“Work smarter, not harder.” You’ve probably heard this saying before, but when you are a remote worker, it takes on new meaning. After all, productivity is one of the primary reasons that companies are allowing their employees to work from home and hiring freelancers for certain tasks. Working remotely allows for reduced distractions and intense focus on the task at hand without constant interruptions.
Taking advantage of the productivity boost inherent to remote work requires careful attention to your own work habits. You’ve probably heard people refer to themselves as “night owls” or “morning people,” but did you know that there are actual psychological elements at play that determine when we are most productive and that people tend to fall into patterns of productivity?
Knowing how you work best can be the difference between slogging through several unproductive hours (and endless cups of coffee) to get a task complete and hammering it out quickly and efficiently, giving you more time to play or take on other work.
Get to know your natural work rhythm
While there are some patterns that hold true for people as a collective group, individuals tend to have their own unique rhythms and patterns. The best thing that you can do is get to know when you work best.
If you’ve been working remotely and have had control over your own schedule for a long time, you probably already have a good sense of what times of day you’re most productive. However, if you’re used to working on someone else’s schedule and punching the clock at the same time every day, you might not know what truly works best for you.
Do some research . . . on yourself. Keep a log of your mood and motivation throughout the day at hourly intervals and see what patterns emerge over a week or two of data collection.
Do the hardest work first
Maybe you like to wake up at 4:30 a.m. every morning and seize the day. Or maybe you are known to roll out of bed around noon, long after the normal work hustle and bustle has begun. Whenever your personal “morning” starts, it’s best to use that time to tackle your hardest, most thinking-heavy tasks.
Research has found that people tend to be the sharpest in the morning, and accuracy goes down as the day progresses. If you want to avoid costly mistakes and accomplish big projects, you need to put your hardest tasks at the top of the to-do list.
Give up the 8-hour mindset
People who make the switch from a traditional office to remote work can have a difficult time letting go of some of the conventions. One of the major challenges is letting go of the 8-hour mindset. Working 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. is a feature of convenience for centralized workspaces, not a reflection of the most efficient and productive way to manage time. In fact, most people working in those traditional schedules aren’t really very productive at all. They are working, on average, a total of three hours. The rest of their time is spent daydreaming, socializing, taking lunch, snacking, and browsing social media.
If you force yourself to sit at a desk for eight straight hours in the name of “being productive,” you are likely to find yourself falling into the same time wasting traps. Instead, plan on focused, short periods of work with built-in breaks. (The Pomodoro method is a great framework.)
Finding strategies to structure your day so that you can maximize productivity is key to making your remote working life pleasurable and profitable. Accomplishing more in a shorter amount of time essentially means that you gain more time—time you can spend doing other work to increase your overall income or time you can spend doing something other than work to increase your freedom and enjoyment.
Whatever kind of goals you have as a remote worker, productivity is the key to your success.