By now, you’ve more than likely heard the benefits of working away from the office. A two-year study of work-from-home employees found they not only get more done, are more engaged, and take fewer sick days than their in-office counterparts, but also save companies $2,000 per employee per month in office space rent.
So does this mean we should all kick down our cubicle walls and head home? Not exactly. While studies love to talk about the benefits of working remotely, they tend to ignore the downsides.
That report we just mentioned? All those work-from-home employees had a private space to work from—a luxury not all remote workers have. Heck, a good chunk of people working outside of the office don’t even work from home, but cafes, libraries, coworking spaces, or even while traveling.
The truth is that no matter where you work, you’ll face distractions that threaten your ability to get work done. But with these tips, you’ll learn how to stay productive, wherever you are.
Working from home: How to stay productive when surrounded by distractions
So how do you optimize your living space to help you stay productive? Here are a few tips to get started:
Time phone calls and meetings thoughtfully
Unless you live completely alone, working from home means you have to plan your schedule around everyone else in your house. For example, your children might be there in the morning before school, watching TV, eating breakfast and requiring your attention to get ready.
During the morning rush and other times you know there might be ambient noise, avoid making phone calls. Instead, plan them for times when you’ll have the house to yourself—or, at least, when you know it will be quiet enough for you to focus on the conversation.
Have a dedicated office space (even if it doesn’t have a door)
As previously mentioned, cordoning off an office space works wonders for at-home productivity. And even if you can’t dedicate an entire room to your workspace, it’s vital to have some physical barrier.
A partition not only helps put you in “work” mode but will prevent you from seeing anything that might distract you, whether that’s a pile of dirty dishes in the sink or your pet doing something adorable. Having a bit of privacy means you’ll focus on knocking out your to-do list.
Employ the Pomodoro method (or another method to track your time)
Whether you’re working from home or the office, it can be hard to get yourself to focus on an overwhelmingly large task. And without being surrounded by like-minded people getting to work, it can feel impossible to get started.
That’s where the Pomodoro Method helps. Simply put, the Pomodoro Method involves breaking your larger tasks down into small chunks and then working on them for 25 minutes at a time before taking a 5-minute break. The idea is that working in shorter sprints helps get over the initial friction of starting and also keeps you motivated throughout the session.
Best of all, you only need a simple timer to employ this technique—no added distractions or expenses to ensure your at-home productivity.
Work your schedule around your most productive times
They say the early bird gets the worm. But that’s not always true (so, take a big sigh of relief if you’re not a morning person!) Working from home typically allows you to schedule your hours as you’d like, which is more beneficial than just giving you more beauty rest.
We all have a specific curve to our energy levels each day. And one of the best productivity “hacks” is to figure out when you’re the most energetic, focused and, well, awake. Not only will this help you set your work-from-home hours, but it can also help you schedule your toughest tasks for when you’re the most energized to take them on.
Working while traveling: Keeping up with your schedule when you’re on the road
One of the big promises of remote work is the ability to see the world, all while holding down a job. But if you think working from home or a coffee shop is distracting, try doing it in a foreign country. Working while traveling brings up a whole host of productivity issues that require unique solutions. Here are a few:
Make sure your necessities (wifi, chargers, schedule) are in order
Traveling to a new city or even a new country means you’ll have to prepare in advance if you want to be productive while there. For starters, do you need adaptors for your computer and chargers? What about wi-fi access where you’re staying? Chances are, you’ll need to connect to the Internet to get some work done.
Lastly, when are you going to get your work done? Be sure you’re scheduling your activities around any potential to-dos or deadlines as well.
Take advantage of travel time
The journey is just as remarkable as the destination, at least as far as travel productivity is concerned. So, take advantage of your travel time by getting work done in the airport, on your flight, etc…
Even if you don’t want to swing for in-flight Wi-Fi, you can still download work ahead of your trip and work without any online distractions as you fly (Google Docs has an offline mode that you can enable to get access even without internet).
Some planes even offer a limited Wi-Fi service giving you access to email only, which can make flying a great opportunity to clean out your inbox or respond to lingering messages.
Get ahead before you go
Traveling is always less stressful when you don’t have a huge deadline looming over your head. Before your next getaway, do your best to complete any significant tasks and hand off responsibilities. The more you can limit your duties to simply keeping things moving and ticking off small tasks, the better.
Working in any other non-office location: The basics of becoming a successful remote worker
And what about the rest? Coworking spaces? Cafes? Libraries? When you’re out of the office, anywhere can become your place of work. And while each space will have its own unique challenges, there are some universal truths when it comes to how to be productive outside the office.
Here are a few of the big ones:
Use music for focus (and to block distractions)
Background noise can be a serious bummer when you’re trying to get work done. Fortunately, background music can help reduce the number of audible distractions, increase creativity, and even help you focus.
As long as you choose the right tunes to get you through. The soundtrack that works will be different for everyone, but try proven genres (classical tends to do the trick for most) before building a productivity playlist of your own.
Try the 5-minute rule to stay focused
Distractions follow you everywhere, even if you head to your company’s office for the day. When you find your focus shifting, set a timer for five to 10 minutes and vow to concentrate for the chosen amount of time. Once the bell rings, you’ll be surprised to find you were able to block out the distraction in such a short amount of time—all it takes is your dedication to doing so.
Additionally, try to build the habit of doing one thing at a time as much as possible. Single-tasking will boost your overall focus, as it forces you to work through tough problems, rather than setting a to-do aside when it gets tough. Those who single-task say they’re less stressed and get more done, too, as they can focus their efforts and bring tasks to completion more routinely.
Use breaks to boost energy when you need it most
We already mentioned the Pomodoro method as a valuable tool in the fight for productivity. Even if you don’t want to work in such short bursts, it’s vital that you do give yourself breaks throughout the workday.
Breaks give you a breath of fresh air, so to speak, boosting your energy stores so you can sit back down and get back to work with the same vigor. Pushing too hard all day long, on the other hand, will leave you burned out and unable to focus by the end of it.
If you want to make the most of your downtime, include a bit of exercise. Not only will a brisk walk or a few pushups boost your energy, but exercise increases feel-good endorphins and, therefore, your mood, both of which will help you tuck into work without feelings of tension or anxiety. With a clear mind, you’ll be able to produce better work, too.
Be clear with your communication to make everyone feel in the loop
One of the big downsides of being out of the office is that you’ll sometimes miss things. It happens. Colleagues have a conversation in the office or after a meeting and assume you just know.
To that end, be sure to come up with a communication plan that works for everyone so you know when you can expect to hear from colleagues on a particular project. Without an agreed-upon course of action in place, it’s easy to feel isolated and frustrated.
You have the tools to be productive, wherever you are
Whether you’re working from your home office or from the sandy beaches of a remote island, you have the tools to make your day a productive one.
These tips will help get you there—all that’s left to do is implement them and see just how much you can accomplish, regardless of location.
How do you stay productive outside the office? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter.