Currently I’m fortunate enough to be working in a role where I work remotely all of the time, developing software with a great team who also all work remotely. I’ve been doing this for over 18 months now, so have been through some changes in the way I get things done but here are some of my self imposed rules and tips.
Never watch TV or play games during the day – Pretty obvious I know but the first thing people say to me when I say I’m a remote worker is “How do you resist watching TV or playing games all day?”. It’s easy to be honest, I just don’t do that during work hours with the exception of maybe watching a half hour show or a quick online game with a colleague during lunch. Having this rule means I don’t ever have the temptation.
Go outside – It’s fairly easy when working at home to not have to leave the house and spend all of your time at the computer working, especially when you get into something, but I make a point of trying to go out each day. Fortunately having children I’m forced to do school runs, football, swimming, tennis lessons etc, but I can carry on working in most of those places. It’s also nice sometimes to go to a cafe to work, just for a change of scenery, I find it helps me focus.
Make a To Do list at the start of the day – At the start of each day I open a note in Evernote and write down my goal for the day, along with some steps to help achieve it. This gives my day some structure, and although other work will possibly come up it’s a good place to start from.
Use the Pomodoro Technique – When I really want to focus on getting a piece of work done then I use the Pomodoro Technique. The idea is you do bursts of 25 minutes of uninterrupted work, you close Slack, Email, web browser, and just focus on the task in hand. After the 25 minutes you have a 5 minute break, I tend to get a tea or coffee, and then go again. It’s amazing how much you can get done, although it can be difficult to disconnect, and you can end up feeling quite tired if you over do it.
Accept you’ll have bad days – Sometimes things won’t click, you’ll struggle with a piece of work or get frustrated and feel like you’ve achieved nothing. This can happen in an office too but I tend to feel much guiltier about this when I’m at home, but it’s important not to beat yourself up about it, because if you do it will end up getting worse. It’s best to accept that it wasn’t great but to work hard the next day to rectify it. This post by Scott Hanselman is a good read.
Meet up with team mates – It’s really great to meet up with your colleagues occasionally, which we try and do with the whole team every couple of months, but if not maybe you can work together with one of them. Although being at home is great and can be productive it’s also good to have that interaction sometimes and it’s great just to chat about what’s going on. If you can’t do that then maybe have a chat via hangout, or get along to a local user group to meet other developers.
Hopefully some of these ideas will help you out if you are a remote worker, or if you have any other tips then let me know, I’d love to hear them.