rest of your home. This way, you don’t get distracted by family or other things. You can try doing these things:
- Put your desk in a spare room
- Use your backyard as your office
- Give co-working spaces a go
It helps you stay away from distractions and gives mental boundaries that can help you stay on track. Let us illustrate. If you have a specific spot for work, you’re less likely to watch TV or do other things while working.
When setting aside a workspace, make sure it is comfortable and ergonomic. You want to avoid any potential aches and pains from working in an uncomfortable space.
“Lighting is one of the biggest factors in our ability to focus and stay positive and productive. Even if your workspace is next to a window, bring in additional lighting. A brighter space can reduce eye strain and increase creativity. Add organization to your space to make sure everything has a place. When your work area is tidy, your mind is tidy.“
Try to have everything you need in the workspace prepared. This way, when you come back each day, your supplies are ready and accessible.
Having separate spaces for different activities will help keep your mind from getting too overwhelmed. For example, have a dedicated desk for work and a couch for relaxing. Setting up a space for work can help you stay focused and organized.
2. Establish A Routine
A routine is crucial for effective time management when working from anywhere. Have a daily schedule to stick to. It will help you focus and stay productive as you work on your projects.
Start by setting aside blocks of time for specific tasks, such as:
- 30 minutes for a team meeting
- One hour for emails
- Two hours for researching and making a presentation
It would also help to note how much time you are willing to spend on each task. Doing so will keep you from over-committing and let you finish your work on time.
Sauda Talukder, a STEM leader and strategist, advises:
“Get into a daily healthy routine. Wake up at the same time every day. Regularly schedule a break to get away from your desk. Turn off devices at the end of the day. Keep time slots to do your housework separate from your office work. As much as you may feel doing a quick clean around the house will do no harm, in actuality as soon as your focus shifts elsewhere, it’s harder to focus back again on the work at hand.“
In addition, block your schedule for leisure activities so that you can relax and unwind. Do you need more reasons to create a healthy routine? Check out our article, “How to Start Your Day Off Right.”
3. Prioritize Tasks And Make A To-Do List
Have you ever felt like you haven’t achieved anything significant? Even if you have met your most urgent deadlines?
Recent studies published in the Journal of Consumer Research touched on this topic. They have shown that people prioritize tasks with tight deadlines. It happens even when less pressing tasks can be done as quickly and offer more significant rewards.
Identify which should be your top priority by doing these things:
- Cross out tasks that are not relevant or necessary.
- Then, clump related tasks together. This lets you complete related activities simultaneously instead of switching between them.
- After that, you can rank your tasks from most to least important. Then, create a plan of action for tackling them.
By organizing and prioritizing tasks, you can work smarter, no matter where you are. Check out our piece, “Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-free Productivity.” There, we shared decision-making models that may help you. You can boost your work performance by picking top-priority tasks.
4. Separate The ‘Important’ From The ‘Urgent’
Time management applies to both work and personal life. It’s common to want to tackle tasks with deadlines to get them out of your mind. After all, you can move on to other things after. But many significant things in your life may not have due dates. These may include:
- Pursuing your values, like volunteering or spending quality time with family
- Seeking recognition through speaking engagements or book publishing
- Developing important skills, like statistical knowledge or learning a new language
- Averting disasters, like having regular check-ups or emergency plans
Despite their significance, these things can easily fall by the wayside. We often focus on time-sensitive but relatively unimportant things. Some examples are:
- Booking a hotel room
- Managing our email inbox
- Creating a monthly newsletter
So, how do you address these and focus on non-urgent but equally important priorities? Here are tips that can reframe your approach:
Schedule Important Tasks And Allow Yourself More Time Than Necessary
Research shows that scheduling when and where you’ll do something makes it more likely to get done. You can use the “clear the decks” strategy. This involves allotting a whole day to work on a single vital task you have been avoiding.
This approach works best for tasks that are new or unfamiliar to you. After all, it can be hard to know how long they will take due to the learning curve involved. These tasks can also feel awkward and less efficient, adding to the reasons why you must address them. While a full day may seem overly generous, it will help you focus and “clear the decks” on time.
For self-care, consider setting aside a specific time each week during work hours for personal things. It can help ensure that medical concerns are addressed promptly. Although the time slot may go unused most weeks, keeping it reserved for when needed can be great.
Working from anywhere comes with its challenges, such as caring for yourself. We have an article for that, entitled, “Your Work-From-Home Survival Guide for Self-Care.” This piece can help you navigate this workplace setup. The survival guide was intended for those in a WFH arrangement but applies to those working from anywhere.
Isolate The Most Impactful Elements Of Important Tasks
Big tasks often require incremental progress. Start with the most valuable accounts or the half-size version of your original goal. If the task still intimidates you, shrink it until it feels doable.
Spend Less Time on Unimportant Tasks
Unimportant tasks take up more time than they should. For instance, you might start off reviewing an employee’s report. But you then end up devoting an entire hour to redoing the entire thing. In this case, try to limit yourself to making the three most vital comments. You can also set a time limit for providing feedback.
