You’ve got work to do, but:

  • The leftover pizza in the kitchen is seriously calling your name.
  • Your favorite developer is live on Twitter.
  • You just got three new smartphone notifications.

Everything is ten times more interesting than whatever it is you need to get done. When you try to focus on work, your brain flails around from thought to thought like an ostrich on an acid trip.

So how the hell are you to stay productive when you work remotely without the structure and schedule of a typical office? Here’s what works for me.

I Plan Around My Personality

When I started working remotely, I tried to stick to a schedule that was like the one I had to follow when I worked in an office. Guess what? It didn’t work.

Not only did it make me miserable, I didn’t have anyone breathing down my back to make sure I stuck to my schedule and got my work done.

I tried fancy day planners and complicated task management systems. While I was able to stick to them for a few weeks, they soon started to feel like another thing on my to-do list instead of useful tools to help me get things done.

Gain an understanding of your work style and personality. Don’t get discouraged if traditional organization and time management strategies aren’t your jam.

To get started, take the free personality test at 16Personalities. You’ll get a summary that includes your strengths, weaknesses, and work habits. It will help you understand how you work so you can learn to roll with it and not fight against it.

I Learned Where My Time Was Going

Before you can be more productive, you need to figure out where your time is going. My favorite time management analytics program is RescueTime.

Let RescueTime record your habits for a week, and you’ll get a detailed report of how much time you spent and where. This will help you make adjustments such as when to take breaks or what websites to block during work time.

When you’re aware of where your time is going and what’s distracting you, it’s easier to catch yourself before you fall into one of your time-wasting traps.

I Get Dressed

When I worked in a cubicle, all I wanted to do was stay home and work in my fuzzy Beavis and Butthead pants. After all, who cares what I’m wearing as long as I get the job done? I didn’t understand why I needed to look nice to sit in a cubicle.

The thing is, what you wear sends a message to your brain. When I wear my fuzzy Beavis and Butthead pants, my brain thinks it’s time to relax. As a result, I’m not focused on work.

I’m not saying you have to put on a tuxedo every day, but wearing yoga pants and a holey t-shirt probably isn’t going to put you in the mind-frame to get shit done.

Get dressed every day. It doesn’t have to be what other people think you should wear. Are you productive in jeans and a button up shirt? Wear that. Just get out of the clothes you slept in. Let your brain know that you’re ready to work.

I Head Off Electronic Interruptions

Notifications are a never-ending barrage of dings and ping pongs that constantly chip away at our productivity.

  • Use the do not disturb feature on your phone for apps that aren’t work-related.
  • Consider a tool like Inbox Pause to stop email notifications from interrupting you.
  • Use an extension like StrictWorkflow to set a timer for work and block distracting websites.

Your emails, tweets, and likes will be there after you get your work done. I promise! Most people understand that everyone is busy and they won’t hold it against you if you don’t answer their message immediately.

I Let My Brain Spew

Before you start working, take out a piece of paper or open your favorite note taking program. Write down everything you’re thinking about until you feel like you’re out of things to say.

It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece and it doesn’t matter if what you write seems stupid. Let your brain vomit. Now that the noise is out of the way, you can get to work. Bonus points if you can create a to-do list from your brain spew!

I've been working remotely for around five years, and I've learned a lot since I started. I realize that works for my tasks, personality, schedule, and life may not work for you.

My hope is that you can take a few things from my remote work habits and modify them to fit your needs. Thanks for reading!