How do you stay on task?

Question: How do you stay on task? Read answers from remote workers to learn.

Interview with Haley, a VP of Operations shares her stellar remote work strategies

I put my phone away, go into full-screen mode whenever possible, and I try really hard to single-task instead of multi-task.

I work in blocks, 1-3 hours before getting my little dude ready and off to school, 6-7 hours during the regular business day, and 1-2 times/week deep work in the evenings.

Most days, I take very few breaks; I like to work very intensely, completely focused on work where possible. Parenting and teaching indoor cycling on the side are great forcing functions for a disciplined work routine; I can’t stay late at work to get stuff done later.

I really enjoy my work and try to be very conscious of whether or not what I’m doing at any given moment is actually the best use of time. I’ve slowly eliminated meetings where I’m not adding value.

Haley has figured out the way she works best as a VP of Operations. See her principles of remote work and the unique advice a former boss gave her about breaks.

Read full interview from Interview with Haley, a VP of Operations shares her stellar remote work strategies.


Interview with Laura, a communications specialist and travel writer by night

Again, Slackbot reminds me of what I need to do. But WebDevStudios also relies on project management software like Trello and Basecamp to keep things organized.

I rely on Google Sheets in Google Drive to keep my content organized and insert deadlines. I use these sheets for our company editorial calendar as well as for the freelance content I publish on the side.

Laura Coronado discusses her method for juggling her career as a communications specialist by day and her side hustle as a freelance travel writer by night.

Read full interview from Interview with Laura, a communications specialist and travel writer by night.


Interview with Ben, a web developer who freelances from home

Sleep. #1 most important, everyone says it and it's true. I have issues from time to time getting a good sleep (loud neighbors, too hot at night, cat walked on my face at 5AM because she wants food), and when my sleep is garbage, my billable hours tank for the day. Exercise helps as well, but even for that, you need to have had sleep.

The biggest things are to close Steam, pull up work, and just try to stay on task. I find if I can't stay focused (when I catch myself starting to browse news sites for more than 2 minutes), that's usually the time to stop the clock and walk around the house or grab a snack or something.

Try to force it a little, but don't try to force it.

After doing this for over a decade, I have a good sense for when I'm going to need a break.

It helps to always have something in your queue to focus on. If you can't work on the project, then answering emails for a few minutes might be just what you need.

Caffeine is something I avoid, because that tends to become a habit quickly, and loses effectiveness. It's great for the occasional day you have to work, but can't focus, but I try to avoid at all costs using that too often.

Have things to fiddle with. I know fidget spinners were a silly trend mostly, but I have a half a dozen every day objects that I idly play with while I work sometimes, and that's usually enough to burn off whatever makes me want to not work.

Try hard to enforce a specific set of "work" hours. It's a lot easier to be in a routine of "work time", because you find yourself poking your own brain when you're not. If you keep at that long enough, it starts to feel a little odd when you slack off, which helps me get back on task.

Learn the tips and tricks Ben uses to stay productive while working remotely on a hybrid team

Read full interview from Interview with Ben, a web developer who freelances from home.


Interview with Gregory, a Senior Software Developer

Strict scheduling, being ready to work the moment I sit down, and having a dedicated workspace are key.

I have ADD, so I've learned over the years how important a strict schedule is to me. I need to schedule chunks of time dedicated to a specific task, and I need to stick to it.

Interestingly enough to those who don't know, ADD can have an aspect called "hyperfocus" where you generally become so engrossed in a specific task that literally hours can go by without you even realizing.

Hyperfocus might sound like a blessing, but very rarely is it a good thing for me. Most of the time if I get hyperfocused on something, the result is not ideal.

It's often missing big parts (like documentation or testing), it's sometimes deviated from solving the actual problem (instead I almost create my own problem to solve and then solve it), and the code is often more complicated than it should be.

Making sure I follow my schedule on both when to start and when to stop a task are very important in avoiding both the lack of focus and the hyperfocus caused by my ADD.

Being ready to work when I sit down is another. Before I start working in the mornings, I'm fully dressed, done eating, well rested, and overall just ready to work. Distractions are a lot easier to indulge when you have to get up anyway to go get breakfast, or you have to go get dressed before that video call at noon so you can just slack off for the next 15 minutes since you won't get anything done in that time anyway.

I treat walking into my office like a commute: I shouldn't have any other obligations that have to be done for a while before I sit down to work.

And finally, that dedicated workspace is very important. My family is home during the day, so to be able to close the door and not get distracted by others, or to be able to keep the rest of the house out of sight and out of mind means, there is less to be tempted by in the first place.

Gregory is a senior software developer working from home - learn how he finds the balance between lack of focus and hyperfocus.

Read full interview from Interview with Gregory, a Senior Software Developer.


