7 Habits to Stay Productive When Working Remotely


Remote work has become increasingly common, yet many of us still struggle to adapt to this new reality.

It's easy to get sidetracked by household chores, or that new Netflix series everyone's talking about. And when your home is your office, it can be tough to switch off at the end of the day.

The truth is, that succeeding as a remote worker requires more than just motivation to work and a reliable internet connection. It requires a specific set of habits and routines that help you stay on task, manage your time effectively, and maintain a clear boundary between work and personal life.

Without the structure of a traditional office environment, it's up to you to create remote work habits that help you make progress.

In this blog post, we'll dive into the most powerful daily habits for remote workers. Whether you're struggling with procrastination, feeling isolated from your team, or just trying to find a healthy work-life balance, these habits can make a lot of difference.

Work from a dedicated workspace

When you first start working from home, it's tempting to just work from the couch or your bed. But that's not great for staying productive.

Your brain associates those spaces with relaxing and chilling out, so it's hard to flip into work mode there. You'll get constantly distracted by the TV, snacks, or just the overall comfort of your living room setup. Working hunched over on the couch is also a recipe for back pain down the line.

Instead, carve out a specific area just for working - even if it's just a corner of a room. The main idea is to separate your work from the rest of your home life.

Having a designated workspace tells your brain "ok, it's time to focus now." Pick a spot with decent lighting and set up a proper desk and chair that supports good posture. Add a plant, picture, or anything else that gets you in a motivated headspace. It also helps to let your family or roommates know that when you're in your work zone, you're not to be disturbed unless it's urgent or important.

Create a morning routine

When you work from home, it's easy to just roll out of bed and immediately start working in a reactive state - checking emails, Slacking, and putting out fires. This sets the tone for a frazzled, disjointed day.

A morning routine is a consistent set of actions and rituals you go through before starting your workday when working from home. The routine should include activities that help you calm your mind, energize your body, and practice self-care before work demands hit.

Some examples of good morning routine activities:

  • Light exercise/stretch
  • Meditating/deep breathing
  • Journaling/reading
  • Enjoying a good breakfast
  • Getting dressed for the day
  • Reviewing your priorities/to-do's
  • Listening to motivating music

The specific activities aren't as important as sticking to a consistent sequence that YOU find centering and energizing before work hours begin.

The routine also creates a trigger separating personal time from work time. This transition cue reinforces work-life boundaries when laboring from home. You're mentally showing up ready to work rather than just hazily diving in.

Plan your day before jumping to tasks

When you work from an office, there are external environmental cues that can help nudge you to stay on track with your priorities - seeing colleagues working heads down, having set meeting times, workplace norms around productivity, etc.

However, those external accountability factors virtually disappear when working remotely from home. It's just you, alone, with no one else really aware of how you're spending your time minute-to-minute.

This makes it incredibly easy to get distracted and thrown off course by incoming Slacks, emails, notifications, household tasks - whatever pops up and demands your attention at the moment. Without a plan in place, you can waste hours reactively putting out fires rather than proactively working on your highest priorities.

That's why taking 10-15 minutes each morning to map out your day's schedule is so crucial for remote productivity. It creates your own internal accountability plan when you don't have the external office environment's cues.

Sunsama's guided daily planning is designed to help you create a calm, focused, and achievable plan for your upcoming workday using these five steps:

  1. Review yesterday's progress.
  2. Add new tasks from various sources (emails, objectives, etc).
  3. Postpone non-essential or low-priority tasks.
  4. Finalize your task order and schedule blocks on the calendar.
  5. Identify potential obstacles, and share your plan with the team if needed.

You can follow these daily planning steps even if you don't use any daily planning app but tools like Sunsama make the process intuitive and help you develop it into a habit.

Over-communicate with your team

When you work in an office alongside colleagues, you naturally pick up a lot of information and context about what teammates are working on through casual interactions. You overhear hallway conversations, learn about a new project priority from a team huddle down the hall, and stay looped in just by being around everyone.

This goes beyond just keeping teammates updated on your tasks and blockers. You have to over-communicate your thought process, rationale for decisions, relevant context around your work, client/stakeholder messaging - anything that would typically get picked up being in the same physical space.

Some helpful tips for communication in a remote setting:

  • Err on the side of over-explaining and being verbose.
  • Record loom videos to narrate your screen navigation when useful context is hard to type out.
  • Share excerpts of conversations with clients that provide color.
  • Ask obvious clarifying questions when you're unsure about something.

