The Art of Remote Productivity: Balancing Time and Efficiency Like a Pro

A woman uses a laptop on a small table in the living room.

Remote work is where flexibility and freedom collide and redefine how we approach productivity and time management. A few of us here at Valet are seasoned remote workers, and we understand the unique challenges and opportunities that come with this dynamic way of working. Though remote work may have been a product of the recent pandemic for many, we’ve been working remotely for a significant amount of time and found we can be just as efficient and productive remotely as we are in the office. It just takes some time to find what works for you and to find your footing. But, no need to go it alone; we’re here to help you with some insights and practical tips we’ve learned along the way.

Create a Morning Routine

A woman holding a coffee cup with specific focus in her hands wrapping the cup.

Working from home has made me come to realize the immense value of having a morning routine that sets a positive tone for the day ahead. I will admit I have been guilty of rolling out of bed some mornings and heading straight to my computer to work instead of completing my morning routine as I would when I used to commute. But I’ve noticed crafting a morning ritual helps me transition into work mode and jumpstart my day. 

Sometimes, just getting dressed for work can help you feel so much better! You can certainly change into something more comfortable than you would if you were to head into the office. No need for button-ups and blazers here. But be sure to give your pj’s a rest until you’re done with the day and ready for bed. Getting “dressed” can signal to your brain that it’s time to switch gears and focus on work, causing you to feel more motivated and ready to take on the day!

Also, if you are a coffee or tea drinker, be sure to incorporate this into your morning routine before you head to your computer. This allows you to take a few minutes to savor your time and mentally prepare for the day. If you’re not much of a coffee or tea person, just taking a few moments to meditate or hydrate yourself can help set you up to tackle the day.

Set Clear Goals and Prioritize Tasks

Setting clear goals and effectively prioritizing tasks is essential to maintaining productivity. Having a roadmap to guide your day can help you focus and achieve a sense of accomplishment. Just be sure to define specific and measurable goals and break down larger projects into smaller tasks; that way, you can avoid feeling overwhelmed and can track your progress more effectively.

When you align your daily and weekly goals with your long-term goals and aspirations, you can feel more confident and motivated as you are working towards a greater purpose, professionally and/or personally. Also, set realistic deadlines for your goals; this will help you avoid burnout and help you maintain a healthy work-life balance.

You can turn to some tried and true methods to help you prioritize tasks, such as the Eisenhower Matrix, which can help you categorize your tasks based on urgency and importance. There are four quadrants:

  1. Urgent and Important: These are the tasks that require your immediate attention and have a significant impact on your goals. You’ll want to prioritize these tasks and get them done as soon as possible to ensure you stay on track with your most important objectives.
  2. Important but Not Urgent: These are tasks that are important for your long-term goals but do not have an immediate deadline. Such tasks can be scheduled in your calendar before they become urgent; that way, you can get them done without neglecting more pressing tasks.
  3. Urgent but Not Important: These are tasks that require immediate attention but do not contribute significantly to your overall objectives or require your specific skillset. Be sure to assess whether these tasks need to be addressed by you personally or if they can be delegated to a team member, if possible.
  4. Not Urgent and Not Important: These tasks are low-priority and may not significantly contribute to your overall goals or objectives. Whenever possible, try to avoid spending significant amounts of time on these tasks. If necessary, delegate them to a member of your team, or eliminate them altogether when possible. It’ll free up valuable time and mental space for more meaningful activities.

Lastly, here at Valet, we turn to a few task management tools to organize and prioritize our workload. One of our tried and tested favorites is ClickUp. It helps keep us organized as a team and prevents tasks from slipping through the cracks. So, I recommend having a look through a few task management tools until you find one that fits your needs. You’ll wonder how you’ve ever managed to go without!

Spend Time Away From the House

A man working in his laptop from an outdoors location, with a coffee cup and a notebook on the table.

