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What I've Learned About Remote Work

Over the last few months, I have learnt a lot about working remotely through making mistakes, falling into bad habits and having to correct them. I no doubt have a lot more to learn about working from home, but for now, here's my small collection of tips and pointers for getting started with remote work.

Discipline = Freedom

I heard this a lot, i thought it was a bit cliché but it wasn't until I started working on freelance projects that I realised just how important it was. The first website I made was for my Dad's business, a static website consisting of 5 simple pages, yet it took me about a month to complete. Of course, this can in part be understood, it was the first project I had committed myself to, my web development skills have improved a lot since then through sheer practise. But it was also because my schedule was all but non-existent. Most nights I was awake until 2 a.m., which in turn meant I had no morning routine and was tired if i woke up earlier than 10 a.m.

I wanted my evenings back. I knew I loved frontend development, but I missed spending time with my friends without feeling guilty that I hadn't got my work done for that day.

this meant even the decision to close my laptop by 8 p.m. everyday vastly improved my routine. I had to become a bit tough on myself. I haven't finished my work today? It can be completed tomorrow. I can always wake up a little earlier to get in some extra work. Better that than sitting at a desk in my room whilst my family watches that film tonight that I've wanted to watch for weeks.

Don't get me wrong, sometimes when I'm in the flow and I know I can finish a project that night if I just keep coding for a couple more hours, I'll give myself the time. But these late nights are few and far between, besides, the evidence suggests that a consistent sleep routine and healthy breakfast does wonders for focus and productivity. Here's a link to Joe Rogan's Podcast about the importance of sleep with Matthew Walker, an expert on the subject.

Work/Life Balance

This one goes hand in hand with the previous tip. As you can probably tell, my work/life balance was all over the place. I'd do nothing but write CSS for days in a row and then realise I hadn't spent any quality time with my girlfriend, played video games or taken time to relax and recharge.

This is pretty common for me, and I think it's the same for a lot of people. When we become interested in something new, like web development, we can become a little obsessed. I wanted to learn everything I could, I'd watch tutorials about CSS layouts all day, I'd read countless articles before bed about why this text editor is better than that one. Sometimes, i'd find myself doing these things when I was out with friends or family for dinner... that is unhealthy!

Sure, understanding CSS layouts is important for frontend design, and choosing the right text editor for you will speed up your work flow, I'm not disputing the importance of learning and researching your field of study, I just want to highlight finding a balance, because watching just one more video or reading one more article won't drastically improve your development skills, but it can easily eat away at your free time. Add the video to your Watch Later playlist, bookmark that article and call it a day.

Make Beginning Easy

I'm going to focus now on some tips for kickstarting good remote work practises, and losing the bad habits. It's all well and good to want to have a healthy work/life balance, but getting started with a good morning routine when you've been staying up all night for weeks now can be hard. The saying goes a good day starts the night before, so lets start there.

I use TeuxDeux for daily ToDo planning, I can see my lists for the next few days, what I don't finish that day moves to the next day automatically and I usually leave the tab open on my tablet to quickly tick off what I complete. Having my ToDos easily available helps me start my day. Whilst I use Notion and Google Calendar also, a quick, simple ToDo app is where i'd suggest beginning when it comes to organising your day.

Often, mental effort acts as a barrier to entry for having a productive day, so leaving your workspace tidy, having a few things on your ToDo list ready for the next day, and even leaving your laptop open rather than closed makes the process of beginning easier. The less physical resistance to beginning work, the less mental resistance too.

Simplicity is Your Friend

In the same vein, if your work process is simple whilst still being effective, you will find it makes remote work a lot easier. I mentioned Notion earlier - it is a great app, it's powerful, tidy and I like it for project management, but I've found it to be too complicated for general note taking and ToDo lists. It takes too long to open on my phone if I want to write an idea down quickly or check off a completed task. I like to use a smaller application for these things.

Since I store my projects in Notion, I can easily get distracted with side projects I'm working on just because I see them when I open the app, to avoid this, using a separate application in the day for general note taking is useful.
Before I finish for the day I log everything I need to into Notion, which helps me to stay organised.

Top comments (10)

ctannerweb profile image
Cory Tanner

Loved the article! A best practice I have for myself is having a morning routine that doesn't change. This gets my mind on the correct track for a work day. After I roll out of bed I make my coffee and start a tech related podcast. It's simple but it gets my brain moving on the correct track for the day :)

steelwolf180 profile image
Max Ong Zong Bao • Edited

Nice it's really awesome tips. In disciple aspect. I feel the same pain as I'm starting to become a freelancer as well.

I find that creating a weekly plan and making adjustments before you start the day on what are the important work to be done helps alot.

I normally set aside about 10 daily pomodoro works for me.

For now I'm working on 20 pomodoro daily to rush on projects and working harder to lay the foundations for myself.

amykble profile image

I used the pomodoro technique in university, really effective!

saaage profile image
Stefan Age

This is a great post even for those like myself who don’t work remote. Bookmarked, I’ll come back and read this periodically to help me keep things in balance!

amykble profile image

Thank you!

timiddrano profile image

Hmmm... Great idea. Thanks.

julia_moskaliuk profile image
Julia Moskaliuk

Thank you, Amy! Good tips. As a student, I write down my ToDo list every morning (I just use a notebook). But as a remote worker, I use as an application to log my working hours and integrate it with JIRA.

verassca profile image
Vera Pashnina

Hi Amy!
Thanks for the cool post!
It was very interesting to know about your remote work experience! I think more of us could share their experience due to pandemic times))
So regarding simplicity I would like to recommend Tweek Calendar — for stress-free task and life management.
Hopefully it will be helpful)

timiddrano profile image

Reading through this has been very educative. I can even relate with some pointers.

ben profile image
Ben Halpern

Great tips, I definitely relate.