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How to Stay Productive Even When Working Remotely

by Rachel Yeoh. |

It may seem hypocritical that I have been procrastinating at my dining table for almost half a day—so how can I tell you how to stay productive when I can’t even get out of this time-wasting cycle?

Because I can!

The fact that you are reading this shows that I did complete this task, a sure sign of productivity, though a writer's block sometimes can’t be helped.

Since we are chatting about productivity, let’s get straight to the chase.

1. Basically, it is about Timeboxing

Timeboxing is the idea of allocating a specific time slot for a certain task. Just like the timetables we got in school, we plan the subjects for ourselves to ensure our work is done within an allocated time frame.

Here's a simple guide to get you started on timeboxing.

I usually timebox the night before or in the morning before I start working.

Here’s how I do it:

  • Jot down a to-do list. I write down everything I need to do, want to do and hope to do for the day. I write down whatever that comes to mind. This is when I check my calendars, WhatsApp messages and texts to sync my to-do’s.

  • Allocate a time frame for important and urgent tasks. It can range from 30 minutes to two hours, though I personally would not dedicate two hours to one task as I get restless and uninspired (I know, I have the attention span of a goldfish).

  • Be mindful that important may not be urgent. Urgent matters may need your attention now but it may not be important. Sometimes, it can be delegated to someone else. For example, washing clothes after your travels. It may be urgent, but you could also send it to the laundromat. There will also be important and urgent tasks that must be placed at the top of my must-do list. At this stage, I trim and organise my list.

  • Now, I arrange my list into time boxes. I like to do a short but important task first thing in the morning because I get a productivity surge once I am done with it. Then I move on to a longer task. In between tasks, I like to slot in a fun but not so important task just to give myself a break.

2. Allotting time to rest

When working remotely, one can swing to extremes.

Sometimes, I find myself working away without rest. Other times, I find myself lazing in bed or you end up doing your work on your bed.

That is why it is important to allocate time to rest. I usually give myself short breaks in-between intense tasks. For example, if I am working on a two-hour task, I’ll give myself a 10-minute social media break after an hour. After completing two to three of those blocks, I give myself a longer break where I do mindless tasks such as hanging the laundry. I believe that this “recalibration” of the mind and body helps boost productivity.

3. Knowing your productive periods

We are most effective during our optimum productivity hours—and that differs from one person to another. The plus point about working remotely is not being stuck in the office trying to slog your way through your unproductive hours.

Hence, we should use our superpower!

I know my productive hours are from 7 AM to 11 AM, and then it spikes again from 5 PM to 7 PM. During these hours, I put myself through the tougher tasks that need more concentration. After that, I do other parts of the job that do not require much brain function.

If you do not know your productive hours, put it to the test by starting work early. Jot down the times when you think you are most productive. Adjust accordingly.

3. Creating an enjoyable routine

It was not until a year ago that I found the joys of following a routine.

It started when I realised that working remotely robs me of my me-time. Suddenly, it is not a 9 AM-6 PM workday anymore. I may start working at 8 AM and continue labouring up until 12 AM if I am not careful. To ensure I practice work-life balance, I started building routines that I found were helpful and enjoyable.

For example, the first thing I do when I wake up is making my bed—it is not important, but it tells my brain that I have woken up, and since my bed is made, I am more reluctant to jump back into it. Or perhaps, make it a point to have breakfast when you wake up so that you are subconsciously forcing yourself to get out and set your mind to begin work.

I see my husband off to work, then I take my time to enjoy breakfast before starting work.

After a long dreary day, a night-routine is what I look forward to. I usually take time to prep for the next day, then pamper myself with my elaborate skincare routine.

Having routines tells my body what to expect. My morning routine helps to keep me awake and my night routine prepares my body for bed; therefore, I won’t be lying in bed with my eyes open and my mind buzzing.

4. Forgiving yourself

No matter how much I try to box my time, there are days when I slip up. Sometimes, the unexpected happens that proves to be more important and urgent than all the tasks I have on hand.

Therefore, it is crucial to be flexible and forgive yourself when you slip. It is of no use to get angry or lose hope because you could not do everything perfectly.

When I slip, I shorten my breaks, ask for help or do it the next day. The faster I move on, the more I can do.

Being productive makes us feel good—no doubt about it. No one becomes upset when they have accomplished a lot in a day. But I suppose distractions come in a way that makes you go, “Oh my goodness, time passed by so fast!”

So do you, like many of us, constantly find yourself in an unproductive loop, working arm-in-arm with social media’s perpetual interruption? Maybe you should start boxing your time—because honestly, time is a wild thing that won’t stop for anyone.

You may find out more about Rachel on her Instagram too!

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