Sketch it out
Going from “to-do” to “must-do” – either by the traditional pen and paper or digitally – will help you organise and prioritise your daily schedule. A sprawling to-do list can seem overwhelming, so it often helps to write down your five most important jobs for the day and then devote a fixed amount of time to each.
A “must-do” list is also useful if you are collaborating on a longer-term project remotely. Break it down into manageable, bite-sized tasks to keep yourself on-schedule. If you have a project that will take 60 hours of work over three working weeks, for example, it sounds like a lot of work, but you only need to tackle four hours each day to meet your deadline. This reduces time pressure and anxiety, and improves emotional wellbeing as each daily goal is met.
Control your calendar
Another means of protecting your productivity and mental wellbeing is by controlling your calendar. Scheduling back-to-back meetings for an entire morning or afternoon is usually counterproductive as this limits time you have to complete your action items and take care of your self care and home needs – especially if your remote co-workers are your kids! To prevent free spots in your calendar from becoming overrun, if possible, block out “Do Not Disturb” time to get items on your “must do” list checked off and take breaks to enjoy lunch, a little exercise, have a coffee, or take care of family needs.
A final tip to stay productive is to ask yourself, “To meet? Or not to meet?” “Meeting recovery syndrome” is a term organisational psychologists have coined to describe time spent cooling off and regaining focus after an unnecessary or unproductive meeting. Virtual meetings are here to stay, but if they are not done effectively they can drain our energy and productivity. Why? Virtual meetings require more focus than face-to-face meetings, especially if your surroundings are distracting or if you are tempted to multi-task. An email is almost always sufficient for non-urgent information sharing. If a meeting is essential, aim for 45 minute or less, make an agenda (and keep to it!), cover important details first, recap, and assign responsibility for whatever action needs taking.
The bottom line
While research backs the upward trend in productivity among those working remotely, care must be taken to empower employees to protect their emotional and mental wellbeing. These practical steps can help individuals and teams collaborate more efficiently and effectively while promoting healthy work-life boundaries.