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When I started remote working nearly a decade ago, a routine and structure for my day was non-existent for me. I would literally roll out of bed, make a cup of coffee, open up my laptop and all of a sudden it was 4:30 p.m. I barely moved, I ate whatever was readily available (and it wasn’t usually nutritious), and my eyes, shoulders, and head hurt from staring at the screen at my uncomfortable dining room table.

While working remotely, I also found that I was putting in crazy long hours, but didn’t seem to be as productive as I could have been. I was low energy, and I was beginning to feel depressed because I wasn’t seeing anyone (and I was so used to being part of a larger team).  This remote schedule was a far cry from my days spent going into an office where I was bound to a pretty strict schedule. I needed to change my ways.

Tips for working remotely

As we approach the one-year mark since the global shutdown from COVID-19 with many still working remotely for the foreseeable future, I want to share my tried and true tips for succeeding while working remotely.

Invest in an actual alarm clock (do not use your phone!).

I would often wake up to shut my alarm off, grab my phone, and start scrolling. Half an hour later, I’d still be laying in bed and already stressed about everyone else’s stuff. My day was already out of my own control. Some people prefer to keep their phone outside of their room, but I know for me, once I shut off an alarm on my phone, the temptation to scroll for even just a few minutes or open my email is too strong. By having an actual alarm clock, I remove the temptation completely and my phone stays put until I’ve completed my morning routine. Speaking of my morning routine…

Establish a routine that doesn’t involve your computer or phone for the first 30-60 minutes of your day.

Meditate, read, stretch, workout, meal prep, play with your kids, etc.  Create a morning routine that starts you off on YOUR schedule, not somebody else’s (that also includes your kids and significant other). By doing something for yourself in the morning, you’re starting the day on your own terms. You’re less reactive. You’re in control. I especially recommend waking up early to allow for your own time, versus spending time catering to others (family members, I’m looking at you!).

Dress to impress, even if it’s just for your pet.

It’s so easy to stay in your sweats (and athleisure is stepping it up when it comes to style), but it does affect your headspace. Move into work-mode. Working remotely is a mental game and gives you a visual reminder of what you’re doing (which is easy to lose when you’re alone at your house). It helps keep you focused and create boundaries. I’m not saying wear a suit, but withhold your morning routine of brushing your teeth, washing your face, showering, getting dressed in neat, clean clothes. A presentable appearance, maybe even some accessories, can go a long way to getting your head in the game.

Have a dedicated workspace that is only used for working, nothing else.

If you don’t have a nook or home office to set up, it can be hard to carve out a space in your home dedicated to work. However, whatever that looks like for you, make sure it’s not in a bed, on a couch, or in a commonly used space (like the kitchen table). This way, you’ll have a clearer delineation between “work” and “home”. Remember, working remotely does not mean sitting on your couch with your laptop on your lap. That’s late night Pinterest scrolling and Twitter stalking. It’s important to have some semblance of office space, especially if this is a new transition for you.

Protect your time and block it on your calendar—yes, even for lunch!

If you’re anything like me (and most other PR Professionals), if it’s not on my calendar, it’s not happening. Yoga, a run, meditation, whatever it is that rejuvenates you and helps your physical health (which in turn helps your mental health), make that a priority. Yes, you heard me. One of the benefits and blessings of working remotely is being able to eat lunch where and when you want and run errands (grocery store, bank, post office, doctor appointments) while everyone else is at work. No lines, and you can be much more efficient. It’s important to break up your day. How productive did you really feel being forced to sit at your desk the entire day?

Have a set end time for your day and actually shut off your computer. 

When I say shut down, I mean actually shut it down, don’t just put it in sleep mode. If I have my laptop in sleep mode, I’m always persuaded into doing “just one more thing”. And try to stick to a designated end time that is consistent with common working hours—not 9pm. Not even 7pm. Try 5:30. Then, go meet a friend, or go do laundry. Do whatever you would normally do when you would leave work. Fake a home commute if you need to. Shut your computer down, move it somewhere else and take a walk around your house as a signal that your work day is over.

I’m always on the hunt for creative work hacks to make my day go smoother and be more productive. Now that so many of us have worked remotely for nearly a year, what are some of your top tips? Share them on Twitter @RemotePRJobs – I’d love to hear them!