Searching for productivity tips on the Internet is like trying to find a new diet — everyone has something very specific they swear by. The problem? How do you sift through all the chatter?
Sure, maybe a certain set of productivity tips will work for some people, but how do they know they’ll be the right fit for you?
Staying productive as a remote worker or digital nomad can be next to impossible if you’re not careful because let’s face it, when you work from anywhere, there are a lot of distractions. Whether you’re clocking in hours from home, a coworking space, or your favorite coffee shop, there are always a million little things happening around you at any given time.
To cut through the noise and get real work done, you don’t just need a set of “sworn-by” productivity tips. You need practical methods personalized to you. Because just like the hundreds of diets out there, not everything is “one size fits all.”
Below are key productivity tips you can personalize to your liking, depending on what you feel is most effective.
Get into the Right Mindset
Or, more specifically, get into your right mindset.
A fad that’s taken over sites like Buzzfeed is that of the infamous “morning routine.” Apparently, if you don’t go through the correct morning routine, your entire day will be wasted.
While I say that with a bit of sarcasm, those sites aren’t necessarily wrong. Having a good morning routine is one of the best ways you can lead yourself into a productive day.
The problem is, most advice on killer morning routines is all about what other people do — big players in the business world like Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, or Jeff Bezos. And while it’s interesting to read about what each of those successful business people do in the morning, there’s a key point everyone fails to grasp: Each of their routines is different.
- Mark Zuckerberg checks Facebook when he wakes up at 8:00 AM each morning (surprise, surprise).
- Jeff Bezos wakes up without an alarm and heads straight to breakfast with his wife.
- Elon Musk answers emails as soon as he’s awake.
The key, really, isn’t about what you do every morning. It’s simply that you do something every morning, and that something can be whatever gets your creative juices flowing.
Does jumping straight into work send you speeding through the day? Great. Do that everyday.
Does sitting down to a healthy breakfast with French-pressed coffee and the newspaper make you feel productive? Wonderful. Make that your morning routine.
I won’t sit here and tell you exactly how to structure a morning routine because what works for me might not do anything at all for you. Instead, you simply need to find what makes you feel good (it could be anything from exercise, to meditation, to watching a comedy sketch), and do that same thing every single day.
Let Go of Perfectionism
Being a successful remote worker takes a lot of self motivation and general savviness, which makes it no surprise so many of them (and likely you) are extreme perfectionists. It’s hard to produce sub-par work when that work directly reflects you (and potentially, your business).
The problem with perfectionism, though, is how restricting it is. Being a perfectionist means spending more time on each project and never letting tiny, often insignificant details go.
That’s not to say you should throw your standards out the window, but there’s a lesson I learned from an online coach named Brooke Castillo, that goes something like this:
If you’re constantly striving to produce A+ work in everything you do, you’ll have a hard time producing much of anything because constant A+ work is nearly impossible to achieve. If, however, your B- work has the power to change peoples’ lives — and producing “B- work” gives you the ability to get more done — letting go of your perfectionism could mean achieving more and helping a larger group of people.
A+ work might look like this:
Writing an email to a client and re-reading 4 times to make sure all your commas are in the right place and you’ve eliminated any chance of even the smallest typo.
Whereas B- work might look like this:
Writing an email to a client and sending it because, while there might be a missing comma somewhere, the information and outcome will still be the exact same.
Producing B- work doesn’t mean slacking on the job. It simply means allowing yourself to look past the things that don’t really matter. Depending on your line of work, you can be the judge of what that does and doesn’t entail.
Schedule Your Day
One of the worst things you can do for productivity is go into each workday with the “work” mindset. Or, in other words, just getting as much work done as possible, regardless of the outcome.
We’re all guilty of it at some point — knowing we have a lot to do and simply plowing through as many tasks as we can. The problem is, not every task on your to-do list should be treated the same. Instead, you should prioritize your tasks, and let those priorities dictate the flow of your day.
Fortunately, there’s a fool-proof way you can structure every single one of your days to ensure you’re not only getting the most done, but you’re also getting the most important things done.
The process looks like this:
Take 3 colors of post-it notes — green, yellow, and red.
On each post-it note, write one of your tasks for the day. Try to be specific as specific as you can about the outcome of a task. For example, your “to-do” item might be something like “write social media posts.” When writing this task on the note, though, make it outcome-specific — maybe something like, “post 10 tweets, 5 Facebook posts, and 15 Pinterest pins.”
Here’s how to determine which task will go on which color post-it:
Green: These tasks are not urgent. They’re minimally important.
Yellow: These tasks are slightly urgent and hold medium-importance.
Red: These tasks are both very urgent and very important.
Once you’re finished writing your tasks, use the color-codes to structure your day. Any red tasks should be done first. Yellow tasks should be done second, or scheduled to another day. Green tasks, when possible, should be delegated or outsourced to an assistant, freelancer, or even an app that automates the task.
To extend your productivity even further, on each post-it, write down the amount of time you’re allowed to spend on a task, and don’t go over that time limit (this’ll mean practicing point number 2 about letting go of perfectionism).
Of course, if you’re not a post-it note kind of person, you don’t have to literally write your tasks on them. You can use anything you’d like to keep track of your tasks and priorities, including a project management app like Trello. Simply find what works for you, then stick with it.
Give Yourself Breaks
This one seems like a no-brainer — just like you’d take a break during a hard bout of exercise, you need to take breaks while you’re working, too. Unfortunately, because there’s always something to do when you work remotely, it’s an easy one to ignore.
The problem is, when you put your mind through a challenging load of work, it gets burnt out just like your body during exercise does.
When was the last time you went for a long run? You probably started out feeling okay, began to lag about halfway through, and by the end, were all but ready to collapse, right?
Your brain has probably felt just like that before. And when it does, you can bet your motivation to keep going plummets right after.
Now, you might feel like taking a break means getting less done, but that’s simply not true. While you might be putting fewer literal minutes into your workday, the ones you are will be exceedingly more productive.
Try giving yourself a 5 minute break every half hour, with a longer break every couple hours (you can even use a Pomodoro timer for this). Not only will your mind stay fresh throughout the day, you’ll undoubtedly get more done.
After reading through these remote work productivity tips, you might have noticed a trend: They’re all pretty simple.
And it’s true — there’s nothing earth shattering about them. But that’s the key here. To be productive, you don’t have to subscribe to some guru’s morning routine or go broke buying ebooks on productivity methods. You simply need to take a structured, practical approach to your day, based on what works for you.
All you need to do in order to get more work done in less time is:
- Get into the right mindset by doing whatever makes you feel fresh and rejuvenated in the morning, and then stick to it.
- Let go of your perfectionism so you can produce more work and still have the same effect.
- Schedule your day using logical and practical techniques, whether that means buying a couple packs of sticky-notes or signing up for a free Trello account.
- Give yourself breaks throughout the day so you don’t burn out.
Yes, doing these things is far more practical than most productivity “hacks” you hear about, which, in turn, is what makes them unique. You don’t have to hack your way to productivity. You just need these few foolproof guidelines to get you started.
About the Author
Kristen Youngs co-operates two online businesses while traveling the world full-time. Her website, One Bag Nomad, teaches other people how to travel long term while working remotely. You can also find Kristen on Pinterest.