Sometimes, when working remotely, changing your work environment can work wonders for your productivity and creativity. If you have access to a backyard or balcony, taking an hour or two to sit in the fresh air can help to renew your focus and perspective. If you do not have access to a personal outdoor space, try exploring your local parks! You can set up a small workspace on a park bench or perch under a tree. When the weather is enjoyable, working in your local park can provide the perfect blend of tranquility and creativity.

Not much for the outdoors? A coffee shop may be just the place for you! Many coffee shops offer Wi-Fi for customers, so there is no need to worry about working offline or using your cell phone as a hotspot. Plus, the smell of coffee and gentle chatter can be inspiring and offer a sense of motivation.

If you find you require a more calm and professional setting to be productive, check out local libraries or coworking spaces. Here, you can find a dedicated workspace and even a sense of community among other remote workers. It may help to keep you motivated and engaged. So, don’t hesitate to venture out and work away from home occasionally!

Dedicate a Space in Your Home to Work

Creating a dedicated workspace can have a significant impact on your remote work experience. Having a designated area specifically for your workspace can help you mentally transition into “work mode.”

If possible, set up a home office you can tweak and tailor to your needs. Be sure it’s a space where you can feel comfortable, organized, and motivated to work. But it doesn’t have to be bland and boring. Add personal touches, such as pictures of your friends, family, and favorite places. Hang up an art piece that inspires you or even motivational quotes or passages from a book you love. This will help you create a positive and inspiring atmosphere while minimizing distractions as it is away from your living areas, making it easier to concentrate without interruptions.

If you don’t have a spare room to dedicate to your home office, don’t fret! If your living room allows, you can dedicate a small nook to your productive workspace. You can place a compact desk and your favorite comfy chair in a small corner of your space to make it feel like your work sanctuary. Add a few plants and soft lighting to create a focused and inviting work atmosphere.

Listen to Music, Podcast, or Ambient Noise

A woman sitting on a couch/bed while working on a laptop and writing on a notebook.

Setting the right ambiance while working remotely can have a great impact on your focus and productivity. Incorporating background sounds, such as music, podcasts, or ambient sounds, can significantly enhance your work experience.

Curating playlists that align with the type of work you’re doing can be quite motivating! Upbeat music can help you power through tasks that require a bit more creativity and focus while calming tunes can help you focus deeply on more complex projects. Just be sure to choose music selections that complement your workflow and are less distracting or jarring. For example, in writing this post, I can only listen to instrumental music. Music with vocals tends to distract me as I am writing. But when I’m designing a website or creating graphics, I feel more motivated when listening to more lyrical selections.

There may be times when you crave a bit of a change. Why not tune into a podcast? Maybe something thought-provoking and inspiring, or perhaps something to give you a good laugh to break up the monotony, or even something creative and storytelling. Listening to podcasts as you work on repetitive tasks can add a sense of productivity and learning to your day. Or, during those times when you’re searching for something more passive, try listening to ambient sounds. There are so many to choose from, but some of the most popular are simulated coffee shop sounds, nature sounds, and rain. These can create a soothing atmosphere that can improve your focus and reduce distractions. Try having a look on Spotify or YouTube; you can find some pretty immersive ambient sounds on these platforms.

Embrace Your Breaks

I know sometimes it can be tempting to push through the day without taking breaks. Sometimes you can get into the zone and completely forget to take a step back for a moment. However, the importance of taking breaks cannot be overstated. Incorporating regular breaks is essential for maintaining productivity and your overall well-being. Sounds pretty important, right?

Make it a point to step away from your workspace for lunch and periodic breaks. We sometimes have the urge to grab something to eat, sit behind the computer, and go right back to the task at hand. Try to fight the urge and enjoy your lunch away from your computer. Take that time for yourself, whether it be for 30 minutes or an hour. And don’t forget to take short breaks throughout the day; they can help you recharge and distance yourself from work, helping you to avoid burnout and mental fatigue.

