Working remotely is common in our times, and there are a lot of advantages to it, like no more commuting, the autonomy of your time, and being away from interruptions. However, it also introduces new challenges that require time to adjust to, like difficulty separating work from personal life and having the discipline to keep a structured day. The good news is – there are ways to build self-discipline and be even more productive than you would be in the office.
Prepare for the next day
Take a moment a few times a week to prepare for what’s coming next. Prioritizing your work for the next few days can help you get started more quickly. Part of the preparation means taking care of yourself and limiting possible distractions that could lead to delays the next day. Whether you like making todo-lists or scheduling events in the calendar, focus on your priorities and break down big projects into manageable chunks. Organizing your day and minimizing distractions help to create the discipline needed for efficient remote work.
Make yourself a routine
When working from home the boundaries between work and personal life might easily be blurred decreasing your level of productivity and eventually leading to overwork and burnout. That is why you need to design a routine that works for you in the long term. Setting fixed hours makes it easier to stay on track automating some of our decision throughout the day, both when you’re working and when you’re not. Sounds easy, but it requires a lot of self-discipline to stick to it.
Create habits that will indicate the start of your day. Some prefer waking up to a cup of coffee, while others start their day with a morning run. Find the thing that helps gets you started. Luckily, self-discipline becomes a lot more manageable with the right tools. While your work may use some tools within the projects, a truly disciplined individual will likely have their own set of organizational tools. It might be a daily planner, to-do list, reminders, or even a calendar.
Find time for deep focus
If your brain is not used to focused work for a longer period, it will automatically seek distractions The solution is to create space for it and train your brain for deep and focused work. It depends on your schedule and commitments, but ideally, you should aim for at least three hours of uninterrupted deep work a day. You try to keep focus for as long as possible, and when your attention starts to wander, you gently refocus yourself. It’s hard, but that’s how you improve your attention. You refocus yourself as often as needed, until the time for a break arrives.
The Pomodoro timer can be a great tool to find the right balance between training your focus and not draining your energy. Configure deep work sessions for around 60-90 minutes, which allows you to work on one complex problem without interruptions and taking breaks more often. You can gradually increase session lengths, to sharpen your ability to maintain focus for longer periods. Make sure each session has a clear goal, so you know how well you performed at the end of the session. Your goal should be specific and easy to calculate so you’ll be able to measure the quality of your deep work.
Create a work environment
If you’re working at home, it helps to have a designated space where you can have a physical separation of work from your personal life. It’s crucial to have boundaries to maintain a healthy work/life balance. Don’t forget to give yourself breaks, and sometimes leave the house for a quick walk, jog, or cycle. If you have a park or green space nearby, get to see some nature as soon as you log off to unwind. Building a healthy relationship with your work will make your life better. Lighting also makes a huge difference. It has been observed that cooler lights make you more productive while natural light can improve mood, energy, and alertness.
Remove all distractions
In my mind, social media is the biggest threat to productivity. It has no place on your schedule because it’s built to waste your time and make you feel stressed. Pay attention to your habits and consider getting a tracking app to see how much time you’re spending on these sites. The best practice would be to avoid social media as much as possible, even when you are not working. There are a lot of apps today to help you concentrate, apps that help with time blocking and time management, or simply do not let you check your phone too often.
Reading about politics during the workday could also throw you off your schedule. Consider reading those during the breaks or immediately after your lunch break. It’s often difficult to concentrate for some time after lunch anyway, so it’s an ideal time to do some reading unrelated to your tasks. It might be a habit to just stop reading when it’s time to get back to work.
Even when you miss one of your goals, that does not mean you have given up. Tomorrow it may be quite different. Just take it as it is. Being self-disciplined is something you acquire with hard and repetitive work, but it is worth that. With time, self-discipline will become your good habit.