In Remembrance

Me and Grandma Elena at my wedding many years ago. Can you see the resemblance? We have the same nose and cheekbones.

My grandmother’s name is Magdalena, but I never heard anyone call her that. To my grandfather, she was always Elena. So when it came time to pick my daughter’s middle name, I gave her the name Elena, not Magdalena, to honor my grandma.

Last Sunday morning my grandma died of covid.

I’m not going to tell that story. Most of you have never met my grandma, and I refuse to let her ending define her. Instead I will say this about her:

Grandma Elena moved to the US from Mexico shortly after marrying my grandfather. Great Grandma thought that if she married her wandering son to a good village girl, he would leave the US (where he was a citizen) and raise his family in Mexico. Turns out he was a good enough son to marry the woman his mother picked out, but not good enough to stay in their village. Instead, he moved his new wife back to California, where they raised six children.

My grandpa told me this story when I was 13. To hear him tell it, he and grandma took two weeks to get to know each other before they agreed to marry. Looking back, I wonder if Grandma sized up Grandpa and decided he was worth taking a chance on. She always struck me as the more deliberate of the two.

I can’t imagine what it’s like to marry a man and move to a country where you don’t speak the language. I always thought it must have taken a great deal of fortitude and resourcefulness. My father says she ran their house like a captain, feeding and bathing the children–my aunts and uncles–in an assembly line. My grandpa was the head of the family, but to paraphrase a quote from My Big Fat Greek Wedding, she was definitely the neck, who could turn the head whichever way she wanted.

All I know is that she could cook anything. Growing up we ate menudo, buenuelos, and choritzo sausage that she made from scratch. When I went vegetarian, she was the one who tried to figure out how to make vegetarian tamales. She brought the ingredients to my mother’s house, and we spent all day, just the two of us, learning out how to make masa preparada taste good without lard.

I learned three things that day. First, Crisco is magical. Second, never make tamales with fewer than 10 people. Third, grandma really wanted me to know how to make our traditional foods, even if I didn’t follow a traditional diet. She gave me a tortilla press before I moved to New York. With that and my newfound tamale knowledge, I was set loose to spread Mexican meals wherever I wandered.

My daughter bears her great grandma’s name. I hope that she carries the same fortitude and resourcefulness inside of her. I will use strong words if she tries to marry a man after two weeks of dating. Some day I will teach her to make tamales and tortillas. And then I will let her wander. It’s what grandma would have wanted.

‘How Are You?’ Is Becoming A Real Question

Video calls aren’t just for business anymore. Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

In large swaths of a California and in the parts of Vancouver I frequent, the accepted answer to this question among acquaintances is ‘Fine.’ No one expects to find out how you really are. The question is just a greeting, or a prelude to a different conversation.

I feel like this pandemic is changing our answer. We’re in the middle of a mass trauma; things aren’t fine. The old knee-jerk answer feels a little silly right now. We may not bare our secret fears during Zoom happy hour, but few people claim to be fine.

This is the sort of balanced honesty we need to take to work.

We Can’t Be All Business

Business runs on relationships, whether that business takes place in a physical, shared office, or in a video call. But you have to tend to those relationships differently when you’re remote. When you work in a shared office, you can wave to people as you walk to your desk. You can glance significantly at your work best friend when someone says something ridiculous. And then you can laugh about it over lunch. There are so many opportunities to see each other, you can afford to focus purely on business in team meetings.

The same can’t be said when you work from home. Remote workers have fewer opportunities to see each other, so we have to make the most of them. We need to reach out proactively to see how people are doing. At the beginning of video calls, we need to ask colleagues how they are.

Managers need to take the lead in modelling this behaviour. If you want your workforce to do it’s best, if you want to help them avoid burnout, then make sure you know how they’re doing. And provide some outlets for stress relief. Consider hosting a coffee break over video call. You can even hold a company sponsored group lunch. Give everyone a dollar amount to spend, tell them to submit an expense report, and let them order their own take out.

