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A day in the life: Top tips for successful remote work

Simple and easy tips to be more effective in working remotely from home.

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Remote work has been a thing for a while now, for many it was a luxury, to have some "work at home" days to break the monotony of working in the office for. For others it was their daily norm. But now,  in the age of coronavirus it has become a necessity for all of us.

Remote work does not need to be a complex adjustment though, here we will outline a day in the life, some tips and tricks, as well as a collection of tools to optimize your working from home experience.  It's important to say before you read on though, that in the end these tips can only work if you implement them and adjust them to your situation. Remember, 

"You do not write your life with words. . . You write it with actions. What you think is not important. It is only important what you do." - Patrick Ness

Let's start!

You wake up in the morning and start your routine.

Many of our morning routines after waking up include, making breakfast, maybe doing a bit of reading or watching the news, and taking whatever sort of transport we use to get to the office and start working. For those of us who are truly committed this may even include a quick morning workout.

Whatever the case, we all understand the importance of establishing a strong morning routine. It helps anchor you for the day and gets you in the mood for being productive and getting work done…so why should this change just because you are at home?

The temptation when staying at home is to take your mornings slow, rolling out of bed and staying in your PJs till noon…I've been there, trust me. But you need to remember that you are no longer just at home, you are at work! So the morning routine should by no means change. Yes, you no longer need to drive, or take the train to the office…but you still have an office to get to get to.

Set up a space in the living room or wherever you have space in the house and designate that as your at home office. This area has now been claimed in the name of {insert work name here}. And be strict about it. Meaning when you get there, arrive dressed in your work attire (it helps get you in the mood). Be there on time. Remember you are at home now so it's up to you now to create a sustainable system to champion your time. Creating a consistent morning routine is paramount to keeping this up.

Okay so you are awake, you've showered and gotten ready. You are now sitting at your desk or table.

First things first, take stock. What do you have planned for today? What work was left over from yesterday? What are the priorities to get done? What are the deadlines? What are the main goals of the day and how far are we from reaching them? What is the biggest project that needs to get done? It is important to start the day with plans and goals. It gives direction to your activities and adds some motivation to your work. Now preferably you want to make that plan the night before and just go over it in the morning, but for the sake of this example we will do it now.

Still struggling with getting in the mood to get stuff done in the morning? Well do you know what the number one motivation for getting things done is?

Getting things done! 

That's right, assign an easy task to be done as soon as you get up, even before breakfast and get it done. Having that victory down in the early hours will fire the engines of productivity and inspiration to get more things done during the day. If after doing that first task you are feeling the gears turning keep going and attack that bigger task! In the morning is when you are most alert and energetic so it's the perfect time to start hacking at those big tasks straight after that smaller victory.

Then as you feel yourself slowing down a bit (and that will happen), take a clear and defined break to get breakfast and do that morning exercise, reading, news watching, whatever you usually do. And Bing Bam Boom, there is your brand new morning routine!

By the time lunch hits you'll be surprised how much you actually got done, and with that the pressure to get a lot done because you are at home(believe me, we all face it), slowly but surely fades.

As the afternoon comes I would use this time to schedule your meetings, stand-ups, calls and longer emails. Why? Well by this time you've used up a lot of your energy with that early morning work, and as result your general productivity tends to slow down as you approach lunch. So, now would be the perfect time to do those easy, small and slightly tedious tasks. Recharge your batteries and take a break from the last few intense hours of screen time. Ironically though, if you use this time to have a meeting you'll be staring at the screen, but you get the point…we are switching activities.

Now that's done, you've gotten some larger tasks done, you've had breakfast, you've answered your emails, had your calls/meetings. Now go get some lunch!

Now being at home, you have a kitchen so you can cook yourself a nice meal. However, I would actually advise against this.

For all of you out there who are the cooks of the house, I ask you, how do you usually feel after cooking a good meal and eating lunch. The answer is tired or at least a bit lazy. We don't want that.

First of all, there is that slow down before you cook as you contemplate the fact that, yes, you actually are about to cook. Then there is deciding what cook, which is a whole thing in itself. Now after preparing, cooking, and eating, if you are like me then a nap is on the way.

But remember we are at work! So save that cooking experience for the night before or the weekend and warm up an already made meal. It saves time and energy, allowing you the time to do other home tasks like starting the laundry. It's going to come in handy trust me!

Okay, now the afternoon has come and you are getting back to work. Some truth needs to be said here. You will be less productive. It's a fact. It's something that happens in almost every work environment. You want to know why, it’s based on your chronobiology, this article explains it. The strategies here will help fight against it, but we need to be okay with the fact as human beings we are not machines, we cannot be 100%, 100% of the time. It is because of this, that we got so much done in the morning, so we can better manage our time in the afternoon.

Now before you go ahead and get started at your home office, it's time to take stock. What have you done today? What do you have left to do for the day? What are the priorities to get done? What are the deadlines? What is worth starting? What are the main goals of the day and how far are we from reaching them? When is our defined end of the day time?


It's important to take this step so you can better direct your energy, rather than getting lost in the ever growing to do list. Furthermore, it is key to applying an agile framework to the work you do. We want to make sure we are building our work around a specific goal and in order to avoid burnout for the next day we define our stopping point and actively work towards it.