This takes practice and can feel excessive compared to a typically terse office update. But that's the point - you're counterbalancing the information deficits of working remotely by going the extra mile to keep everyone on the same page.

End the work day with a shutdown ritual at your shutdown time

As a remote employee, it's so easy to fall into habits like frequently checking emails or Slack well into the evening hours after dinner. That nagging feeling of "I should just quickly respond to this" or "Let me get one more thing done" pervades. Suddenly half your evening is gone, spent in a perpetual "working" state rather than fully disengaged.

But after all…

That's why you first need to set a shutdown time.

Shutdown time is a predetermined point in the day when you will completely step away from work - no more checking emails, Slacking colleagues, or trying to get "one last thing" done. It is a hard stop time for work each day that is inviolable.

Having a shutdown time helps create separation between your job and home life when working remotely. It sets a boundary so work doesn't bleed into your personal/family time in the evenings, which can quickly lead to burnout.

But the shutdown time is the guide for when work needs to end, not a punching of the clock that unnecessarily keeps you deskbound if there's no more work to be done.

If you've checked off everything you aimed to get done, don't feel obligated to remain glued to your desk until an arbitrary hour.

Start your shutdown when you're ready to leave your work at your desk.

  • Close your tabs and work-related applications.
  • Tidy up your workspace, putting away any work-related materials.
  • Say 'shutdown', take 3 deep breaths, and close your laptop.
  • Change out of your work clothes and into comfortable, casual attire.

Checking those boxes triggers the mental transition.

You can also put something personal on your calendar like an exercise class, making dinner, or meeting up with a friend or family member. Having a hard non-work appointment can force you to start winding down earlier than expected some days.

Take some ideas from this Reddit thread that's a collection of end-of-the-day rituals.

Review and share what you accomplished

When you work remotely, you lose out on the casual interactions and updates that happen naturally in an office setting. Your colleagues can't easily pop over to your desk to discuss a project or overhear you mention a completed task. More of your work happens in a silo.

This lack of transparency can breed miscommunications and misaligned expectations without everyone being on the same page about what's getting done. It can inadvertently cause duplicated efforts or work to slip through the cracks if teammates aren't aware of each other's progress.

The habit of doing a daily accomplishments review and sharing it with relevant teammates at the end of each workday serves multiple purposes:

  1. It forces you to consciously reflect on and catalog what you've actually completed that day, beyond just checking tasks off a to-do list.
  2. It provides crucial visibility for colleagues into the work you've advanced, increasing accountability.
  3. It allows you to quickly communicate status updates while details are still fresh, avoiding forgetfulness.
  4. It sets clear handoffs or prompts discussions about the next steps that need to happen.
  5. A daily or weekly review is also motivating as you can tangibly see all you've knocked out when working remotely.

Sharing your review with your team doesn't have to be complex - a simple bullet list in a team Slack channel or task-tracking tool can suffice. But that simple act of listing out accomplishments creates an information trail that keeps everyone aligned.

Here's what Sunsama's co-founder, Ashutosh had to say about daily review that truly captures its power as a remote work habit

The act of writing and publishing our daily review marks the end of our workdays. Since we work from home and don't physically leave an office, it's useful to have a digital routine that represents the end of the day. Once I write my daily review, I feel good about shutting down my computer and stepping away from work.

Personally, I've found that writing a daily review increases the satisfaction I feel about my work. When I can see everything I did in a day, it makes it easier to feel like it was a day well spent, and I can shut down and step away more easily. And on the days where I don't do my best work or feel a bit unfocused, the review helps me recognize how I fell short and where I should focus tomorrow.

Tool for maintaining remote work habits

Building habits takes patience and repetition, but it pays off in the long run. Once your routines are ingrained, you don't have to spend valuable mental energy on forcing yourself to work. The habits do the heavy lifting for you, allowing remote work to feel smooth and sustainable over time.

If you're looking for a tool to help you build and maintain these productive remote work habits, try Sunsama — a daily planner app designed for a calm and focused workday.

With Sunsama, you can:

  • Plan your day by timeblocking your tasks
  • Integrate with tools like Google Calendar, Trello, and GitHub to keep all your work in one place
  • Set daily goals and track your progress over time
  • Share your daily plan with your team for better visibility and accountability
  • Reflect on your day and optimize your habits with built-in journaling prompts

When you plan and structure your day with Sunsama, you can free up mental energy, stay focused on your priorities, and achieve a better work-life balance while working remotely.

If you're ready to take your remote work habits to the next level, claim your 14-day free trial of Sunsama here.

Facebook iconTwitter IconLinkedIn icon