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How to be productive as a remote learner

“Exceptional people seem to have … a special talent for converting life’s setbacks into future successes.”

Carol Dweck, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

Many of us are suddenly facing the challenge of having our places of education and work shutdown during the pandemic. While the situation may not be ideal, it does provide a compelling opportunity to explore ways to live a more productive and balanced life.

Here is a concise primer on ways to stay productive while learning or working remotely. You can also check out this weekly routine template (see below).

  1. Create space. You need a space to work that is conducive to your process and mood. Along these lines, best-selling author and artist Austin Kleon discusses the benefits of having a bliss station and gives tips for creating one almost anywhere. Or, you might take inspiration from these home offices of established remote workers. Depending on your needs, you might also want to set up your home office for video calls.
  2. Create habits. Best-selling author James Clear argues, “Whenever there is a gap between your habits and your goals, your habits will always win.” A key part of working from home is developing habits and daily rituals that can help you consistently do the things you want to do. You don’t need a crazy morning routine, just simple ways to short circuit decision fatigue and laziness.
  3. Create focus. If you want to sustain your productivity, it’s important to engage in focused work and take breaks. Though initially skeptical, freelance writer Kat Boogaard, says she found the pomodoro technique, a time management system based on 25-minute work chunks with 5-minute breaks, incredibly helpful. Finding a way to avoid the perils of distraction and unproductive multitasking is crucial for all of us. If you must work on multiple projects at the same time, try slow-motion multitasking.
  4. Create plans. Keep in mind that as Annie Dillard says, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” As you develop lifelong learning and working routines, consider these commonly cited and research-supported practices: create a weekly routine; create daily and weekly task lists; eat your frogs first; do focused work in the morning and collaborative work in the afternoon; and, make time for exercise and play.

Ultimately, you can be a highly-productive lifelong learner and worker and live a balanced life, if you bring mindfulness to your practices. As best-selling authors and progressive CEOs, Justin Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson have argued: it doesn’t have to be crazy at work. This is especially true when you’re learning and working remotely and you are the one in charge.

Weekly routine for remote learning – Google Doc template
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