6 Easy Ways To Find Your Flow When Working Remotely

Let’s see if you can relate to this scenario. You wake up, set goals and intentions, and are ready to start the day. Then it’s time to get down to work and the decisions you have to make slowly eat away at that early morning momentum which turns into an afternoon of panic followed by an evening of “wow I accomplished absolutely nothing today.”

Whereas traditional office environments come with their own productivity hindrances, remote workers are subject to a different set of distractions that can feel like a constant battle with the productivity monster. And while remote work is consistently proving it’s worth regarding work-life-balance and overall job satisfaction, working in an office comes with its own perks for forced productivity. Having a schedule, a designated place to work and people around to keep you on your toes all help to maintain momentum throughout the workday. Working remotely, on the other hand, requires a certain level of organization, discipline and deliberate planning to stay on task.

There are small changes you can make every day that will act as an experiment to help you see what works for you and what doesn’t. Whether you prefer working from your bed in PJs, venturing to your favorite coffee shop, or living the digital nomad life coworking in new and exotic places, these tips will help you maximize your time and turn you into a productivity czar.

Do a Productivity Audit

Perform a quick mental audit of when you get your best ideas and have the most momentum. Maybe you get most of your best ideas at night after the sun goes down. Other remote workers thrive in the early morning hours when everyone is still asleep and they’re chasing the proverbial worm. Neither habit is better or worse than the other. When you’re accomplishing all of your work, meeting your deadlines and creating a schedule you feel good about; that’s when you can consider the day a win.

Look at the days that make you feel the most accomplished. Then look at what days make you feel like a complete mess. What differentiates those days? Recognizing obvious time-sucks is a step towards eliminating distractions when you’re trying to get things done. Activities that may seem like productivity boosters to some, could actually be hindering your ability to concentrate. It’s not until you take a step back and really look at what you’re accomplishing, and under what circumstances you’re getting work done, that you can begin to create a schedule that makes you feel good about your day and reclaim your time.

Prioritize Tasks

Do the most important things first. It may seem like a simple concept, but take it a step deeper and identify which tasks ARE actually the most important and which ones FEEL the most important. There’s a difference. Using concepts like the Eisenhower Matrix can put tasks in perspective and help you identify what should take priority.

There’s always that one thing that’s the most valuable to meeting your daily goals. Avoid doing low-value work that feels like real work but is counterproductive to your goals. Identify effective ways to prioritize essential from non-essential tasks. Don’t be afraid to delegate work that is time-consuming to let you focus exclusively on high-value tasks.

Here’s a quick peek at how my schedule has taken shape over the past few months. Of course, I keep it fluid and make adjustments as things come up, having a general idea of how my days will look, has helped save tons of time and mental energy.

The morning:

Do one big, high-priority task first thing in the morning, followed by intentional, yet not necessarily client-related work. This includes brainstorming, personal content creation or research.

The afternoon:

Then I dive into deep work before lunch followed by a few intermittent breaks. The after lunch slump can hit hard some days, so doing some administrative work like answering emails can be a low-pressure way to stay productive while not over-exerting yourself.

The evening:

I like to break for the day in the evening, but I’ve also learned not to dismiss the fact that I get some of my best ideas after sundown. When I used to assume it was time to stop working, I would get ideas and fight the urge to work. Now I let myself be inspired whenever I feel the inspiration peeking through. That doesn’t necessarily mean doing the deep work late at night, but using the influx of ideas to take notes, journal, and create outlines to save for later. These outlines help me create a plan for the next day, and to go even deeper, give me insight into new projects I want to explore.

Plan out your workspace

Take time the night before your workday to decide where you’re going to work the next day. Do you work at home, out of a cafe or a coworking space? Being cognizant of where you get the best work done and what type of environment you thrive in creatively will save you a lot of time in planning out your day and allow you to get to work quicker. This also means recognizing the type of work you’ll be doing that day. A day full of phone calls will require a much different environment than a day spent writing or strategizing.

If you’re working out of a co-working space, determine if you need a private office or can work around others. When working out of a coffee shop, remember that they’re also trying to operate a business. Be mindful of their peak times and wary of distractions that might come up like faulty wi-fi or crying babies. If you have an important assignment or phone call, be aware that you’re at the mercy of their bandwidth and the rest of the people patronizing their business. Knowing practical things like whether or not there are enough power outlets, reliable internet and a good vibe for work can make or break a work day. Once you’ve found the right place, it’s okay to make that “your place.” Wanderlust can be distracting so plan out when you’re going to explore new places and workspaces and when you need to go somewhere familiar and do “deep work.”

Schedule uninterrupted deep work

Familiarize yourself with the concept of deep work and deliberately schedule in times to do short uninterrupted sprints. That means ridding yourself of distractions and powering through a task until completion. Set expectations with your team or clients about when you’re available and unavailable to communicate with them to give yourself the peace of mind to turn off emails and calls during your deep work time.

Set personal appointments

Everyone has personal goals and projects they’re trying to accomplish in addition to their job. Doing your own work is extremely important and will impact all of the other work you do. Hold yourself accountable to your own work by setting appointments with yourself for tasks that you tend to put off. Treat these appointments with the same importance that you would treat meetings with others and be mentally available and be ready to go at the time of the appointment. Don’t sell yourself short.

Find YOUR Flow

Don’t let the productivity articles boasting secrets to success fool you. Everyone’s work habits are different. I began working remotely with a group of other people and while it was great to be able to bounce ideas off of each other, collaborate and stay inspired, I quickly realized that we all worked (very) differently and that was okay. It took some time to learn our own habits and set boundaries between friendship and work.

A nice thing about working remotely is the built-in flexibility. Create a schedule that you feel good about, that challenges you but that also plays to your strengths and your own production techniques. There’s no one-size-fits-all plan for creating a productive day, and while certain studies can claim that productivity peaks during certain times and after certain activities, everyone’s habits are different. People can be successful in finding their own rhythm.

It’s time to fulfill your potential as a remote worker and reclaim your work day by recognizing the power of setting intentions, identifying your own flow and creating a schedule that works for you. What are some productivity hacks you swear by to help you feel good about your workday?

Originally published here

July 30, 2018