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Training Remote Productivity

David Sherry
4 min read

Since 2013 I've worked for myself, and so I've experimented with all different types of setups and routines.

I'm fairly obsessive about understanding even subtle changes to my energy, productivity or wellbeing.

If you think about Olympic athletes, they train each day to stretch the limits of their ability, and they look at every possible variable for improvement.

I find it interesting that there is less of a focus in offices on coaching. And less of a focus of CEO-as-Coach relationship, where the CEO acts as an Olympic coach would – helping set structures, routine and even assisting with areas like diet, mindset, and health to help people perform at their best.

Here are some things I think about to perform at my best. Note that I'm also changing things up to test and learn and that what works for me might not work for you at all.

That said, with so many people working remotely now, I figure my last 7 or 8 years of practice has taught me some things…

Space –

Most people work at one desk, in one location all day.

I learned that my brain is better at completing certain tasks in certain environments. And that space really matters to me, which includes lighting, cleanliness, and things like the size of my monitor or desk.

If I had it my way, I would have multiple rooms in one office.  Each room would vary.

I'd have a public room for meetings, open, with big windows and air.

I'd have a room for general admin, like email, etc.

And then I'd have a room with less technology, maybe even no phones aloud, that is for writing and deep work. This room would be fairly quiet with less bright lighting.

To simulate this in normal times, I'll pick a task or a set of them and go to a particular coffee shop. For example, I'll set up 3 hours of work, walk to the shop, do the work and then return.

The breaks in between help as well.

Time –

I like this app called Rise Science which tracks your sleep and then gives you a suggested schedule for your day based on peak hours of alertness.

Right now I'm getting up at 4:30-5 to work first thing in the morning. I find it's the only time I can truly do my deep work (like room 3 above) and I aim for about 2 or 3 hours of that if possible.

Work from ~9-12 is more admin, and I allow myself into my inbox, Slack, and Twitter (more often than I'd like).

Midday for me is low energy. I have a light lunch and this is when I tend to read, work out, or go for a walk and listen to podcasts.

If I work out, my energy starts coming back and that's when I like to take my calls if I can.

So I schedule calls for my afternoon.

Strangely, right after dinner (at 5) is another time where I have a lot of energy. I can get another hour, hour and a half in of work at that time before I shut down.

Sleep –

Of course sleep matters, and if you really pay attention it affects a few areas.

Anxiety. I believe there is a direct connection with a lack of sleep and anxiety. Low-grade anxiety is triggered by the body being overtired, and it's way easier to "put me over the edge" here where I notice it if my sleep is off.

I also think I can get too much sleep. And 8-10 hours actually reduces my energy during the day if I have that too many days in a row. So for me, it's a sweet spot.

I take Zinc and 5HTP before bed typically which I've found to help make a difference. I also use a mask as I don't have blackout curtains.

Diet –

By far the biggest impact on my wellbeing is my diet. Next is working out. Then sleep.

I believe this is the order of things you should work on first. Everyone is different so just test how you feel.

For me, a diet of whole, non-packaged foods which are low sugar and generally low-carb is best for energy.

Breakfast is a protein shake with avocado for fat and greens (both real and powdered) which holds me over until lunch.

Lunch is a light salad (mostly greens) with a healthy dressing. Some nuts or meat can be added.

If I stick to this I have the most energy for work. But a bigger dinner with meat, eggs and some vegetables typically make me feel energized for that next hour when I complete the rest of my work. My weakness is Dark Chocolate.

Supplements –

As for supplements, I should probably write a post just on this.

But some that come to mind right now are Vitamin D which I believe makes a difference when you work inside often, as well as Fish-Oil.

I also typically use immunity mushroom blends in things like my smoothie and sometimes take it in pill form. I like the Stamets brand.

Coffee and Tea are used first thing in the morning, but I try and not have any more beyond that. I switch between Bulletproof coffee or Black tea and typically put that mushroom supplement in that to balance it out.

If I feel too caffeinated I take a supplement to balance that out, like L-Theanine.

I also have been experimenting with CBD tinctures, specifically the "Focus" blend from Mineral. I use one for sleep as well.

Productivity –

I could write a whole post on this, but I believe the above matters as much for productivity as actual habits or practices.

I generally follow Pomodoro, although I don't time it so much. I think lots of work habits revert back to working on things that are a priority and not getting trapped in email, so I spend more time trying to AVOID pitfalls than I do try to maximize successes.

A simple to-do list that is 3-5 points long is enough, and that could be on paper. I just use Notion and delete it again every day.

I also find that if I do something creative first thing, my day flows better. It's like a warm-up, so getting early success matters most.

Plenty of apps help me out as well but again that's for another time.

Hopefully, this helps you start to think about any area you haven't played with yet. This post could easily triple in length if I included all of the things I've tested or still test.

But it's all about what works for you. Ignore everything/all that doesn't apply.

But today we can train like athletes, and the tools and information are out there, so I thought I'd share.

How about you?

What is the best thing you've learned about yourself and work? What makes the biggest difference?

xx David

Personal Leadership and ProductivityBusiness