Do you feel you wake up early every day, work all hours and look back and feel that you have achieved nothing? Being busy doesn’t always mean you are being productive.

Take it from someone who sometimes has had to juggle multiple clients and project deadlines all the timeĀ  all at once that just because you are putting in more and more hours does not mean that you are able to get the work done.

So what is the solution to being productive, especially in a remote environment?

Get in the right frame of mind

The first thing you are going to want to do is set up your office space and ensure that you are creating an environment that is productive and where people can’t disturb. Now please note that this should take you minutes not hours (don’t lose track and try and justify why you had to spend the day getting your work environment sorted). The next thing is making sure you do the basics right. Wake up early, make the bed, shower and have a decent breakfast and ensure that you are sitting at your desk nice and early.

If you are working at home and struggle to get in the right frame of mind sometimes dressing in your work clothes forces you to act and think in a certain way.

Plan. Plan. Plan.

Again, do not spend all your time on this but if you are going to be productive you need to put everything you need down on paper and put deadlines to it. Ensure that you mark each task with the appropriate level of urgency and base your plan on this. Don’t fill up your day too much and allow for new work or unexpected tasks to also be completed throughout your week.

The trick is not to put too much pressure on yourself. Make realistic deadlines and then make sub tasks that will ensure that you are able to stick to those deadlines. So if it is Monday and a project is due on Friday make sure you complete a quarter of that project each day so that you are keeping ahead and not leaving everything to the last minute while allowing for the unexpected to happen.

Multitasking is your enemy

Don’t try and tell everyone how great you are at multitasking. The reality is you are at your most productive when you are able to focus your mind on one task and stop switching between different projects or clients. You end up having to spend more time catching up than doing work. You need to work in sprints and allow time for that as much as possible.

Focus on one task and complete that task. Move on and repeat. This way you set goals and achieve them.

When you break. Break!

Too often we take a coffee/tea break or pause on our work but at the back of your mind you are running through everything you need to do or worse on the phone to someone from work conveying what you need to do. It is critical that you fill your day with regular breaks where you shut your brain down from work for a few minutes. Recharge. Then go again.

Exercise

Even better than taking a break is to do some daily exercise in whatever form is possible for you. By adding a exercise time into your day it means you are adding structure and are having to work towards or around your exercise routine. This is critical together with health benefits of getting your blood flowing and your heart pumping.

Exercise is proven to release stress which is an important factor in avoiding being busy all the time and achieving nothing.

Manage your meetings and phone calls

That dreaded word: meetings. Meetings, while necessary are incredibly time consuming and rarely provide go forward. When planning your meeting, ensure that you have an agenda and stick to it and try and keep the meeting as short and to the point as possible. Every minute in a meeting is keeping you away from doing work but it is important that you run the meeting properly and get everything sorted first time t avoid follow up meetings.

Be careful when phoning and messaging colleagues to not get too sidetracked. While it is great to catch up and get some social interaction going the time can fly and before you know it you might have lost 30-60 minutes where you could have been completing your work for the day.

Review, adjust and go again

Once the day has ended, whether you stop at 5PM or stop at 12PM, it is important to make a note of what you achieved during the day and what you didn’t get around to. Adjust your planning with regards to what tasks you might not have gotten around to and ensure you are still meeting deadlines.

Summary

The biggest tip I can give you is get in the right habits. It is all too easy to let home life affect your work life and you need to plan and adapt around that to ensure you can work as efficiently as possible. Don’t overwork and do too much at one time. Make your list. Set your deadlines. Create your tasks and hit targets every single day.