You start work early and end work late.
You answer calls at all hours and even on weekends.
Wait….there's an end to my work day when I work remotely?
Here are five hacks for being productive while working remotely whether it's in a hotel, airport or your house.
- Set a schedule and stick with it. It's easy to get sucked in to 6:00am meetings (I've done meetings between 4:30-6!) and 6:00pm meetings. Blocking out time on your calendar for when you start and stop your day is important. Yes, you could be available but it doesn't mean you have to be. Exceptions should be discussed with you prior to meetings being scheduled. I have one client who is single with no kids. She works long hours and doesn't feel like she can end at a reasonable time. She was going to Italy and I started telling her that if Italy were her child and she had to pick them up at the bus stop, there would be no question what her priority would be. Just because you are a SINK or DINK doesn't mean you shouldn't have a life. Business traveler? Same deal. Just because you are in a hotel doesn't mean you are required to do evening meetings. You teach people how to treat your calendar. Keep it sacred. If you allow people to schedule at all times then the abuse will continue.
- Set up a real workstation. Your couch, dining room table or a chair at the airport can work in the short-term or even as a break from your regular environment, but it shouldn't be your permanent office. It's not going to help you feel professional or inspired sitting in the same place you eat dinner or watch The Walking Dead. Get a standing desk or adjustable desk, proper lighting, a whiteboard….whatever you need to make you feel like creating. I have a couple of pictures as well that make me smile and remind me that I'm a person. Traveling? Consider a Ninja Standing Desk. It only weighs five pounds and can hook on to any door. Bonus for being born and raised at a TechShop in San Francisco. More and more airports are offering quiet rooms, business centers and tall tables to be able to stand.
- Distract yourself. Right now, if I were to turn off my background music, I would hear dogs barking at the day care behind my house. This would be incredibly distracting to me, but not in a good way. I need to be distracted from the distraction! At home I use Focus At Will, a neuroscience productivity tool. It is a low-cost program I can set to a timer, choose what types of background music I need and the tempo and energy level. I love this program and use it with headphones when I'm traveling. Music with words distracts me so I save the Spotify for when I'm doing easy tasks. The din of a coffee shop has actually been shown to increase productivity in some people. The background noise has even been recorded and can be purchased in an app or on Focus At Will.
- Use a document sharing program. I came from a company that had a document sharing system that people hated using. Instead, they would keep attachments on their computers, send them back and forth, with no one ever having the latest version. This is pretty common with almost any company I consult with. USE IT. I use Google For Work and like that my updates are always in real time with whoever I am collaborating with. I also use Dropbox and Evernote.
- Have a real office number. I use a Vonage number for my office line. It rings to my personal cell phone, because I don't want two mobile phones, but at least I know when something is business as opposed to personal. There's nothing productive or professional about answering a call while standing in line at the coffee shop (plus it's annoying to the baristas who just want to take your order) or being asked confidential work information when you are in a crowd of people. It also allows you to turn off your personal cell phone during the day so that family members, who don't quite understand what ‘work remotely' means, try to call you during your work hours.
What are your top ways to be productive when working remotely?