Working Remote

Thu Apr 09 2020

Last week I watched my professor drone on for seven hours about computer circuitry. As my eyes struggled to stay open as he babbled about SR-latches, I wondered: what sequence of dreadful mistakes did I make to land myself in this situation. I got through my entire college career without pulling a single all-nighter, yet that night changed it all.

Although I could have followed along with the lecture material during the regular class time, remote learning made a tantalizing temptation to procrastinate and binge two and a half weeks of lecture material in one night --two nights before the exam. Ironically, I ended up doing remarkably well on that exam and felt prepared for every question; nerveless, it still begs the question... Why? After asking around, I found that all eight of my friends taking the class also binged the lecture videos before the exam.

Dinner
Dinner

After two weeks of remote work, I started feeling something that I haven't felt in a very long time-- occasional boredom. This takes me back to grade school summers when I had nothing to do. Well, there is never "nothing to do." The problem really boils down to not being motivated to do anything.

Working remotely is actually great for things that I am already motivated about because I can work on them uninterrupted for hours on end. I am getting more work done at my job as a research assistant, and I am putting more time into classes that I find interesting, like computer vision. However, dedicating time towards mundane tasks like learning about an esoteric computer architecture or writing essays for my professional communication class takes more effort than they used to.

List on whiteboard
List on whiteboard

When we are isolated from others and don't have to physically go places, we have fewer motivators for actions. At college, my most productive times were either in the library or at my office. Physically not going into class every day, or not being able to physically work around other people removes some of the motivators that help us get stuff done. When I was at the library or my office, I got a ton of work done because I felt like I was obligated to get things done in this space. Or I was motivated by other people working to also get work done -- no matter how trivial the task.

Desk
Desk

To get better at remote work, I have made some adjustments to my schedule:

  • Creating and updating physical lists
  • Changing environments every few hours
  • Maintaining a regular sleep schedule
  • Creating artificial rewards like watching youtube after I finish an essay
  • Reading before bed
  • Following an exercise routine

Although this advice won't work for everyone, I suggest that you try some of these things if you are struggling at remote work. A lot of friends that I talk to are facing challenges when it comes to remote work and learning. It is different and will take some time for us to adjust to and get better at.

Duck
Duck

I recently became very conscientious about my working space. In the past, I have decorated my office with pictures or thingamajigs. Recently I doubled down and did this a lot more for my current office. Making your work environment more personalized helps morale-- at least it has for me.

Although it may be tempting, if you want to excel in remote work, now is not the time to get funky.

Meme on sleep
Meme on sleep