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Team Productivity

How to Maximize Your Day When You Work from Home

Laura LaPrad
April 17, 2018
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Remote work comes with all sorts of perks. No stuffy suits. No traffic jams. No constant hum across a sea of open cubicles. (Heck, no cubicles!) Just peace and quiet in the comfort of your own home.

Of course, life has a funny way of crashing your zen when you work from home.

Piles of laundry beckon from the dark recesses of your closet. Your dog wants to go out, then come back in, then go back out, and needs just one more belly rub in between. (Who could resist that face?) And just when you hit the zone, war erupts in the living room over whose turn it is to play Minecraft...again. Before you know it, it’s dinnertime, and your to-do list is just as long as it was at 8:00 am.

Sound familiar?

We get it. That’s why we thought we’d share 5 simple steps that help us stay focused, day in and day out. Here’s how to minimize distractions and maximize your day so you can knock out to-dos like there’s no tomorrow.

Step #1: Get your priorities straight

Ever run around in circles trying to figure out what to work on because you’ve got so many things to juggle? We’ve all been there.

That’s why John Correlli, one of TeamGantt’s fearless co-founders, suggests starting with a daily dose of prioritization. “It's important to know what [tasks] you're working on and why you're working on them, which can allow you to prioritize your day,” he says.

Meredith Reynolds, Director of Administration, categorizes her to-dos into 4 priority buckets using a simple time management matrix she adapted from Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Successful People.1 Here’s how it works:

  • Priority 1: Urgent and important: A crisis that requires immediate attention or a project with a looming deadline
  • Priority 2: Not urgent but important: Long-range tasks like process improvement or strategic planning that matter to your business but don’t have to get done right away
  • Priority 3: Urgent but not important: Interruptions like email or Slack notifications that scream at you but don’t rank high on your priority list
  • Priority 4: Not urgent and not important: Classic busy work that’s just one step above your next Netflix binge

This approach enables you to quickly identify which tasks get top billing and which ones can wait. Simply sort each to-do into a bucket, and voilà! Running in circles is a thing of past!

Step #2: Schedule your day

One of the biggest benefits of remote work is there’s no one breathing down your neck to get your work done. You get to decide how to use your time. That kind of freedom is huge!  

Want to maximize your productive potential? Give each day a plan. There’s no right or wrong way to do it.

Product Specialist Kelsey Ingerto takes a hybrid approach, using both digital and analog tools to stay on track. “I like a good, old-fashioned paper agenda,” she says. “I schedule everything that I need to do each day and have a running list of short-term and long-term to-dos on the side.”

With TeamGantt’s free online gantt chart software, you can keep up with daily project tasks and create your own personal to-do lists—all in a matter of minutes. Best of all, it’s super easy to sync project tasks into Google Calendar, iCal, and Outlook so you always have them at your fingertips.

Step #3: Tackle your biggest task first

Take advantage of that morning cup o’ joe by putting your first burst of energy toward your most pressing task. That’s what TeamGantt co-founder Nathan Gilmore does, and it sets him up for a more productive day all-around.

“I like hitting the most important task of the day first thing in the morning, when I'm fresh,” Nathan says. “Getting 2-3 hours of focus time on the most important item of the day helps me gain momentum and guarantees that I get something important done that day.”

Just think how good you’ll feel checking off a major to-do before noon! Emails, meetings, and other small tasks can wait (See Step #2). Fry the big fish while the productivity pan is hot.

Step #4: Hang up the Do Not Disturb sign

As a remote worker, connection can be both friend and foe. While it’s awesome for greasing the wheels of communication and building rapport with your team, constant notifications can disrupt your flow big-time.

Consider the averages:

  • Workers get interrupted or switch tasks every 3 minutes.2
  • Ramping back up to the original task can take over 23 minutes after a disruption.2
  • Context switching causes tasks to take 50% longer to complete.3

Here’s the thing: Just because you can be accessible 24/7 doesn’t mean it’s good for your workflow. So give yourself permission to unplug when you really need to hunker down.

Meredith puts the Do Not Disturb feature into practice anytime she has critical numbers to crunch. “I turn off phone, Slack, and email notifications when I’m in something that requires focus, like taxes or payroll,” she says.

And don’t worry: It doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing affair. After all, you don’t want to miss a family emergency the one time you turn your phone off. Follow Meredith’s lead, and set exceptions for your spouse, kid’s school, and any other key contact so important calls or messages still pop up.

Tip #5: Reward yourself

No matter what those parenting books say, bribes work. Just ask any kid you know.

