Over the last year and a half, remote learning and work-from-home arrangements have become commonplace. And while some are eager to get back to normal, others have found that operating outside a conventional office or classroom can provide them with the flexibility they need.
Still, it’s not always easy to adjust to working or learning from home. You may not feel like you quite have the hang of things yet – or you’re starting to feel burned out.
If you’ll be working, learning, or studying remotely for the foreseeable future, it’s worth taking a closer look at the following productivity tips. Try these out to break some bad habits and breathe some new life into your routine.
Set Up Your Space
This might seem like an obvious tip, but you’d be surprised by just how many people overlook this important piece of the puzzle.
If you were suddenly thrown into remote learning or remote work last year, you might not have had time to establish a space that really fits your requirements.
Working from the couch or the kitchen table simply won’t cut it anymore. You deserve a dedicated space that will set you up for success.
The most obvious spot for a home office or study room is a spare bedroom. But if that’s not a possibility, you might be able to transform part of the basement, attic, or even a closet! You can also divide up an existing space – like a living room, dining room, master bedroom, or entry – to accommodate your needs.
Regardless of where you’ll be, you’ll want to have a quality desk, ergonomic chair, and enough space to work. You may also need to invest in better technology (like an additional computer monitor, speakers, webcam, printer, or internet connection) to ensure nothing slows down your progress.
Finally, you’ll want to surround yourself with plenty of lighting, organization tools, and creative inspiration. You might consider adding a plant, some artwork, a bulletin board, and some extra light fixtures (or utilizing natural light from a nearby window!) to make sure you feel your best.
Don’t forget to clear out unnecessary clutter! It’s hard to feel focused when you’re overwhelmed by loose papers and knick-knacks you don’t really need. Your space should feel clean, well-sorted, and inspirational.
When you’re learning or working from home, you may find it difficult to concentrate. While the classroom or the office might also come with certain distractions, your home environment might have even more of them.
For instance, you might become distracted by housework that needs to be done or family members who are requesting your attention. Having easy access to your personal devices can also prove a challenge – especially when there’s no one looking over your shoulder.
If you can minimize the distractions that are most likely to disrupt your day, you’ll be able to get into (and stay in) “the zone.” That may mean placing limits on social media use, letting others know when you will and won’t be available, or even wearing noise-reducing headphones to drown out the sounds that could wreck your concentration.
You may have to form some new habits and be diligent about what you’ll allow for the sake of your work. Remember that your home learning or working experience should really mimic what you do in the classroom or at the office. A little bit of discipline can go a long way.
Schedule Some Breaks
That said, you shouldn’t try to work at a grueling pace all the time. Your body and mind will work more efficiently if you prioritize breaks throughout the day and set boundaries for yourself.
For instance, you should pencil in a short break once an hour to stretch and to give your eyes a rest. Take at least 30 minutes for lunch each day (and resist the temptation to work through your meals!) and schedule in time to get some fresh air and a bit of exercise.
When working or studying remotely, some people will decide to go late into the evening. This can disrupt your work-life balance and can ultimately be harmful to your well-being. Make sure that you’re getting enough sleep, that you’re making time for healthy meals, and that you put a hard stop onto your day so that you prioritize your other needs. Set those boundaries with yourself so that you aren’t burning the candle at both ends.
Determine the Right Time
In many cases, remote work or remote learning can provide a bit of extra freedom. You may not be restricted to a conventional 9-to-5 workday or an 8-to-3 school schedule. While some meetings or classes may not be negotiable in terms of time, you might still have some flexibility built into your day.
Take advantage of this freedom, if possible, to learn the most productive times of day for you. If you happen to do your best work before lunch and in the early evening, try to structure your day to reflect that! Having the option to clock out or put down the books when you’re feeling sluggish can help you reach your goals when it’s time to get down to business.
Even if you can’t shift your workday or school schedule around, you may still want to experiment with your workload. Instead of putting off the things you dislike most until later in the day, get them done first so that your mind will feel fresh and that you’ll ease that burden. Figure out why you prioritize certain tasks over others and see how you feel when you don’t procrastinate.
Connect With Others
It can be difficult to learn or work in isolation. In a classroom or a conventional workplace, you’ll benefit from a certain level of social interaction. Although this can be distracting, at times, it can also help to relieve stress, solve problems, and boost creativity.
You may already jump on a Zoom call with your peers or coworkers, but that may not be enough to help you feel connected. Consider scheduling an additional brainstorming session, online study group, or social occasion via video chat or messaging group to hold yourself accountable, acquire inspiration, and cheer others on.
If you feel supported by others, you’ll feel more engaged in your work and more motivated to do your best.
Set Weekly or Daily Goals
It’s nearly impossible to stay productive when you don’t really know what you’re working toward. Having a specific goal (or goals!) in mind each day or each week will help your focus tremendously.
Goals will give your work a sense of meaning. They’ll also help you see what needs to be done and how you’ll get there. When you establish a more specific purpose, you’ll feel a drive to achieve your aims.
You may already have a yearly goal or an overall goal, but it’s time to get a bit more granular. Set a new goal each week you want to reach. You may even want to establish a daily goal or have a to-do list of tasks.
This can keep you from scrambling at the end of the week, month, quarter, or semester. You’ll also feel more accomplished as you go, which can keep you engaged and moving forward.
If you aren’t sure about what goals to set, talk to your professor or manager. They’re there to help you determine which goals you should focus on and even help you get to the next step. Once you have a clear goal in mind, you’ll actually be able to measure your progress and figure out what needs to happen at what time.
Staying Productive at Home Isn’t Impossible
For many of us, working or learning from home can be a real challenge. As time goes on, the process may not necessarily get any easier. But with these tips in mind, you can make the changes you need to stay focused in a remote environment while prioritizing a healthy balance.