As much as the location independent lifestyle is incredible, there are challenges associated with working remotely that one has to accept or work around. Having previously worked with small small, co-located teams that were very productive, I tried to replicate the similar productivity in a remote work setting. However, I did not hit the ground running; it took a couple of months for me to feel comfortable being remote and reach the level of effectiveness I wanted to.
I have worked on two companies; Lingio, a social language learning app based out of Stockholm, Sweden partly remote and Markable Inc, a visual product search startup based out of NYC fully remote. You don’t need to be a developer or designer to be more productive when working remotely using these tips.
What has helped me align with my client and be more effective?
1. Accept that you will not be as effective as you will be in person.
This is counter intuitive; as much as collaborative technology tools are improving, there is a disconnect when you are not in the same room. I tried to compensate my ineffectiveness initially by working longer; realizing how unsustainable that can be and started having a clear agenda for meetings and dividing tasks into smaller chunks.
2. Preferably work with people you have worked before.
To be at your best being remote, there has to be trust. And trust is hard to build — if you have a good working relationship with a team before, that’s a bonus.
3. Get a coworking space.
Separate work from home. Ideally somewhere close to where you live. Recreate the desk that you always wanted and guarantee a good network connection. A good connection and a quiet spot in a coworking space is paramount to effective meetings Further, you have a community of other digital nomads like you who make life more social.
4. Set the hours for work. Show yourself.
Ideally you should be a timezone that is -3/+3 of where the team sits and have 4 hours of work time together. Tools like Zoom and Google Hangouts make this easier today.
5 .Overcommunicate. Just keep typing/JKT.
Get better at explaining yourself in writing. Writing often and writing descriptively helped. I have tend to become better at thinking clearer because a lot of the communication is via text.
6. Set the scope of what you are working on.
Set a short term scope even if you have to break down tasks to the individual units. When I was designing the mobile chat interface for Lingio, I divided the design and development phases and further for the design, into individual sub pages.
When your tasks depend on other people, we try and keep the dependency as less as possible to reduce back and forths and further to minimise the time needed for managing the project.
7. Clarify expectations explicitly.
Pin down what you are going to deliver by when and have daily Slack updates and weekly video updates with screen recording. I overlooked this initially but put in the time later everyday before I checked out to help me keep track of what I worked on myself.
When I got started in October 2015, I was doubtful whether if I could sustain being a digital nomad long term, but looking back, I have decided I’ll continue doing this at least for another year. I continue to look back at these tips if I feel I could be more effective. If you have any tips to share, feel free to tweet @cggaurav.
“By working only when you are most effective, life is both more productive and more enjoyable. It’s the perfect example of having your cake and eating it, too.” Tim Ferriss