Once that has been done, we are going to work in intervals. Meaning we are going to work for a defined amount of time and then take a 10 or 15 minute break, and then get back to work. This methodology  works wonders in ensuring productivity as you focus on getting as much work done in an allotted time, and give your brain a clear break to get away, disconnect. This is why we started the laundry, because our next break would be the time to disconnect and go hang the laundry outside or put it in the dryer, or go for a quick walk or read a book. The point is we step away from the computer

And it is important to step away from the computer!

The idea is that during our work time we want to define our workspace and tools as purely for that objective, it helps reduce temptations and distractions that could pop up during our work time. According to Mckinsey even CEOs use similar techniques to manage their time and keep going. Remember taking breaks won't hurt you or the business, it will only improve your state of mind, so you can give your all when the time is needed.

You keep this going until the end of your day, then at your selected time, take stock. Look over your to do list, what did you get done? What do you need to assign more time to do the following morning? What worked well? What didn't? What can you do so tomorrow will be better?

And that is the end of your day! Congrats! Now you can spend time cooking for tomorrow, getting out of your work clothes and enjoying the comforts of home without the rush hour traffic!

Did you like the day in the life of remote work? Here are some extra tips to help throughout the day

10 awesome additional tips to be successful working remotely

White Noise

This is a funny one but honestly…it works. Research shows that background noise actually helps your brain think more creatively when solving problems. According to the research not all noise is equal. Meaning if we were to hear/ see a human having a conversation in the background, that is much more likely to distract us from work. But working in absolute silence is equally likely to distract us from work and reduce productivity. Meaning that "sound does not equal noise". They recommend working in cafes as background noise can help accomplish tasks. In today's Coronavirus filled times, we know that this is not an option. According to the research though having the TV on in the background works just as well. So go ahead, turn on the TV switch to national geographic, the telemarketing channel or whatever background channel you can think of. Turn the volume down and see how much work you get done!

Make a playlist for success

We all know by now that music has multiple effects on the brain from influencing emotions enhancing productivity. Due to coronavirus many have created public "lockdown" playlists to bring unity in the midst of our isolation. However, if those playlists don't tickle your fancy, you may want to make your own. And if so go ahead! Research shows however that music with words and complex rhythms have a higher tendency to distract than to increase productivity. Of course certain effects may vary from person to person. Research recommends classical music, nature sounds and surprisingly video game music! All are examples of wordless music with fairly consistent and simple music structures. So who knows the key to getting that report done may be the soundtrack of Final fantasy 7.

The importance of an Agile framework

The term "agile" is passed around a lot in software and product development, but as a framework is applicable in multiple forums, including remote work. This article explains it's application when working on a project. Having an agile mindset when approaching projects at work home is imperative as it motivates effective communication, time management to iteratively reach success.

Establish healthy habits

It is very, very easy to slip into bad habits when  working from home. It starts right from how we roll out of bed, to replying to work chats, and even our eating schedules.  Especially in the time of Coronavirus, where what once was a 15 minute grocery run that could be done during break time, turns into a 45 minute task including standing outside in a line that never seems to move. But now that you are in charge of managing your own time it is up to you to control your work habits. Huffington Post has an amazing article on this so I would definitely take a look. Just remember though especially for building habits, every step counts no matter how small!

How to be healthy whilst at home

Coronavirus may have shut down the gyms, but fitness existed long before gyms did. Now, not everyone needs to be a complete Olympian or even neighborhood runner. But, spending 24/7  on a single seat, with the only exercise being to grab a bite to eat or use the restroom is not okay. Take some time everyday to take a walk, do a couple push ups or even something simple like skipping…something, anything. It's important for your health that at least once a day you get up and get active, both your body and your chair will thank you for it later.

Be part of a community

Coronavirus may have driven us all to self isolation, but the internet has given us a means to never be alone. Join a community, whether it be work related or hobby related. It allows you to have interactions with others so you don't go crazy alone in your thoughts. Having people to bounce ideas off, relate to with work and life issues will make life at home go that much quicker. Council Club is the name of our community, take a look!

Go outside if you can

Now this will vary depending on where you are in the world and severity of how your where about have been affected. But going outside and getting some fresh air, will do wonders on bettering your mood and getting you hyped for your next work session

Design your space

There are simple steps you can take to ensure that your work space remains a productive, workable place. Similar to your space in the office, your home office will always benefit from simple additions or subtractions that make it an effective workplace free from distraction. And guess what since you are at home, your budget is your only limit. Discover about our Home Office Design for Success Series or read a quick post here.

More on time management

As stated before, the key success at home is effective time management to manage your work times, break times, errand times etc. From the day in the life we gave you general structures to use but actual tools and strategies at the end of the day are going to have to be personal to you. What works for you? What catalysts get you to switch tasks? What is most comfortable for you? In the next section we will recommend some tools to you, but it's up to you to put in the work! If you need some extra help though, at council club we have our own tool, our product scheduler, check it out.

Take full responsibility

You are in charge of how you work at home. No one else. So take full responsibility, regardless of how coronavirus has changed the location of your work, or what your work is. It's up to you to move forward and use the resources available to make the best out of the situation. It's by no means easy, but you can do it! And you are not alone.

We are not done yet, now we know what a day in the life is like and we have some great additional tips, let's talk about the tools of the trade. What tools do we need to work at home successfully? Stay tuned.

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