My plan is to go remote. I’d love to find a team of awesome people that develops a great product and work remotely in customer support, all the while mastering programming skills.
I don’t know if this dream will ever come true but to make it happen I need to go ahead and start doing something. This blog is my starting point for that. I’m also reading a lot about what it takes to be an exceptional remote worker and about the hazards of the game. When looking for insights on these matters I found Jason Lengstorft and his site lengstorf.com. He is a hero for me. He managed to turn from unhealthy workaholic to achieving his dream of happily working while permanently travelling the world.
I went and explored his site (still am) and found some guides on how to go remote and how to perform well on a remote environment. Jason generously posts lots of useful information on the subject but, for now, I will mention only three of his guides and I’ll craft a summary of his ideas. Let me be clear: his ideas! I’m just an apprentice 😀
The guides I’ve read are:
My shrine of remembrance :p :
On the 3 daily actions to improve myself as a person and in my work:
- Make lists! Writing things down will turn your tasks easier to prioritize and it reduces the stress of having many things to do. Jason recommends a day-to-day list with few tasks to accomplish daily and a master list with your projects in the long run. I already made lists whenever I felt overwhelmed with work but the key is to turn that into a daily habit. It helps you focus on the job and is a good motivator as you’ll feel splendid when you finish. It also helps communicating with your team as it helps reporting on what you’re doing.
- Sleep. This one is simple, I’d love to sleep 7 to 8 hours everyday. Jason says that going to work sleep-deprived is the same as going drunk to work, so… Get the habit of sleeping well! It helps if you move away from all your devices 1 hour prior to bedtime so you’ll have time to decompress.
- Put your phone down. Disconnect! People look like robots, plugged on their phones at all times. I witness this everyday on my advertising part-time. This need to always check what’s trending and how’s your email is destructive. At home we never check our phones during meals, it improves the time we spend together. Jason recommends using silent, airplane or do-not-disturb modes during certain periods of the day. Leaving your phone will also help you be more productive (read about this below).
Now, regarding the fabulous 6-STEP CHECKLIST on how to go remote:
- Step 1: Communication as a default
Do constant updates on your daily list achievements and on your projects. Jason recommends setting a reminder to do it if needed. Also, share what you’re planning on until the next update. This way everybody is on the same page and it’s easier to spot potential problems. Communication builds reliability.
- Step 2: Only make promises you can keep
Again, you have to show you’re reliable. If you don’t share the same space as the team then it’s harder for them to get to know you, so learning to commit to goals according to your limits will make people trust you. Jason recommends making only one commitment per day, so you won’t feel overbooked.
- Step 3: Measure by results, not hours
Remote work implies autonomy and control over your schedule so being measured by the hour and not by your outcome wouldn’t make sense. Jason recommends: define measurable results for projects and performance reviews that are based on what you produce, now how much time you spend.
- Step 4: Master the Art of being productive
The third guide I’ll refer in this post is about productivity. Efficiency is really important in remote work. You’ll have a more valuable work/life balance if you finish our tasks in just a few hours. Moreover, high productivity means bargaining power: as Jason says, this way you’ll be up to set terms and boundaries more easily. For me, this is what I need to improve most!
- Step 5: Fight the urge to slack
Planning crystal clear on what is there to do and how to accomplish repels procrastination. Making lists as mentioned above is the key on this step.
- Step 6: Make yourself noted
Make your presence known may be more difficult on a remote position but it’s vital to do it. You do it by excel on your communication skills, by being efficient and reliable. This way your team will know what they can count on and you will have a say. Jason mentioned the halo effect (where people see your positive attributes as proof of other positive attributes) and the Pygmalion effect (where you represent yourself as capable, which causes people to expect you to be capable, which causes you to become capable). Asking for a performance review and becoming a resource for the team are also ways to turn awareness on you.
Last but not the least, here is the list of 5 habits to master productivity:
Again, making lists everyday and make them clear and feasible. Your willpower vanishes throughout the day, so start your day with the meaningful and bigger tasks. Starting your day like this creates a positive willpower cycle, instead of losing your morning vitality with few little tasks, you’ll feel great that you accomplished something big.
- Habit 2: Use triggers to improve your routine
Do not waste your time between tasks, use them in your favour. Create habit triggers that will cause you to be more productive. For example, today I deleted a game from my phone because it was messing with my commute time (not only commute time!). I like to use my commute time to read articles on Medium or a book, which are self-improving tasks. The last few days there was no room for reading, only for Tap Tap Fish. I couldn’t help but playing so I went drastic on it and deleted it. The goal is to not think on what you have to do but it coming to you naturally instead.
- Habit 3: Distance yourself from work at times
You need to take breaks from your work. If you’re always wired to it you’ll lose excitement and it’ll be harder to separate life from work. A day off lessens your stress levels, freshens your mind and enhances productivity.
- Habit 4: Positive pressure and efficiency
Productivity can increase by setting little goals. You can use a timer to work in timed blocks; Jason works in 90 minute blocks but I heard about “The Pomodoro Technique” as well. During these blocks of time we won’t have distractions – no email, no chats, no social media. If you set the time and define one mission for that block, you’ll be much more productive because you’ll want to finished that task faster. Other ways to set timers are arranging meetings with friends or taking your computer to work somewhere leaving the charger behind.
People around you, your colleagues, your phone, social media are only some of your distractions. To keep them from making you lose focus, you can use tools like silence, airplane or do-not-disturb modes when working. Getting noise cancelling headphones is a plus and Jason also recommends Noisli when he’s on work blocks. Tools like RescueTime monitors the time you spend on your computer and assesses your productivity.
Disclaimer: My summary is only my view on what’s most important for me from Jason’s guides. You should still read them all and visit his site. These are just my notes so I can rely on them whenever I want.