Solving my Remote Year productivity issue

I was nervous about a lot of things when I left for Remote Year.

Making new friends. Maintaining long-distance friendships. Missing the people I loved. Massive change. Unknown impact to my relationship with Jeff.

But I wasn't remotely (pun absolutely intended) nervous about productivity.

I've got the hang of working remotely, I thought. I've done it from cafes, coworking spaces, Jeff's living room, my mother's kitchen.

Oh, past Taylor, you starry-eyed little fool.

What an idiot.

What an idiot.

Our office in Montevideo is a coworking space. It's beautiful. There are plenty of desks, the natural light is relaxing, and the internet is fast.

And yet every time I opened my laptop at Sinergia Cowork, I stared helplessly at my to-do list and felt my eyes glaze over. I hit marketer's bock - like writer's block, but for marketers. 

My go-to tricks didn't help. I pluged into Deep Focus, turned on my noise-cancelling headphones and still. couldn't. perform.

I'm ashamed to say that I couldn't figure out my issue for a whole month. Don't get me wrong - I still got through my to-do list, but it'd take me twice as long, three times as long. It was incredibly frustrating. Why was I suddenly slow? Why did it take me 10 hours to complete what I could in five back home?

Why was working at Sinergia so different than The Frontier, my go-to coworking space in Durham?

Because it has nothing to do with the space.

Of course it doesn't.

Past Taylor, you dumbass, you already know that place doesn't impact your productivity nearly as much as other factors.

But I didn't realize one of those important factors: people.

I can work around strangers. The energy of people bustling around me, sipping coffee and tapping on laptops, is energizing. It helps me dive in and focus.

I can work around people I know really, REALLY well. Chloe and I can plug in next to each other and get shit DONE, all while giggling about something utterly ridiculous. I can sit across from Jeff and work all day. Amanda and I have never worked next to each other, but I'm sure it'd be the same.

But people who require social energy - casual friends, acquaintances, new friendships? Lulz. Forget about it.

Because it's worse than an open office. Not only are Remote Year friends' conversations relevant to me, they're usually more exciting than my spreadsheet. When Sabrina or Cait walks into the room, noise cancelling headphones or not, I'm going to notice. Because oh hey, I like them and I really want to actively build those friendships.

And so the social energy required for those moments overrides the mental acuity required to drown out the world. It pulls my focus, keeps me from being productive.

It wears me down and makes the impostor syndrome rear its disgusting head.

So how do I fix it?

I work alone. I go to a coffee shop without company. I take up a whole two-person table by myself. I suck up the cost of a cortado or chocolate caliente (which, I have just learned, tastes like liquid dirt until you add sugar) to focus.

And I power through three pieces of analysis in an hour - a task that took me twice as long yesterday afternoon.

Taylor's got her groove back.

Now, to just address my internal FOMO that comes with intentional isolation from the group. I'm working on it.

Please still be my friend, Remote Year, even though I'm never in the office.


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.