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Things I Learned about Productivity from Working Remotely

Andrea Kelemen
5 min read
Mar 21, 2017
Working remotely

Us, at Toggl, have embraced a remote work culture more than two years ago, and we are learning about productivity and self-management ever since. We’ll share with you the following 9 productivity tips that we’ve learned the hard way through failing a thousand times (so you don’t have to).

Whether you’re a freelancer or have a flexible boss, this freedom comes at the price of self-management. Like them or not, bosses do fulfill an essential function: accountability.

Freelancers and remote workers often don’t benefit from the structure direct supervisors provide. Though you may love working without someone looking over your shoulder, you must learn to do this person’s job.

In a nutshell, if you enjoy work flexibility as a team member, freelancer, or entrepreneur, you must learn to manage yourself.

Use these 9 productivity tips to maximize your self-management. No matter how much independence you’ve earned so far, these work hacks can help you make the most of your work-time:

1. Maintain a fixed daily routine

The digital nomad culture is booming, but it has some downsides. Travelling can make hash of daily routines with the constant search for distraction-free spots with fast Internet. Travelers need to learn to adjust their daily schedules to accommodate the everyday surprises that make adventures fun.

Independent workers learn to maintain steady work habits, even when the unexpected happens. They bend, but they don’t break. They stay up late, get up early, work in train stations, and meet their deadlines.

Despite distractions and good reasons to put off work, independent workers maintain their integrity – the core concept of self-management.

2. Find the work/life balance that suits you best

Whether you’re on the road or just working for the weekend, remember this key point – if you fall off the wagon, get back on. It’s one thing to procrastinate on an assignment, deliver a proposal later than you wanted, or end work for the day despite a looming deadline.

Exercise self-care in the short run and diligence in the long-run. Just don’t make a habit of giving yourself slack.

However, you can loosen up over time and work “by feel.” Experienced remote workers with at least a couple of years under their belts develop a “sixth sense” for time management. If you’ve worked in the same office (or with the same team) for a good while, you know what I mean.

You know when to push yourself (and your colleagues) and when to lay back. You know when to work and when to take breaks.

3. Work from a fixed home base

Before jumping in (or on) their vehicles and heading for the hills, smart digital nomads spend time at home, building up their client bases. As they progress in their careers, they can take off on longer and more challenging lifestyles. Even experienced remote workers take breaks from the road to grow their businesses and change up their daily grinds.

In your office (or home office) life, recognize when you’re taking too many “vacations.” This could mean big trips across the globe or small trips to the fridge. Maintain a home base by keeping water and snacks at your desk, so you don’t get up as often.

4. Work 5-day weeks and protect your days off

You need breaks to stay productive – including weekends.

Maintaining a five-day workweek will boost your productivity in the long run. Work hard during the week, wrap up your to-do list on Friday, and enjoy a couple of well-deserved days off. If you take a break from working (and thinking about work), your mind will surprise you with creative solutions to seemingly intractable problems.

5. Track your time, tasks, and productivity

Use a time tracking app to determine how much time you spend on various tasks in an average week. Leverage your high-attention times of day (and week).

Productivity doesn’t mean working a lot; it means working on the right things at the right times.

6. Use the Pomodoro technique to stay fresh

Independent workers often find overworking just as tempting as procrastination. With Toggl’s Pomodoro timer, you can get alerts to stop every 25 minutes and take a 5-minute break. This method helps you avoid burnout and get more done with a steady and healthy pace.

7. Alternate brain-intensive and routine work

People with workplace freedom and flexibility know their productivity and focus change naturally throughout the day. Use attention management techniques to get the most out of the “flow states” you enter at various times throughout the day. Work on creative tasks when your juices are flowing and check routine emails when you feel your attention waning.

8. Celebrate your weekly to-do list

Set weekly goals and Monday and review them on Friday. It feels great to check off those last few items on your list and sit back in your chair after a successful week. This positive reinforcement increases your personal job satisfaction (even more than outside affirmations from bosses and managers).

Be a good manager of yourself by giving yourself compliments (yes, even out loud) and cheering yourself on. Give yourself healthy rewards like fruit smoothies and trips to your favorite restaurants after challenging and weeks. Give yourself the moral support you would expect from a good supervisor.

9. Do one task at a time

By now, most independent workers know the multitasking myth was false. Remember – you can maintain your quality standards by avoiding the distraction of other projects. These tasks may feel like work, and it can feel exciting to juggle many of them at once.

Focusing on one thing at a time can dramatically increase your productivity.

Learn the techniques today’s most flexible workers use and apply them to your workplace. No matter your job, you have some choice about what to do next – and how to face the challenges that arise.

Besides, if you make good decisions in your independent time, your manager may reward you with more workplace freedom!

If you liked this post you might also be interested in Apps For Work that Will Boost Your Productivity.