When you mix personal attention with business, you show your remote employees that you care. And we can all use a little bit of caring during this time.

Places Where I’Ve Talked About Remote Work

it’s been an action-filled week at Remota HQ. I spoke to a reporter in the United Arab Emirates about tending to your mental health when you’re cooped up inside. I was also on the Radio Health Journal on Sunday talking about how to ease the stress that comes from working at home. Incidentally, the host Reed Pence has a very knowledgeable and soothing voice. He was born to be on the radio. On Tuesday my interview with Andi Simon went live, as did the interview in USA Today, where I was interviewed about employee wellness. Check them out if you’re so inclined.

The Douglas Family is Surviving

On Sunday my daughter made a Devil’s Food cake. It was moist and delicious. She even modified the frosting so it was flavoured with peppermint. By the time this pandemic is over I’m going to have a mini dessert chef on my hands. I will also weigh 300 pounds, but that’s a problem for later.

Right now, the kids are dealing with being cooped up by making nice things. It’s an urge I can understand and support. I also make nice things when I need to cope, which explains why I’m designing a sweater as my pandemic activity. My son is making a rope ladder. My husband bought a mini fire pit. He told the kids he bought a flame thrower. They were severely disappointed to find out what it actually was. On the other hand, we can now roast marsh mellows on our patio and pretend we’re camping. I’ll take all the breaks from the news I can get.

How are you doing? Let me know. I’d love to hear from you.

Physical Distance Doesn’t Have to Mean Social Isolation

Photo by Afta Putta Gunawan from Pexels

My son had 24 books ready to pick up at the local library. I didn’t know this when I went to pick up his stash. There I was, with my one inadequate canvas bag, ruing the day I taught that child how to do a simple catalog search. He’s a ‘more is more’ sort of kid. I swear he requested every Minecraft book in the entire library system.

Still, the one bag might have held everything if I hadn’t promised to pick up a new series called The Unwanteds for my daughter. And of course I had books waiting to be picked up. So maybe this is more of a ‘apple doesn’t fall far from the tree’ sort of situation.

I wear red in a town that loves grey. I’m already conspicuous. But today, the three other people in the library were giving me the side eye for a different reason as I lined up my stacks of books at the self checkout. It was like they thought I was trying to prepare for a quarantine. Or maybe a toilet paper shortage.

Really, if I was going to buy up irrational amounts of anything, it would be tea and chocolate. Some would argue I already do. I don’t hang out with those people any more.

All joking aside, I wanted to talk about something you should be collecting for a possible long stint inside your house.

We Should Call it Physical Distancing, Not Social Distancing

Unless you live under a rock outside of wifi range, you’ve heard the term social distancing. And the thing I don’t like about this term is that it conflates physical togetherness with social togetherness. There’s a reason we do that of course. Most of us gather in physical groups in order to be social. Getting together is fun.

But we don’t have to gather physically to hang out with people. And that’s important if we need to stay home. One of the number one struggles remote workers face is feeling isolated. Fortunately there are things you can do now to fight this particular issue down the road.

Far Away But Still Ready for a Close Up

Thrive Global has an excerpt from my book called How to Connect Socially With Your colleagues, Even While You’re Working Remotely that you can read for free. It focuses on the world of work, but a lot of the advice can be adapted to purely social gatherings.

For instance, you don’t need to be a business to download video conferencing software. Skype, Zoom, and Whereby all have free versions. Load one onto your device. Then set up standing appointments to meet up with your friends and family over video calls.

Holding a happy hour over video feels a little awkward at first, but I can tell you from first hand experience that you soon get over it. And talking to friends on social media isn’t always enough. We need to see each other’s faces. Consider doing this even if you live with other people. I love my children, but there is an upper limit to the amount of Minecraft chat that I can listen to and stay sane. I’m sure there are other people out there in the same boat.

And if you try it out, drop me a line and let me know how it goes. I’ll be over here planning video calls with far away family and tripping over the Minecraft books covering the floor of my house.

