Here’s some tips I can give you after working remotely for nearly 10 years.
Image by jnyemb via Creative Commons
Read REMOTE by Jason Fried and DHH
Read (I highly advise listening to it on Audible): REMOTE: http://37signals.com/remote
Alot of what I say is regurgitated in the book above. When I listened to the book years ago I thought to myself “Whoa, OMG, these guys think the same way I do … I’m NOT ALONE!!!!” – so I’ve been recommending it for ages.
Stick to a Schedule
Schedule. Schedule. Schedule. Stick to a schedule when starting out. It will save you.
I get up at the same time every day, just like if I had a on-site job. I take a shower, get dressed and wear a collared shirt (think Golf shirt) and pants (usually jeans). I do my hair, and “get ready for work”. This is PURELY MENTAL. It prepares your mind and gets you into the mindset of work. Futhermore, being presentable goes a long way in a video call!
I then get the tea/coffee ready, grab some snacks, some water in a water bottle and head off to my “office”. This again, is mental. I grab drinks and snacks so that I do not have to leave the office for awhile.
Distractions are abound in your house, you need to limit your exposure to them.
By preparing these small things you are getting yourself into the mindset for work. Let’s be100% honest here, there is no way in hell you can be effective with an interesting movie blaring in the background and working in 2 hour chunks through the day. You need to be in the mental mindset and have a schedule.
Now, work your 6, 8, 10 hours or whatever you deem a work day. Get up and use the restroom, sparingly. When you eat lunch, spend 30 mins to 1 hour. Prepare your lunch before work if at all possible. Again, this is to limit distractions.
Make Time For Exercise
During lunch, fit in a workout in the garage if you can (or go to the gym/fitness group/etc – see below). Health is important. You don’t commute, so pick up some freaking weights or run or row, etc.
Don’t have equipment?
Go for a run. Do Calisthenics, etc.
If you need help here, I can help you – I have tons of fitness programs I do on the road, visiting family, in my garage, all with no equipment. I’m no Hulk, but I’d say I’m “in shape” somewhat, so it must be working.
This is key! Eat healthy! Tip: Eat ONE salad per day. I don’t care when. Only requirement: Do not soak it in dressing. I recommend Olive Oil and vinaigrette or some variation. Not ranch or thousand island or any of those heavy variants. Eating one salad a day will do insane things for your health and mindset. Doing this alone will make positive changes in your diet and health.
Understand and Recognize Cabin Fever
Cabin fever is real.
If you live in a city, get out for lunch at least once a week. Go to a taco shop, meet a friend, have a lunch date with your wife/girl[boy]friend/husband/etc.
Get out of the house.
Plan to work out of the house 1-2 days a week.
Time Block Your Tasks
List a couple of tasks that you want to complete that take about 2-4 hours to complete, go to a coffee shop or coworking space and get it done. It will do an insane amount for you mentally and creatively. Do that a couple times a week. I find that sometimes doing one task at one coffee shop and then going to another place (library, etc) and doing the other one will also help break the monotony.
Outside of Work (AKA: Social Life)
Outside of work – do something that requires you to get out of the house. Join a fitness group – yoga, pilates, CrossFit, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, etc. You’ll get that social connection that way. I highly recommend it to be fitness or martial arts related.
Fitness and martial arts communities are very tight knit and you’ll find a vast array of individuals you can connect with that have differnet backgrounds. Through these groups I’ve become friends with Lawyers, Doctors, Dentists, stay at home mothers, Insurance Reps, Students, you name it – they’re all there. Fitness and martial arts crosses all boundaries. It will be worth your while. Trust me on this one.
Create Some Mental Space
Try to meditate. Not into meditation? Try the free 10 day guided meditation from headspace.com (download the app and try it out).
If you haven’t noticed yet, this is all mainly mental.
Communication when Remote
As for your typical day to day work routine …
You are going to have to communicate about 3x-4x as hard as you did before.
