Unexpectedly, during the past weeks, remote work became a thing.
Because of coronavirus pandemic, more and more organizations started to apply precautions. If only it’s possible, companies worldwide started shifting their teams into remote work mode and sending their employees to home offices.
If you didn’t notice this remote work trend recently, take a look at that Google Trends data:
Probably this is not how remote revolution was supposed to look like.
But if you just begin to work remotely these days or just preparing yourself for it, I have few things to share with you.
As I’m working remotely for a while now, I decided to gather simple rules I follow in order to work from home in the most effective way.
Although I work as a software developer myself, the tips I described here are quite universal and you can use it for barely any type of remote work.
Of course, depending on the organization or the project, your own situation may vary. But I hope you’ll find something useful for you here.
Set up your own environment
Traditional division into the sacred and profane will do the job here. Keeping your professional and private lives separated isn’t easy but it’s possible.
In other words, a separate room or a dedicated space in your house for your office purposes is ideal.
If you have a choice, get the best equipment you can have. A dedicated machine or/and separate OS user will help you a lot.
Don’t overestimate your needs but get anything you need to get the work done. This includes not only the technology but anything related to your working environment (furniture, lighting, air conditioning, etc.)
Your equipment should help you, not to slow you down.
Manage your time
Set your own schedule
There’s no doubt. Scheduling your own work will bring a difference in your effectiveness. Respect working hours and don’t do anything else during this time.
Plan your day. Break down your working day into specific tasks to do, meetings, code reviews, writing documentation etc.
Breaks are important. It’s impossible to do the coding all the time. Quick workout, drinking water or walk around your office – you name it.
Remember to take the breaks into account when you do your daily plan. It’ll help you to introduce routine behaviors into your daily schedule.
It may work for you but it depends on your project. If you have the possibility to shift your working schedule, I highly recommend you begin your work in the early morning.
It’s much easier to concentrate when the rest of the world is calm and doesn’t distract you. And when you’re done you still have a huge part of the day to spend.
It’s obvious that distractions can negatively affect your work quality. The best way is to simply avoid them.
When it comes to technological distractions, you can use dedicated browser addons or software to block them.
Separated working profile on your OS will help you stay focused too. Turning off your phone or at least all possible notifications could be beneficial as well.
When it comes to other possible types of distractions, try to introduce some simple rituals to help yourself during your work.
It will help your family too, when you all introduce the set of rules you’ll follow in order to respect each other.
The rituals can be associated with the beginning and finishing the work at the same time. Or with setting a conventional “Don’t disturb” sign for everyone in your household. Like the headphones on your ears or the closed door to your office. You name it.
Have you ever heard about a deep work concept? It comes from Cal Newport’s book of the same title.
The author defines deep work as:
“Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit.
These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.”
The deep work concept has influenced my work attitude. I highly recommend you to get familiar with that book. It will help you to rethink your current approach to time, work, and your goals.
The most important thing to remember at this point is that we’re able to concentrate intensively from 3 to 4 hours per day only.
Don’t waste that time, use it wisely.
(Over)communicate a lot
When it comes to working routine, it’s important to communicate a lot with your team members. To be honest, I still have the room for improvement at this point 🙂
Ask when you’re in doubt, precise requirements. Don’t let something to be untold. Nobody will know whether you’re stuck if you don’t inform anybody.
On the other hand, you should be independent enough to deal with your tasks alone on the basic level.
Asking too many questions can generate unnecessary noise on the communication channel and also creates a distraction for other team members.
Be specific and go straight to the point.
Learn & Experiment
Learn new things
Whether we want it or not, in our industry we have to constantly learn in order to stay up to date.
It’s not so easy to get the newest knowledge when you’re focused on your daily tasks only. Find your best source of knowledge (books, blogs, courses or podcasts) and follow it. Find a bit of the time for it during your day.
Maybe contributing to an open-source project or creating your own side-project could be the way if you’d like to learn more about certain technology?
The other activities to stay sharp could be, for example, attending local meetups or writing your own blog.
Choose what fits you best.
Experiment with working place
From now you’re the one responsible for your working place. It’s a great opportunity to try new things.
Why not experiment a little bit? Feel free to try a standing desk, vertical mouse, balancing board, new concentration music playlist, or an exercise ball. You can even change your working place when you’d like to try something new.
Setting your own working routine is very important but breaking it from time to time may be very refreshing.
Remote working can be very effective if done right. It’s can be really beneficial and it has its own advantages but it isn’t a holy grail. It demands a lot of discipline and self-control.
Try to implement at least one of the things I mentioned in this text and you should feel the difference.
Please let me know in your comments what is your personal experience with remote work and how you manage the distractions.