Why Remote Workers Take Fewer Sick Days

In the Remote Workforce, no one can Feel your sneeze

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

On Tuesday I woke up feeling like I put on an extra hundred pounds. I stumbled through my morning routine wondering what was wrong with me. I went to bed at a decent hour, but felt like I’d pulled an all-nighter. It wasn’t until later that morning that I realized I was sick. I excused myself from work and slept for another five hours.

On Wednesday I was quasi-sick. That’s when you’re too sick to do more than sit still, but too healthy to sleep. Had I worked in an office separate from my home, I would have had to take another sick day. Instead, I worked through my to-do list, bottle of DayQuil at my elbow.

Most managers new to remote work worry that their employees are slacking. The reality is that most of us work more. Could I have taken another day off? Sure. I didn’t want to. I have things to do. Not having to worry about infecting my colleagues gives me greater control over my paid time off.

It’s not a sick day unless I decide it is, and that’s exactly how I like it.

Access to a Couple of Articles on Remote Work

I may have missed my weekly blog post last week, but that I wasn’t completely unproductive. The Meeting Magazine did a feature on the future of work, and I appear in it. You can find the article on page 34.

Forge, a Medium publication, just published another excerpt of my book ‘Working Remotely.’ This one has to do with email management. It’s called ‘How to Manage Your Inbox.’ As usual, this is the friend link, so you can read the article without the paywall. Do you do something different to manage your inbox? I’d love to hear about it.

I Was On the Radio Again

Last of all, I spoke to Dean Rotbart on the podcast Monday Morning Radio about why remote work is important for small businesses. Can you tell I’m hopped up on DayQuil? I hope not. Don’t tell anyone.

It’s been a privilege appearing so many places to talk about remote work. The biggest privilege, though, is talking to all of you. Thanks for sticking with me, and I’ll see you next week.

I Want Work/Life Soup, Not Work/Life Blend

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I don’t like the term work life blend. It makes me think of a scene in Raina Telgemeier’s graphic novel ‘Sisters,’ where one of the girls forgets to put the lid on the blender before using it. She leaves a mess everywhere.

Work life blend feels messy to me–and not in a good way. Think about what happens in a blender. Everything you throw into it breaks down and mixes into everything else. It’s a destroyer of structure, a creator of amorphous mass. Work life blend is taking care of a sick kid while running a work meeting. It’s talking an employee through a tough situation while eating dinner with friends.

That’s not to say that I haven’t done these things. I have. I’m very glad that I don’t have to miss work or take a pay hit when life intrudes on my business hours, but I pay for that privilege in other ways. Generally, the currency is my focus, my sleep, or my peace of mind.

Does anyone really want to clean their house and put in a full day of work? Is this the ideal that we should all aspire to? That sounds too close to have it all hustle porn.

There’s a healthier way to think about our lives.

Let’s Talk about Soup

Somebody is out there thinking but Teresa, people blend soup too. Yes. They do. But as it turns out, I am the boss of this blog post, and my metaphor is about the sort of soup pictured at the top of this post. The bowl pictures your life, and the liquid is the time you’re allotted on this earth. The ingredients bobbing about in the liquid are what you do. Sometimes things sink to the bottom for a time, only to reappear when other things are removed. The activities remain distinct but mobile.

And in the end, that’s the ideal that most of us aspire to if we think about it. We aren’t looking for opportunities to hold a screaming baby while interviewing clients. Instead, we want the freedom to move our day’s activities around to accommodate a richer life.

So the next time someone asks if I have a good work life blend, I’m going to say no. I’m working on a work life soup, and the day has never been tastier.

What’s Teresa Been Up to, Anyway?

The interviews keep rolling in! I’ve decided that instead of taking up an entire post for these things, I’ll sometimes just add a post script after a blog. Last week I did my first ever Facebook live event with Bert Martinez from Money for Lunch. That was super fun, especially since the construction across the street was quiet during the entire interview. Woo! And the podcast episode from Humanize Your Workplace with the fabulous Alyssa Carpenter just came out today. Interviewing people is an art, and both Bert and Alyssa are at the top of their game. Check them out if you’re so inclined.

