Summary and main ideas of the DrupalCon 2020 session.
Why Self-Management in Remote Environments
Flexible Working is Becoming the New Normal
- It is Increasing everywhere: Between 2005 to 2017, there was a 159% increase in remote work (US).
- It attracts and Retains Talent: It is one of the most effective and non-monetary ways to retain employees.
- It is Good for Business: Productivity can increase in a company because of greater flexibility.
- Remote Workers Are More Productive: Fewer distractions and interruptions, less stress from no commute.
- It is Here to Stay: Finally, in a study conducted by Condeco Software on 2020, 41% of global businesses surveyed say they already offer some degree of remote working, while 60% provide flextime opportunities that allow employees to choose when to start and end their workday.
Upwork’s “Future Workforce Report ” predicts that 73% of all teams will have remote workers by 2028.
Remote Work does not Work Out of the Box
- Enabling a remote workforce is not “business as usual”.
- There are critical differences in managing in-office and remotely: communication, culture, and management must adjust.
Tips for a Successful Remote Transformation
- Establish a remote leadership team: Count on experts with remote experience who will document challenges in real time.
- Establish a Handbook: Develop a single source of truth, where all important process will be documented.
- Establish a Communications Plan: For example, always-on video conference room (come and go), async communication.
- Minimize your Tool Stack: Define clear instructions for the use of these tools.
- Drive change: Transition is a process.
- Carve out a dedicated workspace: And use it purely for work purposes .
- Separate work from personal life: Being at home most of the day, does not mean you’re available.
- Engage with People: There is no office to influence spontaneous communication.
- Respect the routine, experiment with change: Not everyone shares the same peak hours of energy and focus
- Roll with the changes: Transition is a process.
Subduing the enemies
“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting” - Sun Tzu, The Art of War
Record Your Distractions
What/When/Where are they?
- Neverending Email Loops
- Project comments
- Work/Personal Chat channels
- Teammates help
- Multiple meetings/Calls
- Social Media Notifications
Limit Your Distractions
- Eliminate Waste
- Remove/Block Apps
- Turn off notifications Unsubscribe from newsletters
- Check inbox 2-3 times per day (max.)
- Set team-support hours
- Plan breaks
- Reduce Meeting/Call time
- Async Meetings
- Isolation / Availability flags
Willpower is a Limited Resource
Use self-nudging to make better choices
If we have a cake in front of our eyes, we will most likely grab it. But we can make a healthier diet for ourselves if we put away sweets and put healthy fruit in front of us.
- Decision Making Process
- Deep work
- “Frog eating”
- Worries (that probably will never happen)
40% of distractions are Self-Initiated!
- Focusing is hard
- Lack of Motivation
- Low Energy
Work on the ones you can control!
- Reduce/Group phone calls
- Group email inbox management
- Avoid leave unfinished Tasks
- Capture ideas when they come (but continue with that you’re currently doing and do not switch)
A Diary Study of Task Switching and Interruptions - Mary Czerwinski Eric Horvitz Susan Wilhite, Microsoft Research
“People who multitask all the time can’t filter out irrelevancy. They can’t manage a working memory. They’re chronically distracted” - Clifford Nass, 2010
- Wasted time: interruptions + deconcentration
Plan in advance
“Adventure is just bad planning” - Roald Amundsen
Align with your Goals
- Time cannot be managed, you can only take advantage of it.
- You always decide
- Find gaps between the most valued tasks
Prioritize your Tasks
- Have a plan, even if you need to change it
- Confirm what you will do
- Eat that frog! Start with the most important/urgent ones
- Follow your plan
- Adjust your plan regularly
- Decide and Reschedule what is left for the next days
Tasks vs Projects:
- Tasks: simple action
- Project: sum of tasks
Clean Your Inbox & control your Notifications
Process all your inbox at once (2-3 times per day max).
- Keep it (as reference)
- Do it (<2min)
- Schedule it
- Delegate it
- Defer it
Automate your inbox:
- Automatic filters
“Always remember, your focus determines your reality.” - George Lucas
Deep Work vs Shallow Work
- Deepk Work: these efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.
- Shallow Work: these efforts tend to not create new value in the world and are easy to replicate.
Adopt a Self-Service and Self-Learning mentality
Assume your question is already answered
- It’s not what you know, it’s knowing where to look for.
