The importance of a daily routine when you work remotely

Remote work is a divisive subject. It’s described as the ‘dream situation’ for many employees, but to some employers it’s a threat to their in-office control. A neutral party might just nod their head (and wonder why you like working in your underwear), but for those of us who actually do it, it’s the lifestyle that makes a great job even better.

What’s the deal with remote work?

The benefits of remote work are well documented. Google it, you’ll get millions of articles. And while it’s a simple thing to do, for some it’s not easy to do it well.

In my experience, working remotely is like being an entrepreneur. It’s a lifestyle that appeals to many, gives you a lot of control over your days, and some people who are naturally better at it. The rest of us must work hard to make it happen. And then some others should just not do it.

So if the first thing you think of when considering remote work is sitting at home in your jocks, you’re in for a bad time.

Getting the most from remote work

Anyone doing sales, marketing, customer service, etc in an office will agree that there are processes to be followed just to do your job. Working remotely is the same. The difference is that you need to manage your workload and how you interact with your day / surroundings.

At home, even the best of intentions can suffer. Without the morning routine of an office job (get up > shower > eat > commute > work), it’s easy to lie in. If you stay on this course, you’ll find the amount of time spent ‘lying in’ increases as time goes on (I’ve been there).

We’re trained by office jobs to follow these familiar steps – a process that everybody consents to, either actively or passively. 8 hours per day, 5 days per week with a couple of weeks off per year. Rinse and repeat.

This is where setting your own daily routine comes in.

Remote breaks the cycle, leaving us open to other options. And for me, this was a problem. If we don’t intentionally replace the office routine, we risk falling into a bad one. This leads to a negative experience for you, your coworkers and it can damage your relationship with your employer.

The solution I’ve found is to break the days into 2 periods: A “get ready for my day routine” and a “doing my work routine” for getting shit done. Neither needs to be too elaborate.

How a “get ready for my day” routine is important for remote work?

There is a ridiculous focus on entrepreneurs / business leaders and their morning routines. Get up at 4am, answer emails, go to the gym, bench press the world… I’m not saying they’re wrong, but I think if we spend so much time trying to manage our mornings, we spend less time actually doing the work.

A.J. Juliani wrote “The only two habits you need are learning how to start something and learning how to finish and accomplish something”. I agree. A daily routine should get you started on the right path so that you can finish something.

So what does this look like?

Whatever it takes to get you started.

Personally, I like to wake up, shower and walk for 10 minutes to get my morning coffee. I do it every day so it’s automatic. I count on it, and like Pavlov’s dog, I know that once I’m back in my apartment or wherever I’m working, it’s time to get started.

Others like to work out, meditate or log in to a group Slack channel and say “hi” to the other ‘remoties’. The important thing I’ve found, is to be conscious of setting yourself up for the day and to treat this routine as a part of your job.  

How a “doing my work” routine helps with remote work?

Again, there are countless tips and tricks for working better remotely. I tend to do what I’ve always done in the office. Headphones, make a plan, set my Pomodoro, work and review.

Sorry if it’s not that exciting.

This way of working helps me to move the needle forward. So it doesn’t need to change when I’m sitting at home or in a hotel lobby.

With the rise in popularity of Remote, I think some people are in danger of putting it on a pedestal. We can and should treat it as normal work with one exception. Remote employees need to be more aware of possible slips in their daily routine. Some of these areas need more attention when we’re working outside the office.

Take the time to self check and to make a plan of action when something an issue appears. In my case, intentionally adding a simple, morning routine that I follow everyday, works.

What’s yours?