Working remotely may be an adjustment for you or your team, which requires learning new ways to be productive. At Double, we consider ourselves experts on remote work—our company was founded on the notion of people working productively together, apart.
Here are some of the best practices we designed for our clients and assistants on how to manage time remotely, so you can be productive in your own work and with your team.
Create a schedule as if you were back in the office
Part of what makes adjusting to remote work difficult is creating useful habits—and breaking unhealthy ones. A schedule or routine helps you make a directionless day structured and sets you up to stick to it.
It’s very easy to get caught up on one piece of work and skip practices that seem “non-essential,” but that are actually quite important to your productivity. While you already use your calendar to keep track of meetings, time boxing things like taking a break or combing through your inbox significantly helps you actually do those things. We recommend adding the following to your calendar:
- Exercise time
- Coffee breaks
- Meeting prep time
- Daily catch-up time
Another important reason to set a schedule when working remotely is that it sets boundaries—for you, your coworkers, and even your family. Since leaving the office may now mean walking out of a particular room in your home, it’s significantly easier to overwork. Establish a time to end your day, turn off your notifications, and close your computer. Communicate that to your team and encourage them to do the same.
Communicate thoughtfully with your team
Consistent and clear communication is paramount to time management. This is particularly true in a remote work environment where we rely heavily on written communication. When we onboard our doubles, we go over responsiveness guidelines—key success factors for a remote executive-assistant relationship. This advice is helpful groundwork for any stable working relationship.
- Give and seek out context. A considerable amount of time is wasted when we don’t provide or ask for context on a piece of work. Be mindful during meetings where you’re given or giving work—think about the handoff moment as if it’s the only time you’ll have to get the information you need. Waiting for a response to questions about context derails your productivity. And, since remote work means you can’t simply tap someone on the shoulder in the office and ask them a quick question, the stakes are higher to provide context up front.
- Ask for clarifying questions. A fruitful habit to adopt is always ending a meeting by asking, “Are there any clarifying questions?” This is another way to ensure you’re giving and getting context. It’s also a simple way to carve out time specific to questions—something that’s easy to forget.
- Provide a timeline. Attaching a due date, timeline, or level of urgency to tasks or projects is a great way to keep your remote work structured. You can prioritize easily and more thoughtfully create your schedule.
Assess the realities of your remote work week
Managing your time successfully while working remotely comes down to structure. Once you’ve put a schedule in place and framed your meetings with context in mind, it’s important to revisit your week and assess.
First ask yourself about the literal work. Then look at your schedule and make adjustments for the following week.
- What did I accomplish this week?
- What took up a lot of my time?
- Was any time wasted?
- What can I delegate?
It’s very important to think about your emotional and mental health in a remote work environment as well.
- Did I take breaks throughout the day?
- Was I able to go outside?
- What time did I eat lunch?
- How can I make myself feel better next week?
Schedule a check-in with yourself after a month of implementing new time management strategies. You may find yourself more productive, focused, and happy.
Start small and focus on building habits
Adopting these new strategies requires us to be intentional, which means giving that practice our time and attention. Rather than try to do all of these at once, we’re more likely to be successful when we choose one new behavior to focus on per week. While we want to be ambitious and increase our productivity quickly, we also don’t want to set ourselves up to fail.
Another productivity tip that has become especially important as we work from home—learning how to carve out focus time for yourself.