After becoming equipped with the necessary facilities, habits, and best practices, the new telecommuter might seem like a success. In reality, the journey has only begun. By taking deliberate, logical steps toward success, however, the telecommuter can anticipate a long, fulfilling career filled with all the benefits and privileges their new employment model can offer. The following tips will help new telecommuters enjoy success.
Organization and telecommuting go hand in hand. Telecommuters must always have the latest information at their fingertips concerning current and pending assignments, project statuses, and miscellaneous tasks. Different people have different organizational tactics, so workers should not hesitate to draw from their personal preferences to establish an organized system for work. In general, basic guidelines for organization can help telecommuters succeed:
- Prioritize Tasks. Although daily tasks will differ, telecommuters can prioritize categories and types of tasks in advance to speed their daily routine.
- Keep a To-do List. Telecommuters should keep a centralized list on their desk that they can use to write down tasks, special requests, and assignments as they come in, to keep them ready for scheduling.
- Create a Daily and Weekly Schedule. Rather than beginning the work week and the workday haphazardly, telecommuters should plan their schedules in advance, to make sure all their responsibilities receive attention.
- Use Online Tools. Online tools can help telecommuters use their tablet, smartphone, and other devices to organize, plan, and schedule their work. Useful tools include Evernote, Google Now, 24me, Quip, Wunderlist, and others. These tools, often free, provide a user-friendly way for busy people to stay organized.
- Do Important Things First. Telecommuters often function best when they start their day with their most urgent tasks. Doing this helps team members, clients, and other stakeholders move forward with their work and allows telecommuters to focus on important, less critical tasks in the afternoon.
- Schedule Breaks and Personal Time. Successful work habits include scheduling and taking regular breaks, eating lunch, and addressing personal responsibilities.
- Chunk Big Tasks. Some assignments can, at first, seem overwhelming because of the amount of time and effort required. To maintain a healthy work schedule, workers should break large projects into manageable chunks to support a project’s forward progress without impacting their overall performance.
- Plan Project Contingencies. Few projects go their course without a setback from start to finish. Proper planning will account for things that go wrong to ensure continuity.
- Plan Workplace Contingencies. Telecommuters should identify alternate work venues such as libraries and Internet cafés in advance, so they can seamlessly perform their duties.
- Daily Cleanup. Telecommuters should make their desks, tables and other work areas clear of debris, clutter, and distractions before leaving their office for the day.
Telecommuters who take practical steps to stay organized will improve their odds for long-term success. They also set the stage to become increasingly productive.
Productivity concerns rank near the top of the list for telecommuters and their employers. In theory, telecommuters should either maintain or exceed the productivity they had while working in their employer’s office. Workers must take deliberate measures to ensure they get their work done:
- Work Offline. If and when possible, telecommuters should disconnect their computers from the network, to avoid preoccupation with personal matters. Telecommuters should periodically reconnect to catch up with their email and voicemail messages.
- Stick with Priorities. Disorganized workers might struggle with a high volume of assignments, forgetting about their priorities. Workers who stick with their prioritized task list will stay calm and focused.
- Prepare for Tomorrow. Telecommuters should get ready the day before and plan their next day and straighten their workspace.
- Minimize Errand Running. Occasionally taking time from work to run errands can lead to more errands and wasted time.
- Don’t Work at Lunch. The human brain needs time to rest and rebuild periodically through the day.
- Avoid Social Media. Telecommuters not involved in their employer’s social media campaign should stay logged out of social media during the day.
- Tame Smartphones. Smartphone notifications can lead to distractions that disrupt concentration and the flow of work. Telecommuters should disable notifications that don’t pertain to work so they can focus on their work.
- Keep Coffee Handy. Home-based workers should always keep coffee, tea, or other pick-me-up drink available during the day to help them stay alert.
- Store Tools Nearby. Workers shouldn’t waste time searching for staplers, paper clips, and other standard work-related items, but instead, keep them within arm’s reach.
- Use Productivity Apps. Smartphones and tablets can help telecommuters stay productive throughout the day with the use of productivity apps. Some apps that can help workers include: Trello, TimeOut, EverNote, Wunderlist, Time Log, LockBox, DropBox, RescueTime, StrictWorkflow, etc.
- Focus on One Task at a Time. Workers can lose much time and productivity by juggling too many tasks at once. Instead, they should focus on one task with their fullest attention before moving on.
- Concentrate on important details. Telecommuters can spend unlimited amounts of time dealing with the minutiae of their tasks. Instead, they should emphasize the details that will help them get the most done.
In addition to the mentioned above, some other useful tips include the following: turn repetitive tasks into habits, batch related tasks together, get plenty of sleep, set attainable goals, and exercise during the day. Most of all, telecommuters must find ways to enjoy their work.
Successful home-based workers must master time. Closely related to productivity, time management skills will help workers accomplish the most during the work day so that they can focus on their personal life after hours. For starters, workers must define their working hours and enforce them. Homeworkers should rise early and develop a morning ritual to prepare them for work. They should check their personal email messages and social media accounts before reporting to their home office so that they can focus on their work.
As part of planning, remote workers should schedule housework and personal tasks, so they don’t sacrifice their personal life for work.
Also, remote employees should schedule time buffers between tasks, to minimize the effects of meetings and tasks overrunning their allocated time. Many apps for smartphones and tablets provide valuable time management aids, but the practice of setting realistic expectations for the use of time can provide a sound basis for effective time management.
Telecommuters must always find ways to stay motivated. They should establish a morning routine, eat a nutritious breakfast, maintain personal hygiene, and dress for work. Procrastination degrades motivation, so telecommuters must always tackle their hardest tasks first, avoid distractions, track progress, and stay mindful of goals. Periodically switching between work activities can defeat boredom and preserve mental acumen. Other tips that can help workers stay motivated include:
- Establishing a personal reward system for good performance.
- Connect with others in the telecommuter community during off hours.
- Use Vitamin D and other dietary supplements.
- Listen to stimulating music during working hours if it doesn’t distract you.
Successful telecommuters need privacy and time to work, so they must establish boundaries for their household members and others who might cause interruptions. Additionally, they should inform family members and friends only to contact them during break periods during the day, unless an emergency happens.
Other ways to establish boundaries include:
- Reserve specific time for household chores and family.
- Keep the home office door closed.
- Ask family to plan events ahead of time to allow scheduling.
- Always communicate expectations.
- Know when to say “no” to work, family, and friends.
- Lead by example, following established rules.
- Put a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door to discourage interruptions.
Success for telecommuters depends heavily on organization, planning, time management, motivation, and setting boundaries. When workers stay mindful of their available tools and best practices, they have a framework that will guide them throughout their career.