When I started working remotely, I never really imagined I’d have to adjust according to any other timezone than my own. After all, I too was used to working the standard 9 to 5 and thought the same applies to remote working – you work your 9 to 5, irrespective of who you’re working with. But that changed pretty quickly for me. It literally just took a week for reality to kick in and I knew if I wanted to succeed, I would need to hustle and hustling went beyond my own timezone.
As difficult and impossible as it might seem, today, I work across 3 timezones. The biggest different being 12 hours 30 minutes and no, it isn’t not-doable. As a matter of fact, I have been able to pull it off so far (touchwood) and should be able to in the coming time as well. All that it needs, is a firm mind focused on the end goal and of course a few tools and techniques that you should be following to stay aligned.
How to stay on track while working across different time zones
Define your ‘me’ time
The one thing that remote working does for you, is cut out the distractions that you usually have to face in offices. There’s practically no one nudging you to step out for a cup of tea or to click a picture, or even share gossip of what’s happening in the office. So when you already have the time and space to focus on what you’re doing, take a step forward by defining your ‘me’ time.
When you’re working with a team in a different timezone, you have an added advantage of figuring out a time span where you don’t need to be coordinating with them – it could be your early morning and their late night, or their early morning and your night time. This is the time when you are focused on not catching up with others, but actually completing your tasks and dropping an update to keep the team abreast with what you have achieved so far.
When you do this, you’re also able to enjoy the meetings and brainstorming sessions with the team when they’re online – without having to worry about ‘when are they going to let me work on what we’re discussing right now’.
I personally choose my morning time to focus on new ideas and my work. I literally don’t like speaking to anyone before my cup of tea.
Decide what you want to do in that time
To make the ‘me’ time really work for you, you need to get super organised with work. You can no longer think of yourself as a superhuman who can look into multiple tasks at the same time and think of accomplishing each one of them. So start by prioritising your work and creating a to-do list for yourself.
Now there are two ways of doing this – the traditional way of writing down your daily tasks in a notebook and striking them off once completed; and the modern way of leveraging digital tools to do the same.
For example, I like to create my to-dos on Trello or Teamwork – I tend to choose one of the platforms based on what the rest of the team is also comfortable with and can make use of easily. After all, you’re not the only one on the team and you do want to ensure that you can keep everyone else in the loop!
Here’s an example of how me and Asavari coordinate for Mac n’ Work:
The best part about Trello, is that it is FREE and the possibilities are endless with the boards. You can literally plan out an entire product’s development on the tool by creating weekly sprints for the entire team. You can see some really creative ways of using the Trello boards, here.
Create your communication channels
You can’t be working effectively if you don’t communicate with your team often – especially when you’re all working across different time zones.
Be it to give an update, ask for feedback or simply share an idea you have, setting up communication channels where things don’t get lost, is very important. Personally, I have given up of emails – they just turn into endless threads of conversations that make it harder to find things.
What do the teams I work with use? Slack.
Honestly, it is the best tool to you for team communication. Right from daily standup meets to discussing ideas or even keeping track of tasks (integrates seamlessly with Trello), Slack makes it all a lot easier. And to go back to find something you previously had a word about, is as easy as searching on Google for something you need.
But of course, with a vast team that has varied interests, it can get cluttered at times. That’s why I suggest creating channels for everything instead of discussing things on #general. Here are some of the channels that I often end up making for every team on Slack.
Why is this important? Because when you’re in different time zones, it gets really difficult to be on the same page as everyone. While you could be talking about a marketing campaign, there could be someone who gets up with an idea and wants to use the time to brainstorm it with the team.
Start using those digital calendars
Okay, so one of the things that I took ‘ages’ to get used to, are calendars. Yes, as a professional, you might call me a noob for not using them. But honestly, I felt making a mental note or a pen and paper note of things was more than enough to remind me of a call.
But as I grew into the industry and the need for networking increased, I realised it was practically impossible to remember everything. I would end up forgetting about half the calls until someone from the other end messaged a ‘hey’.
Google Calendars are definitely a great tool to use, because you can even share them with your team. For example, I share it with Asavari so that she knows when I’m in and out of meetings. This helps us actually sync up between our busy schedules, by finding a slot that works the best for us.
Another tool that I like to use to ensure that I or anyone that I’m networking with, doesn’t go wrong in converting the time, is Calendly. It just makes scheduling appointments, meetings and all so easy that you don’t have to do a to and fro or emails to find the ‘right time’ to catch up!
What’s more? You can set up the reminders on your Google Calendar and get reminders for it.
Pro tip: Have one time where everybody meets. It is important for everyone on the team to get together in real time as well, even though you’re working virtually most of the times.
But, most importantly..
Focus on your health
Honestly, Asavari is going to have a great time laughing on reading this point but I have to jot it down. You can hustle only when your brain and your body works with you. Now you can’t possibly imagine working 16 hours when you’re running a high fever or have a bad cold. Right?
While I haven’t learnt it yet, I advise that you make ‘resting’ a part of your schedule too. It is as important as following your passion!
Yes Asavari, I can see you giggle right about now. But if you guys are reading this, take this tip very seriously.
A hustler needs to keep going and to keep going you need to focus on yourself too.
Are you struggling to work across different time zones? Do you think it’s next to impossible to coordinate with a team that seems to be on the opposite side or earth or maybe another planet?
Trust me, I have been there, felt that and found a solution. So let’s chat!