It’s an old Marine Corps popular saying in infantry that was top of mind as I started my current company as a remote only work environment—no company office at all. For many of us, time in seat equated to level of effort. In the past, getting into the office during a crisis was seen as a badge of honor. Today thankfully, neither holds true.
I’m hoping my lessons learned over the past year will provide a bit of insight to those that have been or will be thrust into a full remote working situation in the near future.
The bad news first. It took me quite a bit of time to get into a really good work rhythm. It took about 6 months in total to find the right flow. It was really hard because I over structured things in the beginning and tried to maintain rigid chunks of time that mimicked how I worked in prior years. The good news is that in the end it wasn’t as hard as I made it. All that was called for was a bit more thinking about how I wanted to work versus how I had worked in the past.
After the period of trial and error, here is what I came to realize works for me to be productive;
I need diversity of venue. Looking back now, going to the same office every day for 19 years seems an antiquated notion. The stimulus of using different places to work actually keeps me better focused. I did find that the hipness of corporate coffee houses is mitigated by sheer noise. I prefer quiet spots (local coffee spots, hotel lobbies and even restaurants). Once I found my few good ‘spots’, I was set. Find what works for you. Headphones are a necessity for me.
I use a semi-structured model. Most often, I dedicate mornings to thinking and writing…and family time. This is time I’ve reclaimed from my daily commute. The rest of the day is crafted around calls, emails and meetings. You need to set boundaries for yourself, but not be overly rigid. I understand I’m not a great multitasker…I just cannot get things accomplished around the house until I’m done work, or it is scheduled in. Some people can achieve nirvana and do both equally well. Build a routine that accommodates your job responsibilities, environment and personal working style.
I play to my circadian rhythm. Yes, I said it…and I’m a believer. I am simply way more focused and creative in the morning. Period. I’m most productive writing content then. But I also schedule breakfast meetings. Late mornings through early afternoon are more focused on action items and late afternoon is usually for consumption of content. Then, I have one last review of the day after walking away from work for a few hours. It gives me a fresh perspective and a time limit.
I allow myself to take breaks on my own terms. Initially, I found myself, locked into one spot on the couch all day. But I realized I could walk the dog during core business hours, while listening to a podcast or recording the ton of ideas that flowed during the walk. I found a way to incorporate breaks that refreshed my mind and accomplished little tasks that needed to get done.
And Finally…The hardest part to overcome was mindset: No place to be at 8.00 every morning. Once I got past that anxiety and settled into a “non-routine,” things got easier. It all comes down to your mindset — figuring out what works for you, how to maintain great communication with colleagues and understanding what you need to achieve your work goals. Figure out how to get out of your own way.