How to Work Remotely from Sunny Malta
08.04.2016 | 10 min read
Working from home is great as long you don’t end up feeling like you are constantly working. When working remotely from home, it can become difficult to set boundaries and differentiate between work and private time. To help others who may face this same issue, I am going to share some tips on how I managed to work remotely from sunny, Malta. In this post you will learn about different strategies for boosting productivity, which is essential for staying focused within an informal and distractive work environment (such as the lovely island of Malta, where everything is relaxed and life goes by so slowly). After reading this, I hope you find that my tips are both helpful and inspiring :).
Create a Separate Space Dedicated for Working
Even if you are planning to spend most of your time working from a cafe near the sea, sitting/laying on a bed with your laptop in hand or from any other uncommon work environment—it is important to have a specific space dedicated for working. When creating this space, remember that it has to be a place where you can sit comfortably and be able to focus on difficult tasks.
If possible you should try and purchase a comfortable chair, good desk and large monitor. Your back will surely thank you so it will prove to be well worth the effort. Having an in-home office space that is comfortable and inviting will be helpful on days where you are struggling to focus or are unable to find a place for yourself to work. Working from coffee houses or cafes can be great but there are going to be times when you have tasks that are too complex to resolve while sitting in a public area. This is especially true for when there are Italians having a friendly chat, which actually sounds as if they are arguing, at a nearby table. You know Italians and their expressiveness and here on the island of Malta, there are plenty!
It may not always be possible to have a full working setup in your flat. This is especially true for when your significant other is also, working remotely. The reason is you may not have enough space for two large desks, office chairs and other supplies. Not to worry though, there is always a way around that. All you have to do is find a space that you will be able to quickly transform into a focus-friendly workspace. For example, you can use the kitchen table. Just bring your monitor, a comfortable chair and that should do the trick for creating a quick and easy workspace where you are free to focus on what you need to get accomplished. What is important here is that if using an area within your private space, you don’t keep things connected all of the time. If you do, you will feel that you are at the office all of the time. The goal is to have separate areas to help with enforcing a separation of duties. When the lines between work and pleasure become too blurred, it can cause you to feel overwhelmed. For this reason, be sure that if sharing a space for both business and pleasure, you take the time to put everything away once you are finished each day. Even though it would be easier to keep everything setup and in one place, it is worth the added effort to set up and breakdown your office each day.
Use Temptations to Your Advantage
Living on Malta offers great ways to spend your free time. Now, it’s the start of April and the beach season is just beginning so there are a lot of beautiful places to go and see. This can be very distracting especially when the sun is shining bright and the crystal clean sea awaits while you are having to sit in front of the computer to write code.
Instead of viewing temptations as a negative distraction, use them as motivators to finish your tasks. For instance, I would use a swim in the sea as my reward for meeting my daily work goals. Here on Malta, where the siesta has become part of the daily routine, you often see shopkeepers and workers from your neighborhood swimming in the sea during the time of the siesta. These people are utilizing the 2-hour break in their day to enjoy the beautiful environment but after, they must return to work to finish out the work day.
While this routine works well for many people that reside in Malta, if given the option- I would rather finish my daily tasks and have my work day end at an earlier time rather than take a long break in the middle of the day. This way, my mind is free during my personal time because I am completely finished with my work. I am sure this is because I’m not used to having a siesta as part of my daily routine. I imagine if it was, I would still use temptations in the same way-to reward myself for meeting my daily goals. The only difference would be that instead of making the deadline for reaching my goals the end of the day, it would be for around the time of the siesta.
As you can see, temptations don’t have to be viewed as such a negative thing. In fact, without temptations like the beautiful beach and sea, what would serve as our greatest motivators for staying on task (especially, when working from such a beautiful location)?
Remember that Productivity Apps are Your Best Friend
I don’t try and fool myself by pretending I have more self-discipline than I actually have. It is true that sometimes I’m more determined to finish my work while other times, that may not be the case. During these times, it’s very easy for me tell myself I am only going to take a quick peek on facebook when in reality, I sign-in and get lost for 30 minutes. For me, there is nothing worse than spending time being unproductive. This is why I use SelfControl and no, I am not talking about my own internal ability to control myself. I am talking about the lifesaving productivity app called, SelfControl.
SelfControl is an app for Mac OS X that enables you to completely block access to distracting websites. All you have to do is add unproductive websites to the blacklist and set a timeframe for when you don’t want to have access to them. You can also add new websites while the app is running.
This app is very effective because it blocks access to the blacklisted websites on any browser and works even after the application is closed and you have restarted your mac. When using this application, you will be ensuring that you won’t lose time by scrolling through Facebook or pinterest. I In emergency situations, you can disable the app through console commands, but trust me – you won’t hassle with this because it requires too much effort.
The only time I needed to hack this application was when I added “plus.google.pl” to my unproductive list and realized a few minutes before a call with client on google hangouts, that I couldn’t access it! Luckily, I didn’t have the temptation to do this anymore.
When I have days where my motivation is low and I am easily distracted, the first thing I do in the morning is set SelfControl for 4-8h ahead. On days where I’m very determined to stay on task and don’t feel the need to use SelfControl I don’t but what I do is—turn it on if I notice I am starting to get lost in social activities online.
Another application I use to help with self-discipline is DeskTime. This is an application that monitors what applications and websites you’re using during your work hours and how much time you spend on each of them. You can divide the apps and websites you’re using into 3 categories: unproductive, neutral and productive. Then, the app shows you how productive you are. I treat it kind of like a game and am often very motivated to get ‘big scores’ because it’s very rewarding ;). You may think, why do I need this application when I already have SelfControl? As previously mentioned, I don’t use SelfControl all of the time. Plus, what I like about DeskTime is that it offers additional insight into what may be causing you the most distractions during the day. For instance, you may be very surprised at how much time you spend on something that isn’t productive. Most people that use this app are surprised to learn that—what feels like just a few minutes is actually, much longer than that. This app helps you identify your weaknesses for distractions and in turn, helps you stay focused on what’s important. It may also provide an alert for when you should turn SelfControl on !
Plan Your Daily Work
In addition to having tasks organized into sprints within a task management system (like JIRA which we use at 10Clouds), I like to write down my daily list of tasks on a piece of paper. I do that either at the beginning or at the end of each workday. This habit helps me to stay focused and organized especially when the external environment is informal and distracting (sunny beach or cozy home).
Another very powerful habit, which I’m still working on because I tend to get the easy stuff done first, is to follow Brian Tracy’s advice to “eat this frog!”. What does this mean? The first tasks in your workday should be the hardest and most complex ones. This is because at the beginning of the workday, most people have a full tank and strong will to work from. This helps them stay focused on the most difficult tasks while resisting the distractions that await on the internet, which are only one click away. From my own experience—I have observed that if I start my workday with the easiest tasks, I have a more difficult time trying to focus on the harder ones later in the day. It is true but with each passing hour of the workday, my self-discipline increasingly diminishes.
With that being said, it is worth noting that with typical “night owls” whose productivity peaks during the evening hours-it may be most beneficial to commit to the most difficult tasks later in the day when nothing can disturb them. When it comes to properly planning your day, it is all about finding out what type of person you are (morning or night) and what works best for you when organizing your day. Determining the type of worker you are isn’t always black and white and may not prove to be that simple. Just because you enjoy staying up late and waking up around noon, doesn’t mean you aren’t someone that proves to be most productive in the morning. For me, it is difficult because I am such a mix between the two. I like both mornings and nights depending on how I am feeling and what the task is. Just remember to try out the different options and go with what you feel works best for you!