During your breaks, don’t forget to decompress. Whether it’s a 5-minute walk, stretching, or just relaxing by reading your favorite book, taking a break offers you the opportunity to reset and refresh. Oftentimes, you’ll come back to your workspace with a clear mind and increased focus.

So remember, taking regular breaks can lead to a more balanced and fulfilling remote work experience.

Base Your Schedule Around Times You Feel Most Productive

One of the perks of remote work, in many cases, is having the flexibility to create your own schedule. This perk can often allow you to design a schedule that aligns with your natural productivity rhythms. Organizing your day around the times you feel most bright and productive can have an impact on your efficiency and overall mood.

Be sure to pay close attention to your energy levels and work patterns as the day progresses; this way, you will be able to identify the times you’re most productive. You can then make a game plan and schedule tasks that require deep thought and focus during your peak productive hours. By listening to your body’s internal clock, you can maximize productivity without feeling drained or overwhelmed.

Maintain a Clutter-Free Workspace

It can be overwhelming, sorting through piles of paper to finally find what you need long after you begin your search. Not only is this time-consuming, but it can be mentally exhausting to experience time and time again. A tidy and organized space can enhance your focus and create a sense of calm in your workspace.

Try regularly decluttering your workspace by keeping only essential items within reach, such as your pen and notebook. Utilize shelves, organizers, and drawers to store any additional supplies and documents neatly. That way, you have what you regularly need on hand but do not have to complete an exhaustive search to find items that are needed a bit more infrequently.

Additionally, a clutter-free workspace can eliminate unnecessary visual distractions. That way, you can fully immerse yourself and focus on the task at hand. Pretty cool how a simple, clutter-free setup can set the stage for a successful workday.

Prioritize Your Health and Well-Being

Prioritizing your health and well-being is rather important when it comes to maintaining a positive remote working experience. One of the most important factors is maintaining a regular sleep routine. Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day helps to improve your sleep quality and contributes to a consistent schedule. This ensures that you start each day bright-eyed and ready to tackle any challenges that come your way.

Be sure that you maintain healthy eating habits when working from home as well, and absolutely do not skip lunch! Skipping lunch may lead to a dip in energy throughout the day, leading you to have a less productive day, and over time, you may find yourself feeling exhausted or burnt out. Planning and preparing nutritious meals ahead of time may also be quite helpful, as you can pop the meal straight into the microwave as you may have done some days when working within an office. This can also prevent impulsive snacking and support your energy and focus levels.

Staying lightly active and incorporating brief physical activities into your daily routine is essential for your well-being. When working on location, you may gain some movement during your commute or by heading to your favorite lunch spot with your co-workers. But, when working from home, it’s easy to get so wrapped up in work that sometimes you find yourself sitting at your desk from dusk to dawn. So, when possible, try to take a short walk, stretch, or practice a bit of yoga. These breaks can help to recharge your body and mind, and your body will thank you down the line.

Create Your To-Do List at the End of the Day

A hand placing a pen on a schedule sheet, which is accompanied by other note taking formats in the same desk.

I know this sounds a bit like madness, but hear me out. As you wind down your remote workday, taking the last 10-15 minutes of the day to plan for tomorrow can be a powerful, productive strategy.

As you work throughout the day, you may strategize and have overwhelming thoughts about what needs to be done in the coming days. So, if at the end of the day, you jot down tasks and goals for the following day, it allows you to release any lingering thoughts and concerns and clear your mental space. You can then enjoy a restful and uninterrupted evening. Great for your peace of mind.

When you’re ready for work the next day, you now have a clear plan in place, and the tone is set for increased focus. You know exactly what needs to be accomplished and are ready to dive into the day head first. Try Todoist to simplify this process and stay organized.

By implementing the tips and strategies we’ve laid out, you’ll be ready to master your productivity, efficiency, and well-being while working remotely. Remember, as you navigate this ever-changing landscape of remote work, your productivity journey is unique, and you must set a pace that works for you. Enjoy the freedom remote work has to offer, find your rhythm, and let your productivity grow and thrive!