Updated: May 24
Have you considered what your life would look like with a remote job? Maybe your mind goes to a beach front scene with a laptop in one hand and a margarita in the other. Maybe you’re thinking like a digital nomad with ambitions of traveling the country on the job. Or maybe a daily trip to a nearby coffee shop is more your style.
Now well into the pandemic, nearly 60% of US workers that claim their job can be done from home are working from home. Remote jobs are becoming increasingly popular after many companies were forced to move work to a remote setting. Everyone in our company, Internship On Demand, works remote. In this blog, we speak from our personal experiences and share articles and advice from experts in the space.
Remote workers enjoy mornings with no commute, more free time, a better work/life balance, and full control over their work environment. But, remote work isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Here, rather than highlight the good, we will dive into the tough aspects of remote work you have not yet considered. Think over the following before finding and pursuing your first remote job!
The Need For Self-Discipline
Think back to the remote schoolwork you did in the beginning and middle of the pandemic. Were you on top of your game? Or, did you ignore assignments until the day before the exam? Working remote can make consistent delivery difficult with fewer reminders and less urgency. Still, it’s possible to deliver phenomenal results in a remote work setting.
Your ability to discipline yourself will determine your success in remote work lifestyle. It takes a lot to get yourself started without a boss in the building. It’s critical you learn to be strict with yourself, especially regarding how you use your time. With a strict sense of discipline, you’ll find yourself with more free time, more flexibility with what you can do with your time, and a better overall work/life balance (Caroline Banton).
Without discipline, however, remote work won’t be all it’s cracked up to be. If you’re not careful, this new role could become a chore rather than a reward. It can become easy to neglect projects and scramble to get them done. You’ll sleep in, forcing yourself to work far into the night later that same day. Fear not, though, because self discipline can be improved with practice.
How to Build Self-Discipline
Self-discipline is a skill that can be built. Most people, with a strong enough urge and desire to succeed, can learn to discipline themselves (American Psychology Association). Any poor track records in the past DO NOT dictate future success. Rather, they signal the need for significant change on your part before you can succeed in self-discipline.
To conquer self-discipline, start small. Be more strict with yourself in small areas, like reducing the amount of junk food or snacks you eat throughout the day. Be intentional with how you spend your time. As your mental strength increases, you can begin to branch out into more areas of your life.
To achieve mastery, read and implement this Forbes article on self-discipline.
Freed Time and Locked Time
Time moves different with a remote job. Your time can now be used for anything. Complete flexibility allows for time to be unassigned and unaligned with your highest priorities and goals. Without structured time that’s dedicated to work, work time tends to be put off and becomes more stressful or gets in the way of your life outside of work. The longer a task is put off, the more daunting it becomes (HBR).
After mastering the need for self-discipline and escaping the inevitable distractions when you are working, you may still need to balance your free time and work time. Now your main priority is time management. Just because you can start your work quickly, doesn’t mean you can manage your time well enough to complete the work before the deadline.
Signs of poor time management include procrastination, rushed work, lack of planning, and poor punctuality. Be honest with yourself. The faster you upgrade your time management skills, the sooner a more productive, less stressful lifestyle will takeover.
How to Fix Time Management
There’s a great deal of information out there on how to increase time management skills. A simple google will get you a plethora of ideas to start. If optimizing time management in a remote setting is your goal, try “locking-in” work time in your schedule using Google or Outlook calendars, where you work online towards a goal of your choosing. This simple exercise will help you get a taste for what remote work will be like.
You can also try cutting out activities that waste time or lower your energy. Replace these activities with ones that instead increase productivity and raise your energy levels. If you have no idea where your time is going, write down everything you do with every minute of your day for a week. Your biggest time-wasters should be clear to you by the end of the week.
It can be easy to get off track. In the home-working world, distractions are inevitable. While you avoid the office space interruptions from coworkers and bosses, you’ll still face human distractions. Unless you live alone, you will be interrupted by roommates, family, a significant other, or pets. Even a subtle entrance from a roommate entering the living space can interrupt your train of thought and plummet your productivity over time.
Not to mention the silent distractions of the inanimate objects surrounding you. Your clock that hasn’t been changed back for daylight savings will silently beg you to stop work to change it. Then, your pile of dirty clothes will stare you down until they’re clean and put away. Next thing you know, your house has been reorganized, but not a single work project has been completed.
Of course, the online world will want a piece of your attention, too. Social media scrolling, online games, and random internet searches will be constant online distractions. If these screen time-wasters distracted you in the classroom or in-person work settings, chances are they’ll steal more of your attention in the remote work setting. There isn’t anyone to stop you from scrolling endlessly. You are much better off finding ways to cut distractions out of the mix before they take too much of your time.
How to Manage Distractions
If you are prone to distraction, like many of us, move your work to a physical location far away from the distractions. Popular options include nearby coffee shops or libraries. There, you can work on vital projects uninterrupted, greatly increasing your productivity level.
If you’re planning to work at home, even just for mindless work tasks, clean up your at-home workspace to maximize your productivity. Invest in a nice desk and switch out the laptop for a desktop computer with a keyboard and mouse. Declutter your physical space with some help from Marie Kondo, a decluttering expert. With fewer physical things, you’ll find your brain less cluttered and less distracted.
After mitigating distractions, you’ll be able to work quicker and create more free time. This is when remote work is most rewarding.
Lack of Routine
Perhaps the biggest upside to choosing remote work is the freedom to move just about anywhere. You could hit the road tomorrow with nothing but camping gear and a laptop, and your job would not be at stake. You could perform each of your job duties in the state of your choosing, rather than reporting to the same office cubicle each day. This certainly provides a freer lifestyle and may leave office workers envious of the remote digital nomad.
On the dark side, with great variety comes a lack of stability, control, and routine that can be highly valued in the workplace. If you’re someone who would rather be told what to do and when to do it, remote work might not be for you. It takes a self-starter to start and get remote work done.
Managers of remote workers want to see their work being completed at the same speed as it would have gotten done in an office setting (The New York Times). Some expect faster and better results! To stay on your A-game, a consistent work schedule will need to be implemented to move you in the right direction each day.
How to Build Routine
The best way to eliminate the downfalls from a lack of routine is to implement more structure in your life. This fix is for those of us that desire structure in our everyday life. Remote routine could mean a strict schedule you follow religiously. Or, maybe you take a walk through the same park after lunch everyday. The final call is up to you.
We recommend keeping some form of routine in your everyday life. Even if that’s a simple morning routine that ends with walking to a coffee shop to work. Routine can keep the days from blending together and help you keep better track of your time. At the very least, keep an ongoing to-do list and make it a habit to work each day in a good space.
In the end, remote work, like many things in life, is worth a shot. Try it out to see if it works for you! If you’re considering remote work but don’t know where to start, visit our blog post on how to find remote work.
For more on professional development, see our recent blog posts here.
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