Remote Work Roundup

Photo by Lgh_9 from Pexels

Or, what your friendly neighborhood Remote Blogger has been doing in her copious free time.

Happy Thursday everyone! The snow from last week is gone, and we’re back to our usual soggy winter. This post is more of a ‘Where’s Waldo’ remote work roundup of the things I’ve been up to in the last two weeks. My current work/life balance resembles a kid who just learned to ride a bike–as long as I keep moving, everything’s fine.

Somebody Said They Liked the Book

Book Authority named ‘Working Remotely’ as one of ‘11 Best New Remote Working Books to Read in 2020.‘ I am beyond chuffed. I tried to play it cool when I first found out, but I was definitely more Sally Field at the Oscars than Will Smith in MIB.

I Was On The Radio

Four times in 11 days. Business Lunch is a numbers-driven live radio program that broadcasts out of Chicago. My analyst heart loved the excuse to let my nerd flag fly. I really appreciated the way Ji Suk Yi kept things flowing. That’s a real art. Last Thursday I did a double header. First I talked with Alyssa Carpenter of Humanize Your Workplace. That episode will air in the future, but if you like quality programming, check her out. She has a lot of interesting guests. An hour after that I was on live radio with the Frankie Boyer show. Once I get a link to that interview I’ll share it here.

For those of you who are counting, that’s three episodes. There’s a fourth one, but the conversation was wide ranging and we’re still figuring out what the end product might look like. I’ll talk about that one more once we know what it’s going to be.

As an aside, it’s been interesting seeing the differences between pre-recorded podcasts and live radio. I’m not sure which I like better. Podcasts give you a chance to really dig into a topic–and if the host thinks you go on too long, they can edit you down. There are no do-overs on live radio. When your time is up, you’re done. It’s a little stressful, but it’s also a grand opportunity to be succinct.

I Wrote a Manifesto

Porchlight Books asked me to write a manifesto about getting along with your boss and others in the remote work space. I didn’t know until that moment that writing a manifesto was a life goal. Part of me wants to take the article and nail it to a door or something. The part of me that is older than age of three voted that down. Sometimes I’m really no fun.

I Shared a Book Excerpt

Forge, a publication on Medium, just published an excerpt from my book ‘Working Remotely,’ and they gave it the best title ever: Questions to Ask Yourself Before Marking Your Request Urgent. I’m beginning to wonder if everybody but me can write great titles. Thank you, Forge editors!

…and I Talked about Gender Equity in Remote Work

Naomi Cahn writes about women and gender issues on her Forbes column. We traded some emails back and forth about how remote work can both help and harm gender equity. That resulted in an article she published Wednesday called Getting the Most out of Telework.

If this sounds like I have a lot going on, I do. And I need to give a special shout out to my publicist Valerie, who knows how to find thoughtful places for me to talk about remote work. You’re awesome Valerie! I wouldn’t be this happily busy without you.

What’s On the Go Now

I just wrote a draft of another article that’s due at the end of this month. Once that’s done I have two other articles to write in February. Other than that, I’m trying to take brain breaks by practicing my guitar and knitting socks. And running. I restarted my couch to 5k nearly three weeks ago, and it was the best decision ever. I run because it’s hard and I play guitar because I don’t have to be good at it. It works for me.

Have a great week everyone!

How to Survive Remote Work During the Winter

4 Tips to Keep the Walls from Closing In

Vancouver had a snow day on Tuesday and the kids spent the day sledding while I worked. Yes. I was jealous.

Working from home means opting out of morning rush hour. This is a huge bonus when the weather outside is frightful. On Tuesday we had a heavy snow event that closed the schools and stranded buses on bridges. I was very happy to miss all of that mess.

Of course, there’s a less positive side to that privilege. If you aren’t careful, you can get to an unhealthy mental place where you both hate the inside of your house but have no motivation to leave. If you’re in this boat, there are things you can do that will help. Here are some ideas that have worked for me. Feel free to use them as jumping off points for your own troubleshooting toolbox.

