Navigating Remote Work & Productivity

A few months after the pandemic in 2020, the leadership of our organization decided it was best to adapt and move to a fully remote work mode. It was temporary at first, but fast forward a year later, they decided to go fully remote work from home!

Many of us were thrilled.

Goodbye morning traffic. Nashville traffic has been getting worse since we arrived in 2015. A lot of people were moving to the city. It wasn’t quite as bad as Manila traffic, but on worse days, my 20-minute commute extends to 40 minutes one way! So we are saving hundreds or maybe thousands of hours monthly!

Hello flexible work from home. Pants optional! Thankfully, we have an extra bedroom at home and that is where I set up shop. I can shut the door for Zoom meetings and focus on work when I need to. That also meant I can eat lunch with Cha and our boys.

We’re setting up shop away from Nashville and I can still be employed by the same company!

The downsides of remote work

Limited social interactions.

Enforced social life for introverts, very few opportunities for informal chats and accidental sharing of projects and life. Zoom isn’t meant for hanging out after meetings. So people tend to deal with business and then log off.

Uncertainty in building collegial relationships.

I was in conversation with a colleague the other day. He said that he felt for the new hires who came onboard after we went full remote. I agree! I know most of my team mates and colleagues because I have been in the same organization for seven years! Because I have relationships with my colleagues, then it is easier for me to communicate with them, learn about what makes them tick, their pet peeves, and some of the ways for me to argue for my position.

For new hires, though, how can they be integrated into the organizational culture?

How do you build a culture of trust in a remote work setting? What strategies can be done? What tools can be used? How can we foster stronger relationships among colleagues?

These are big questions for sure, and I will continue to wrestle with these and write about it. Meanwhile, there are tools and systems I use to maximize productivity while working from home.

WFH Productivity and The Tools & Systems I Use

Pomodoro Technique

In the past, I have used Pomodoro Technique as a way to manage my tasks and focus on my work. I have fallen off the wagon during the pandemic. But with the post-pandemic new normal, some of my work is picking back up and I find myself needing to focus more and maximizing my time so that I don’t have to extend work beyond office hours.

If you’re not familiar, Pomodoro technique uses a timer–usually 25 minutes–during which you need to finish one task and one task only. If you’re prone to procrastination and distraction, this technique really helps!

Personal Kanban, Agile, Scrum

These are not random words. They are actually a system meant to maximize productivity in team settings. Agile and Scrum are very popular in software development. I’ve read the Scrum book by Jeff Sutherland, as well as a guide on personal kanban, and I really love how it helps me do a brain dump of all the things I need to do, and then tackle them one at a time.

You can do Personal Kanban with post its, or through a software such as Trello. Essentially, what you’re doing is to have three or main columns–Ready, Doing, Pending, Done. I added the Pending before Done just in case I am waiting on someone before I can finish it.

Productivity Journal

I have tried the Panda Journal, Michael Hyatt’s Full Focus Journal, the 12 Week Year Planner, and you know which one is the best? It’s the one I use regularly! It doesn’t really matter which one of these. Sometimes, a blank journal where I jot down my thoughts or list my task works great!

Right now, what I am using is a Google Spreadsheet where I note down my tasks for the day, and write a short reflection at the end of my working day. It keeps me focused and at the end of the day, I have a sense of accomplishment.

Final Words

I haven’t had much time to reflect on work, productivity, life, and other things over the past two years. Between the pandemic, the coming of our third son, and all the craziness of life, I barely had time to slow down and reflect. But it is important that I take the time to reflect. I am not monetizing this blog–not much anyway, and this is where I post my professional-ish writings and musings. And if my musings helped someone, then all the more reason to keep doing this!

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