It’s been almost 20 years since I’ve gone into an office five days a week. In that time, I’ve progressed in my consulting career from a Senior Manager, to a Principal, to a VP, to a Managing Partner, to a CEO. I barely remember what it’s like to “go to work” and to “come home from work.”
In 2020, many people had to learn to adapt to the remote and hybrid working world. At first, everyone was talking about how they could get through it. These days, what I’m hearing more and more is: “How do I make the most of this?”
Earlier this week, I wrote about the concept of “Career Design” and the opportunity to think big about what’s next. This blog builds on that by pulling together my top tips for achieving what it is you want to achieve while taking full advantage of not being in an office all the time.
Set your intentions. One of the biggest advantages of working remotely, whether part of the time, or all of the time, is the opportunity to carve out uninterrupted chunks of the day to really move forward on goals you have for your project, your team, your department, or your organization. If you are really clear, every day, and every week, on what YOU need to accomplish, you will be less likely to spend your whole day just responding to emails — unless of course, that IS what you want to accomplish. Helping others and being responsive is important, but setting aside time for the things that matter for you, and your career, is even more important.
Go with your flow. One of the best things about working remotely is the opportunity to work around your own energy. And though you can’t completely influence when all your meetings will happen, you can choose what you work on in between them. For me, if I can save the early part of my day for challenges that require the most thought and creativity, I can knock them out 2-3 times faster than at any other time of the day. Another part of going with your flow is recognizing when you are not being productive and stepping away to do something else. Otherwise, you risk training your brain to think you won’t be productive when you sit down to start doing work. If you can overcome the obstacles, and optimize your work around your energy, you will become a true force of nature.
Allocate your time strategically. I’m a big fan of Laura Vanderkam’s thoughts on time tracking, although she takes it to a whole other level! But however you do it, whether through color-coding your calendar, using a time tracking app, or keeping it in a spreadsheet, analyzing your time can reveal some interesting insights and help you make important changes. Since I’ve done this, I’ve ruthlessly cut out social media, timeboxed general emailing and news watching, and started to question whether I need to be in every meeting that I’m in. And as a result, every week, I am able to ensure I have time for what’s really important to me: ongoing learning, strategic thinking, and connecting with others.
Weave “life” in creatively. We all have little, 5–10-minute, personal tasks that we need, or want, to do throughout the day. If you can use these personal tasks as “breaks” to clear your head between meetings, or work tasks, you not only get a few minutes to reset yourself, but at the end of the day, you’ve knocked a few things off your personal to-do list as well. For me, I use Duolingo Spanish courses as a reset — I do it once a day, and it takes me 3-5 minutes. It not only clears my head, but that little sense of accomplishment fires me up for my next work challenge.
Disconnect regularly. Working remotely provides both challenges and opportunities related to disconnecting. I’ve been gradually making progress on letting myself disconnect for a few hours in the day to just think, relax, or even play. Every time I do it, I notice a world of difference when I reengage. Just last week, I saw Tiffany Schlain speak on the power of the 24/6 life — where you take one day away from screens per week. I’ve tried this a couple of times now and am looking forward to making it a regular habit. My experience, and the research, shows that this drives greater clarity, creativity, and productivity — all things that will help you move forward in whatever you want to accomplish!
So here’s to achieving whatever your dreams are and taking full advantage of the new working world!
If you want to read more about my experiences working remotely, check out some of my other posts:
And one from the way back archives before I even had a second kid: Diaries of a working mom Chapter 9: Working from home