I cover the Denver market at Lucas Group, but for the past 18 months I’ve been working out of Nashville. This is the first full year I will have worked remotely, and so far I’m on track to have my best year ever at Lucas Group. Although remote work presents some challenges, there’s no reason why it can’t be just as effective as working out of the office.

Since I began working remotely, I’ve consciously built four key habits to help me stay focused and productive:

1. Set business hours for yourself. Decide up front what hours you will work every day, notify your coworkers, and stick to these hours. Setting your business hours structures your day and establishes clear boundaries between work and free time. Of course, it’s helpful to keep a schedule that meets the needs of the market you serve and the needs of your co-workers. Because I work on Denver time, I work from 8:30am until 11:30am and then from 2:00pm to 7:00pm. By sticking to the same schedule every day, my team also knows exactly when they can reach me.

2. Take time to recharge. My schedule keeps me focused during the periods of the day that are the most productive for reaching candidates and clients in the Denver area. This schedule also allows me to take time for myself midday to recharge. Remote work can be isolating, so it’s good to plan an activity each day that involves some sort of social interaction, whether that’s a yoga class or lunch with a friend. You’ll come back refreshed and re-focused for the afternoon.

3. Stick to a stopping time. When working remotely, especially out of your home, the temptation can be to work all the time. By setting a hard stop at 7pm, I separate my work and personal time– and keep myself accountable for meeting deadlines.

4. Designate your own office space. Ideally, your office should be a room with a door that closes, but even dedicating a corner of your living room as a “work zone” can be effective. Similarly to setting your business hours, this practice helps you to demarcate your work and personal lives. Stepping into your “office” sends a signal to your brain that your workday has begun and it’s time to switch on. Some people prefer to leave their home altogether to work in a coffee shop or co-working space, which can be a great option. But if you spend a lot of time on the phone like me, you may prefer a space where you can control the noise levels.

5. Stay connected with colleagues. One of the biggest challenges for remote workers is staying in the loop with your colleagues. When you out of the office, you miss out on the casual interactions and informal encounters where information is shared. In order to be successful, you need to be very proactive about reaching out to people:

  • I schedule regular check-ins with my managing partner so she knows everything I’m working on. If there are any major developments between our check-ins, I flag them so that she hears them from me first.
  • While email contact is great for keeping in touch with coworkers, I find regular phone calls are also important. A phone call often gives you information that an email doesn’t; for example, you can tell a lot from someone’s tone of voice.
  • Participate in team-wide status meetings via phone or video. Hearing what your colleagues are working on can help you to come up with creative ideas for your own work.

Just because you’re working outside the normal office environment doesn’t mean you can’t do your best work. The key is to set clear boundaries, stick to a schedule and proactively stay in touch with coworkers.

Do you work remotely? Feel free to share your tips for success in the comments below.