Snap your mind into gear, get on task, and accomplish your best work
1. Tell your mind it’s time to work
Commuters have an advantage with this mental practice. Stepping off the subway or pulling into a parking lot in the morning signals to your brain that it’s time to gear up and get ready to work. If you work from home, the few steps from your bed to your desk just doesn’t cut it.
Whatever your morning routine is—brewing a cup of coffee or tea, walking the dog, reading the news—engage in it fully, let your brain wake up, and then use that action as a signal to yourself that it’s time to transition into focused work time.
2. Work deeply
Distractions are the remote worker’s biggest obstacle. You can turn off phone alerts and even block the websites you find most distracting with a tool like StayFocusd, but nothing is more effective when it comes to upping your productivity than focusing deeply on one task at a time.
We’re big fans of Cal Newport’s book, Deep Work, because he’s right: Getting your mind into a focused, deep work state will help you work more thoughtfully and diligently. It will also help you accomplish much more in much less time.
3. Answer your messages and emails in batches
One way to work deeply is to group similar tasks and tackle them in one sitting. If you’re constantly shifting between, say, writing code and checking emails, neither task gets the attention it really needs.
Try working in cycles—if it helps, use a formal system with timed work sessions and breaks, like the Pomodoro Technique. Circle back to your emails after devoting your full attention to the task at hand. Once the emails are finished, take a break. Then get back to work.
Rinse, repeat. Watch the productivity rise.
4. Track your time
It’s amazing what a difference a time tracker makes. Awareness of how and where you spend your time will help you understand your strengths and weaknesses. Keep focused on what’s important while your time management is automated. No more timers or spreadsheets—the app does the hard work for you. Here are a few of our favorites:
RescueTime : A one-stop personal productivity workshop, RescueTime helps you keep track of time spent in websites and apps. You can set goals and get a weekly report.
Toggl : Log in solo hours by project, or work time by teams, and allow Toggl to help you analyze exactly how and where you spend time on the job.
MLO (MyLifeOrganized): MLO turns your to-do list into a productivity tool. Start with an outline, and the app generates lists that help organize goals, pinpoint objectives, prioritize tasks, and monitor progress.
WorkSmart : We developed our own productivity tool here at Crossover, and it’s designed especially for remote work. Its interface creates an experience of unified teamwork (no matter where in the world workers may be) and pulls timesheets, billing, and performance analytics into one dashboard.
Brain.fm and focus@will were developed around neuroscience about how music affects the brain, helping you get into a “flow” and boosting your focus. Both have free trials, so you can see if you like them before you commit.
Noisli: This free web app and Chrome extension (also available for iOS and Android) lets you create your own mix of ambient noise, with options like white noise, rain, a thunderstorm, waves, a crackling fire, or other nature sounds. Alternatively, turn on a ready-made soundtrack sorted into categories like “Productivity” and “Relax.”
Spotify playlists: Here’s a collection of playlists curated specifically for their focus- and energy-boosting powers.
Physical activity can help refresh and focus your mind, so don’t underestimate the power that a walk or run, yoga session, or core workout can have on work productivity. Sitting in a chair all day is pretty terrible for your health, too—maybe you’ve heard the catchphrase “sitting is the new smoking”? So don’t forget to take advantage of the flexibility of remote work to fit some fitness into your day.