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It can be tricky to complete your tasks on time as a remote worker.

The unrelenting workload can prompt you to procrastinate. And we’ve all been there. You get an irresistible urge to put off those dreaded tasks when your energy drops low.

But leaving your tasks for later might not be the smart thing to do, both your work performance and your wellbeing can suffer. Research published in Psychological Science looked at the long-term negative effects of procrastination. 

Although it may bring initial benefits, the procrastination path is a dead-end street.

“In the end, however, the costs of procrastination far outweighed the temporary benefits. Procrastinators earned lower grades than other students and reported higher cumulative amounts of stress and illness. True procrastinators didn’t just finish their work later — the quality of it suffered, as did their own well-being.” Source: Psycholgicalscience.org

You can’t go on repeating the same mistakes hoping to get better results. It just doesn’t work that way. But you can try a new approach. 

If you’re struggling with deadlines, don’t worry, it’s a matter of breaking a few bad work habits

Read on. This article will teach you how to be punctual for your online work tasks. 

Plan Your Day Ahead

If you type “working from home tips for success” in Google search, most tips will tell you to start your day with a plan. Making a plan and sticking to it will help you go about your daily duties with ease. And who doesn’t want that?

As an online worker, you’re left to your own devices so you need to find ways to self-motivate yourself

Creating a to-do list at the start of the day will help you complete tasks faster as a remote worker. But to create attainable daily goals you need to do some guesswork about how long a given task will take.

If you make faulty estimates, you’re likely to lose focus quickly and burn out.

So apart from becoming good at timing your tasks, you need to sharpen up your time management skills. Working from home can require you to go through contortions so you stay on schedule.

So, make it easier for yourself. Keep a tally of your weekly to-dos on a Trello board. At the end of the week pull the “checked off” Trello list out into a Google Doc by using Zapier integration. 

Nothing beats this sweet sense of achievement. 

screenshot of Trello home page
Source: Trello

Get Onto Your Online Work Tasks as Early as Possible

We’re all guilty of avoiding that tricky task every once in a while. 

Contrary to popular belief, procrastination has less to do with time management and more to do with controlling emotions. 

This is what happens: you’re agreeing to trade-off your valuable time for temporary relief. But the guilt linked to avoiding responsibility will only get you more frustrated. 

So try the opposite strategy, start work as early as possible. According to research, our energy and willpower are likely to peak in the morning. As the day goes by, those levels drop, which leaves you ill-equipped to fight off distractions.

By coming to grips with your daily tasks first thing in the morning, you’re: 

  • Building a sense of achievement. Experts advise starting with the most difficult task in the morning. Although it’s hard to get started, achieving a milestone will boost your motivation.
  • Avoiding the 3 PM crash. The more work you do in the morning, the less you’ll have to handle in the afternoon. This is how you’ll be able to avoid toughing it out after lunch when you’re sluggish and drowsy. 
  • Preventing the last-minute rush. Going straight for the kill early on in the day will help you be more punctual for your online work tasks.

Say No to Social Media During Work Hours

It’s dead easy to resort to social media when anxiety kicks in and you need some downtime at work. But this is such a waste of your valuable time. Eventually, you’ll have to make up for the work left unattended.

And you might miss a deadline in the process. 

What’s more, this can become a chronic problem. Letting the temptation too close will chip away at your willpower until you can no longer resist the impulse. And nobody has willpower to spare.

So, instead of fighting off temptations, you remove them from your surroundings altogether. This is what to do:

  • Remove all social networks from your toolbar bookmarks, turn off notifications, or even better, log out of all your accounts. 
  • Work in an “Incognito” browser window if you’re using Chrome. 

Set a Finishing Time For Your Work Day 

When you’re alone in your home office, there’s no cue to tell you your shift has finished. You can lose complete track of time.

Yet, a blurred boundary between your work life and personal life can make you feel miserable.

So, be careful about how you manage your time. Putting the work off and staying late can result in more unproductive behavior and more stress.

“An early brain study suggested that while people are in flow, only those brain areas relevant to the activity at hand are activated. Yet, in the brain of a person who is stressed, you find lots of activity in the emotional circuitry which is irrelevant to the task at hand, and which suggests an anxious distractedness.” Source: Psychology Today

It’s not about working your head off until you burn out. It’s about optimal performance. You want to hit the sweet spot for achievement. To pair maximum cognitive efficiency with the minimum time invested.

So, this is what you want to do:

  • Set your work hours for the day. 
  • Set an alarm so you know when your work hours end. 
  • Use this as a cue to start saving your work and start finishing your tasks for the day.   

This strategy gives you the reward you need so you’re motivated to work faster and smarter.

Use the X-Cards Technique to Become More Punctual With Your Online Work Tasks

It’s one thing to read a list of tips on the internet. But breaking your old habits and creating new ones based on those tips is a different story. 

If you want to be on time with your online tasks every single time, you need to commit to it. But this doesn’t have to be that hard. 

You can start by polishing up your work from home time management skills. Or you can decide to ditch your habit of handling distractions poorly first. 

The X-Cards technique is a great way to build a new habit.

According to a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, building a new habit will take you roughly 66 days. After this time you can expect the new activity to become a new normal.    

The X-Cards technique can help you measure your progress.

Here’s how it works:

  • Create an index card and draw a 7×7 grid of 49 boxes. This stands for seven days of the week during a seven-week period. 
  • Pick a habit you want to form or break. Name your card. For example, it can say “Finish my workday by 6 PM”.
  • Each day you achieve the goal, mark a box with a big X. 

By the time you’re finished crossing out your index card, you’ll have built a new habit. 

Or you can create a habit tracker like this to track your monthly progress for different activities. 

sample habit tracker
Source: rumbledesignstore

Stay On Top of Your Online Work Tasks

Not meeting deadlines makes it hard to survive in an online work environment. Any online employer will expect you to be punctual for your online work tasks.

The tips above can help you escape the vicious cycle of repeating the same mistakes. And we all know how dreadful this can be. 

So, track your progress and identify the weak links. Then use the tips above to form a new habit and start working from home effectively. It can be as easy as that.

Learn more about how to work remotely AND save time at the Small Revolution School. We bring you the tools that can make your online career a success.

Photo by prostooleh / CC BY

Katrina
Author

I'm Katrina McKinnon, founder of McKinnon Group and Small Revolution. I'm using my 20 years' experience in building and operating online businesses to create engaging educational materials that helps others become successful online workers. Find me on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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