1. Start your day by getting in the zone

Morning routine and self-discipline are usually important to ‘get in the zone’ for the day, and half of the Hotjar team finds it quite easy to get up and be energized in the morning (the other half still crawls out of bed ever so slowly and struggles for a while to be productive… but we're not going to talk about it!).

Here are a few tips from our early risers:

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Fun fact: a few weeks later, Karissa invited the team to a 30-day Yoga Challenge. We are now on day 23!

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THE GROUP CHAT WHERE IT ALL STARTED

2. Structure your work schedule to suit your lifestyle

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David, Founder & CEO, suffered from burnout before starting his Hotjar adventure. Because it’s easy to work long hours, take few breaks, or just overwork in general when building a business remotely, he now brings structure into his days by always blocking out lunch and dinner hours.

david calendar
PRETTY STANDARD WEEK IN DAVID’S LIFE

I hear what you’re saying: isn’t a fully flexible schedule one of the major perks of working remotely? If regimented structure is not for you, you can follow the example of our VP of Operations Ken, who uses the flexibility of a remote job to travel and hang out with his family… because he can!

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KEN’S ‘OFFICE’ IN SOUTH AFRICA

Since joining Hotjar, Ken and his family have lived for more than 1 month in Mexico, US, UK, Netherlands, Cyprus, and South Africa, and he's also visited and done some amount of work from Norway, Malta, Spain, and Belgium (!).

He has a few fixed meetings in his schedule so the team knows when to reach him, and he focuses on optimizing where his distractions are coming in, so he can make the most out of the time he chooses to spend at the ‘office’.

3. Work from home? Make your space productive

We recently topped a list of “quirky employee perks and benefits” with our €4,000 home office budget, which allows us to set up our own customized workspace. Most of us working from home emphasize the importance of making a clear distinction between ‘office space’ and the rest of the house, even if that distinction amounts to a desk in the corner of a room.

This differentiation helps get you in the mindset of “I am at my desk = I am at work,” and also allows your family/friends/housemates to know when not to disturb you.

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For our US Hero Maria, a different way of being productive is surrounding herself with things she loves. Her office is a bright and happy place: there are brightly colored buttons all over her desk, with a dinosaur and unicorn standing in them (from her daughter), plus “a book of odd medical photos from ye olden day, glass skull votives, and tons of yarn for crochet breaks when needed”. Check it out:

hotjar maria work space
MARIA'S SPACE. PRETTY COOL, HUH?

4. Working from home is hard? Try a co-working space

As of June 2017, every Hotjar team member gets a monthly working space allowance. Those of us who prefer not to work from home have been enjoying co-working spaces as their go-to solution.

hotjar pool coworking space
YES!, SOMETIMES OUR CO-WORKING SPACE HAPPENS TO BE BY A POOL
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MEAGHAN CHATTING AWAY IN BRAZILIAN PORTUGUESE

5. Have a personal board to visualize what needs to be done

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hotjar whiteboard on glass
AN IMPROVISED WHITEBOARD ON A GLASS WALL IN MARBELLA

Not a fan of whiteboards, or not enough space? Neil uses Trello for his personal Kanban:

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Here are a few insights on how he uses the system:

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6. Make daily lists to stay on top of your tasks

Our Finance Coordinator Melissa is a big fan of lists. She tends to write a very detailed list at the beginning of each day—precision is paramount when sorting out payments and logistics. She uses different colors every day; occasionally, her 3-year old Liam will add his own scribbles in too!

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MELISSA'S LIST WITH LIAM’S CONTRIBUTION
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Louis Grenier

7. Write things down

Melissa’s lists and Paul’s whiteboard should have tipped you off—for a digital team, we are surprisingly partial to writing things manually. Apparently, writing things down helps you store and process information more completely; it is also step 1 in the established (and recommended!) Getting Things Done (GTD) framework.

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hotjar team write things down
THE HOTJAR TEAM DEMONSTRATES 'WRITING THINGS DOWN' IN MARBELLA

Our Recruitment Coordinator Sara has also recently picked up a trick from a few people she interviewed for a position at Hotjar: keeping a Bullet Journal, which is meant to teach you “to do more with less”. The journal helps Sara get a better at-a-glance sense of what needs to be done, and writing about it makes her feel less overwhelmed. Plus, she finds great satisfaction scoring her to-dos off when she’s done!

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A PAGE OF SARA'S DIARY

8. Customize your calendar apps

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...which leads us to:

9. Pay attention to time zones

Working with a remote international team, there will be times when you need urgent feedback and your colleagues might be having dinner or just waking up on the other side of the planet.

