The opportunity to work from home seemed like a dream for many designers — until it became the new normal. Perks aside, not everyone found it an easy transition.
Constant interruptions became part of our work life: what with our dogs barking at every leaf that blows by our window, our spouses having a Zoom meeting in the same room as us, and our (formerly) amazing neighbors deciding that the best way for them to keep their spirits high is blasting show tunes all day.
Discover how remote designers can keep their productivity at its peak in their home office — regardless of the distractions surrounding them. Check out these remote working tips to keep your productivity up, meet deadlines, and save some personal time.
- Create Your Own Home Office
- Find Your Ideal Working Hours
- Create a To-Do List
- Get Rid of Distractions
- Schedule Regular Calls with Your Team
- Remember to Take Breaks
- Find a Perfect Music Playlist
- Cultivate a Hobby
- Make Sure to Exercise
- Get Some Healthy Sleep
1. Create Your Own Home Office
One of the greatest advantages of working from home is the possibility of changing your "office" every single day. People can attend meetings lying in bed or work on their designs sitting at the kitchen table, sprawling on the couch in their living room, or settling outside on the terrace. The downside is that, for some designers, working from home can negatively affect productivity. Many designers find it hard to separate work and rest, start to burn out, and feel like every day is Ground Hog day. If that sounds like you, you can benefit from creating your own small office.
Make sure your space has a computer table, comfy chair, and access to natural light. Get rid of stacks of unnecessary papers, notebooks, books, and cups with unfinished coffee — they can suck out your energy and distract you. Changing your clothes when you enter your home office is also a good idea. No one is talking about wearing formal ties and jackets, but make sure you don't spend the whole day in your pajamas.
Having your own workspace will help you mentally close the office door (even if you don't have one) and set your brain to work mode.
2. Find Your Ideal Working Hours
Working from home gives designers the freedom to set their own pace and choose the best time for work. However, freedom implies responsibility. There are times when you have to be present at online team meetings and respond to messages.
Allocate some time in the day to plan your schedule and make a list of tasks you have to do. Of course, there's no one-size-fit-all solution, and your UX design process may differ from other designers'. However, you know yourself best — if you're an early bird, use morning hours for the most challenging and critical tasks. If you prefer a slow start and feel more productive in the afternoon, begin your day with low-energy activities.
Some people find it hard to separate working hours from leisure time. If you're one of these people, think of activities that will mark the end of a working day for you and help you transition out of the "office." For example, schedule time for your hobbies, family, or your dog.
If you don't have a designer job yet and take online classes to improve UX design skills, time management is no less critical. Plan your day so you have time to study, do job searches, exercise your interview skills by rehearsing your answers, practice design sessions in Figma, and enjoy lunch and hobbies.
3. Create a To-Do List
Nothing feels more satisfying than checking completed tasks off your to-do list. Plus, сreating to-do lists and grouping tasks by priority set you in "work mode". Writing tasks down allows your brain to not think about them while you're focusing on one thing at a time.
Do you know what's not productive? Having an endless list of tasks that aren't grouped by priority. First off, you may feel reluctant to even look at this back-breaking stack of work — not to mention actually doing it. Second, having too many tasks to do in one day is stressful, and you may rush into multitasking.
Studies prove that juggling multiple activities eventually drains your energy.On top of that, you may forget about taking breaks since you have so many things to do!
Here's a 3-step productivity lifehack:
• Assess your possibilities
• Choose 3 of the most important tasks for a day
• Focus on one task at a time
During your breaks, you can choose to do house chores, play with your pet, practice yoga, or do whatever else you feel like doing.
4. Get Rid of Distractions
Apps and messengers were intended to help us focus on our activities and notify us if anything important pops up. Instead, they tend to disrupt our day, making it impossible to concentrate. Remember the closed office door analogy? Once you start your working day, close this imaginary (or physical) door and switch off all of those energy-draining and attention-stealing notifications. Sometimes, if you want to really focus on a task, it's okay to snooze your work messages too.
Another tip to deal with distractions is to avoid multitasking. When working from home, it's tempting to combine work and personal tasks, such as reviewing feedback on your designs and cooking. According to Chris Bailey, the author of Hyperfocus: How to Be More Productive in a World of Distraction, it takes people on average 29 minutes to resume working on a task after they get distracted by another task or 22 minutes if someone interrupts them in the middle of the task. Multitasking affects your productivity and leads to frustration.
You can put earphones in your ears or close the door to your "office" to indicate to your family members that you're busy right now, so they won't disturb you.
If you feel like you need assistance to avoid procrastination, you can also do the following:
• Set your phone to airplane mode to block distracting alerts and focus on a task.
• Install a time-managing browser extension to introduce the Pomodoro technique into your design workflow. This technique helps you concentrate by breaking down the working day into intervals (traditionally 25 minutes in length) separated by short breaks.
5. Schedule Regular Calls with Your Team
In 2020, many of us had no other choice but to work from home. On one hand, remote working saves us commute time and takeaway coffee money. On the other hand, we lose the pleasures of water cooler conversations and chat breaks with our colleagues.
