The Remote Work Series: Planning for Change, Not Perfection
Not too long ago, you may have found yourself wondering if 5 minutes was enough time for you to grab lunch near your office before your next meeting. Similarly, now you may be worried about filling up your entire day with back-to-back, hour-long virtual meetings. It’s a trap that many have fallen into as organizations shift to virtual or remote work. For this reason, it’s more important than ever to plan for change and build a more flexible schedule.
We now have an opportunity to think about planning our days more intentionally to maximize productivity and take care of ourselves at the same time. It can feel like you’re getting a lot done in a virtual environment when you have multiple screens up, including the phone you use to Slack, text, or email colleagues. However, while a packed schedule can make your days feel more productive, you may end up exhausted and unable to process new information by the end of the day.
Missed the previous post?
Check out the first post in the Remote Work Series: Remote Work Routines
The way you can begin to plan your day differently is to start with your calendar. If you want to give it a shot, here’s how I think about my week’s calendar and I think it might be helpful for you. My week is built based on four categories of meetings, and I think carefully about how much time I like to spend in each category.
1. Recurring meetings: 20% of my week, or 1 day
Recurring meetings are for time I spend with members of my team each week, usually at the same time. It comes out to about the equivalent of 1 day of meetings, and I know that I don’t need to spend more time than this on recurring meetings.
2. Non-recurring meetings: 30%, or 1.5 days
These are meetings that I schedule for personal networking, speaking with clients, or conducting interviews, and so on. This is time for me to connect with people outside of my team, to advance the organization's and my own personal growth.
3. Movable meetings: 10%, or half a day
My movable meetings are for the types of meetings that can be pushed to another day or in some cases, even to the next week. They may be for informal check-ins or other purposes that are not as urgent as other categories. This category helps to add additional flexibility in my schedule.
4. Open space for others: 10%, or half a day
I always like to hold the equivalent of one half of a day open for teammates and others to put time on my calendar. People can use this time to get to know me, get clarity on a project, informally check-in, and more. Keeping time open for others helps me feel connected to my team and adds flexibility when left open.
Remaining: 30%, or 1.5 days
The remaining time on my calendar is open time for me. I use this time to start new projects, complete tasks, reflect on my week, and to adjust for change.
Thinking about Planning Differently
When you’re trying to figure out the puzzle of your calendar, you need empty space for flexibility. It might seem efficient to fill your calendar from start to finish, but you need space to adjust as your day and week goes by.
If you’re collaborating with a large group, start with sharing a Google Doc with your team. Platforms like Google Docs allow for teams to work on a document in real-time, and allows people to work on their own time and at their pace. Here are some steps you can take to effectively plan and collaborate with your team remotely.
Create objectives and an overview of the task or project.
Allow every team member to work on it on their own time.
Set a meeting to allow team members to share their contributions.
Process the new information together and decide next steps.
Leverage asynchronous planning
This might be different from how things happen in-person, where a team reviews and discusses a plan, and then someone from the team takes the information and creates a plan or deliverable independently before it is shared again with the team. The approach I outlined above is much more collaborative and allows you to work in shorter sprints. In a sprint, your team may get together to review new data, test out a solution, and validate some assumptions all in a short 2-4 week window. This working style is much more agile and brings many benefits, including:
Information is shared quickly
Inclusion of new ideas
Reduced bias by allowing people to work on their own.
Remote work may give us extra time considering we no longer worry about commuting to and from the office, but we should take this opportunity to prepare and organize our days better.
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Looking for the next post in the Remote Work Series?
Check out: Build Trust and Allow Authority to Spread
About Anthony Kim
Anthony Kim is a Corwin Press bestselling author, with publications including The New Team Habits, The New School Rules, and The Personalized Learning Playbook. His writing ranges the topics of the future of work, leadership and team motivation, improving the way we work, and innovation in systems-based approaches to organizations and school design. Anthony believes that how we work is the key determinant to the success of any organization. He is a nationally recognized speaker on learning and his work has been referenced by the Christensen Institute, iNACOL, EdSurge, CompetencyWorks, Education Week, District Administration, and numerous research reports. In addition to his writing, Anthony is the founder and CEO of Education Elements, a trusted partner and consultant to over 1,000 schools nationwide. Anthony has been the founder of several companies across multiple industries, including online education, ecommerce, and concerts and events.