What I've Learned About Remote Work


13 January, 2020 4 function String() { [native code] }

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.