Prioritize Tasks That Reduce Urgent But Unimportant Tasks
Avoid fixing the same problems or giving the same directions over and over. You can do the following:
- Batch small tasks
- Eliminate tasks
- Streamline your workflow
- Make templates for recurring tasks
Focus On What Supports Your View Of The Big Picture
When you are engrossed in your work, it can be hard to take a step back and see the larger picture. Think of what can help you do this naturally, like these things:
Spreadsheets may help you see the big picture.
Have Regular Catch-ups With Colleagues
Update each other on what you have been doing and hope to accomplish. Doing so can help you stay focused.
Pay attention to the things that help you see the big picture, and take time to turn your insights into actions.
It’s normal to struggle with balancing the important and the urgent. The many deadlines and decisions in modern life make this a common thing.
Still, stay on track and ensure you make the most of your time. Check out “How to Measure Productivity in a Work From Anywhere Setup” to work smarter, not harder.
5. Avoid Distractions
When working remotely, it’s simple to lose focus due to distractions. To avoid this, make an effort to minimize things that can interrupt you. See if these things work for you:
You can also try making a distraction capture list. Then, set ground rules to avoid being side-tracked. For example, suppose you feel the urge to check your phone or social media while working. Instead of switching tasks, write this instance down.
6. Get Dressed Like You’re Going To Work
Why not get dressed like you’re going to work? It can help you stay productive while working from anywhere. Comfortable and presentable clothes can boost feelings of well-being and motivation. Even if you don’t need to dress up, put on something other than pajamas. This can help your mind go into work mode.
If you’re unsure what to wear, find clothes that make you feel comfortable and confident. Dressing up can also be a great way to boost your creativity and productivity. So, grab your favorite outfit and get ready to get the job done!
7. Take Breaks And Track Your Time
Frequent breaks are a great way to stay productive and creative. After all, breaks make it easier to stay motivated and engaged for long periods. They can also prevent you from losing sight of your work goals and spending too much time on trivial tasks.
Planning short breaks in your day can help you stay on track, more so if you work from anywhere. It’s vital to use these breaks wisely and not just scroll through social media. Instead, use this time to do these things:
- Move around
- Get away from your desk
- Do something relaxing like reading a book or taking a walk
Short breaks can clear your head and give you the energy to tackle the next task on your list. Tracking your time users can also be helpful, but it requires time and willpower.
Dave Edwards, a consultant who helps managers become more effective leaders, advises:
“You can track your time with one of many online apps or by keeping a paper log. Start tracking when you begin working on something. Make a note of what you are doing and then end the task or start a new one. Also, note downtime and ‘lost time’. Anything that takes ten minutes or more should be logged. Don’t cheat. Your boss won’t see this. At the end of the day, or week, tabulate the time by category. Finally, you might discover that you can streamline some tasks that are taking too long.“
8. Utilize Automation & Establish Clear Communication
Automate your tedious work tasks to focus your energy on more valuable tasks. You can try to do these things:
- Create a filing system for documents
- Unsubscribe from emails you no longer need
- Automate repetitive tasks or processes
You can also use a calendar app to create time blocks and get reminders. That way, you can focus on the task and avoid distractions that may slow you down.
Effective communication with your team and co-workers is also vital for success in a remote work setting. Schedule regular check-ins and ensure that everyone knows what is expected of them.
Do you want to delve into the concept of “clear communication?” Read our article, “6 Ways Clear Communication Positively Affects the Workplace.”
9. Stay Positive
A positive attitude is crucial when it comes to remote work. It is crucial to have an optimistic outlook to become your best self. This is true for both professional and personal aspects.
One way to maintain a positive mindset is to take care of your body. Simple habits can make a big difference:
- Eat well
- Get regular exercise
- Limit screen time
It can be a gradual process. But treating yourself and using the flexibility of remote work to care for your health can benefit you.
Tim’mya Cook, a reputation management specialist, emphasizes:
“Positive thinking can increase your resilience, boost your immunity and help you think clearly both in and out of the professional workspace. Your mindset can act as your foundation, and will therefore affect your outlook on life during this time. In other words, a positive mindset will consistently help, rather than harm. If you approach each day with that classic glass-half-full mentality, things will be different.“
Keeping a positive outlook and focusing on your objectives can motivate you even further.
Anticipate And Manage Feelings Of Anxiety
Many important tasks involve tolerating thoughts of things that could go wrong. This can cause anxiety.
John Boitnott, a freelance writer with 25 years of experience, says:
“The increasing popularity of hybrid work models has produced an unexpected consequence: remote work anxiety. Many employees say that working remotely leaves them feeling lonely, stressed out, less motivated and ultimately leads to lower levels of productivity.”
Acknowledge and label the emotions that make your work challenging. Then develop top-notch skills for managing your thoughts and feelings.
1. How do you stay focused and save time when working remotely?
Limit distractions, turn off notifications, and follow a structured routine. You can also take regular breaks and manage your time well. Establish your work hours when you are most focused and alert. No matter how hard or tedious it is, give each task your full attention.
2. What is the golden rule of time management?
Treat time like money. While you can earn more money, you cannot work more daily hours. Keep in mind, you have a limited amount of 1,440 minutes daily. So, prioritize. Put your time toward things that are vital for your work and personal life.