Many people work remotely. Not so many are productive while doing so. You need to focus on the things that have the biggest impact each day. And you need to build yourself a daily structure/routine that works for you - and stick to it.
The best way to create such routines: Plan every single week on Sunday evening and make sure you only put things that matter into your schedule.
Start With A Weekly Review
Focus on two questions:
1. What did you enjoy and learn last week?
2. Is there anything in the upcoming week that does not matter (and can be skipped)?
Schedule Daily Kickoffs
Take 10-15 minutes each day to plan your most important tasks. What are the three things that you absolutely want to achieve today? What is your top project today?
Schedule Deep Work Slots
It's so easy to get lost in slack conversations, appear.in calls and status updates. To avoid getting lost in small things (and feeling like you haven't achieved anything at the end of the day), schedule longer time slots where you can work without being disturbed. These deep work phases are where you achieve the most, where you can create something with impact.
Read And Research
When was the last time you really focussed on one topic and dove into it? Schedule time where you can read longer copy than your twitter feed. ;-) To really get into a new topic (e.g. new design guidelines, online marketing hacks, etc), you need to focus on that for more than just 2 minutes. Schedule time for those reads, e.g. around your morning routine while you have your first coffee.
Touch Base With Other Remote Workers
Working remotely has many perks. But it has its challenges too. You have no break room, no coffee kitchen or smokers corner to occasionally meet your colleagues and just chat. These social interactions are important though to avoid remote cabin fever and create a sense of togetherness. Schedule time slots where you touch base with your colleagues at least once a week - without having a meeting agenda.
Get Out At Least Once A Day
Why should I do that, you might think? You work remotely exactly because you don't have to leave your home for days. Yeah, well, we hear you. We get sucked into projects as well and hardly notice when the sun rises and sets again. But: It's not healthy - physically and mentally. If you're stuck with an especially hard problem to solve, a change of setting helps you get a new perspective. Often the solution comes while doing something totally different. So try going out at least once a day, get some air and vitamin d, walk around your neighbourhood, or on the beach or wherever you work.
Block Time For Your Loved Ones
Working remotely from home, you see your loved ones a lot more than office workers do. But being physically present in the same room does not mean you actually spend time with them. Keep that in mind and schedule time where you are really present, where you are really off work and just enjoy the company of your loved ones.
Schedule Some Me-Time
It's easy to get sucked into the week with work tasks and other appointments. Don't forget to take some time just for you where you haven't scheduled anything at all. Nothing gets in this time slot, even if it's just one hour a week - that one hour is just for you.
Most of your daily work is brain work. Make sure you train your body as well to stay healthy and productive. As a remote worker, you don't lose time commuting to and from your office, but you do lose those "extra steps" each day. So schedule some time for physical activity in your week, e.g. going to the gym or doing something else that brings you fun and gets your heart rate up. Even the smallest activities will add up in the end, like walking the dog, walking to the supermarket instead of driving there, taking the stairs etc.
Take 30 minutes each day to do a short review of your day's achievements: Did you accomplish every goal you set for today? What did you enjoy most? Are there things you need to catch up tomorrow? Is there anything blocking you and who can help you with that? This short review brings you closure at the end of each today and ensures your brain everything's set for tomorrow (so it doesn't keep you awake at night).
1. Really schedule all these things in your calendar. If it's not there, it's not going to happen.
2. Learn from your weekly reviews how much you can tackle in a day/week and continuously improve your estimations.
3. Make sure you have real human interactions outside slack, appear.in etc.
4. Take care of your body and integrate regular physical activities into your work routine.
5. Enjoy your remote work life!