How to Stay Motivated as a Remote Employee

Working remote requires a different set of skills than working in the office. As a remote employee, you have to be self-disciplined and intrinsically motivated. No longer will someone walk into your office to check on you throughout the day and you might just find yourself spending just a little too much time on Zillow looking at homes you’ll buy once you win the lottery. (That can’t just be me!)

I started working remote almost a year ago and I hate to admit it – but I’ve had a few days where I’ve crawled back into bed or have spent the day scrolling Instagram. I’m not proud.

Days like that make me feel shitty though. I feel guilty for slacking off and not improving my skills or using the time to increase efficiency on something. Therefore to combat the temptation to waste the day – I’ve found four different techniques that help me stay on track.

  • To-Do Lists: If you’re anything like me, you probably already have a to-do list and are a bit of a to-do list junkie. My remote worker twist is to create your to-do list at the end of your day for the following day. Then when you sit down at your desk the next morning you already know what you will be working on. Staring right back at you are your daily tasks. You know you want to cross them off! Get going!
  • Trello Board: If you have never heard of Trello, it is a cool online organizational tool. I used it in college to keep track of my assignments and I use it now to keep track of all of my work items. You can use Trello as a virtual to-do list but, tbh, there’s something a lot more satisfying about physically crossing off objects with a pencil. Instead, I like to use Trello for is creating simple Kanban boards. I dump EVERYTHING in there that I am working on, I am going to work on and that I have worked on. In other (more Agile 🤮) words, there is a “Backlog” board, an “In Progress” board and a “Done” board. I log all of my emails and projects on a Trello card (including the date I worked on it). This helps me reference which items haven’t been closed out and who I need to follow up with. Also, this really helps me keep track of ALL of those emails I’ve sent out but haven’t heard a response on! Now when it gets busy, it can be tempting to ignore the Trello board and not fill out the cards. However, this is when it is the most important! Dumping all of that overwhelming information somewhere will allow you to think more clearly. You’ll be able to better prioritize your tasks and see what all you really need to tackle. When I become overwhelmed I shut down. However, after getting all of the “to-do’s” out of my head and onto a space that can be easily updated has helped tremendously!
  • Create Meetings: That’s right! Create some meetings with yourself. I learned this trick from a fellow remote employee. She will make a meeting on her calendar for when she’s going to work out or run errands. I had never thought about putting meetings on my own calendar! So I took her idea and twisted it. Instead of making a meeting for myself to go to the gym, although you can, I put meetings on my calendar for the stuff I’m going to work on. For example, I have to run a massive report every month. The report typically takes me a couple of hours to put together and it sucks. However, now I schedule the time that I’m going to make myself work on the task. If people come to bother me with IM’s, I don’t feel guilty about ignoring them because I’m in a meeting. Yeah, it’s a meeting with myself but I’m getting shit done! This technique works great for projects that you really don’t want to do. Such as, emailing your manager and hoping that he doesn’t request more. Once it’s on your calendar – you’re committed, so start drafting pal! Dedicating time and having a physical notification in the calendar will help keep you on track and feeling accomplished. This also helps you complete my fourth tip for staying motivated and focused. 
  • Weekly Updates: This final trick is the most recent one I’ve been using and it’s been the most motivational. Unfortunately, as a remote employee, you don’t have the pleasure of catching up with your manager in the hallway to brag about your latest accomplishments. I haven’t talked with my manager in MONTHS so I started researching tips for remote employees and I found this idea by Abby Wolfe (actually in a Trello article 🤦‍♀️… I’m not being paid I promise!). To make up for the decreased amount of communication, Abby recommends sending your manager a brief weekly update of the things you worked. (I have a “meeting” on my calendar for every Friday morning at 9:00 am to send my update.) Each week I structure the email the same way and I continue my updates on the previous week’s email chain. In the note, I list a few of the items I worked on over the past week and what I’m going to work on the following week. My manager is not familiar with my role at all so I make sure to provide a lot of details that will help him understand the context of what’s going on. This task has encouraged me to revisit my Trello backlog board to make sure I have plenty of work to report. No one wants to look like they aren’t pulling their weight!

There you have it! Those are the four techniques that I have found to be the most helpful when it comes to working remote. Create your To-Do Lists at the end of the day for the following workday, create a badass Trello board to log all of your work that you’re going to do or are doing or have done, schedule meetings with yourself to work on the items you’re avoiding and make sure to stay in contact with your manager by sending weekly updates. I promise if you incorporate any of these tips into your work habits you will feel more motivated and focused! 

Let me know in the comments – did you try any of them and what do you think? What tricks do you use to keep yourself on track?