You can have a productive remote lifestyle with a work-life balance. I’m a software developer working from home for the last four years. Now, I will share actionable steps for better quality workdays.
Having a remote job doesn’t mean you have complete control over your time. You have to put in the hours to get the necessary work done. The question is, how much freedom do you have over your schedule.
On one end, you can have a job that requires you to be available on Slack all day and makes you sit through the meetings at an uncomfortable time throughout the day. It could be worse than a regular 9-to-5 at the office. On another end, you may work at a fully asynchronous organization that almost doesn’t have meetings.
The more asynchronous your job, the more freedom you have over your schedule. To improve on that front, you can try to find another job, communicate with your current employee, or potentially work toward changing a position that would allow you more freedom. In most cases, you’ll have more control over the schedule as a developer compared to a recruiter or manager that would spend a lot of time in meetings.
To get the most out of remote work, we need to shift our mindset by thinking in value instead of hours. A full-time remote job doesn’t mean working all day long. Your employer is a business that wants to profit out of your work. If you are a good company’s asset, they will keep you. If you don’t fulfill their expectations, they better reinvest your paycheck.
Different companies will have different expectations. I worked at startups that expect you to make their business the main focus, and I worked at a corporate job with so much bureaucracy that my manager was happy, while I worked just two and a half hours.
Your employee doesn’t care how much your work as long as you yield sufficient value for the business. Therefore we need to find a way to produce enough value in less time and have more freedom during a work day.
To improve on that front, I always work with a focus timer. It makes me more aware of time and keeps me centered on the task. Also, it tracks time spent on projects. In the evening, I could review what I’ve done, see how much time I spent working and try to extract lessons to be more efficient the next day.
On the long-term horizon, we could strive toward earning with a judgment so that we make money by making decisions. In that scenario, we could leverage our time better and choose to work less. I encourage you to check the Naval’s Almanack for a better grasp of these concepts.
Peak Performance Periods
Usually, we don’t have the same energy levels throughout the day. There are periods when we are less productive and creative. Instead of dragging through low-energy periods, we can be more strategic with efforts and get the most out of peak performance periods while resting in the low-energy parts of the day.
For example, many people find it hard working after lunch. The circadian cycle causes this afternoon slump, and some cultures have a siesta for it. Because of the remote work, we don’t need to push through it. Instead, we could use this time to rest and recharge. You can exercise, go for a walk, take a massage, play a videogame or musical instrument, or finally clean the apartment.
We can rest in the low energy periods, but we should not waste our peak performance periods. Usually, I have more energy in the morning, and it’s the best time to finish essential tasks. Before, I’ve been going to the gym one hour after waking up, but now I try to preserve morning time for work and exercise after 2 pm.
Peak performance periods vary from person to person. Some people are productive in the morning, while others are late at night. To get the most out of your day, be aware of your energy levels and experiment with different schedules until you find what works best.
Since remote work gives us the whole day to finish the tasks, we could succumb to procrastination and drag the work till night. That could make it hard for some people to fall asleep, and it won’t be good if we want to preserve evenings for quality rest or time with loved ones.
Adding some urgency will make you more focused, and you can finish work faster, with less procrastination-induced suffering. So if you’re not obliged with synchronous work, you can set a specific time when the work day ends. At that time, you will leave Slack and enjoy the evening.
Listen to your heart
We all go through different seasons in life. We could spend one year working hard and neglecting other aspects of life, or in another year, we may take a sabbatical, reflect on life, and enjoy ourselves.
If you are happy with your lifestyle and it aligns with your values and goals, don’t look at others and walk your way. Some people enjoy working, especially when they own a significant stake in the business. On a deathbed, they may not regret working too much. For them, it could’ve been a play all along the way.
Filling the void
Let’s say you figured out how to be efficient, and now you have a three-hour workday. What would you do with all this free time? Without an answer to the questions, there will be very little motivation to get more productive by leveraging remote work.
If you have things you want to do but don’t have time for, that’s great — go after it! But if you don’t have anything you’re excited about, start trying: get into a romantic relationship, find new friends, try a new hobby, or get into sports. There are a lot of opportunities around you.
We have a lot of time during the day, enough to finish essential work. But we don’t always have enough energy. We don’t need any hacks to improve energy levels, we better double down on diet, exercise, and sleep.
On the diet side, we should strive to avoid processed foods and reduce sugars. Then make sure that your day-to-day food is full of nutrients and proteins. Once you have this sorted, experiment, people have different genetics, and some will have no problem eating full of carbs pasta for breakfast, while others would be sluggish for a few hours.
Exercise is not only good for your health. It also makes you more energized and less anxious. I would also recommend getting a standing desk. I especially like to stand during meetings because I can move my body instead of being stuck in a chair.
Quality breaks will make your energy last longer, and you can combine them with body movements like walks or hanging on the pull-up bar. Breaks will also help to keep your eyes fresh. We don’t want to punish them. It’s very challenging to keep working with eye strain. There are three extra tips: use a focus timer to not forget about breaks; do not run for your phone after a work session, and work in front of a window to allow eyes to wander over far-away objects.
The most gains in energy come from good quality sleep. If you think there is room for improvement on the sleep front, check another post where I lay down 28 habits for better sleep.