That’s the way it is.
Being remote means you have to be way more proactive.
Don’t hear from your boss/teammate/etc and you’re stuck?
Pick up the phone. Text. Call. Blow up the slack channel. Anything. i.e. – Clear your own road.
When you’re remote you’re not visually there and sometimes you have to be loud before others respond. Voice your opinions.
The goal is to communicate very well.
Its all mental.
You need to create a schedule, stick to it, take care of your body, create the proper mental mindset and cultivate it (day in and day out). You need to create “out of band” social connections so you don’t go crazy. Do that with a fitness/martial arts group. Break work into chunks and get out of the house a couple times a week. Lastly, communicate the hell out of everything. If you’re not sure if you communicated enough, do it more. Annoy people if you have to, you’re remote and sometimes people forget about you if they can’t see you.
Follow those simple steps and you’ll thrive in a remote atmosphere and you’ll end up enjoying life 10x more than you ever did before.
Finally, if you ever have a question about remote working – email me – I’ll help. I’ve been through probably almost anything you’ve been through working remote.
Excellent wisdom here Donn. I totally agree. Even as someone who read “Remote” and been doing this for awhile, you gave me some new ideas for shaking things up.
I totally agree about the idea of switching places in the day to avoid monotony! I’ve been switching between home office, basement couch, and coffee house. You’re right, the battle is mental and this sort of variety makes me happy and helps make sitting in front of a screen more interesting.
I also recommend riding your bike to other destinations if possible. Working from a city park via a Verizon Mifi is super luxurious on a nice day. 🙂
Gus Emery says
Great wisdom as usual.. After working remotely, and by that I also mean around the country from hotels. These words of wisdom will actually make your days go by much easier.
I do know that one team that I’m currently work with does push-up’s for every trip to the restroom. I’m not too sure how well that works, as I don’t do that in my routine; however it seems to work for them! I like to head out to a few places during the week when possible. Cigar Lounge, Coffee shop, Bar – not drinking however, and what @housecor:disqus mentioned. Different places around the house. Anything helps with the mental piece, which is a killer if you don’t notice it!
Thanks again for great content Donn!
Donn Felker says
Getting out is a huge help. I also do some walking meditations sometimes when I don’t have time to really get out and about. Sounds kind of weird, but it works for me! Other than that, Coffee Shops, restaurants, etc work wonders for me. I find that the gym is a huge one for me. I meet all kinds of people and I work out so hard at CrossFit that I cannot think of anything other than “Oh my god, I might die, I need another breath” so I cannot think about work! 🙂
Donn Felker says
Bike is an awesome idea! Totally agree. Unfortunately for me I was in Phoenix for the last 4 years and biking anywhere is a sure fire way to end up covered in sweat! Now I’m in a rural area in NJ so everything is far away. However, if you can, do it!
I also often switch between home office, basement, kitchen table, and various other places in the house. I do a lot of my recording in my wife’s stand up closet because of the sound quality. Its amazing how much a simple change can do for you!
Totally agree on the closet idea. My latest course sounded so much better due to that trick. Well worth dragging the equipment in there.
Preeti Wadhwani says
Very useful tips you gave! You are totally right about making social connect and working from different places. I got my first remote job few months ago and reading to your post made me feel better and positive. Thanks for sharing 🙂
I used to work remotely in a not so distant past and these advices are spot on. There are a few things I have done well like showering, dressing and taking care of my health but I wish I had broken the monotony more often by working from different locations instead of sticking to my home office.
What’s funny is that during my remote work period I was doing so many physical activities: both shotokan and Kyokushin karate, tennis and going to the gym from time to time. Today I am only doing CrossFit and I find it super efficient at burning those calories and getting in shape. It’s also addictive 🙂
Donn Felker says
Glad to hear you’re staying in shape! Maybe next time you start working remote you’ll try the multiple locations tip!