Understanding remote work as performance

The rapid shift to remote work over the last year has often led to attempting to replicate in-person ways of working, but remotely. Without an adaptation of processes and ways of working, remote work becomes much more about “performance” than “work”.

This post is about the implications of remote work as performance, where the performance has value, and alternative ways of doing things.

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Building process and becoming a technology-driven service business

Standard Operating Procedure, process, workflow… a couple of years ago I thought these were all by words for bloat and the antithesis of working quickly or making progress. It’s fair to say I’ve done a full turn on that one: I now run a process-driven company where how we do everything is built around process.

This post isn’t about that, though: this about how we use process to be a technology-driven service company.

Working with process in a business that relies on humans doing the work is nothing new. Using technology to add scale to those processes is a different and exciting way if doing things. 

We work with technology companies, and a common viewpoint is that services don’t scale. Products are viewed as the superior option for their scale. One client even said to me once; “Alex you’re not stupid, so why don’t you make products?”

I see our processes as the product, and building technology around those services is how we scale. We do, of course, need to offer services led by humans and we’ll never dramatically scale beyond the number of hours the team works in a week. But, I suspect how we’ve scaled our processes and become a technology-driven company wasn’t possible even a couple of years ago. I also suspect others are massively under-utilising the methodology we use. This post aims to be insightful and enlightening.

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Starting and finishing projects, fast and slow

One of my strengths is coming up with ideas, and one of my goals for this year is to get faster at executing the ideas. We’re two months in, and I’ve made a lot of progress so far. 

New ideas often create new ideas, though, and one of the challenges has been finishing projects once they’re past the initial stage of excitement, and bringing others along for the ride. 

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The pocket notebook, and capturing creative ideas

Almost no one claims to get their best ideas at work. – Michael Gelb

I’ve recently been returning to ideas around Deep Work, and re-evaluating my workflow now that I’m fully settled into life and a new office in Oxford. The vast majority of my work energy goes into running Ellipsis, and I squarely think of this as a creative endeavour and myself as a creative person.

Allow for Serendipity: Move outside your normal realm of comfort and interest, explore far and wide, while stayng open and avoiding jumping to conclusions. Let yourself be surprised and discover new opportunities. Keep a notebook with you at all time and record ideas as they appear to you.

One of the highest-impact things I’ve started doing in the last year is appreciating how important ideas and then following-through with these ideas is in running a creative business.

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The Future of Work is Scary

This evening I’ve got the pleasure of speaking at WordUp Brighton’s October Meetup, about “The future of work is scary: Deep Work in the WordPress economy”.

This should be a fun talk! It’s a topic I think is really important, and am very interested. Here are some links and resources pulled out from the slides:

  • Deep Work by Cal Newport. The authority on this stuff!
  • Unsubscribe by Jocelyn K Glei. A really practical book about similar ideas to Deep Work.
  • The Organised Mind by Daniel Levitin. A research-based book that explains how you think.
  • Pomodoro Technique (do this in 50 or 75 or 100 minute chunks instead of 25).
  • Focus for Mac, or Timewarp for Chrome for blocking distracting sites.
  • Messenger.com is a great way of getting Facebook chat without the distracting features bolted-on.

And, of course, here are the slides: