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The 5 golden rules of remote work

The 5 golden rules of remote work

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Remote work

Remote work has found itself at the center of the revolution between old school traditions and newfound technological freedom. I’ve noticed that the nay-sayers are often C-suite executives, stating that remote work kills company culture, inhibits innovation, isolates employees et cetera, et cetera.

Yet from the people actually doing the work such as managers and engineers — I usually hear the exact opposite. Remote work allowed me to start a side business, get a puppy, spend more time with my kids, or remove time sitting in traffic just to name a few benefits.

Personally, I think the recent return to office mandates are just a bunch of nervous executives believing that their sacred office cubicles and hallway conversations are going to save them from recent economic downturn.

It continues to surprise me that in the year 2023 there is the persistent belief that humans are most productive when forced to spend more than an hour a day in traffic, paying for parking, paying for unnecessarily fancy office clothes, and shuffling their lives and families around the requirement to swipe a badge to verify your baseline productivity as an individual.

I’ll be the first to say that remote work isn’t for everyone and if you prefer office, then good for you! I however believe that with discipline and intention, remote work can break you free from the historical chains of a “9 to 5” job. I do so myself using these 5 rules that I practice on a daily basis and I hope they can give you new freedom in your life as well.

• • •

#1 — Wake up with the sun

Humans are wired with a circadian rhythm. It’s unnatural for us to be startled awake by an alarm clock, and it’s even more unnatural to want to keep hitting snooze when a new day of life on Earth has begun.

Instead, start your day by getting natural sunlight as soon as possible.

If you can get sunlight to pair with your alarm clock, even better. Dr. Andrew Huberman preaches about the benefits of seeing natural sunlight as one of the first things you do to start your day. It’s more rejuvenating than any cup of coffee, and will cleanse the morning mental fog the way nature intended.

“Getting sunlight in your eyes first thing in the morning is absolutely vital to mental and physical health. It is perhaps the most important thing that any and all of us can and should do in order to promote metabolic well-being, promote the positive function of your hormone system, and get your mental health steering in the right direction.” — Dr. Andrew Huberman

Dr. Huberman recommends at least 10 minutes of sunshine, but go for 30 minutes if it’s a cloudy day or if you have the spare time.

#2 — Learn how to cook

Speaking on behalf of Americans, most people eat like crap. They’ve historically done so because crappy food is cheap and quick. Buying crap food on the way to work, at work, on the way home from work, and feeling crappy as a result. If you don’t cook often for yourself, you’re probably unaware of just how unhealthy and expensive constantly going out to eat is.

It’s surprisingly easy to cook delicious, affordable and healthy food for yourself. Making a healthy breakfast such as avocado toast with eggs or your own tasty recipe of oatmeal with fruit and coffee usually takes me a half hour. That’s to make the food, eat the food, and clean up. I usually do this right after my morning sunrise walk — it starts my snowball of momentum to accomplish the day’s tasks.

Learn how to cook

Meal-prepping can further maximize your time and cost savings. Dedicating 1–2 hours on two days of the week can save you thousands of dollars a year and make you a healthier human being.

Let’s do some quick math. If I go out to eat for two out of my three meals each day, that’s a conservative $20 and likely 30 minutes in extra commute / purchasing time. We’ll say that the third meal is something you whip up at home for $5. That equates to about $175 in weekly spending and 3.5 hours of time getting that food.

Compare this to going out to eat twice a week and meal-prepping. It’s easy to prep a great meal for $4 per serving, and I can generally make five servings of food in the same time as one. You can prep all of your week’s meals in under 3 hours, and your weekly cost would go down to $84 per week, not to mention the future medical bills you’re saving yourself.

Over the course of a year, this example of meal prepping could save you $4732. Think of how you could invest that money!

There’s also plenty of ingredients that are cheap, healthy and easy to cook with. Here’s a few examples that check all those boxes:

Protein: Chicken, ground beef, tofu, chickpeas, fish, eggs

Carbs: Rice, beans, lentils, pasta, potatoes

Fruits & Veggies: Most fruits and veggies are actually pretty affordable, it’s only when you’re buying things like organic avocado that the prices can increase. Even still, I think your health is worth the cost, and it can still be cheaper than going out to eat. Why pay $2 for a scoop of guacamole at Chipotle instead of buying a whole avocado for a buck?

#3 — Use time savings to invest in your life

As long as you don’t let remote work creep into your personal life, you should have newfound time on your schedule. Gone are the days of dressing up for work, sitting in traffic, and sticking around the office in fear people will notice you leaving early.

This newfound time should be appreciated to its fullest potential. It really doesn’t matter what you do with this time as long as you are conscious and mindful of it— because it is YOUR time.

Do you want to get in better shape? You now have an extra hour in the day to go to the gym. Have you had a side project idea cooking in your brain for too long? Now is the time to hack at the MVP each day. You could also use that time to meditate, stretch, walk your dog, read, start a garden, ANYTHING! You are alive and breathing, use your time for what YOU want from LIFE!

I get happy with the caps button on this topic because I feel that so many people are robbed of free time in their life. Work, food, family and friends leave the average person with little to no time for personal development — and that should not be acceptable! Be conscious of the time savings from remote work and practice self-care every single day. That’s the secret to avoiding the tech horror stories of lacking motivation and burnout.

To continue this point, make sure you schedule time to interact with other human beings face to face each day. It’s unhealthy to sit at a screen all day long. Start training a martial art (I recommend Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu), take dance lessons, or join a book club. Just be sure you’re talking to people every day so you don’t turn into a hermit.

Use time savings to invest in your life

#4 — Schedule your time

Speaking of time, if you have a remote job and are measuring your work ethic via how many hours you’re online each day, you’re doing the whole thing wrong. Instead, you should be laying out the day’s tasks ahead of time. When you complete those tasks, you are done. Yes things come up, but I think it’s essential to frame work as a list of challenges to solve rather than a timebox of compliance.

You don’t have to necessarily write your goals down (though this often helps), but you should most definitely employ a schedule into your life. Scheduling can unfortunately be associated with a restrictive mental barricade around your time, but it should do the exact opposite! You should reflect on what your ideal day looks like when balancing for the factors that make up your life. A schedule is meant to free your time, not constrain it!

The human brain isn’t meant to remember all the happenings and business of the modern world, schedule your days so that you have no regret and don’t accidentally misschedule or forget an important event.

#5 — Advocate for yourself

Remote work can have a strange paradox where your new free time gets overloaded with additional meetings, unprompted asks from your coworkers and a general lack of boundaries. This is why it’s so important to make your personal boundaries clear from the start of a job, and to continue to defend them as time goes on. Make it clear to your manager and coworkers what your workload and responsibilities look like.

When it comes to protecting your time, meetings are the bane of any productive software engineer. A potentially unproductive schedule is when you have a bunch of half-hour meetings with 15 minute breaks, because we all know you’re not getting anything done in between. Coding requires a flow state demanding uninterrupted periods of time to think.

You should feel fully capable of declining meetings when they are not worth your time. Here’s a couple of conditions that should warrant you declining the meeting:

  • There is no clear agenda defined.
  • You don’t know what your purpose in the meeting is.
  • The meeting is outside your working hours.
  • Basic questions have not been thoroughly investigated.

Declining unproductive meetings is not only for your self-preservation, but it will benefit those scheduling the meeting as they may need to further investigate their asks or redefine who the relevant stakeholders are.

• • •

What are your takes on remote work? Are you a fan of the model or do you prefer being in office? What makes you productive / unproductive? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

And if you haven’t already signed up for Medium, you can support my writing directly by signing up with my referral link below. Thanks for reading!

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