Without the bounds of a 9–5 schedule, or the commute to an office, the ability to work remotely should be the ideal work environment for the maker’s of a company. Creating their own schedule without interruptions with endless hours to dive in to their craft whenever inspiration strikes.
However, for many, it is still challenging to reach this flow state as companies try to stay connected via virtual meetings, and manager check-in’s. With synchronous meetings creating blocks in the day, or endless chatter in Slack or other messaging tools it is important to find the right balance between connection and focus.
So what should remote leaders and individual contributors think about when structuring remote work expectations? Read on for a few tips on how to own your time by creating a maker’s schedule.
1. No meeting days
As both a manager and a maker it is a good idea to have sanctioned days where time does not matter and you can get lost in your work. This allows maker’s the autonomy to have a large chunk of uninterrupted time to well… make things! I have seen success in having at least two days where meetings are restricted to only urgent and important matters can help support a maker’s schedule.
For managers this time is also useful to avoid the time-trap of being too meetings focused, it allows time to be proactive in strategic work and assess the value of existing meetings, weeding out those not critical in supporting work initiatives and building relationships.
2. Block out you time
On days where meetings are the norm, one thing makers can do is to block out time for two things: time to think and build, and time to tune-out.
Recognizing your most productive times of the day as well as your least productive times of the day are both important times to protect from meetings. Work with the people you communicate with on a regular basis to schedule things at the most respectful hour given everyone’s preferences and working styles.
3. Communicate your intentions
Being effective at owning your time comes down to managing expectations. For remote workers it is important to over-communicate intentions surrounding availability, turn-around time, top priorities, and challenges or distractions that are competing for your time.
Unlike an office environment where someone can see you heads-down working, having a quick update that you are about to get in the zone and therefore will be unresponsive is important for managing the expectations of your colleagues and building trust.
4. Check communication on a schedule
Once you have secured your work time, the next trap to avoid is distracting yourself. Avoiding temptation to respond to every notification is the last step in creating a routine where you can truly find your flow. I recommend finding a cadence that works for you to balance the need for communication, whether for work or simply for connection, and your time to create.
Some suggestions that have worked for me in the past, depending on the scenario are as follows:
- Check in at the top of every hour, or three times daily (start of the day, post-lunch, before you turn off tech for the night)
- Use a Pomodoro technique and use your longer breaks to respond to messages.
- Check in after the completion of each task on your do-to list (after a change of locations, perhaps … see: One Spot, One Goal)