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.
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!