Get Outside Anyway

Some people enjoy rambling walks. They don’t need an excuse to get outdoors. That isn’t me. I need a specific destination or a workout plan to get me out the door. This is why I’m always on some kind of run plan, usually with a race at the end to keep me focused. Not wanting to die during my spring half marathon kept me running through the rain and snow of 2016.

It wasn’t until the Spring of the following year that I realized the other benefit to running in nasty weather. I didn’t mind the weather so much because I was out in it. You would think that running in icy rain would demoralize me. Nope. Somehow going for a jog in the rain makes me feel like the weather isn’t winning. As a bonus, there are fewer people to dodge on the sidewalk.

Not all places have temperate winters. I have several friends in Winnipeg, where temperatures can easily get to -50 Celsius. That’s not something you linger in. If this describes your weather, you may want to consider a gym membership. Heck, I have a gym membership and my weather only dipped to -10c.

Pick a Second Office

Your second office could be a coffee shop, a library, or a co-working space. Take some time during your non-work hours to investigate new places and try out their wifi. And don’t be afraid to get creative. I once went to my local yarn store early and worked for a little while before the weekly knit night. I’ve worked in bars. If you try this, remember to support the establishment by purchasing something. And make sure it’s okay for you to be there. Don’t be that creepy person squatting in the aisle.

These first two ideas assume you can leave your house. Sometimes a blizzard comes along or you have to care for sick family members, and you can’t leave. These next two tips are for you.

Build Stations

When my children were in kindergarten, they had something called ‘stations’ spread across the classroom. These were spaces with a specific activity all set up. All the children had to do was go there and begin playing.

Consider setting up stations in your house. I have my guitar on a stand next to my couch, ready to play. My purse is a mobile knitting station. I have at least one project in there at all times. Sometimes you just need to walk away from your computer for a minute. Try placing a project in a different room or a different part of your work space. Separating your hobby from your work area can help you “leave” work when you can’t leave your home.

Some enterprising soul is reading this thinking ‘I should clean my house or do laundry if I’m taking a work break.’ If cleaning makes your soul sing, go for it. Cleaning doesn’t feel like a break to me, so I focus on other things.

Take a Virtual Coffee Break

Sometimes your house isn’t the problem. The issue is that you need human contact. Consider arranging a video call with a friend or colleague. If you want to talk to people outside your organization, you can join an online networking event like Networkplaceless. Or spend time talking to people via social media. I’ve met people on Twitter and ended up setting up meetings so we can talk about remote work in real time.

Working from home has a lot of positives, but it also has a unique set of challenges. One of those challenges is feeling marooned in your home during the winter months. The good news is that you can ease those claustrophobic feelings. Try these suggestions. Come up with some of your own. Do you have something that works for you? I’d love to hear about it.

Anniversaries and Un-Resolutions

A New Year Doesn’t Have to Mean New Business

Sometimes the best resolution is no resolution at all. Photo by Sonam Yadav from Pexels

Happy New Year friends! The last couple of weeks have been long-ish stretches of quiet time interspersed with short bursts of crazy. On January 4th we celebrated our 23rd wedding anniversary with a family party.

Our party theme was Minecraft Farm. We bought a Llama pinata, then beat it up and took all it’s candy.

I knit and crocheted many things for the kids.

My child calls these stuffies Mr. Kitty Hat and Blue

Slowly Walking Down the Hall Faster Than a Cannon Ball

In between making stuffed animals, I completed interviews for various outlets interested in remote work. If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook you saw the post from Digital Nomad Sage last week. Another interview came out today from Remoters. I was also on the radio with Money Matters based in Houston. I’m on the radio again next week with Drive Thru HR.

I’ve been simultaneously on vacation AND working like a maniac. I took 2 weeks off from my day job so I could relax with the kids’ during their winter break. I scheduled that time off 8 months ago, before I knew the date my book would launch. Friends, my book launched today.

