July 19, 2022 by Rich Kurtzman, Brand Communications @ Fathym
Remote work has increased greatly since 2020 and many of the people now working from home prefer it to working in an office.
According to CNBC, 61% of people in their study continued to work from home even when their offices opened up in February.
Of course, working remotely isn’t perfect, and there are some downsides, too.
In fact, there were three lessons I learned in the first six months of working from home. They included a better work-life balance, and more creativity. But the downsides included feeling isolated or out of the loop at times because you may only talk to fellow employees and teammates once per day.
And stuff like this:
And some people want to end working from home 🤣 pic.twitter.com/IHU7b6PfdE— Wu-Tang Is For The Children (@WUTangKids) July 18, 2022
Back to that work-life balance for a minute.
As I wrote in the “lessons learned” blog, work-life balance will happen, but only if you let it.
The good thing about working in an office is you’re constantly interacting with other people and watching them get up for breaks or talk to one another (or you); sometimes that can remind you to take a break.
While working from home – especially in a new industry (tech) – I've often found myself pushing for hours on end trying to learn and understand a whole host of jargon which was new to me.
In my role as Brand Communications at Fathym Inc. I’m more than a content creator, although that’s a chief role of mine. And writing solid, readable and relatable content means the writer should be an authority on the subject. Spoiler alert: I’m not an expert on this tech.
So, in the first few weeks (or months even) I felt like I was in college again, listening to the professors (my teammates at Fathym) explain what may have been somewhat simple ideas to them, but were wild and foreign to me. I dug deep into research and kept notes like I was an undergrad again.
It wasn’t just the flood of information – which felt like trying to drink from a firehose – another difficulty in finding that work-life balance was the lack of structure in the position.
Look, I love the lack of structure in terms of the freedom to basically write on whatever I see fit, as long as it relates to what we’re working on, or like this piece, our culture. But that lack of structure can also lead to long days, not taking breaks when you should, and checking in on Microsoft Teams chats during off time and even on weekends.
Finding a workflow and balance
4-5 months into my first-ever work from home job, I finally started getting into a flow. There were daily meetings, weekly content meetings I hosted, and I felt comfortable asking people within my company for help when needed (which was a lot of the time).
As the social media manager of the company, I was looking for interesting things to share on Twitter when I happened on the Pomodoro Technique.
And that’s when I saw those cute, little tomatoes as well as the simple concept of short periods of concentrated work followed by short breaks, repeated four times, and then followed by a longer break.
What is it?
It’s simply breaking down the day into smaller time increments.
Pomodoro means working in 25-minute, focused segments, then taking a 5-minute break. Repeat that four times, and then take a longer break, of 15-30 minutes (or more).
Why use the pomodoro technique
As mentioned above, working from home offers that work-life balance (nothing like dropping a load of laundry in on your break, drying it later in the day), but only if you focus on the balance.
Otherwise, you could get sucked into working for hours on end, seeing your gains diminish over time.
Taking needed breaks
If your role is creating, it’s simply not sustainable to create for hours and hours on end, every day. Even on topics which you truly, deeply care about. It’s even less likely to create on topics you know less about.
A 5-minute break might not seem like much, but it’s rejuvenating. You can get up and make a snack, let the dog out, or simply sit in your chair and close your eyes.
Taking the break away from screens is my goal, although it doesn’t always happen. One of my personal favorites to do on a short break is to go and check on my vegetable garden outside.
Oh, and don’t worry about it if your work session goes over 25 minutes, or your break runs a little long. You can find the right ratio that works best for you.
Breaking up tasks
Sometimes big tasks seem overwhelming.
In fact, I’m currently working on another blog which has run longer and longer, which is why I jumped to this piece, instead. As I realized that blog wasn’t going to be done today, I wanted to feel accomplished and switched gears to something I could knock out in a few hours.
Pomodoro is great for overly optimistic people who think they can do everything in one day. My hope was originally to finish that other blog the day I started it (Friday), and now after the weekend and spending 2 pomodoros on it today (Monday), I still need at least 2 more pomodoros to finish it up.
This blog you’re reading now, I was confident I could get done in 2 pomodoros (roughly an hour), and am on target at the moment. (It turned into 3, but, I'll take it.)
Keep in mind: It doesn’t matter how many pomodoros you take to accomplish a task. But for those bigger ones, breaking them down into smaller pieces makes them more manageable.
Focused work time
Try to focus in on your work. That means no distractions.
It can be really difficult not to see that notification on your phone, look at it, and then 10 minutes later you’re in an Instagram wormhole.
Whatever you decide to work on for that pomodoro, do it! But don’t check emails, texts etc. Or try not to, at least.
And some people call it the “gamifying of your productivity.” Because your time is cut into such small chunks, you can focus on getting a reasonable amount of work done during that pomodoro, and then look to improve on your next round.
Each session allows you to evaluate goals, focus in and accomplish them. When you do, it builds confidence and helps you conquer more during the day.
See where your time goes
When that timer goes off – I use my Apple watch, but you could buy a timer – I take a quick look at what I was able to do in that 25-minute span. Some pomodoros are more efficient than others, but either way, it makes your work more quantifiable. Especially, when again, it’s a large task that takes multiple days.
Work days seem to go faster
Whenever the timer goes off, I know I’m 30 minutes further into my work day. That's a great feeling, especially when it’s time for the long break (lunchtime).
On my long breaks, I like to take the dog for a walk. It gets me out of the house and a little bit of exercise at the same time. Plus, she’s so routined, she whines for a walk in the early afternoon now. In fact, it’s long break time now, and since it’s too hot for a walk, I’m going to the basement with her for some playtime.
After lunch, you may only have 3-4 pomodoro periods left: It really does seem to make the work day go by faster.
Experiment with times. If 25 minutes is too short, try 30 or even 45 minutes. But if you’re doing 45, think about 10-minute breaks instead of 5-minute ones.
You can try out a pomodoro app. I haven’t yet, but my sister-in-law (who also loves the pomodoro technique and says it helps her stay focused with ADHD), uses Pomodoro – Focus Timer app.
My SIL works at home, too – which is great for watching kids, like her two young ones, or my soon-arriving baby – and she randomly brought up pomodoro to me at our 4th of July barbecue.
“I probably wouldn’t remember to take real breaks without it,” she said.
Another tip: You can plan out your pomos. I haven’t for the most part (actually to today), but it could help you tackle certain tasks if you have them on the docket.
For all those reasons, I love using the pomodoro technique for breaking up my work day and my tasks at Fathym.
I'm grateful for the culture at Fathym, which is 100% remote work, and how it has allowed me to be there for my pregnant wife, attend ultrasounds , provide better care for my dog and even take better care of my garden.
Work from home is wonderful and I wish it for anyone who's able to do so.
And for those that want to learn more about the awesome place I work – let me tell you a little bit about Fathym. As I mentioned, I’m new to the tech world and all the glorious things it has to offer. And it’s taken me a little bit to fully grasp the mind-blowing tech that Fathym’s been rolling out. For those that have been around and already understand the pain and suffering involved with hosting and securing web projects in the cloud, you’re going to love Fathym!
Fathym helps you develop, automate, and manage the delivery of modern web projects in the cloud. We take control of DevOps processes and CI/CD pipelines with a complete platform for hosting, securing, scaling, continuously building, and deploying your applications. And there’s more! Fathym helps you integrate multiple repos, tech stacks, frameworks, no-code builders and data sources together under one domain. Like the pic below illustrates. Like I said, it’s pretty mind-blowing.