And good news: The ol’ carrot-on-a-stick approach rings tried-and-true for grown-ups too! John sets daily goals and rewards himself when he hits them. Simple as that!

We like to think of it as the power of positive motivation. If you have something to look forward to after 2 hours of heads-down work, you’ll push harder to hit your goal, right? Maybe it’s breaking for lunch, reading a chapter of a book, or relocating to the coffee shop for the remainder of the afternoon.

If you really want to up your game, choose a reward that involves physical activity. Research shows that regular exercise gives your brain a productivity power boost.4 So hit the gym or take your dog for a spin around the neighborhood—whatever gets your body moving and blood pumping.  

Turbocharge your to-dos with TeamGantt

TeamGantt’s online gantt chart software makes it easy to manage your projects so you can focus on the work that matters most to you. Sign up for your free TeamGantt account, and get more done each day!

Project management milestone examples

Milestones make it easier to keep projects on track by calling out major events, dates, decisions, and deliverables. Here are a few examples of project milestones you might include in your plan:

  • Start and end dates for project phases
  • Key deliveries
  • Client and stakeholder approvals
  • Important meetings and presentations
  • Key dates or outages that may impact your timeline

Let’s dig a little deeper and explore 3 specific examples of how using project milestones can benefit your projects.

Monitor deadlines

No plan is ever complete without a list of deadlines! The best way to make them noticeable is to use the project management milestones and deliverables technique. What does this mean? Make the deliverables project milestones!

Why do this? Well, it’s no secret that not everyone wants to pore over your beautiful project plan to find key dates. Most people—your teammates included—want a top-level view of key dates and events. Milestones are great for this purpose because they’re called out in a special way—usually with a diamond—in project plans.

While you should list the tasks and effort leading up to a project milestone, be sure to present the milestone at the end of those tasks to signify a delivery, or even a presentation of, the deliverable.

Here's an example of how Washington Hyperloop uses milestones to track an important deadline in their project.

Spotlight important dates

Are there days from now until the end of your project that could impact your project in some way? Maybe your team will need to be out of the office for a mandatory training. Maybe there’s a board meeting you’re expected to attend.

It’s important to keep all of these important events in mind when you’re planning a project because they could possibly impact your project schedule. So why not include them as project milestones so you can track them all in one place?

In this example, the team’s off-site strat-op meeting has been added to the project plan as a milestone so work can be scheduled around it.

date milestone in gantt chart

Identify potential project bottlenecks

Many projects rely on the work produced by external teams or partners to make forward progress. If you’re not tracking those external factors somewhere, there’s a great chance you’ll forget to follow-up on it.

That’s why it’s important to list these deliverables as project milestones if you’re working on a project that depends on someone or something outside of your project. Here’s an example of what that might look like for a client approval.

deliverable milestone in gantt chart

Want to hit major milestones on time more often?

We’ve got a free class to help you get everyone on board with your plan! Register for Plan Up: How to Create and Sell a Winning Project Plan to see why planning sets the stage for project success, and get a free Guide to Project Planning when you sign up.

How to create a project milestone

Creating milestones for your project plan can be simple, especially with TeamGantt. Once you’ve mapped out your overall process and plan with your team, you can easily add tasks, identify gantt chart milestones, and determine task owners. Adding a milestone (or converting a task to a milestone) is very easy in TeamGantt.

Once you’ve signed up for a TeamGantt account, here’s a quick video on how to create milestones:

Project milestones are easy to create and even easier to track because you’ve called out the most important points in your project.

How to share project milestones with clients and stakeholders

Want to give clients and stakeholders a high-level view of the project? Simply follow these steps to share a PDF of key project milestones in your gantt chart.

1. Filter your project by milestones.

From your gantt chart view, click the All Dates menu at the top of your gantt chart, and select Only Milestones from the drop-down.

filter gantt chart by project milestones

2. Export your filtered project to a PDF file.

Navigate to your project's Menu, and select Print/Export PDF from the drop-down.

export gantt chart with project milestones to PDF

Customize your PDF settings, then click View PDF to complete the export. From there, you can download and/or print your PDF to share with clients and stakeholders.

share PDF of gantt chart filtered by project milestones

Who would have thought such a critical step could be so easy?

Hit every project milestone with ease

TeamGantt makes it easy to create, track, and collaborate on all your project milestones so nothing slips through the cracks.

You’ll have all the features you need to ensure projects finish on time and under budget—from drag and drop simplicity and team collaboration to customizable views and workload management.

Best of all, it’s all wrapped up in a simple and intuitive interface your whole team will love. 😍

Give TeamGantt a free try today!

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