I nearly spent my entire vacation working on book stuff. Launching a book resembles planning a wedding. There are a lot of moving pieces and different players that work together before the main event. My book launch to-do list runneth-ed over. (We’ll just pretend ‘runneth-ed’ is a word.)

There’s a Fine Line Between Optimism and Delusion

I planned to cram a lot of writing time into the two weeks I was off. I use the word ‘plan’ loosely here. It was more of a wish list that had nothing to do with reality. I was going to: 1) Read a lot of research on psychological safety, 2) Work out every day, 3) Write three articles about remote work, 4) Spend quality time with my kids in between 5) Planning our family party and 6) Launching my book.

Then my oldest kid got sick on the first day of winter break. Shortly thereafter the second one got sick. And the rain of Vancouver closed in. Instead of focusing on my writing, I spent the first days of winter vacation knitting on the couch in between taking care of the kids. It should have frustrated me more than it did. But the fact was, I was mentally depleted. I needed time to let my brain go fallow. So I made the last-minute decision to work in short sprints so I could spend the majority of my time lazing about with the kids.

Who Says You Have to Vow to Resolve Anything in 2020?

Taking a break is hard if you’ve been running yourself ragged. It feels weird to just do…nothing for stretches of time. At least it was for me. I am a woman of action. It’s especially hard at the beginning of the year when everyone wants to hear your New Year’s Resolutions.

But you know what? New Year’s Resolutions aren’t the boss of you. If this is where you’re at right now–mentally depleted–the best resolution might be no resolutions in 2020. Or if you can’t quite do that, consider ‘take better breaks’ as your resolution of choice. My resolutions are usually hedonistic. One year I resolved to eat awesome cookies. Several years ago I went in search of better cheese. I wasn’t going to pick a resolution at all this year, but ‘take better breaks’ is growing on me. I’m going to sit with the idea in the back of my brain for the month of January and see how I like it.

Do you make hedonistic or subversive New Year’s resolutions? I’d love to hear about them.

6 Books that Influenced my Decade of Remote Work

Books! Books! Books! Everybody! Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Greetings on the last day of 2019! Before we leave this decade and enter the ’20s, I wanted to note some of the books that influenced the way I engage with people in the remote space. This was the decade that kicked off my remote adventure, after all. What better way to send it out in style than to talk about books?

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Before you can be a great manager, first you must learn to manage yourself. That is doubly true for managers of remote workers. So much of our employee’s experience of the company comes directly through us. Kahneman’s book changed the way I thought about trusting my gut.

From Values to Action by Harry M. Jansen

There are a couple of reasons I liked this book. First, it actually shows you how to translate the values you want to live by into action. It’s not only an idea book, but also a how-to manual. Jansen provides a framework of questions instead of a ‘one-size-fits-no one’ recipe for success. I don’t use the whole framework, but I do I try to end the day by asking myself if I’ve done everything I said I was going to do. If not, why not? If find the questions clarifying.

Platform: Get Noticed in Noisy World by Michael Hyatt

When the first iteration of my book was nearing it’s publication date, my publisher’s marketing team told me I needed to go post on Twitter every day to get the word out about my book. I had no idea what I was supposed to do. Fortunately I like to research, and I found this book and the one that follows. I listened to ‘Platform’ on Audible. Hyatt read his own book, and I enjoyed his energy. This book is like your big brother giving you advice with a big shot of ‘you can do it’ cheer leading on the side.

30 Day Book Marketing Challenge by Rachel Thompson

If Hyatt was my cheerleader, Rachel Thompson was my coach. Her book is half the reason I didn’t send out a dozen ‘buy my book!’ tweets before giving up on Twitter entirely. Instead I’ve met many lovely people, and had enjoyable conversations. That’s what social media is supposed to be about anyway. Conversations.

Creative Quest by Questlove

I picked up ‘Creative Quest’ at an airport bookstore on a whim. I’m so glad I did. If this book had a secret subtitle, it would be ‘the working person’s guide to creativity.’ I especially love the way he describes creativity as being open to things vs digging deep inside yourself. As someone who produces researched articles pretty regularly, I am always looking for things outside of my own head to spark the next article. It was interesting seeing how Questlove’s process works.

