With COVID-19 being a global reality, the ability to work from anywhere is suddenly a lot more valuable: we need to be more location independent.

But now that the dust has settled, it becomes clearer that remote work can be a blessing for one, but a curse for another.

Having been a remote worker and an advocate of the sport for a while now, I'll try to share some of my personal insights to help you make the best of current times, and those ahead.

It hopefully helps alleviate some of the hurdles we all run into while working and living in the same space.

The tactics

Working from anywhere might sound like a lot of fun, but it also requires a different way to look at your relationship with work.

The following things are my tactical necessities to win at remote working:

  • Morning ritual;
  • Reflection;
  • Off time;
  • A daily plan;

How?

Having any of the following habits, can give a sense of 'groundedness' and more purpose to your day:

  • Get body warm & your blood flowing: Try to train in the morning: improves sleep (from 'Sleep smarter' book). In general, just train a lot (I can recommend calisthenics at home or outside);
  • Know what you care about: Write daily affirmations every morning to realize what you love and set your intent for the day (I recommend the 5 minute journal);
  • Give yourself clarity and purpose: Write your (work) goals for the day and keep a log of past days (I use 'Things 3' in a Bullet Journal kind of way);
  • Stick to rituals: Use a daily habit to-do list (I also use Things 3 for this) to track if you do things that are meaningful to you. Like reading or cooking every day;
  • Reflect often: How do you feel about work? Your health? Your relationship? What went well this week? What could have gone better? Asking this helps you stay motivated to improve the little things with care;
  • Meditate: I do 10 minutes a day, sometimes more. Sometimes I use the Waking Up app from Sam Harris. Sometimes I just walk and meditate;
  • Take breaks: I sometimes set a pomodoro to do something different like writing or reading (ideally lying flat on the floor for relaxation of my lumbar spine).
A reflection you can do at the end of the week

The results:

Having always worked partly - or fully - remote, from or other countries while travelling, has given me the chance to learn what works and what doesn't.

Overall, if I look at the effects on myself and my productivity rating (I measure using the 'Timing' app and a daily list of goals):

  • 👍 Remote working increases my productivity by ~8% on a daily basis, on average;
  • 👎 Remote working increases my social isolation;
  • 👍 Remote working confronts me with my own procrastination more, as there is less room for distraction (no people around);
  • 👍 Remote working allows me to live more holistically (I can read at 08 AM, exercise at 1PM, then meditate at 3PM and work until 11PM);
  • 👍 I work on a more broad set of things that interest me and help me grow (which mostly results in my work output indirectly).

Do you really want it?

As you can see in my learnings on remote working, it requires you to diligently ask: do I really want this?

It depends per person. But it's worth considering. The results might be really good.

What I've found throughout my career, is that I work remotely well because I:

  • Like to plan my daily (personal) life with priorities (e.g. sports, family, reading, personal projects) instead of a more relaxed attitude (Instagram, Netflix, go out);
  • I intrinsically work on what they enjoy. Work is an end and not a means;
  • I know what to do because I have experience in what I do, I can ask for guidance when I need it;
  • I really value a quiet environment (sorry to those with kids at home now);
  • I value deep focus and diving deep into a topic, forgetting my surroundings;
  • I like to think I deal well with off days, to get myself switched on by strategic recovery if I need it (meaning I often work weekends if I feel it works for me);
  • I do work that can have a clear Definition of Done (DoD).

The first two are the best indicators, I feel.

Perhaps you don't recognize yourself in the above so much. It might mean the ideal way for you to work might not be at home, or differently from my way.

It might be that you recognize yourself in these things more:

  • You prefer to treat your job more strictly as 9 to 5, instead of more chaotically from 8AM to 8PM one day and 10AM to 3PM. It can help you relax;
  • You do (and enjoy) work that's inherently subject to group interaction (strategy, sales). Or just to talk with people every during the day;
  • You usually don't set very clear goals for the day as a ritual, but just start to work. And this goes well for you;
  • You look forward to going home, to perhaps watch a movie or ordering in. Instead of work on a personal project or finish that work task;
  • You are often distracted or find yourself on a long Facebook session or Instagram binge;

If you want to get the most out of your day, for your future self and your sense of fulfilment, it might be a lot more enjoyable to work in an environment with people around. One that has more social dynamics that allow you to be the better version of yourself!

Note that this is not remotely accurate in every case (pun intended). It might be that you work like a magician at home but can't stop yourself from looking forward to a Netflix binge after you finished your goals.