This app I oddly share my name with, Fio, helps you work out who might be available. Just add in the country/city of the colleague(s) you usually reach out to and voilà: you will never again wonder whether to say “good morning” or “good evening” when they show up to help.

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FIO’S FIO PAGE

10. Use your time strategically

Whenever a new person joins Hotjar, they are sent a copy of The Pomodoro Technique:

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RYAN’S POMODORO HOURGLASSES

Pomodoros work well to help you stay focused, and also force you to take some necessary breaks from work you might otherwise ignore (and if you want to keep it digital, the folks at Jotform curated a list of the best pomodoro apps available). For some of us, they work even better when coupled with a time-tracker:

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11. Optimize your inbox

If you’re anything like us, you’re probably getting between 50 and 100 emails per day (argh) and you don’t need to be a remote worker to know how time-consuming reading and replying to them all is. We've found that the Right Inbox for Gmail is a very useful tool for next-level email productivity. Here are other ways a few of us deal with it:

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Like David, I have also optimized Gmail using its native labeling system; I set up conditional rules to assign differently colored labels to emails with a certain subject line or containing a specific word, so whenever I open my inbox I can get a general sense of what needs my attention:

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FIO’S COLOR-CODED, LABELLED INBOX
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12. Use sound for better focus

This one seems pretty self-explanatory, but what do exactly mean by 'sound'? Some of us (not going to name names here) work particularly well to the rhythm of 1980s pop on Spotify, while others prefer less catchy tunes:

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13. Pair up with a teammate to learn faster

An established practice in traditional programming, where teammates share the same workstation, pairing has been working just as well for our remote developers and designers:

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14. Work the way you want to work

There are many perks to working remotely (Invision has come up witha 50-strong list), but one of the greatest is the ability to develop your own productivity rituals and routines—some of which wouldn’t quite work in an office:

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Our Operations Coordinator Mariella takes physical breaks away from the screen every couple of hours to do things she enjoys, like cooking a meal or walking the dog. Another thing she does is water and prune her plants: she finds it helps her productivity simply because she's taken a real break, enjoyed the sunshine on her skin and stretched her legs.

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15. Be self-disciplined

We all know that social media can be a huge distraction. Our Customer Success Manager Shira has a hard rule: no social media unless on a break. This works because it keeps her focused on priority tasks, and she also finds herself having extra time to allocate towards long-term projects.

Shira also recommends putting your phone on silent (unless you're a parent!) and keeping it in a drawer until break-time. This is the best way to keep your mind clear and centered.

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SIOBHAN (HERO LEAD), MAFALDA (HERO), AND KARISSA (HERO) SWAPPING SOCIAL MEDIA UPDATES
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Our Content Strategist Louis uses the BlockSite add-on that stops him from going to websites like Reddit, Twitter, Analytics, and the like. Whenever he tries to get onto one of the websites he added to his block list, he’ll be greeted by a message from the add-on mascot Mr. Wips:

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STOP TRYING TO GET ONTO GOOGLE ANALYTICS, LOUIS!

16. Ask for feedback sooner, rather than later

The art of asking for and giving feedback deserves a blog post of its own, but at a very basic level asking for feedback while working on something, and even before you start, can save you a lot of time and work.

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Suggested reading on feedback loops and different types of feedback: The Personal MBA.

17. Wind down at the end of each day

You're almost done with work (and also with this post)! A few very important tips to wrap up your day nicely:

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18. Do a personal retrospective

You don’t need to be an Agile practitioner to benefit from one of Agile’s most famous practices, the retrospective—a ‘review session’ that helps teams reflect on work they just delivered, how it went, and what they can learn and improve from it (note: if you want to see how it works, we have a free retrospective template you can use).
A personal retrospective works in the same way, except it’s just you looking back at what you did over the past week(s), and trying to optimize your working habits and practices:

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19. Develop a ‘growth mindset’

Each Hotjar team member recently got a copy of Dr. Carol Dweck’s Mindset. It’s an interesting read that explores the concept of how developing a flexible, learning-oriented mindset helps people be motivated and productive. It could prove very useful you are struggling with focus and achievement, and also if you tend to compare yourself to colleagues or remote fellow workers who seem to be ‘better’ at it:

While we're on the subject of books, here is some further reading recommended by the Hotjar team: Getting things done and The power of habit.

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Well, that's a wrap!
What are YOUR focus and productivity strategies? Have you got anything that can help us and our fellow remote workers? Please add them to the comments below: we are super-curious to find out what we can learn from you.

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