How to set a high standard and do your best work as a remote professional and entrepreneur
October 16, 2022
Having big goals doesn’t guarantee success and performance. It’s our standards that dictate our performance and success. And what we are willing to tolerate becomes our standards. So how do we set and keep a high standard?
You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems. —James Clear in Atomic Habits
In other words, having a system in place is one of the best ways to set and keep a high standard. A system could be a set of rules and principles. It could be a habit or a routine. It could also be a daily or weekly protocol you commit to following.
As someone who is working full-time remotely at AppSumo and running a few side projects at the same time, having a system to keep my performance and output high is crucial. In this article, I want to share the top five habits that help me set the right mental state, get important work done remotely, and find balance in my life.
I also include a new ritual I’m experimenting with at the end of the article. So make sure you stick around to the end. Now, let’s dive in.
Every morning, I meditate for 10 to 20 minutes—using my breath as an anchor and letting my thoughts come and go.
Daily mindful practice like meditation has been shown to regulate stress, raise self-confidence, and improve cognitive functions. To me, meditating first thing first in the morning prime my mental state and increase my energy level to start the day right.
I got introduced to meditation at a very young age by one of my teachers, who was a Buddhist. Because of him, I started reading books about Buddhism and what caught my attention most were teachings on meditation practice. I tried to meditate but wasn’t being consistent with it. And then I stopped meditating after moving to another city for college and work.
Fortunately, I stumbled across meditation again through a meditation app called Headspace.
I’ve tried many different types of training and sports. And today, I spend most of my time training for strength, active stretching, and walking.
The most immediate and obvious benefit of working out is that it improves our physical health. A healthy body is the foundation of everything we can have and do in our lives.
Working out daily also helps:
It’s a no-brainer routine given its benefits, and it should be a priority.
I do strength training and active stretching every alternate morning—that means strength training on the first day, stretching on the next, back to strength training on the third day, and so on. Then, I go for a 30-minute walk after dinner every day with my wife.
If you’re working on multiple projects like me, you know it’s hard to pinpoint one type of work or task and turn it into a habit.
But as someone who manages a team and creates content across multiple projects, it’s almost impossible to group all the tasks into a single activity. A better way is to focus on what is known as deep work.
For a set schedule, I will get to my home office and work distraction-free. One deep work session is usually 60 to 90 minutes long. I get two to three sessions of deep work in a day, followed by some lighter work.
Then I end the day with a strict shutdown. It’s basically shutting down my laptop and reorganizing my desk for the next day of work. After shutting down, I try my best not to do and even think about work.
If you’ve spent one-third to half of your waking hours on deep work, you shouldn’t be stressing about it any longer. You have done all that you can, and things should take care of themselves.
Reading has had a profound impact in my life. I would say that almost everything I get to have and do today come from the lessons and insights I learned from the books I read in my 20s. It changes how I see my work, health, money, and relationships and helps me improve them.
To me, reading feels like time-traveling and mind-reading. You are essentially traveling to a different time into the mind of the author, to see the world through their eyes and learn about work and life through their mistakes and successes.
Here are a few tips for reading every day. First, have what you want to read up front. It could be a book or an article. Add books to your reading list and articles to a read-later app like Instapaper and Matter. Next, set a small daily goal, like reading two articles or ten pages of a book, and then schedule it into your calendar.
If you don’t have a large chunk of time available, aim for a smaller, easily achievable target and capture pockets of 10 to 15 minutes to read. Think about the time when you’re in the commute or queuing to order coffee.
If you have no spare time, an alternative is to check out book notes and summaries for big ideas. It could also be a great way to filter books that are truly worth your time before committing to them.
A daily self-analysis is a great way to help you gain clarity over your performance so you can do better the next day.
My daily review is pretty simple. It takes me around five to ten minutes to reflect on the days with questions about things I’ve done and lessons I’ve learned. Some questions you should ask yourself include:
Besides a daily review, I also recommend you try doing a weekly review. I do this on Sunday, and it too takes less than 20 minutes.
The overarching theme of a weekly review is similar to a daily review but focuses more on your entire week instead of a single day. You could also use this weekly review to celebrate small wins, keep track of your weekly output in a more tangible way, and capture special moments.
I’ve tried many different habits and routines in the past few years, discarded what didn’t work for me, and kept what fits me like a glove. These five habits set and keep a high standard for my performance as a remote professional. And I highly recommend you to try them out too.
A new habit I’m experimenting with right now is being present. It’s not exactly a routine but more like a state of mind.
Through my meditation practice, I found that being truly present can be magical. I sometimes experienced the same feelings when lifting heavy weights and listening to music.
To replicate that, my thought was to practice presence in small, trivial things I do every day, like eating, talking to a friend, and walking.
Life shouldn’t be all about performance and output. And the new practice of being present has been a reminder for me to live in the moment and enjoy the time I have in this life.
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Head of product and engineering