We recommend scheduling regular video calls with your team — not just for work calls, but also for online happy hours, breaks, and socializing. These types of meetings can help you feel emotionally afloat and encourage new ideas — just remember not to go overboard. Draft a plan of things you want to talk about and set time frames for each discussion to avoid lengthy and exhausting conversations.
Keep in mind that not every issue needs a meeting to sort things out. Share a Google Docs document or simply encourage a Slack brainstorming session to learn the opinions of others or discuss relevant topics.
Take Uxcel's Core Qualities assessment to evaluate your skills to manage time, communicate, and staying proactive when working remotely.
6. Remember to Take Breaks
Working 40+ hours per week without fulfilling breaks will slowly kill both your productivity and health. Working extra hours and on weekends is like running a marathon: you can brace up and hit the finish line first, but you'd need an extensive rest afterward. Or even worse — you'll burn out.
Ironically, the best way to stay productive without being exhausted to death at the end of the week is by taking regular breaks. The most important rule here is to keep those breaks short and refreshing. Leave your working place, walk your dog, listen to your favorite songs with your eyes closed, meditate, or finish up some chores like laundry, watering plants, or vacuum-cleaning the living room. Switching between activities allows your mind to rest. It opens your brain to new possibilities and helps you discover new and creative ideas.
On the other hand, checking social media or playing video games agitates your mind and makes you crave more. Such activities trigger a short outburst of dopamine — the chemical that stimulates our brain to crave more rewards. The same effect happens when we take a bite of chocolate or a drag of a cigarette.
7. Find a Perfect Music Playlist
Music has power over people. It fastens psychological recovery, distracts us from overthinking, turns routine tasks into entertaining activities, and also helps us focus! Creating a working playlist might be a great idea for boosting your productivity at home. However, avoid listening to any favorite songs that make you sing along and groove when you need to focus. Science even tells us that these types of songs may have a negative impact on your processing capacity.
Studies from Cambridge Sound Management show that speech forces us to shift focus from our work to figuring out what someone is saying (or singing). Contrarily, instrumental music or nature sounds can enhance cognitive functioning and optimize our ability to concentrate.
You can use the Noizio app and listen to nature's sounds (like a fireplace crackling or sea waves splashing) or white noise. Some people find it helpful for their productivity to listen to masterpieces of classical music created by Mozart, Bach, Schubert, and Tchaikovsky.
8. Cultivate a Hobby
Being productive is all about keeping a work-life balance — and it's crucial to have hobbies outside of your job. Having an after-work activity can help you call it a day, turn off your work mode, and enjoy doing something you sincerely love.
Sometimes, we all feel the urge to binge-watch Netflix, browse social media, or play video games — no judgment here! However, such activities don't help your brain refresh and actually make you feel exhausted in the long haul. Instead, try something more challenging, fulfilling, or relaxing.
Think of learning a new language or skill, spending time outside, doing yoga, trying out new recipes, drawing a mandala, or reading — they're all great ideas! You don't even need to go somewhere — explore the diversity of online courses on Uxcel, learn Chinese, or master the art of folding origami.
9. Make Sure to Exercise
You might feel sick of hearing how exercise is good for your health and all — but the hype is totally justified. From the scientific point of view, physical activity increases our level of endorphins, which, in turn, boosts our mood, gives us a delightful feeling of accomplishment, and distracts us from gloomy thoughts and work issues. And, of course, it helps us stay in shape!
Don't force yourself to do sports if the very idea of it makes you nauseous. Walking, dancing in the kitchen, chasing around your kids, or doing yoga also count as physical activities! Find something that you really enjoy — just make sure you don't sit all day long in front of the computer. Remember, exercising is beneficial not only for your body. Studies prove that physical activity improves your memory and thinking skills, as well as mood and sleep quality.
10. Get Some Healthy Sleep
Burning the midnight oil might have some appeal, whether you're trying to meet a deadline or just enjoy working undisturbed when the world is asleep. However, choosing to have a good night's rest over working late hours improves not only your daily productivity but also boosts your immune system, which is crucial for your wellbeing.
If you have trouble falling asleep or getting out of bed in the morning, here are a few tips that can greatly improve your sleeping routine:
• Avoid using electronic devices at least an hour before bed.
Scrolling through your Instagram feed makes it harder for the brain to relax. Another issue is that your smartphone screen's blue light delays the release of melatonin — the hormone that helps your body know when it's time to sleep and wake up.
• Go to bed at the same time every day.
Waking up and going to sleep at regular hours sets your body's natural clock. It prevents you from oversleeping and helps you feel energetic during the day.
• Create a comfortable sleeping environment.
The place where you sleep should be dark and quiet and help you transition into "sleep mode." Making a rule about using your bed solely for rest and intimacy can greatly improve your wellbeing.
Working remotely is a skill, and like any skill, you can develop it. The secret is finding the right balance between your job and your life. It can be tricky to manage your time remotely, but now you have some tools to help you out.
If you're still on the hunt for your dream remote or on-site job, discover the best job boards and start applying. If you're a junior designer who hasn't landed a UX job yet or are transferring from another field, work on building a strong resume and portfolio before you start your UX design career.
If you're still on the hunt for your dream remote or on-site job, discover the best UX job boards and start applying. If you're a junior designer who hasn't landed a UX job yet or are transferring from another field, work on building a strong resume and portfolio before you start your UX design career.