Since 2017 I have been a full-time remote worker. That means I’ve had my fair share of experiences in working from home, the office, and everywhere in between. While this post may be a little late and WFH seems to be a standard nowadays, I still wanted to share a few tips, tricks, and tools to help those out who may be struggling or might be adjusting to a new role which is remote.
Working at home, or just away from the office, in general, can present a wide variety of challenges. The biggest one that I struggled with and many of my friends struggled with as well is focus.
In the office environment, there is a sense of peer pressure about staying on task with your work, sure you can switch browsers real quick to Twitter, Pinterest, or Youtube (pick your poison). While working away from the office, you lose that pressure and it’s difficult for those who are less disciplined (like myself) to have that quick youtube video not turn into a full-blown Star Trek Marathon on Tuesday morning.
Thankfully there are far smarter people in the world who saw an opportunity to make some money and help the easily distracted stay in focus.
I give thy: Freedom.to, it is a great tool that blocks apps and sites both on your laptop and smartphone. You can set it to working hours, certain parts of the day, or block access to a site forever. Your call!
You can try it out here and start focusing more today!
Ever feel like you need a little distraction, but you also need to be focused and get some deep work completed? Then Pomodoro is the perfect tool.
I tend to use it more with my busy and tedious work, where I am not actively thinking, but following steps and checking boxes. This is not the most exciting work to do but has to be done. Pomodoro allows me to set a nice little reward system where I break my tasks down into half-hour segments. The first 25 minutes is to work on the tasks, then a 5-minute break, and then repeat.
This could also be used for tasks where you need to spark some creativity (like this post). Currently, I am writing as much as possible, just to get the brain flowing and writing content. There are times when I get writer's block and don't know how to explain a concept and will want to distract myself somehow. Pomodoro forces me to keep writing and move past the writer's block. The ideas will come at some point and they can always be refined. For me, I feel it is more efficient to push through than to stop every time I struggle to articulate something.
You can add your Pomodoro clock here
Be Your Own PM
While I’m sure tools like Trello, Airtable, and Basecamp are used at most companies now, there is still a need for you to stay on top of your work and make sure you a being productive during your days.
The most important thing to do is build a system around your daily tasks. It could start with a 30 min review of what you need to do and writing them down, or using a PM tool. The most important thing to do is building a system that is easy for you to use, so you keep using it.
There are a few ways to go about this. You could use a personal Trello board, just manage your daily and weekly tasks, that way you stay on top of everything. I would set up my personal Trello board as follows:
- Backlog (things I need to get done but are not a priority this week)
- Sprint (Tasks I will complete this week)
- Doing Now (What my main focus is now)
- Review (In case you need someone from your team to review, you could put it in this column until its review)
- Completed (the task is done!)
There are other more lite weight tools like Todoist which is a simple checklist for your daily tasks or even using a tool like Bear and creating daily goals there. The tools are countless, the main point is to keep track of your daily tasks. Build a system around tracking them and you will see your productivity skyrocket!
Find a work buddy
One of the biggest struggles with the work-from-home/remote lifestyle is isolation. Working from home can be great, as it lets save time on the commute, has more control over your lifestyle, and provides a nice level of flexibility that you wouldn’t have otherwise in an office environment. However, it can feel isolating at times and that’s never a good feeling.
One way to replenish that social experience that you are missing from the office is to have a work buddy or buddies. This is a group of people that are all working from home/remote and you can work together with them. It would allow you to have that in-person connection you are missing from the office and that the team communication channels and video calls just can’t solve for.
So if you’re lucky to work remote, and have a few friends in the same position, reach out and create a group. You can always end the day with a nice glass of wine :)
Have multiple locations
Another work from home/remote struggle is this sense of being trapped in the same place for the entire day. It’s true, traffic sucks too and from work, but there is something nice about being able to separate where you work, from where you live. Does this mean you need to go to the office and give up the home office... NO! What it does mean is you should be far more flexible about where and when you work.
For instance, if you have a work remote crew, you can always go to one of their homes and work from there. Additionally and this is a preferred method of mine, is I like to explore different restaurants and cafes. This fulfills a sense of exploration that I have where I can try a new dish, it gets me out of the house, so I don’t feel trapped, and I can always invite a friend to join along, which is never a bad thing!
Of course, you need to make sure it’s a good working environment, so you need to be careful about wifi and noise. I typically do not take calls unless I know that it will be absolutely quiet. I tend to schedule my days from when I work in-home and out of home around my calls.
Finally, if you are a big risk taker like I am, work from home will allow you to travel a bit more. You can find a nice town, or beach with good wifi and make it home for a long weekend or week, it will allow you to explore and see places like never before!
Maximize Your Extra Time
TIME, it's the number one thing you get while working from home and I feel most people fail to recognize this! You no longer have to commute, you are also not held hostage at the office, as long as you complete your work you are fine! So what does this all have to do with time? Well, you should learn to be selfish and use it on yourself.
The best tip I can give is to take all the extra time and use it on yourself. It can be used for a new skill you want to learn for your career, it could be painting during breaks, developing cooking skills during lunch, or even taking the commute time and letting yourself go to the gym.
Working from home gives you a lot of your time back, it’s important to spend it on yourself and make the most of it! We only get one life to live.
Take that Nap
This one will probably get me in some trouble... But I think it's ok to take that nap you need. If you feel like you are a bit sluggish and would feel better with an extra 30 minutes of shut-eye, then go do it!
I’d much rather work feeling fresh with full functionality, than tired and inefficient. The key is to make sure you know you not needed. The worst possible thing is to miss a meeting and people wonder where you are.
However, I think if you nap responsibly, it will be for the greater good of you, your sould and whoever you are working with!