Remote life hacks from the RealtimeBoard team

In 2019, remote work is becoming more and more popular: to hire the best talent from all across the world and keep up with the competition, startups and big companies alike are building distributed teams. There are also numerous productivity tools that support organizations as well as individuals. However, transitioning from a colocated team to a remote environment can be still challenging—how can you organize your workday if you don’t have to be at the office 9 to 5? How do you establish relationships with new colleagues? How do you move up the career ladder?

At RealtimeBoard, we are trying to figure out how to make remote work more convenient—both by building tools for visual communication and sharing our experience as a remote team. Today, we are excited to start a series of posts where our team members share their tried and true methods to be more productive while working remotely.

Author

Anna Savina

Author

01

Brittni
Cocchiara

Community Marketing Manager


POSITION: Community Marketing Manager

EXPERIENCE WORKING REMOTELY: Zero experience before RealtimeBoard

FAVORITE PRODUCTIVITY TOOLS (except RealtimeBoard): Google Suite, Evernote

Take breaks to avoid burnout

Some people think working from home is great and cool, and gives you all these perks. You do get flexibility, but a lot of people feel like they always have to be checking on or working on something. When I first started, I needed to set an alarm on my calendar to start the workday and then set up two-hour blocks. I’d do two hours and then take an hour break. Then two more hours and an hour break.

If I don’t have any coworkers next to me, I’m laser focused. In the office, I don’t get as much work done. Working at home, something that would normally take me a few hours in an office setting takes me 45 minutes.

But if I didn’t take breaks, I would quickly burn out. Having a dog at home helps. When I take my breaks, I take her for a walk. If you are just stuck at home, you’ll end up hating your job and everything about it. You need breaks.

Prepare for calls in advance

I live and breathe by my Google calendar, and I use Evernote to mark down all my tasks. Because I do interviews with people, I check my schedule the night before and prepare. I don’t know what I would do without my calendar as it’s even synced with my phone.

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02

Joanna
Kim


POSITION: Events Coordinator

EXPERIENCE WORKING REMOTELY: 3 months

FAVORITE PRODUCTIVITY TOOLS (except RealtimeBoard): Google Suite (and my trusty planner)

Make yourself comfortable

This sounds simple, but I want to make sure my room is tidy. My working desk is next to my bed so it’s important for me to make my bed as soon as I wake up. If the space is clean, then my mind is clean and decluttered!

Find the schedule that works best for you

It’s important to figure out your most productive hours in the day. For me, I’m most productive in the morning so I like to wake up between 6 and 6:30am, eat a hearty breakfast, down a cup of coffee, and start working by 7am.

I’ll work until lunchtime, around 12pm, and eat in my living room so I can physically separate work from personal time. Depending on the day, I’ll take a 30-minute or 1-hour break and get back to work. I hit a wall around 3–4pm, which is when I’m least productive. During this time, I like to recharge by cleaning the house (like I said, I need my space clean!), walking my dog, or running a quick errand. Around 5pm, I feel energized and refreshed so I can finish up the day with any remaining tasks. If I have work that’s not time sensitive, I’ll resume after dinner and some down time, around 8–9pm.

Working when you’re most productive, having an agenda for the day, and taking reasonable breaks are how I stay focused when working remotely. I’ll have an agenda already created from the previous day so it’s easy for me to tackle my to do list. I also set daily goals so I can hold myself accountable and make sure I am working efficiently and effectively.

Work with music

I can’t work without music and I’ll listen to songs based on my mood. If I’m feeling excited and motivated, I like to listen to dance/hip hop. If I’m feeling relaxed and even stressed, I’ll listen to chill, slow R&B. Here are some playlists that help me focus: 1, 2, 3.

03

Stephen
Krikorian


POSITION: Sales Operations Lead

EXPERIENCE WORKING REMOTELY: 1 year

FAVORITE PRODUCTIVITY TOOLS (except RealtimeBoard): Slack, Google Calendar, Mobile Apps

Efficient Setup

I have to have a setup that is identical to my office setup. When I first started working remotely, I realized that if you don’t have a work-like setup in your house, this is going to kill your productivity. Create a space that is familiar, efficient, and productive. For me, it’s the extra monitor, with wireless mouse and wireless keyboard.  For others, it’s a bean bag chair… whatever that setup is, it has to work for you!

Calendaring out your day

It’s very important for me to make sure the day is scheduled down to the hour. I set my Google calendar to schedule events for 25 or 50 minutes, so I always have 5- to 10-minute buffers in between each task or meeting. Taking 5–10-minute ‘reset’ breaks in between each task or meeting has been extremely helpful.

