How to Work Remotely Successfully and Efficiently
Posted by Sarah Wai on Sep 7, 2018, 10:53:00 AM
When I started working remotely a couple of years ago, I thought I had a good idea of what I was getting myself into- but man, was it a culture shock. Many professionals who have made this switch cold-turkey like I did understand what I’m talking about. Going from face-to-face interactions and working in a cubicle daily, to suddenly having the freedom to work from anywhere, without your coworkers in your immediate circle, is a shock, among so many other changes you experience.
I’ve learned a lot in my time as a remote professional and have learned to set myself up for success. If you are new to remote work, are considering it, or you’ve been doing it for a while but don’t feel your rhythm is sufficient, this blog is for you. I want to impart the things I’ve learned along the way to help you set yourself up for success.
Find Your Remote Work Rhythm
When I transitioned to remote work, the first thing I knew I was lacking was a rhythm. So I tried doing what I had always done when I worked in the office- Wake up to an alarm set for 6:30 am, make coffee, have quiet time while drinking coffee, get ready, grab some breakfast to-go and “hit the road.” To my surprise, this didn’t go quite as planned, because I realized that when I don’t have somewhere to be I am less inclined to get myself moving. The snooze button and I were well acquainted.
Let’s Be Honest
Through trial and error, I finally found my rhythm. To set myself up for success, I had to first be honest with myself (This is pro-tip #1).
Honestly, I hated waking up at 6:30 am. I used to be a morning person. Now, I’m not. I’m an afternoon/evening person. So I let myself sleep until 8 am. It pains me even to admit that, as I know many people will judge me for it. But that’s what my body needs. I sleep roughly from 10:30 pm until 8 am every day, and it’s one of the best decisions I have made for myself.
There are so many articles floating around that say the most successful people wake up at 5 am and get A, B, and C done before work. If that’s what works for them, kudos. I’m not that person, and I’ve learned to live with that. My success looks like getting at least 9 hours of sleep a night. (Pro-tip #2) Find what works for you, caters to your body’s needs, and helps you start a rhythm you can maintain.
Restructuring Your Day
Once I established a good sleeping schedule, I needed to move other things around. I start my workday at 9 am, so I needed to make sure I could fit the things I needed to in the hour between waking and working. Being honest, again, I am a slow mover in the morning and don’t do well during the day if my morning was rushed. To accommodate my tendencies, I no longer try to fit getting ready, coffee, quiet time (something I value too much to rush, so I moved to my evenings), and breakfast all before I start work.
Instead, I wake up to my alarm, start my coffee pot, and get ready. But while I’m getting ready, instead of drinking coffee, I drink water.
(I know this all seems like a lot of detail, but the details make all the difference.)
After I have gotten ready for the day (pro-tip #3: dress like you are going to work every day), I grab a cup of coffee and set to work on my laptop in my home office. (Pro-tip #4) If you don’t have a home office, make yourself one (whether it be a little nook in your house or a room you’ve dedicated as your office), because this is essential to separating work-life from home-life when they are physically the same.
After about an hour or two of work (mornings and evenings are when I tend to be more creative), I grab myself some breakfast and allow myself a brain break by having breakfast away from my computer if possible. Then I work again until lunch.
(Pro-tip #5) Afternoons are when I try to schedule most meetings because it’s when our brains are most apt to wander, and it is a good refresh to have some social interaction when your mind has reached that point. Meetings will use a different part of your brain than mundane tasks or projects that lack human interaction.
If I’ve had a productive day, I’ll allow myself to stop work around 5 or so. If I find I’m just not in the right headspace during the afternoon to get much done, I’ll watch/listen to podcasts or educational videos while painting a paint-by-number (pro-tip #6: if you are a creative that needs stimulation during the day, I highly recommend adult paint-by-numbers or an equivalent to help you get those creative juices flowing or out of your system on slow days). I’ll then return to work after giving myself those couple of hours, usually with more pep in my step and brain juices flowing. Some of my best work comes after taking those breaks and returning to work in the evenings. (See more on the death of the 8-hour work day)
No matter what, every day I physically close my office door (even if I worked outside my office) to mentally shut off my work brain. I know that may sound strange, but for me, it works. Even if I am using my laptop outside of my office after-hours for other things, I can mentally disassociate from work because I’ve “told” my brain that work is over for the day.
What works for me may not work for you, which is why it’s so important that you find your own rhythm!
Organizing Your Tasks and Work Days
Just as you need a rhythm for your day as a whole, you have to find your rhythm for scheduling meetings, projects, and tasks. Here are a few things I use to keep myself organized:
1) Knock Knock’s “This Week” Pad as my task/project To-Do list: Best $7 I’ve spent for work organization. While there are many organizers and such out there, this is what works for me. I tried a few different To-Do list apps but found that ultimately I follow a paper list best. Find what works for you.
2) Google Calendar combined with HubSpot’s Meeting Scheduling Software Integration: While I can easily organize internal meetings and block my time on my Google calendar for miscellaneous things, I love that I can tell clients to “schedule a meeting with me by clicking to do so in my email signature."
This eliminates back and forth emails between clients and me, they can see what times I am available, and they can choose a time that works best for their schedule. Once they reserve a time with me, I’m notified by email, and it’s automatically added to my Google calendar. This has proven to be a great way to handle scheduling with minimal communication and maximum efficiency.
Surviving the PNW Gloom
The final thing of note that I’ve learned is how to survive the Pacific Northwest gloom that settles in about November through May in Oregon. It can be absolutely brutal, especially if you work from home and have minimal social interaction in a day. Three things have saved me from this and increased my productivity.
- Taking Trips: I make a point to go back to Boise every couple months to get some face-time with my team, and to take trips on the weekends elsewhere to keep things interesting and refresh my mind. This has made a tremendous difference for me.
- A HappyLight: On those really dreary days that extend to weeks of no sunlight, my Verilux HappyLight comes in clutch. If you live in the Pacific Northwest or somewhere that lacks enough sunlight, I definitely recommend getting yourself a HappyLight.
- Listening to Music: In any given day, you’ll hear me listening to anything from movie instrumentals to mood-boosting pop music. Whatever my brain needs to either focus or wake up, I listen to it.
Are You Setting Yourself Up for Success?
This is the most important question you could ever ask yourself if you are a remote worker (and even if you work in an office!). Be honest with yourself and, as much as possible, listen and respond to what your body, mind, and spirit need every moment of every day. This is the best way to set yourself up for maximum productivity, efficiency, and health while working remotely.
Written by Sarah Wai
Content and Email Marketing Specialist of Tribute Media. B.S. in Media Communications. Certified in Hubspot, Inbound Marketing, Contextual Marketing, and Email Marketing.