Working Remotely During Quarantine? Tips and Tricks to be Productive

Working remotely is especially challenging in times when you are homebound with your kids and family. How to ace work from home in quarantine is not difficult for a lot of people in the bay area because we are so used to telecommuting. The difficult part is being physically isolated.  
In my decades of working off the cuff - at airport lounges, coffee shops in patchy internet times, hotel lobbies, other people's offices, on trans-Atlantic flights and other such sojourns across time zones, while on the go- I have picked up a few best practices. Here they are





1. Clarity of Priority
When working remotely, it is important to have access to the big picture of what you are working on and how it fits into the final product or deliverable you are a part of. Once, there is clarity on what is required of you, the other data you need to put into perspective is where you fit into the chain of delivery with your colleagues and of course, what are the timelines within which you have to deliver so that you do not impact the dependence of other team members by the absence of your output. Go granular and figure out the earliest and latest by which your outputs are required. 
This will help you plan your time and your goal setting exercise. 
Put priority to actions that require your attention the most because they impact the overall team delivery. Create priority based on the dependency of your team on your output and the timelines you are working against. 

2. Creating the delivery chain 
Predefine with granularity the inputs, resources, data and time you will require to complete what you have to deliver every day. Set up a plan so that no amount of interdependence becomes an obstacle in your path to delivery. This also sets up a very important process in remote working - Sense of purpose. You develop clarity over how you fit into the bigger picture while delivering your end of the game everyday.

3. Channeling Focus
The biggest superpower you need to inculcate which working remotely is - Focus. This can be very difficult if you are working from home full of people - which makes distractions very easy. 
However, your ability to focus will determine whether you succeed or fail in your environment. Focus is critical for learning new things, achieving goals, and performing well across a wide variety of situations.
Start by assessing the status of your current state of mind. Do you find it easy to go off the path, cannot track your progress or keep procrastinating, or cannot tune off distractions? If yes, you need to work on the process of focusing. It is not difficult if you set your mind to it. 
Eliminating distractions is easy. Find a comfortable place to work at, tune out our phone. I normally place my phone on Do Not Disturb mode for most of my working day. I like to only talk to people at pre-meditated times in my schedule. This helps me have more productive conversations. If it is urgent or not scheduled in my calendar, I encourage people to leave a message which gives me the option to set priority to their request, conversation, and issues in a way that is least disruptive to my productivity. Unsolicited phone calls are disruptive events and disrespectful of the priorities of the receiving person. 
Another thing that I have been practicing in the last couple of years is focusing on one job at one time. Trust me, it was the most difficult of all the practices. I essentially have ADHD, work multiple projects, work many tabs, many strains of thoughts and outputs all at the same time. I have multi-tasked my entire life and I believe I was really successful at that process. In the last two years, the quality of work has become more important to me than the amount of work getting out of my way because of deadline pressures. The most important thing that I have realized in this process is that I have more clarity of thought about what I am doing and have become more creative and innovative with my problem-solving strategies. 
Another strategy taught to me by my cousin Arun Wakhlu that has helped me in my career has been 'mindfulness". The process of being in the present has not only improved my focus but also kept me relatively calm in the most tumultuous times and on adverse occasions. it has helped me focus on immediate priorities rather than worry about impending disasters. This is also a good tool to think properly while under constant pressure and adds a strategic logic to your decision-making process. 


4. Pre-meditated short breaks
While working remotely, there are bound to be time-restrained activities that you may need to accomplish while you are completing your deliverables. Use these breaks off work as a tool to revitalize your focus. Psychologists confirm that taking short breaks and placing your attention elsewhere occasionally dramatically improves mental focus. 

5. Communication
Set up specific times for use of phone and social media. This will help you collaborate better which in social isolation may be a bit challenging. I have started setting aside 2 hours in the mid-morning and 2 hours at late night for social media and communication these days since we are socially isolated. In normal circumstances, I set aside personal communication for Friday and Saturday. 

6. Exercise and Music
A lot of people who work from home find it extremely therapeutic to have some background music playing while you work. I am a creature of this habit as well. In fact, I find that music helps me focus better and I do not feel isolated because of the background noise.  I also use music as a great de-stressing tool while I go for short walks with my dog multiple times a day. I pretend I am a rock star and sing along much to the surprise of other people passing by. But who cares? Singing along on the hiking trails or roads and even doing little happy dances is perhaps what brings sanity to my otherwise socially isolated life as we continue to quarantine for another month or so.