Three Simple Lessons from My Years of Remote Work

I have been working 100% remote for years on angel investments, developing an app, and running a contest.

Here are the top three things I learned. 

#3 Commit to the tools.

When people think “remote work” their minds jump to video conferencing like Zoom, Skype, Hangouts, and others. The more fundamental tools that enable remote work allow us to collaborate in creating documents, tracking tasks, and coordinating decision making and messaging. Remote work is possible because of tools like email, business chat like Slack and Microsoft Teams, and structured messaging like Trello, Salesforce, and Asana.

When doing remote work, you have to be vigilant about using these tools. They are great to establish a shared sense of project status and momentum, but only if everyone is on board. If the team reports in using Slack at 11am, be religious about it. If you track tasks on Trello, always update it as tasks progress.

#2 Structure your day.

The office provides a built-in structure for the cadence of your day. When I first started remote work, I found myself following the agenda of others’ through email and social media. I was pretty unproductive.

When you work remotely, you must create a daily ritual of laying out your priorities. Otherwise, you easily chase tasks and distractions through email, Slack and other messages. I also add rituals of meditation, gratitude, hydration, and exercise. Oh yeah, and coffee. I really like that one. I also find it satisfying to have a daily completion ritual like the one recommended by Cal Newport in Deep Work.

#1 Check in regularly with your team.

The most important thing is to have regular times and structures to check in with your team. At minimum you need a weekly check in but a daily one might make sense depending on the cadence and coordination needed. When everyone is remote, you need a substitute for the kind of check-in that happens in an office meeting or just chatting with co-workers.

Note it does not need to be a videoconference. In fact, this is a way that remote work is often better than live office meetings. A Slack message or an email update is often enough and more efficient than a full meeting. 

Photo by Monika Stawowy on Unsplash