The Reality of Transitioning to Remote Work

Change is hard.

Duh.

I wholeheartedly believe in the concept of remote work and am thrilled it's the direction I've chosen for my career. But man, doing things differently than the way you've always done things is not exactly seamless.

Here's what I've learned from my first week.

Focusing remotely is different than focusing in an office.

When you have no distractions, there are only self-imposed breaks. I'm bad at taking those. I tend to power-through, HARD, and then come up for air a bit bleary-eyed and mentally exhausted six hours later. 

Here's the kicker: I felt like I was powering through at work, too, only for longer hours (more like 9-10 at a time). Working 6 hours at once feels nice, but also like I'm underachieving.

It's very difficult to change your mindset from "I work at these times" to "I need to work on X projects today and accomplish Y." When Y is accomplished at 2:45 PM, I get twitchy. I feel like I need to find something to do. And sometimes, if my focus is still there, I do just that. But if I'm a useless blob? I do something else. Allowing myself to do something else is a hard switch to make.

I am hyper focused in the morning.

If you text me at 8am, I will not respond to you until after lunch. My mornings are my golden unicorn hours where I feel like I accomplish everything. My magical mornings are why I finish at 2:45 pm. Thou shalt not schedule engagements with me before noon. Please.

I'm useless after my power hours.

I'm writing this at 2:45 pm on a Friday. I've been working nonstop since 7:30 am. My brain is shot. I'll need a good hour or two before I can do anything useful for my job.

I've found that I can be hyper-focused on a project for about 6 or 7 hours, and then it's like a switch goes off. I'm on point, and suddenly very much not. But I can write a blog post no problem, because it's a totally different project and something I'm doing just for the joy of it. I can crank out a blog post but feel like one more paragraph of data commentary just isn't possible right now. Weird how the mind works. 

I knew I'd be more focused away from distractions. I knew I'd be able to work more quickly and get things done faster. I didn't anticipate that my work endurance was related to amount accomplished rather than time spent. I thought I'd work the same hours and just get more done. But that's not how it's happening - at least not yet. That feels a little gross.

I hate working from home.

My setup is hardly ideal: a cheap folding chair and table in the living room, arm's reach from the couch.

But hey: I have a window.

But hey: I have a window.

I might like working from a home office, which is my eventual plan (next time I have a home). I can't seem to focus in the living room - it's a place to relax, not get shit done.

I sit down at that folding table and, again, can write a post for Colloquial.ly without even thinking about it. But then I open a spreadsheet and my eyes glaze over. Open that same spreadsheet at a cafe and I'm powering through the data. 

I fully buy into the psychological significance of a dedicated place to work and a dedicated place to play. It's hard to work in the place where you play.

I love working from cafes.

It's like being in an office, with lots of people all around you, except it's 30 seconds from my apartment and zero people will talk to me. An introvert's dream.

Coming next week: Taylor tries working from The Frontier, a free coworking space in RTP. Stay tuned. I know you're on pins and needles.


Taylor Coil is traveling the world with Remote Year, living in 12 countries in 12 months, while working as a marketing manager. Follow along to read more philosophies on work, stories from the road, and general (mis)adventures. Sign up for the weekly email, or else read more from the blog.