To be able to work remotely is awesome. There are so many good things about it. Some people think it’s all just fun and games though. It’s not. You are still a professional. You are trying to deliver quality products/services at the same time, you’re trying to pull off what most people do not dare try. There are a bunch of challenges to working remotely and this one tackles the question of: “How can I stay focused when I work remotely?”.
Organize Your Work Schedule Accordingly
You are probably reading this entry because you are probably having distractions when you’re trying to work remotely. One approach is to…~well, minimize distractions. This one is on the part of the working side.
First you want to fully establish, coordinate, and laminate your work remotely arrangements with your employer. My personal example was at one point my employer was here in Toronto and I went to Central Europe. That means I’m 6 hours ahead. That would mean I’d have to work from 3pm to 11pm if I wanted to sync with their timezone. The compromise was to intersect four hours so then I’d work 3pm to 7pm. This sets the expectation on both sides. Asynchronous work happens before or after, but that 4-hour window is absolute for both your benefit.
I talked about it more in the link above, but to add to that, I’ve thought of my trip extensively even before I bought my flight ticket there. I thought of the things that I’d want to do, travel/fun-wise. Now can I do those after 7pm? At worst, am I ok to work til 11pm? Yes was my answer to those so I’m ok with it. You don’t want to travel somewhere and not be able to do the reason(s) why you went there in the first place. If a person went to Europe with the intent of partying and raging hard, my arrangements would totally not be up their alley. They would then have to find another arrangement.
When you’re working somewhere far away, maybe 3+ hours away, communication becomes a bigger and bigger issue. So what you want to do is be succinct, detailed, and precise with your reporting and at the same time you’d want to anticipate the actionable information that you’d need or you’d want to ask.
For example, if your supervisor asked you to build a landing page in one email, well that’s great. You know what to do. What’s the problem? Well, where are the details to that task lol?
- Who’s providing the content? When are you going to get it?
- Who’s providing the design? When are you going to get it?
- What are the details to the landing page? What’s the layout/structure?
- Who’s the target audience?
- Are there some interactive things you’d want to implement?
- Is there a form?
- Where will the submitted data go?
- etc etc
So just imagine that if you do not think about it holistically and you fire emails “as you think of them”, then that will be a lot of back and forth. The problem’s compounded with the timezone differences and the waiting games in between. So you’d want to think of the whole picture, anticipate the things, permissions, assets, and directions you’d need so everything’s in one go.
If you don’t, you’ll be saying “oh I’m waiting for X” * then watches memes all day * .
Another tip is to streamline your work. If you’re truly mobile and you’re jumping from cafe to cafe for example, you’d want to research in advance: “do they have decent wifi? is it crowded/noisy? is there a table?”. If you don’t, then you’d be burning more time getting to cafes and not having one or the other, then you’d be truly distracted.
It goes on the digital side of things: have a project management software, maybe a bookkeeping/hour tracking tool if you’re freelancing, instead of relying on manual approaches. It just streamlines everything.
Just remember, the faster you can check off work, the faster you can get to the fun stuff. Surely your work would appreciate that too 😉
Organize Your Fun Times Accordingly Too
Speaking of fun, this is something you to organize too. As mentioned I planned my trip even before going there. For day trips and hikes and daytime activities, I’ve obviously reserved the weekends for those. For bar hopping and trying out cafes and restaurants, they’re definitely doable with the “after 7pm” arrangement.
Think of all the things you’d want to do with your trip and try to make it work for both parties; you and the employer.
Another example that I have yet to pull off is to live on the alps (French, Swiss, whichever). They will then be 6 hours ahead. If I wanted to sync up with Toronto, I’d have to be ready for work for 3pm. WELL ISN’T THAT PERFECT. Lifts open at 8:30-9am, then I’d be dead tired by 2-3. Ski in to your chalet, then BOOM! Your blood’s running, you’re happy, and you’re ready to crush work! Well…me anyways 😀 I’d be dead tired every day (for good reasons). I’ll have great sleep each night since I’ll be mentally and physically tired too!
On the flip side, you can have a bad example of an arrangement. If you’re allowed to work remotely for example but you have to stick to their timezone. Imagine if you decided to go from Toronto to anywhere in Asia and you didn’t think about it.
9am here means 9pm there. What, you’re gonna work 9pm to 5am?! LOL. One would say, “well that’s fine, I’ll have fun during the day then work at night!”. Well buddy…you forgot one crucial thing: sleep lol. 100% guaranteed you’re not going to use your personal time to sleep so just don’t even go there lol.
Practice the Virtue of Self-Control
When it comes to the nuances of being distracted constantly, I…~I don’t have anything for you. Actually I can talk about certain items but it’s not really addressing the issue. I can tell you to set up website blockers to block social networks, put your phone on silent, or something stupid like “don’t look out the window”, but that’s not my thing. And again, that’s not the main concern.
So I’m not really gonna sugarcoat it, if this is a big problem for you, it’s really, you have to practice restraint and self control. It’s about changing a habit from within and not about installing apps. One example I can guide you with is my Last Chip Method. Apart from that, it can be just as simple as talking to your friends about it, how they can control themselves on certain matters. It can be just self-reflection, or you can talk to professionals about it. It sounds much more grave than it is, and I try not to make it so. I just don’t want you applying some patch work like “don’t show this from me”, etc. since it’s not long term.
Don’t deny it and just address it directly. I’d rather have you go the longer (yet more permanent) road. It can be as easy or grave as you’d want to acknowledge it, but you have to “nip it in the bud”. It also goes a long way later in life; trust. I can write (and I will) so many things about it later.
I’m having problems relating to this because during the height of my work remotely days, I was BAAARELY distracted. How? Well, I did everything above and below this paragraph. I was eager to finish work so I can get to the good stuff asap. I was ultra comprehensive with the details, the communication, everything. My work quality was at an all time high. At the same time, I was ultra hard on my lines: once the four hours is up, I’ll try to attend to your tasks asap..but not asap. Get what I mean? Remember that I work the rest of my work hours before the skype calls.
This leads me to the ultimate motivation, the ultimate “distraction remover”…
“Fuck This Up and You’re Gonna Get Deported. Bye Bye Working Remotely…Forever”
I recognize the very rare and ultra fragile of a perk that was given to me. I recognize that there’s a lot of trust and tremendous respect riding on this one for both parties. Trust me, I was extremely thankful for the opportunity of letting me do what I did. I will be forever thankful to them for that.
Those said, it only takes a couple of missteps and they can pull the rug underneath me swiftly. So it’s pretty straight up: deliver quality work first, make and keep your employer(s) happy, then you’re a happy puppy for the rest of the time.
If you fuck it up, they will either retract the offer, or worse, you get fired. No work, no money. No money, no travel. You’ll have to fly back. When you get your next job offer, it’ll probably be a regular 9-5 since perks like those are hard to come by. Even if you chance on another work remotely offer, it’s not going to last. You failed the last one, so what makes you think they will offer you that great perk? Even if they did, how can you last with it since the problem was your attitude and work ethic about self-control in the first place. You’re bound to ef it up again.
Of course you can change and improve, and I hope you do. But if you can or you’re anticipating it, then just don’t ef it up in the first place and avoid these problems, right?
Then again some people are like me: learn from first-hand mistakes. It’s fine and there’s nothing wrong with it. You just wanna minimize mistakes, especially on perks that are hard to come by.
Also, if/when you fuck up and deliver shitty work, you ruin it for the rest of us. Ok pumpkin?:D