Pace yourself

You can set yourself up for failure by trying to do too much. I can either do early mornings or late nights, but I can’t do both. The key thing is to have a schedule and stick to it.  When I first started I was advised to have set meeting hours; and I didn’t follow that advice… I found myself burning out really fast and I had to make a change. Once I did, it was a night and day difference!

Sync your calendars

My phone’s calendar is synced with Google calendar and I have notifications on my phone go off 20 minutes before the next agenda item. This is my “20-minute warning.”  Also, I don’t have separate personal and work calendars; I have time blocked for the gym or a weekend event with my significant other and some friends. It’s more efficient for me and allows me to truly understand my week.

04

Kevin
Le


POSITION: Customer Success Manager

EXPERIENCE WORKING REMOTELY: 6 years

FAVORITE PRODUCTIVITY TOOLS (except RealtimeBoard): Evernote, Inbox by Gmail, Keyboard shortcuts and hotkeys

Be visible and proactive

To maximize productivity, stay actively visible. During team meetings, I try to keep my camera on. I use Slack to say hello to new team members, because there’s no other way to introduce yourself. You have to proactively engage with your teammates, especially people outside your team, otherwise you’ll never get to know anyone outside your department. It gets harder and harder as you scale. The earlier you can learn those habits—introduce yourself to people without a specific agenda—the easier it will be when you need to work with them.

When you’re working remotely, you have to be even more engaged. Document things you’ve done. When you work in an office, people can see you doing things. If you’re not in the office, how do they really know? Being very openly communicative about the things you’re doing will help.

Use incentives to drive productivity

At my previous job, I almost always worked remotely, so I rarely saw my teammates in person. We used Bonusly as a recognition program. Each employee is given $25 a month to credit their coworkers. If someone helped you out with a project, you can gift them a couple dollars. If you don’t spend all of it, it just resets. The money can be redeemed for actual gift cards and things like that.

It’s a good idea to offer a monthly Starbucks stipend to encourage workers to leave their home or get in front of clients, things like that. The flexibility is empowering. You have to find creative ways to stay engaged, especially if you’re never going to see each other or you see each other very rarely. Also hosting virtual happy hours with smaller intimate groups of 10 to 15 is really fun. People can talk and get to know each other. We had them once a month at most.

05

Ryan
Kennedy


POSITION: Account Manager

EXPERIENCE WORKING REMOTELY: 3 years

FAVORITE PRODUCTIVITY TOOLS (except RealtimeBoard): Salesforce, Gmail w/ Groove, & Trello

Know who you’re working with

When I first started working remotely, it was important to understand the team and everyone’s roles. We had a board in RealtimeBoard with all the teams, the managers, and roles. It acts as our organization chart. That was very important to have. I could reference it and understand who I was working with and who to talk to in order to get things done.

Keep the lines open

I have a separate screen just for Slack. I have all of my communications on one screen, so I’m always engaged and looped into what’s going on. Creating a dedicated space for communication with your team is important.

Set aside time for communication

I’ve had success blocking out time for cleaning up my email inbox and catching up on Slack channels. I change it every week, but it’s important to dedicate time on the calendar to it. It can be pretty granular, too—for 10 minutes, I’ll catch up with my immediate team and see what they’re doing today.

I try to message my manager and teammates once a day just to see what’s going on. Before every call with the team, we usually dedicate the first 5 or 10 minutes to see where people are and what they’re doing. Dedicate time before each meeting to catch up casually—include ice breakers if needed.

Use tools to stay organized

It’s important to use the tools that you have available in the way that they were intended.I block out time on my Google calendar to ensure my day is focused. I make sure I block out personal time too, because with teammates and customers across multiple time zones it can be hard to step away from work when your office is at home. Before you know it you’re working 12+ hour days. You have to make sure you allow yourself to step away and enjoy some personal time.

I use Trello and RealtimeBoard to plan on a high level. I use the Trello app as a loose to-do list: things I’m waiting on internally or from customers, to track new leads, and monitor the status of opportunities. I move everything to “done” or archive it so I can see everything I did. As a result, before I end the day I can make sure I review everything, reflect, and make sure everything is recorded accurately in our CRM (Salesforce). This then helps me start thinking about what needs to be accomplished the next day. RealtimeBoard is used heavily in my customer account reviews and plannings. I map out the who, what, when, why, and how inside RealtimeBoard to manage and determine next steps for each customer.

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Gmail has email reminders that you can also set yourself. For example, I can set a nudge to follow up if I don’t receive a response after five days.

I create tasks in Salesforce from Gmail with a tool called Groove. It integrates with Gmail to help you schedule emails, calls, reminders, tasks, etc. I’ll write emails and schedule them to be sent later if needed to help ensure better response times. It also tells me everything about my correspondence history. It says when I emailed someone, when my last meetings with them occured, and whether they opened my email, clicked, or replied. I can add notes for myself. All this information is also stored in Salesforce.

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