Initially working from home may seem like a dream come true: more concentration, less distractions from colleagues and more time for yourself. However, after a few days of not going to the office, you may notice that your concentration has gone downhill, distractions are no longer caused by colleagues but by family members and domestic tasks, and the chair which seemed so comfortable in the beginning has eventually led to a backache.
Remote working means being able to benefit from greater autonomy, but as in all situations of responsibility, a dark side lurks around the corner: managing yourself and your work may lead to confusion, an unproductive routine, and the development of unwholesome habits. Organising your work and knowing how to do it well are key skills for the remote worker.
But how can you become a better remote worker and develop greater concentration and productivity?
7 strategies for productive remote working
1) Clarify your goals and establish priorities
Do you ever feel overwhelmed by everything you need to do? You must reply to that important email, but the telephone won’t stop ringing, then there’s that project to close, the website needs updating, and you should fill out that document…
Create a To Do List for activities you need to complete each day: this will enable you to keep track of progress for each programmed task. Above all, learn to establish priorities, so that you always have your workflow under control and don’t lose yourself in a myriad of activities.
What is the purpose of correctly establishing priorities?
In remote working, the ability to define things to do and not to do, sequences and time frames, is fundamental for productivity.
The ABCDE method is a good technique to use for establishing your priorities
Start by taking a rather large sheet of paper; divide it into 5 columns, one for each letter (ABCDE). Now write down every activity you need to get done on post-its.
Now add the post-its to the columns on the paper.
Add very important activities to A, namely those you absolutely need to get done to avoid negative consequences.
Place things you should get done under B, namely those activities that are important but generate less negative consequences should you fail to do them.
Place things it would be nice to get done, but are not important and do not generate negative consequences, under C.
Place everything that can be delegated or automated under D.
Lastly, place activities to be eliminated as soon as possible under E.
Creating this list will help you use your time and focus your concentration on the most essential things, so that you can minimise interruptions and distractions during periods of remote working and beyond!
2) Avoid multitasking
Unfortunately, doing several things at the same time is not good for productivity or for your health, because when you multitask, your attention constantly shifts between tasks. This makes it impossible to dedicate yourself with the utmost concentration to the main task at hand.
In practical terms: if I eat while watching TV, my attention shifts away from my food, from its taste, the consistency of what I’m eating, but also from the television, from what I’m listening to and watching on the screen.
Many scientific studies confirm this: for example, a 37% drop in attention levels in terms of brain activation was observed when the subjects of an experiment were asked to drive while speaking on the phone!
At work the implications will no doubt be less tragic, however in remote working, making sure you stick to one task at a time will keep your concentration levels high and help you avoid mistakes!
3) Don’t procrastinate
Avoid putting off apparently more boring or difficult tasks: it will become increasingly difficult to finish them! The best strategy to adopt in such cases can be summed up by the “Eat That Frog” strategy, which basically means getting the scariest or most boring thing over with first. Once you have “eaten the frog”, the rest of your working day will run much more smoothly.
4) Take stock at the end of the day
Set aside a few minutes before finishing work to take stock of things: am I on track with that project? How much time did it take to finish that task?
A fundamental aspect you should pay particular attention to is the level of importance of assigned duties: did you focus enough on the most urgent and useful ones, or were you distracted by others?
Verify progress and try to understand whether you are working on priority tasks, or whether you are spending too much time on less important ones.
5) Avoid distractions as much as possible
Try to identify the biggest causes of distraction and get rid of as much of them as possible (or at least reduce them).
For example, you could try keeping your personal smartphone far away from your workstation, or if you are aware of just how tempted you are to use it, you could even leave it in a different room.
6) There’s a time for work and a time for rest
Regardless of the context and sector, knowing how to manage time at work is life-saving.
Many methods can help improve time management and, if you’re looking for a way to complete your tasks without distractions, then the Pomodoro Technique is perfect for you!
What is it? It’s a time-management method developed by Francesco Cirillo, which can be used to complete tasks. It consists of working in 25 minute blocks with a 5 minute break between each time “box”.
7) Don’t isolate yourself
One of the upsides of office life is the presence of colleagues: this means you have the chance to chat or take your mind off things during breaks; they also make you feel even more a part of the company. Don’t lose touch with your colleagues! You can contact them if you need help with something; turn to the person in charge to suggest organising a weekly 20 minute meeting so that everyone keeps up to date on company life.
The useful tool for remote working
The To Do List for anyone in remote working can be on paper or digital; if you prefer the second option, we recommend the Todoist app which is functional and has pleasant graphics.
It is usable with any device and can even be integrated with Alexa and all major email management softwares, making it the ideal tool for organising your private and work life. It is a freemium service.
It has advanced features like Smart Schedule, which understands the best days for scheduling our tasks. The free version is rich in functions and the premium version costs around €30 per year.
Todoist enables you to create projects, activities, deadlines, priorities, labels, comments, reminders, integrations and shares. Using it is simple and you’ll notice that it is especially useful for sharing information with other people and managing repetitive activities, as it enables you to:
- cooperate with other people by inviting them to participate in the same project;
- easily enter periodic deadlines including daily, weekly, monthly or annual ones.
A few tips for your workstation
Let’s start with the environment. It is useful to have a fixed station in the same place, with a desk and comfortable chair.
Invest in a good monitor, a good desk and a quality chair to ensure your long term well-being, reduce eye fatigue and any back pain caused by unsuitable seating.
- The room
If you can, try to choose a different room from the one where you sleep and eat: changing environments during the day will help you psychologically to separate your work and home life.
The authors of the ergonomics blog NerdGranny recommend support rocking chairs, recliner chairs, knee rests and back supports.
In this way we can rock while we work, avoiding keeping our pelvis stuck in the same position for too long.
- The desk
There are many desk solutions, including height adjustable ones which even let you work standing up. The height is right if we can comfortably position our wrists when typing.
- The monitor
An external monitor with a large screen significantly boosts productivity.
According to your line of work, it may be a good idea to consider a 22 to 29 inch model. With an investment of less than €200 you can find good deals and your eyes will thank you for it.
While on the subject of eyes, light is an essential factor for creating an optimal workstation. The advice here is to experiment and find the area in the room with the best light that does not create reflections while you work on your pc.
With a few practical expedients, some common sense and a small investment, you can create an effective space where you can work better, with less stress.
- Train constantly
Finally, remote working is apparently simple but the truth is it requires you to constantly exercise discipline over your autonomy and attention.
With these tips you’ll become a more effective and serene “remote worker”.