How To Create A Remarkable Life With Remote Work
Self-management is the most important skill remote workers need to live the life of their choosing
I have been working as part of remote teams and advising them for over 15 years. In the last few years, I also had the pleasure to work with a number of team leaders, entrepreneurs, and others who work remotely in one-on-one coaching processes.
What comes up again and again in these conversations are the need and the difficulty to structure life and improve self-management and it became clear to me that this challenge is one of the main obstacles to high performance for the individual and consequently for the teams.
Let me explain:
What is remote work and what are its challenges?
A remote worker is someone who works outside of a traditional office at least some of their work hours.
Flexible work arrangements are not new for many professionals who have to travel a lot for their work such as salespeople and upper management. Until the 80ies and early 90ies they mainly used phones to stay in touch and communicate with their colleagues while on the road but with the ubiquity of the mobile internet, they can now set up a full functional office almost anywhere.
Many other groups have taken advantage of this. In many organizations, telecommuting has been an accepted arrangement for many years, with people mainly working from their home office, and the rise of the gig economy created a whole segment of society, with a myriad of different work arrangements from shared offices to working in coffee shops.
The freedom of remote work is a double-edged sword
The main consequence of this development is that as a remote worker, I have more and more flexibility and freedom to organize my work and the rest of my life how I see fit; much more than the typical 9–5 employee.
This freedom, however, is a double-edged sword. It allows me to play with my kids when they want to, and get my work done when they are not around. It allows me to accept that dentist appointment when nobody else has time, do the laundry while working on a presentation for a new client, or decide that I want to take advantage of the good weather, do some gardening or go for a walk and work at night instead.
Yet, taking advantage of this freedom can be quite difficult: I face demands from the people around me in different areas of my life: work, family, personal projects, volunteering, and I alone have to decide when to pay attention to what.
The difficulty is, thus, to set limits, or rather prioritising the different areas. Not prioritizing means that the demands of work creep into family time, and side projects do not happen at all or when I should be sleeping or exercising… and forget about meeting my friends. I could spend my full day on each of these areas, but I am only one person with 24 hours in the day, juggling them all.
Self-management become an essential skill
What was underdeveloped or lacking in my own case and in the lives of many people I have worked with was a set of self-management skills, including the ability to organize and structure one’s life as well as managing one’s energy, attention and emotions, so I could focus my efforts on what is important at any given moment and give my best then and there, instead of wasting energy worrying about the people or things I was not paying attention to.
Starting in my own life, I saw that strengthening these skills did not only increase my own life quality by lowering stress levels and accomplishing more, it also enabled me to be a better team player.
What can you do to improve your own self-management skills
In my opinion, the best starting point is to ask yourself a series of critical questions and respond honestly:
How do you react to change, especially, when it is something you cannot do anything about? Is your reaction helpful for the people around you? Is it helpful for your own well-being?
I, for example, get really irritated when someone interrupts me when I try to concentrate on deep work. I recognize that I have the right to be irritated but my automatic reaction to let out that irritation can be seen as rude to the person interrupting me, which was not a very productive behavior.
It is also really helpful to know your own limits: your physical, psychological and emotional limits. Nobody can pull all-nighters and work through weekends for a long time, so think hard about what you need to do to sustain an optimal level of performance.
What behavior can you add/change to…
- improve your own well-being?
- become more focused, more productive, a better communicator
- [insert your own goal here]?
For me, one of the most impactful changes I made was to add a daily planning exercise to start my work day. I consciously decide what my priority for the day is, think about what interruptions I might have to deal with and how I can minimize them and this helps me manage my expectations and gives me a tool to focus and set limits without pissing people off. It also helps me to ensure that I have enough time to reflect, recharge the batteries and spend time on other things than work and family obligations.
What can you change/improve about your structure/environment to make it easier to stick to your desired behavior?
For me, the biggest change towards becoming more productive was to go work in a shared office after my daughter was born. This meant that I had a space, in which I could not as easily be interrupted.
What changes can you make in your life to help you take advantage of the flexibility and freedom that comes with remote work?
Create momentum to build a remarkable life
What if you could build a remarkable life with enough time for family, friends, and leisure without losing the edge in your work? A life with the flexibility to control your own hours without sacrificing your career.
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