The Remix: How to Succeed in the Multigenerational Workplace by Lindsey Pollak

I was pretty excited about Pollak’s book when it came out. At Kaplan, I manage at least three different generations of people–Boomers, GenX, and Millennials. I was hoping ‘The Remix’ would provide an overview of the differences between groups, and it didn’t disappoint. It has some great ideas for communicating across different platforms, too.

In one way or another these books influenced how I interact in the remote space. Do you have any books that shaped your online identity? Let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear from you.

3 Ways Remote Workers Can End the Year Well

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Most of us won’t finish December as billionaire super models. But you CAN close out the year as a hero for your employees, you clients, and yourself if you take time to do these three things.

Post Your Year End/Holiday Hours

One of the many perks of remote work is the ability to hire (and sell to) people in different parts of the world. But different countries have different traditions. The end of December is a holiday in some, but not all, parts of the world. Post your hours on your website, email/phone out-of-office message, and everywhere else your clients and colleagues may try to reach with you.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that people will remember that it’s a holiday in your country. Canada celebrates Thanksgiving a month before the United States. I’m from the US, and I work for a company primarily based in the US, and I still forget about US Thanksgiving because no one around me celebrates it. Your client in Qatar shouldn’t wonder why it’s taking you so long to respond to the email he sent on Christmas. Post your hours.

Send a Year End Message

The savvy remote worker looks for any excuse to connect with clients and colleagues. The end of the year is a great pretext to communicate with everyone in your network. Your message doesn’t have to be long or particularly masterful so long as it’s sincere. On Tuesday I sent the teachers who work with me a short email, and included this graphic I made in Canva.

Is this a work of staggering genius? Hardly. But I wanted my teachers to know I care. Not everybody celebrates Christmas, but cat memes are universal. Image is from the free version of Canva.com.

It didn’t take long to put this together in Canva and add it to my email. The writer in me cringes a little at the wording–it comes across as ho-hum to my internal editor–but a sincere ho-hum message is better than no message at all, when you want to make sure people know you like working with them.

If you have more time to craft a nicer message than the one I produced, do so. But if you don’t, don’t let perfect become the enemy of good. If you like this idea but feel overwhelmed just thinking about making a meme, feel free to use mine. I won’t tell.

Choose A Year End Tradition

The first two tips in this article focus on ending the year right for your clients and colleagues. This last tip is designed to help you build a meaningful transition into the new year.

Transitions were one of the things I didn’t think about before I went remote. I am so happy that I gave up my commute. It’s given me hours back into my day. But I missed the way a commute created a natural transition into and out of work, so I had to make up my own transitions.

The end of one year and the beginning of another is a big transition. As someone who works in an office of one, it’s pretty easy to ignore it in favor of hitting the items on my to-do list.

I would suggest that taking a moment to ceremonially end your year is good for your mental health. The end of the year can be a fraught time for some. It’s all to easy to think that if you haven’t ended the year (or the decade) as a billionaire super model, or cured cancer, you must be defective. Implementing a small year-end ceremony is a nice way to commemorate what you have done, and start the new year with a clean slate.

Your ceremony doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. If you can afford to spend a week in Tahiti to clear your head, great. Personally, I need something a little more cost-efficient. So I clean my office. Cleaning isn’t my favorite thing to do, but I do like the symbolism of wiping the dust from the old year out of my office before the new year shows up. I am literally giving myself the gift of a clean start.

I spend the time remembering the things I did in the year that I’d like to do again. I think about the things I didn’t get a chance to do that I might work into the new year. And when I finish my cleaning, I say (to myself) ‘I declare this year closed.’ It’s a simple ceremony that works for me.

Life is messy, but your year end doesn’t have to be. If you keep these three tips in mind, you can close your year in an orderly fashion, and start the new one with a clean slate.