Pareto has operated 100% remotely from the beginning, but the pandemic has made working online more commonplace. With virtual coworking becoming an integral part of the future of work, it’s a good time to start learning the right skills to be productive when collaborating remotely.
At Pareto, our global team has collaborated virtually to tackle hundreds of customer tasks. We asked some of our associates and partners - Camille, Anne, Jia, Rona, Amy, Joyce, and Arianne - what they’ve learned from their experience as work-from-home superheroes. Special thanks to Mavie - the awesome associate responsible for interviewing these women!
When struggling with procrastination or productivity challenges, we often wish for the right tools and tricks to conquer them. Although it takes the right strategy and attitude to truly maximize productivity, it never hurts to have a variety of tips, tricks, and tools at your disposal. Here are several of the productivity hacks our associates regularly employ while on the job:
- Avoid unnecessary phone use - as much as possible while working. Scrolling through social media is a trap. I noticed I'm more focused and productive if I don't use my phone while working.
- List your to-do's. I use Trello checklist and Google Tasks. Once you can visualize your completed tasks, it can help you become more productive and stay focused.
- Block out your entire day in your calendar. I plan everything I want to set aside time for, from my work hours and meetings, to dedicated family time, sleep, chores, and mealtimes.
- Maximize the use of bookmarks. It helps if you’ll be returning to a site or document more than once a week.
- Dual monitors are great! It’s much easier to work with all the space!
- Use your phone to stay in the loop when AFK. When I can’t be at the computer, I make my phone work for me: I use a collection of apps that keep me up to date even when I’m away. This might look different for you, depending on what suites your workplace uses, but my app must-haves are: GCal, Gmail, Slack, Discord, and Notion.
- Batching. I learned this from Matt D'Avella. Sometimes it's best to let certain tasks "pile up" before you do them to be more efficient. He compared it to doing laundry in piles.
- Multitasking should be kept to a minimum. Since the brain cannot perform several tasks at the same time, doing so actually decreases efficiency.
- Group Slack channels!
- Organize your daily tasks visually. I have a Notion tracker of my personal tasks to make sure that I don't miss anything.
- Organize tabs! I use Chrome Group Tabs so I can organize my tabs depending on the label.
- Use various platforms to help stay organized. I record calls via Otter and keep random notes via Google Keep. These platforms are just what work for me - use whatever works best for you.
- For parents working remotely: try to align your work hours with your children’s daily schedules, including commitments or nap times. This will help you be more productive during times when you can put all your focus on work.
Remote work and team collaboration
Working remotely has many benefits, such as allowing you to work on your own time or enabling collaboration across the globe, but there are also inevitable difficulties that accompany it. Without a brick-and-mortar office setting, employees working remotely may lack the human interaction and casual social components that accompany in-person meetings, project collaboration, and daily work life. Since our team has been fully virtual from the get-go, here are some tips our associates live by to optimize the remote work experience for collaboration.
- Acknowledge your own mistakes. Some things inevitably fall through the cracks - always make sure you learn from them. Own up to your responsibilities, even when you could easily avoid them.
- Be compassionate. Working virtually can be tricky. The person at the other end of the messaging platform or video conference has a life, has problems, has emotions, etc. Making an effort to understand where they are coming from will add a personal element to remote meetings.
- Enjoy your work - and enjoy learning from the people around you! No matter how far away your coworkers are, they’re there to uplift you and support you in getting the job done.
As a team that is spread out all over the world, it’s often difficult to coordinate across time zones and maintain productivity on the same wavelengths. Especially when coworking on a project, being separated by geography can become a blocker to your ability to collaborate effectively. In order to work efficiently with people who have schedules that may not align with yours, here are our team’s words of advice on asynchronous coworking.
- Be reasonably flexible - as a partner, I need to support the PH team, sync with the US team, and support our users from different time zones too. This means being available during the day and setting aside some hours at night.
- Check Google Calendar (or your scheduling platform) before suggesting meetings or deadlines; respect other people's time.
- Check your to-dos at the beginning of each day. At the beginning of every shift, I check my email and Slack to make sure I cover all my to-do's during that shift. If you want to succeed in working remotely, this check-in is mandatory.
When you’re working remotely from home, your professional life inevitably tangles with your personal life, and it becomes harder to separate the two in a shared space. It’s essential to draw distinctions between them and make sure you’re devoting time to both your work and your personal life. With over half of our associates juggling remote work and being moms, they have more than enough experience to learn valuable lessons about cultivating a good work-life balance.
- Set boundaries between your different responsibilities. Sometimes, working from home makes us feel like we have unlimited working hours for everything. In reality, it's best if we try to stick to the hours we have allotted for each commitment.
- Don’t sacrifice sleep. I believe that work-from-home moms, and remote workers in general, would be healthier, happier and more productive if they have adequate rest and sleep. Figure out what works best for you to achieve that.
- Turn off notifications when not at work. My notifications are turned on during my active hours, but turned off outside of them so that I can focus on my other/personal tasks, since notifications can be a source of distraction.
- Establish a morning routine. Begin your day with self-care – whatever that means to you. My routine includes praying, journaling, doing a half-hour workout and household chores
- Break work sessions up, if you can. Sitting down for 8-10 hours straight is not ideal. If your remote work schedule is more flexible, divide your work time into 3-4 hour chunks to avoid brain fog.
- Take meaningful breaks when you hit a wall. It's okay to step away from a task if it's taking you too much time at the moment. Don’t just scroll through social media or watch videos, but be intentional about enjoying your breaks. You might need to take a walk, drink coffee, or eat your favorite ice cream to clear your head, then come back to it more productive and creative.
- Be sociable. In order to stay productive, set boundaries between work and home. Have conversations with family members, friends and work colleagues. Communication with family members and friends is extremely important because it can influence your physical health, promote self-esteem and a sense of belongingness.
- Do not violate your rest hours. It is tempting to answer that one email even though you should be sleeping, eating, or taking care of other important personal matters, just so you can get it over with. The more you do that, the worse it is for your time management in the long run. Your ability to effectively prioritize will suffer.
- Make time for your loved ones. As a single parent and working mom, I acknowledge that I can't do everything. I make sure to have uninterrupted time with my daughter daily, and I help her with school work. Being there for our kids will go a long way toward a healthy work-life balance.
Supporting personal wellness
Although it comes last in this list, protecting your personal wellness is first and foremost. It’s difficult to be an effective leader or collaborator when you’re running your mind and body into the ground - even more so when you’re working with a remote team. These three steps to maintaining your personal wellness are simple yet crucial for productivity and effective remote work.
- Be mindful of what you put in your body. What you feed your gut is your brain fuel.
- Exercise 2-3x a week. What's good for the heart is good for the brain.
- Actively take care of your mental health. Seek therapy if you have the means, but even free mental health resources can do wonders.
As experts in remote work and productivity, our associates are ready to apply their tips and tricks to maximizing efficiency in your business processes. Start boosting your productivity today by offloading your tasks to Pareto. For more inspiration for types of projects to send our way, check out 30+ tasks we can tackle for your business.