Work smarter, not harder. Follow these tips to increase your whole team’s productivity and morale while working remotely.
Amid the global pandemic, many companies shut down or decided to make the shift to fully remote work. And, if you’ve never worked from home, it can be challenging.
While working from home has its perks: no commute, more flexible schedule, no office distractions, it’s also rife with disadvantages that can lead to lost productivity and burnout.
As we all navigate this new normal, here are some tips and tricks you can implement right now to stay productive and lead your team while working from home:
1 ) Plan time to plan.
The key to success is giving yourself time and space to plan. Depending on how the coronavirus has impacted your business, you may need to shift from your original plan, making this step crucial. Setting aside time to plan the upcoming week will help you generate a proactive mindset and give you direction and guidance to avoid wasting time on tasks that won’t move the needle.
Start by planning out each week in advance. Keep a running list of things you need to accomplish, keeping in mind the big rock items you must complete this quarter or this month to hit your year-end goals. Those goals will act as your guardrails to keep you on track week by week. At the end of each week, sit down with a list of objectives and spend an hour plotting out your week. Write down everything that must be done and create a plan to follow to stay on track.
By creating a plan, you enter your week with direction and purpose, keeping your long-term goals front of mind.
2) Prioritize your tasks.
Right now, things are in constant motion. It’s important to stay agile and handle new challenges as they arise. However, this does mean you should throw out your week’s plan when something comes up. Instead, prioritize your tasks ahead of time.
To be successful, it’s not just about getting more done; it’s about getting the right things done. Unless you prioritize your tasks, everything feels important in the moment. Look at your current schedule. If you could leverage or save 1 extra hour a day by removing unimportant tasks, you would save 240 hours or 6 weeks over the course of the year (5 hours x 48 weeks = 240 hours). Imagine the shift you can create with an extra 6 weeks of free time to work on high impact items.
We all have the same number of hours in a week, and even if you work overtime, there will be times when you can’t accomplish everything. A good rule of thumb is to prioritize your tasks alongside your weekly goal planning. By evaluating your tasks, you’ll have a clear idea of what needs to be accomplished versus what can be moved or delegated to someone else.
3) Set a routine.
Working from home offers so much flexibility from what time you start your day to the number of breaks you take and everything in between. While this flexibility can be liberating, it can also lead to feeling disorganized and unproductive. The easiest way to stay organized is to set a routine for your week.
A simple routine you can use to increase productivity and focus is to create “themes” for each day of the week. For example, Mondays could be a day for planning and internal meetings, Tuesdays and Thursdays can be reserved for business development, while Wednesdays can be used to build content, and Fridays can be a hybrid. By setting themes for each day, you’ll know when you will be working on specific tasks to plan accordingly.
4) Work on similar tasks in blocks.
Speaking of routines and planning, a simple trick to staying productive is to use block scheduling to group similar tasks into one single batch throughout the week. By grouping similar tasks together, you can develop a groove and start to work faster and more efficiently.
Setting your blocks is simple: Identity common tasks such as business development or emails and estimate how much time those items will take to complete. Then plug it into your calendar, just like you would a meeting or event.
The tricky part is finding a groove that works for you. Understand how you work so you can schedule tasks based on when you will be most productive. You will also need to be mindful of deadlines. Keep your priority list in mind when carving out your blocks, and try to schedule time-sensitive items early on in the week.
Once you’ve set a schedule, you can track how long each batch of tasks is completed. Did you stay on track? Do you need more or less time to complete your tasks? Once you’ve got a good understanding of your working habits, use that to keep yourself accountable and productive.
5) Give yourself space for interruptions.
Regardless of how well you plan, things will come up during the week that needs your attention. A good rule of thumb is to plan extra time in your calendar for things to go awry. This extra time slot is just a little bit of cushion throughout the day for an emergency or anything time-sensitive.
Depending on your job, you may need more slush time than others; for example, if you work in real estate, you may have to plan more time for calls and various interruptions than someone with a more predictable routine.
Consider starting with an hour of extra time every day. If you need it, great; if not, you now have time to pull another project forward.
6) Open up communication channels and over-communicate if needed.
Communication is important now more than ever. Working remotely can cause people to feel disconnected, so whether you’re working with a team or clients, you’re going to want to step up communication.
If you haven’t already, consider scheduling daily or weekly check-ins with your team to keep lines of communication open. If people are counting on you, staying on top of emails, keeping Slack open, and letting people know when you’re stepping away from the computer is especially important. If staying available is distracting, let people know when you will be available to talk if something should come up.
Being open and transparent will help prevent misunderstandings, and it will help you and your team demonstrate how well you can work even in uncertain times.
7) Take breaks when necessary.
Nobody can concentrate for eight hours straight. When working from home it’s easy for the lines to blur between work and non-work time. Remember when you are working that it’s okay to schedule breaks. Some people suggest the Pomodoro Technique, in which you work in 25-minute increments, breaking for 5 minutes, and after 4 rounds, you would take a longer break. Other techniques suggest working for 50 minutes and breaking for 10 or 17 minutes. You can use your break time to stretch, meditate, walk around. Breaking up the day and moving your body helps you refresh and can increase your productivity. Experiment to find what works best for you.
8 ) Close your email
Once you have your plan, try to start your day by looking at your calendar first, before diving into emails.
Right now, you might feel tied to your email. It’s probably how you’re getting and receiving most of your communication these days. Email can be the biggest time-suck and the fastest way to throw your schedule off track. Instead of spending hours in your inbox or checking your email throughout the day, dedicate two times a day to focus on emails. This allows you to manage your emails versus your emails managing you.
A quick tip to email management is to apply a 2 minutes rule. As you check your emails during your designated time block, allow yourself 2 minutes per message. Look at the emails oldest to newest, and if you can respond or take action in under 2 minutes, take care of it immediately—otherwise, schedule time in your calendar to handle it.
Maximize your workday by incorporating these techniques and developing these habits over time. Remember, persistence is key. By continuing to organize, plan, and prepare, you will begin to see the difference.