Three Things I’ve Learnt Working Remotely & Why You Need To Learn From Them

working from home
by Cherie Tan

To most people, working remotely is a dream lifestyle. Most digital nomads and entrepreneurs who’ve worked remotely for a while chuckle at this, and there’s a reason for that.

It’s often advertised as the “work from the beach, anywhere and everywhere.” Although somewhat true to its statement, in reality, it’s much more complicated to get a good amount of work done from just “anywhere and everywhere”.

Work is still going to be work, no matter where you do it.

Without an office space, you’re left without a proper environment to get the work done. You’re giving up the comfortable AC, the squeaky chair in your office that you’re somewhat thankful for after a one-hour long commute on the train, the reliable wifi and VPN your office provides, and the comfort of meeting familiar faces in the office.

No, working on the beach is not feasible. The bright sunlight that kisses your skin reflects off your computer screen and burns your eyes. The soft, warm sand between your toes gets on your keyboard and audio jacks. The sweet breeze that caresses your hair also causes you to spend half your time sweeping it away from your eyes, so you could squint and hopefully make something out of your screen that’s most probably not going to be bright enough for you to make any sense out of the display.

And what about wifi? Well, good luck figuring this one out, too. Public wifi is often unreliable, and unsafe.

 With all these factored in, how do I get about working remotely? These are three things I do to help keep me sane, safe, and efficient:

1. Get Your Priorities Right

Working remotely cuts you some slack: no manager breathing down your next, no colleagues watching you with shifty eyes and silently judging your progress (or the lack of), no fixed office hours so you can procrastinate for as long as you’d like until your client demands to see some proof of work. But this is a freedom given to you with some expectations you need to fulfill: to be able to manage yourself, your time you spend and your actions you take well.

I’ve tried everything -- from meditation to tips from productivity hacks and books; this ultimately helped me focus and get stuff done swiftly and well:

Imagine you’re only given one hour of your day to get everything you need to get done. What’s the first couple of things on your list? Attend to those immediately. Will those Netflix or Youtube tabs remain open? Doubt it. Can the order of another flat white wait? Absolutely.

You’re priming your mind into thinking that that’s all the time you’ve got for the rest of your day to do all that you need to do. Sometimes, it may just turn out that way -- you may have to do the driving from one city to another, you may not get wifi on your 8-hour flight to Tokyo, or you may just end up tripping down a flight of stairs and break some of your key fingers you need to type efficiently on your laptop.

Who knows? You can’t tell. But at least you know you’ve got the important stuff off your checklist within the first hour of your day.

2. A Routine


Having a routine might seem like a silly tip to take when it comes to working remotely. Somehow, working remotely gave the impression that you have all the time in the world to do everything there is to do in the world.

The importance of having a routine might not become significant until later on in your pursuit for freedom and work-life balance. If you have to wake up and spend an hour deciding what to wear, what to eat, where to go, and who to meet, you’re already wasting precious energy you need to conquer the more important things in life. I’m not asking you to dress tardy or consume whatever’s within reach?—?junk and all. By all means, dress as well as you’d like. In fact, dressing up smart helps you feel better about yourself, which helps motivate you in your work too.

Plan out what you’ll wear, tasks you will work on, and people you’re going to meet the night before. You don’t want to be doing this during the first half of your day when you’re most alert.

Another tip:
Try your best not to meet people unless it’s necessary or important for you and your business. I can’t tell you right off the bat which ones would be most important to you without understanding what you do and what your business is about, so you’ll have to figure this one out. Learn to make quick Skype calls, screen recordings, or Google Hangouts.

One last tip on routines:
It’s easy to fall prey into attending one too many workshops or events and spend little to no time on yourself, your ideas, and your business. Gaining exposure, helping out, and meeting new people is great?—?as long as you’re sure those are not all that you’re doing.

3. Plans, Roadmaps, Goals

What are your goals for the upcoming 13 weeks?
What are your 12-months or 18-months goals and plan?

“A goal is not always meant to be reached. It often serves simply as something to aim at.” - Bruce Lee

Having a goal and a proper roadmap to reaching that goal benefits you in many ways. It keeps you motivated and reminds you each morning what the big goal in life it is that you want to achieve. More importantly, it helps keep you on track.

With goals and plans to get there, you’re able to then have a basis for comparison: how far and well are you progressing? What can you do to get you back on track, or to help you move faster or more efficiently? This constant comparison helps you review and reflect on where you’re lacking and where you’re not. Perhaps, after a couple of months, you notice you’re consistently failing at something. Maybe it’s bookkeeping. So what do you do then?

Either get good at it or find someone who’s good at it to do it for you.

Having a plan and designing your plan is crucial, and should come before taking action.

Forget those who tell you all you need to do in life is to execute. When you don’t have a well-designed plan for your life, it’s much more difficult to perform a deep review and analysis of your lessons learnt to find ways to improve yourself!

All of this being said, what works for me may not work well for you. Take some time to yourself and prepare for your next phase of life as a remote worker if that’s your plan. Working remotely, you’ll still need to get work done. Your freedom comes in the form of being able to customize and design your life to fully optimize it and work towards a future you want for yourself. Remote work doesn’t equate to no work and full of fun. It’s the same stuff with different responsibilities -- responsibilities which, if you can handle and excel in, will get you to greater heights than you can ever imagine.

Reach out to me if you want some tips on your current remote work lifestyle / future remote work opportunities.

About the Author: Cherie Tan (@cherietanjy) helps entrepreneurs build better businesses. She is also an advocate for more accessible, quality education around the world. In 2017, Cherie spoke about Education Technology (#edtech) implementation at Frontiers and Innovations in Technology, Manila. 

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