Interview with Jenna, a freelance writer who works remotely to help manage her health

  • I try to avoid multitasking or working hungry.
  • I keep my phone on silent. If I find myself getting distracted by it I’ll put it upside down so I don’t see notifications. I also make sure that notifications don’t get sent to my computer.
  • I’ve trained myself to not go on social media constantly anymore; It’s such a time sink. I use it sometimes to get ideas, but I allot time specifically for that purpose instead of scrolling endlessly through my feed.
  • Acknowledging when I need a break. Scheduling breaks, too, so I get them no matter what, and not trying to do things all in one sitting. Giving ideas time to breathe is so important!
  • I give myself early deadlines a lot to ensure I finish things early, and to put pressure on myself. I might even turn it into a game where I’m seeing how many words I can get out in 2 hours or something like that.
  • I like to keep a running list that I can add things to throughout the day, as I think of them, like ideas or things that I just remembered I need to take care of – basically anything that can pull me off task. Then I revisit the list later on when I have downtime.
  • Sometimes I procrastinate by working on something else that I need to do (as opposed to doing something mindless). This doesn’t keep me on task but it does help me get things done. For example, cleaning my kitchen when I’m putting off writing an article (or vice versa). It’s weird, but it works.
  • Developing more productive habits, like dealing with emails once I read them, and sticking to a schedule.

Jenna started working remotely after realizing her office job was causing health problems—now she works as a freelance writer and writes about self-improvement

Read full interview from Interview with Jenna, a freelance writer who works remotely to help manage her health.


Interview with Stefan, a founder building a location-independent startup

I constantly refer to my calendar and my daily priorities.

Whenever I get off task or go down a social media rabbit hole, I check that list.

Stefan now has total control over his time since leaving the traditional office in early 2019. Hear how his routine is helping him build a solid remote startup.

Read full interview from Interview with Stefan, a founder building a location-independent startup .


Interview with Cameron, a designer who works remotely at a WordPress agency

The way I stay on task is to write out the 3 most important things I need to do that day on a note card and place it in front of my monitor.

As long as I do those 3 things I know I'll have had a productive day and can always circle around to less important things before the day is over. My company uses Basecamp for tracking tasks and goals so there is always a big list of items to pull from.

Learn how Cameron started full-time remote work after trying freelancing and starting a digital agency.

Read full interview from Interview with Cameron, a designer who works remotely at a WordPress agency.


Interview with Maggie, a senior product manager at HubSpot

I'm a big fan of the old fashioned list. I usually write one each morning.

There isn't a magic formula to my lists - I write out everything I need to do in the day and try to check things off in order of urgency and priority.

It's important to stay focused on the things that really matter in order to achieve my core goals, and try to eliminate the noise.

I've also learned the hard way as a product manager to distribute work, and not try to do it all. That allows the entire team to grow and accomplish things together, but also make mistakes and learn together.

Remote work allows Maggie to live in a small town and excel in her career. Hear about how she stays professionally connected, and her essential career advice for remote workers.

Read full interview from Interview with Maggie, a senior product manager at HubSpot.


Interview with Laurel about helping companies transition to remote work

Because I juggle so many clients and projects at a time, time blocking is crucial for me to keep from feeling overwhelmed or reactive.

I have certain chunks of time set aside each week to work on each project, then try to only work on (or even think about) that project during it's slot.

If I find myself low on motivation or getting distracted during work hours, turning on a french Pandora station (if I don't understand the lyrics, they can't distract me from my train of thought), taking a break to run some errands, or taking a quick walk around my neighborhood usually does the trick.

Laurel is an advocate for remote work and helps companies learn how to work remotely through her consulting and writing.

Read full interview from Interview with Laurel about helping companies transition to remote work.


Interview with Betsy, a head of content and remote work routine expert

First, I think that getting enough sleep and taking care of yourself is essential. If you're sleep deprived, not eating well, never exercising, then it will be really difficult to do good work.

Next, I am adamant about tracking my time. It might sound crazy but I track my time seven days a week in 15-minute intervals using a Google spreadsheet. By doing this, I can end the day or week knowing exactly how I spent my time. This also prevents me from wasting too much time watching YouTube videos and participating in other online activities. because no one wants to have to write that in a time log.

I've also found that listening to classical music or soundtracks is helpful. This activity is great for staying on task and inflow for longer periods of time.

Lastly, I think a big part of it goes back to keeping a schedule or routine. If you tend to do the same functions each day at a particular time, it's much easier to stay on task and know what to do because it's already an ingrained habit.

Betsy Ramser is a content manager, blogger, and teacher who helps other remote workers thrive while creating a daily routine that works.

Read full interview from Interview with Betsy, a head of content and remote work routine expert.

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