Get your mornings right
Especially when working from home, I found a big problem to be starting the first task. It’s easier to establish a morning routine working in an office every day - breakfast, dressing up, travelling to work, etc - you’re ready to hit the ground running by the time you arrive at your desk. However, when this doesn’t happen, starting the day productively can become a struggle. It sounds trivial, but what can really help here is establishing a similar routine when you’re working away from the office. Link it to a certain starting time, an online meeting, getting back from the coffee shop or whatever suits your schedule, try to build up an expectancy in your mind that now is time to kick things off. Otherwise, it is surprisingly easy to start working late, affecting your whole day’s schedule. It’s best to block out 2 - 3 hours in the morning before work, allowing yourself to build up this expectancy. It’s also a great way to switch off and avoid thinking about your projects outside your normal working hours.
Structure your day
Just like your morning routine, working remotely can mean your schedule isn’t clearly structured, with little if any events that break your day down and guide how, when and what you do. Especially when you don’t have scheduled meetings or work-related events, it’s easy to lose track of priorities and spend too much time on one task, missing out on things that need to get done by the end of the day. One strategy that can help greatly is timeboxing - blocking out time slots for each activity for the whole day. It’s simple to implement but can do wonders. To take it a level further, it’s even better if you do this the day before so when you wake up, you don’t have to think about what you’re going to do, it’s already in your calendar - no surprises. Your morning self will also thank you very, very much for doing this: spending that 2 - 3 hours without being concerned about the day’s duties can be a true friend not only for your productivity but general well-being and mental health.
Socialise as much as you can
Whether it’s in person or online, try to interact with others during the day. This is very important to avoid feeling isolated and imposter syndrome, which can happen quite easily especially if you’re working from home alone most of the time. Humans are social beings so if you're looking to sustain your remote working schedule over the long term, make sure you don’t miss this.
Change workplaces frequently
There are many options: working from home, libraries, coffee shops, co-working spaces, etc. Even though I have a dedicated space at home where I usually work from, I think it’s best to change it every now and then. Spending some days in co-working spaces, for example, can also help you socialise and meet new people effortlessly. On the contrary, this might as well be counterproductive - there are many places with a scrappy internet connection, noisy environment and other distractions that can make it tough to focus, so make sure to research the place where you decide to spend your day. It's a balancing act - you need to find your favourite spots and routines to balance out these two effects.
Finish the day with a “ritual”
Just as with your morning, finishing the working day can be a bigger challenge than expected, especially if you work from home and stay there after work. The common problem I faced is being unable to switch off, continuing to think about work-related issues after finishing. I used to have my work station (monitor, laptop, etc.) set up at home so that I don’t have to do it every morning and clear my desk every afternoon. However, for this very issue, I stopped doing that and started packing my things in and out every day. Although it adds another 5 minutes of “work”, it can really help you build up that expectancy in the morning (my desk is ready so am I!) and switch off in the evening, with your laptop closed after a long day of work.
Working remotely can boost your productivity to a great extent, but has its challenges. These five things work nicely for me, but they might not work for you the same way - you have to find your ways. Nevertheless, if you invest time and effort into exploring and testing, I guarantee you the benefits will be incredible.