Many of you know that I worked remotely since 2009 until 2017, give it or take. It demands a lot of discipline for sure but the bottom question is: What are the secrets for success?
I have to admit that even considering that today is a big trend in my line of work, many times people that come to the knowledge I work from home find it somewhat strange. Their feelings vary from some sort of envy to admiration.
I have to say it was not easy to start. The dominant topic in this context is Discipline. Meaning can you balance your private life with work life? I struggled with this for a while. Not in the way that you skip or delay your goals and tasks due to distractions but in my case, a constant overdoing. Getting up early, start working, doing at the same time home tasks like commuting kids to school, get back, keep doing it quite early and constantly having the feeling that when everyone was getting to the office (or appearing online) Half of the day already done!. Trust me, this is a very wrong way to do it. You will find out that when others are still in the middle of their productivity peak you are already drained and then you end up going all the same deep in the evening, forgetting about your family sometimes.
Finding the balance is for sure a must. Consider this my first tip on this subject (and perhaps one of the most important ones). Of course, this is deeply related to your own rhythm and job role. But it is totally up to you to figure it out.
Make it Simple and easy!
Whether you choose to work on your living room or at that amazing coffee shop with a view, you must ensure at all times that your laptop, notebook, pen etc are always in a place you know and handy. This level of organization is paramount to keep your productivity streamline hard as a rock. If you allow yourself to be in a messy environment (either physical or virtual) you will for sure end up having a messed up mind. Those few extra moments planing along with systematic thinking will prevent you from plunging into hours of catch-up and ending up with high levels of self-induced frustration.
Energy prevails over Time.
Punch the clock is far less important than managing your available energy throughout the day. This is another golden secret I’d like to share with you. Why is this so? Simply because time will always turn into a deadline, being something that will end. In the other end, energy is something you can always create and keep yourself running from. Create some routines in your day to replenish your energy. Walk your dog or simply walk around your neighborhood. This will get you away from your computer and clear your mind. In my case, I established two “power walks” along the day. One in the morning (shortly after my work day officially starts) for about 1 mile and another one in the afternoon. I avoid at all costs looking at my smartphone on those 15 to 20 minutes strolls. Don’t forget that office workers commute (I am sure if you are one, that you see at least one person reading a book or seeing a movie on their way) and they also often have coffee machines or other places to get away from their working stations at the office.
Don’t let your team Out!
I know nowadays to interact remotely with a team you rely on tools like Skype, Slack, instant messengers, tools I can’t even quote by heart at this time, collaboration of all kinds shapes colors and sizes, you name it. But this channels of communication can cause you to feel some awkwardness in some moments because you may wrongly think that you will be disturbing your colleague. Believe me, nothing is less true! You need to keep in touch. You need to make yourself felt by your team. Play, joke, discuss work, bring up ideas, issue opinions: Make yourself seen! If you were at the office you would be constantly running into colleagues and discussing your last vacations or that movie you saw Saturday night. Sounds too much trivial? It is not. This kind of interaction actually fortifies relationships providing better work-related communication and causing nothing less than a sense of loyalty. This will work for you in many good ways and it will also let you be aware of the most of what’s going on at the office. Yes being a present member and being aware is vital for success on this work model.
Be a sprinter!
Remote workers are more exposed to distractions. That is a fact. Sometimes you get that 5 minutes call that got you in a wormhole and brought you back to reality 30 minutes later instead of the 5. Also for the simple fact that you are not in person at the office, being online in your IM platform simple transmits the idea that you are fully available at all moments. So to mitigate possible issues from this problem, more acute for remote workers, do some sprints. Start a timer. 25 minutes is in most cases enough (try this: 25m Timer or simple from your google search bar type: set timer 25 minutes) and make yourself busy with phones, IM’s etc. Now use those 25 minutes to complete that never-ending task. Worked ? I knew so!
Working remotely is indeed a privilege. From the years I’ve been doing this I can surely tell you that on many occasions your perception will shift from feeling like a truly blessed soul to be overwhelmed intimidated by the concept. But as soon as you become able to manage yourself and maintain a strong and meaningful connection with your colleagues and yet being able to sustain a balanced life, you will find out that the remote concept becomes lesser and lesser a synonymous for isolation.