Unblocking oneself

Succeeding and thriving at remote work is largely about getting very good at asynchronous (Slack, discussion threads, email, etc.) and nearly-asynchronous (phone calls, video meetings, screen sharing) communication.

Productivity in remote work is often bottlenecked by the availability of teammates for near-asynchronous collaboration.

Therefore: boost your productivity as a remote team member by writing up context and questions your teammates can think through and help with when they’re available to collaborate. Then, pick up another task to make progress on in the meantime.

Suppose I’m working on a card/task someone wrote up for me last week. I’m likely to come up with questions about edge cases or clarifications about how the thing is supposed to work. Often I can make a guess and keep working, but sometimes all those guesses pile up and necessitate getting on the same page before I go too deep. Instead of waiting for my teammates to get out of meetings or re-appear online, I write up my current thinking and the questions that I’m blocked on.

The key is to always have another task I can switch to without losing all the context in your head. Usually, there are tests to write, edge cases to explore, code to refactor or clarify. Switching between entirely unrelated features or bugs is not the best choice. I maintain my own backlog of ideas, chores, and tasks for these occasions.

My teammates are pretty consistent about their working hours and checking in several times per day, so I don’t often wait more than a couple of hours to collaborate on how to unstick myself. More often, the act of writing down how I’m stuck leads me to realize how I could proceed while my teammates think about my questions.

p.s. this works for co-located teammates too! 😉