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Staying productive on the road

Mark Pollmann
July 12th, 2018 · 3 min read

Introduction

Working remotely is something many people dream about. While some people try it out and realize it’s not for them, others would love to keep doing it but struggle with the day-to-day challenges of keeping distractions at bay. In this post I want to share some of my learnings and tips for people interested in trying it out.

Routines

If you’re an early bird or a night owl, having set routines is, in my view, essential to not burn out as well as not procrastinating and in the end not getting any work done.

The things that helped me here were three books as well as the infamous tomato technique.

Books

Seeing other people’s routines can give you some nuggets to incorporate into your own. Books I liked here are, first, Own the Day, Own Your Life by Aubrey Marcus. In it he goes through one ‘perfect’ day to aspire to. I really like his morning routing: get some sunlight, water and movement.

If you want more routines from productive people take a look at the interviews in My Morning Routine by Benjamin Spall and Michael Xander. While it can get repetitive finding a couple nuggets to incorporate into your workday is worth it.

The last book I want to recommend is Deep Work by Cal Newport. Its premise is simple: To accomplish something in any field you need stretches of uninterrupted and deep working time which is increasingly rare in this day and age. But if you can make the effort and even just get a couple hours of it you can be remarkably effective.

The Pomodoro Technique 🍅

This technique can help to get you started if you feel especially unmotivated. Set a timer to 25 minutes and get to work. Once the 25 minutes are up you can take a break (usually 5 minutes). Knowing you can get back to slacking off in less than half an hour makes starting much easier. And usually, when the time is up, you’re so engrossed that you can just keep going.

I usually do 25 minute 🍅s for studying (reading technically demanding books or articles, watching Frontend Masters workshops, etc.) and 45 minute 🍅s for actual coding and writing.

For a good introduction to the pomodoro technique read this lifehacker post.

Sleep and naps

Getting enough sleep at night and a nap in the afternoon sets you up for more productive hours later in the day instead of mindless internet browsing. For an interesting discussion about sleep listen to the Joe Rogan Experience #1109 with Matthew Walker.

Eating and working out

This point is of course not restricted to remote work but it’s much easier to slack off in this area while traveling. I’m not going to preach as I’m sure you’ve heard it before anyway. Just invest a bit more money into fruits and vegetables, go for a run once in a while and the fewer sick days and improved focus during the day pay for itself.

Gadgets

What I missed on my first travels was definitely a laptop stand and an external keyboard and mouse. Hopping into a cafe without it for a quick work session usually works out but sitting hunched over your laptop for 8 hours a day and your neck will hate you.

I own a Nexstand as well as a generic bluetooth keyboard and mouse, all of which I’m very happy with.

Places to work from

While you can work from home (I do it from time to time) often it’s good to have some separation between work and the rest of your life. Hit a cafe or search for a coworking space close to you. There you can usually find like-minded people as well.

Conclusion

It’s a good idea to try out remote work on a small scale before you go all in.

Firstly it might just not be for you. No shame in wanting your colleagues around you and the clear distinction between work and personal life.

Secondly remote work is a skill you have to hone. Don’t fret if you’re going crazy the first time you try it. Baby steps.

Try working home for a couple days and see how it goes. Or plan a side-project during a vacation and try to get it done as effectively as possible.

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