How I found focus, productivity and growth at a remote job

I have been working remotely since 2016 and now I have settled on a few things that make my remote work life productive and enjoyable.

(Disclaimer: I had to let go of some of the more social ideas in this list during COVID-19 restrictions.)

  1. Signing up for a co-working space, close to home

It is a simple, warm space, community-driven, where others were in the same boat as me, more or less – looking for co-workers so they aren’t working all alone.

I have not missed the commute one day in all these years of remote life. Fortunately, I found a co-working space next door.
I can go back for a home-cooked meal very easily, even bring it to work to eat together with co-workers.

  1. My Just go out! rule

Every time I catch myself feeling unproductive at home, I get my laptop without a charger and get out to the nearest cafe to work for an hour or so.

Bringing no charger means, it is easier for me to find a spot to work from and I am forced to get focused work done in a limited amount of time. The effort of getting out for exactly one reason helps find concentration. The effort put into the preparation prepares the mind for focused work.

  1. A daily work diary

This is where I make a plan for the day and set out Deep Work sessions, lunchtimes, etc.

My typical remote workday is never a large 8 hours chunk of continuous work. I often interlace 3-4 hours long work sessions with other things like workouts, afternoon walks, etc.

Setting an intention or goal for the day helps me focus on the quality of my work than just getting tasks done.
It allows me to reflect on how I am doing, or what is still getting in the way of my focused work.

  1. Meticulous notes and regular conversations with teammates

Asynchronous and proactive communication is the backbone of successful remote work – for me that includes regular work updates, asking my team for help, and attending at least one coffee-chat or company-wide meeting every week.

  1. Blocking out social media and other drains from my laptop

The lack of social interaction can often make people turn to social media, which might be fine on its own but it was particularly distracting for me at work.

I started by not installing those drains as apps on my phone. Turns out, the mobile versions of the sites are not so appealing in UX and a great deterrent to wasting time!

  1. Listening in and being ready to let go if a day was just not focused.

This inevitably happens once every few weeks, just like there are days I get a lot more done than usual.

  1. Make sure to meet up with friends and colleagues once a week

Remote work doesn’t need to mean the absence of social life. Instead, some deliberation in setting up co-working times with friends and colleagues is an excellent opportunity to get out of home and find a much-needed variation in my workdays.

  1. Workout/learn a language in the evenings

While serendipitous conversations and activities are hard to replace in a work-from-home job, I find it grounding to pursue opportunities for personal growth – right now it is learning the German language and weight lifting. It is a great way to leave work at work!

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