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December 20, 2023 | read

Remote Work: Keys to Setting Yourself Up for Success

Ben Isley

In this short guide, I share a few broad keys to success for working remotely. Reflecting on the topics in this post will help you figure out what works best for you!

Reflect on your Working Style and Habits

Take some time to have an honest conversation with yourself about what you do well and where you struggle. Having a clear view of this will reduce your stress and allow you to manage your schedule effectively. If you never self-asses, you’ll almost certainly feel dissonance in how you should structure your day and prioritize.

Taking the temperature of your personal habits, strengths, and weaknesses will bring clarity to your routine. Once you feel comfortable with your current status, you know the areas that you could focus on to improve or change your daily routine. Habits can be positive or negative and can change in their strength over time. In fact, habits are always changing, for better or for worse.

Ultimately, reflecting on your style of work will allow you to determine when and how you should decompress and take breaks, when you know you need to buckle down and focus, which blocks of time or responsibilities require a more rigid structure, and which types of work will allow you to take liberties and be flexible – such as listening to music in comfortable clothes while catching up on emails.

Dedicated Workspace

I’ve worked remotely for two years. In year one, I had a small desk set up in my bedroom right next to my bed. In year two, I have an L desk in a room dedicated as a workspace. A dedicated custom workspace is a crucial part of setting yourself up success working from home.

If possible, set your workspace up away from where you sleep or other huge distractions. Get an office chair and a desk with plenty of real estate. Add in a bluetooth keyboard and mouse and a second monitor and you’ll likely be much more comfortable diving into work.

It’s easier to draw the line between work and life when you have a dedicated workspace. You won’t be tempted to hop back in the bed right next to you or go grab a snack from the fridge staring you down. You’ll also know that you won’t be locked into work unless you’re at that desk. You’ll be more organized and less cluttered – it’s mentally healthier to have your space set up in this way.

In addition, this is your chance to fully customize a workspace with whatever makes you most creative or most focused and remove what distracts! I’ve loved options like placing my desk close to a window with natural light, adding a bookshelf by the desk, going full minimalist with only a plant… the opportunities are endless. So why not experiment with your favorite way to work?

Intentionally Structure Your Day

Start your day with self-improvement and care. For me, this looks like stretching and doing some push ups to get my blood flowing and then reading or listening to a show for about half an hour with a cup of coffee while settling in for the day. Others that I work with have seen success in leaving the house first thing in the morning to go to a coffee shop for a bit while some prefer to get up early and go to the gym. Figure out how you spark yourself, and if you begin your day with this, you’ll be on a roll as you move through your work responsibilities.

Keep a calendar, follow an agenda and processes, and structure your day in advance of going to sleep the night before. Take a bit of time in the evenings to review your To-Do items and prioritize. I like to do this with a view of the week as a whole, beginning with the end of the week goals in mind, and working back to create the timeline of what I need to do each day to accomplish those goals.

  • Sometimes it’s best to set aside an entire day for one item. Sometimes it’s best to work on a task several different times over a few days for fresh set of eyes/new perspective.
  • Deep Work: Work that requires distraction-free concentration for the best results
  • Surface Level Work: Less mentally demanding, logistical tasks that can be performed while distractions are a factor
  • Which responsibilities require deep work? What time of the day is best for your focus? Does that evolve as other factors change?

Considering the bullet points and questions above can help close in on helping find the best structure for the day balancing work and life because everyone is different with respect to the above.

As far as physical health goes, there are a few things that are very important. First, find a way to raise your heart rate every day! Walk or run. Disguise cardio as basketball or soccer. Do some push ups and core workouts on the floor. Even try stretching or yoga. Sitting at a desk all day can cause a disconnect between your mental and physical well-being.

Second, diet is very important. I like to take an hour break for lunch to cook a meal at home. This accomplishes two things: 1) I am eating cleaner, healthier food while cooking something simple from home and 2) I enjoy the mental break during the day where my mind has a chance to settle as I prepare some food.

Communicate Clearly and Frequently with Your Team

Written communication is very important working remotely, most companies will have a messaging and sharing platform where most conversation is happens. Writing concisely is not always easy! It’s a skill that requires thorough and selective word choices. Consider if certain subjects or conversations are best had over video. On the flip side, other topics can be best suited for something like a slack channel or direct message.

Trust is another important factor in communication. Nobody wins when someone is not speaking the truth or holding back their opinion. Be upfront about capacity, timing, the direction of what you’re involved in, your thoughts, ideas and questions. It becomes difficult to communicate while working if you can’t rely on the messages you’re reading or expectations are not clearly defined. You can’t walk next door into someone’s area or office or knock on their door – the total amount you communicate, especially casual communication, is lower when working remotely. This requires some extra attention and intentional choosing of how you say what you say. Setting clear expectations is key.

Follow Processes and Procedures

To be successful working remotely, your company, and especially the team you closely work with, needs to have clear and descriptive processes and procedures. Channels of communication should be clearly defined. Cloud storage and sharing should have a structure. External concerns, internal concerns, new tasks and responsibilities, and any other information that needs to be disseminated should have a system in place for how the group receives the information. If there are disconnects in your day-to-day, they aren’t going to fix themselves. Working remotely allows all individuals to experiment with improving efficiency all across the board, so look for areas where time and energy can be saved and miscommunication can be avoided.

Deep Work Sources

BiggerPockets Episode 330 with Cal Newport

Deep Work by Cal Newport