- Resist defaulting to tapping on the virtual shoulder of someone as soon as an inquiry comes to mind: redirect that effort into searching.
- Help documenting processes.
- Rely on your team support, only when needed
The Pomodoro Technique
By Francesco Cirillo
Work by intervals:
- 25 min work
- 5 min short break
- Each 4 pomodoros: 20 min break
Plan your day:
- Break tasks into pomodoros
- At least 25 min of deep work
- Team members will wait ~12 min (on average)
- Stops workflow
- Not intense Deep Work
- Forces you to continue even if you are exhausted
The Rest Time Countdown Technique
Work by intervals:
- Decide work time (e.g. 4 hours)
- Decide total break time (e.g 30 min)
- Everytime you want/needed take a break and continue the countdown. Pause it once you go back to work.
- Practice and find your own work-break balance!
- Intense of deep work
- No flow stop
- Conscious control over your breaks
- Team members will wait longer if they need something from you.
How Good Is Enough
- The Efficient Person - “Good enough.”
- The Perfectionist - “Great work.” Only for important tasks. Productivity will drop significantly. The more your productivity decreases.
- The Anal-Retentive Person - “Never Perfect.” This extra amount of time will only generate a minor improvement. Is it worth it?
The 80/20 Rule - The Pareto Principle
- For many outcomes, roughly 80% of consequences come from 20% of causes
- Identify and focus this 20%
“Trust in your employees is essential for remote work success. It also forms the underlying foundation of a great virtual culture.” - Larry English
Document Everything (yes, everything)
Single Source of Truth:
- Company Goals / OKRs
- NO unwritten rules
- Make all in charge
- Foster collaboration / training
Text communication can be difficult.
- Cultural / language differences
- Time zones
- Bank holidays
- Lack of non-verbals
Develop a context-less Communication
- Invest 5 min more, save double (or more!)
- Reduce Loops
- Helps others to understand
It is fundamental to distinguish between:
- Async communication: e-mail, Chat (Slack, Whatsapp), Project Tools (GitLab, Jira, Asana)
- Sync communication: Phone calls, Meetings
Asynchronous also refers to the fact that you’re not expected to respond immediately.
“I Survived to Another Meeting That Should Have Been An Email”
- Have an agenda (in advance!)
- Make it Optional (to optional people)
- Document discussions, decisions and actions
- Record it
- Transform it (remote!)
“When you work, work hard. When you’re done, be done”. - Cal Newport, (Deep Work, 2016)
The Shutdown Ritual
- Incomplete tasks will dominate your attention so they will not be forgotten. (Zeigarnik effect)
- Design a shutdown ritual you trust, ensure that every incomplete task has been captured in order to revisit it later.
- At the end of your workday, shutdown work thinking completely, in case you need more time just extend your workday.
The Unconscious Mind
- Idleness is paradoxically necessary in order to get any work done. Inject regular substantial freedom from professional concerns into your day.
- It helps Insights. Provide your conscious brain time to rest so your unconscious mind will take a shift sorting through your most complex challenges.
- It helps you recharge energy. Direct attention is a finite resource.
- The work that downtime replaces is usually not that important. On average, the limit of intense concentration per day is 4 hours.
“There is no such thing as work-life balance. Everything worth fighting for unbalances your life” - Alain de Botton
Create Personal and Professional Boundaries
Choose consciously what to do with your personal time:
- Mind: Books, courses, tutorials
- Spirit: Books, meditation, music, art
- Body: Sport, walking, dancing
- Social: Family, friends, social networks
Time is limited: accept that increasing any specific pilar will impact the others.
Plan Your Personal Time
- Book time for yourself at the beginning and the end of each day.
- Start the day doing something meaningful for you!
- Setup your optimal workspace
- Invest wisely your limited willpower
- Deal and limit distractions.
- Focus, focus, focus.
- Have a plan, even if it needs to be changed
- Embrace asynchronous work
- Shutdown until next day
- Set boundaries between your professional and personal life
Resources & References
- Strategies for Overcoming Common Software Development Challenges - A management perspective
- Managing Complexity: Best Practices for Software Development Project Managers
- How to Change the World (personal notes) - Jurgen Appelo
- Manage your life better (personal notes) — Alberto Pena
- Diving Into Peopleware