I've been a remote worker for about three years now, and I've learned how to be productive when I'm at home, and also how to manage remote teams as a founder of a company. But, I'll be honest--it took me a long time to figure out how to make remote work effective. I was so used to being interrupted every step of the way with real-time communication and email, I just assumed that this was how things were for everyone.
When I was working on my own and started diagnosing the issue of being interrupted all the time, I found that most of my unproductive time was spent giving and collecting status updates from everyone I was working with. The less informed people were--especially people in leadership positions--about what I was doing, the more emails, text messages, and chat messages they sent me. Some leaders are OK with not being in the loop, but some get antsy if they don't hear from you every other hour. It was a waste of time for everyone.
So I made one change that had a big impact. I started sending an email every Monday morning with the subject line "My plan for the week." In this email, I would tell the recipients exactly what my plans were for the week and ask if they had any questions or any adjustments they would like to make to my priorities.
It looks like this:
Hi, all -- My priority this week will be to focus on publishing blog posts & finalizing our marketing & partnership plan.
Here are some activities I will be working on:
Post the "work from home guidelines" article on the intranet.
Create a draft of the marketing plan we discussed last week, with the intention of getting approval by the end of this week.
I have several meetings with our partners this week. I'll send a summary of those discussions.
Thank you! If you have any questions or want to see any adjustments to my priority please let me know.
Depending on the activities that week, I would also include a "what I finished last week" section. That section looks like this:
Last week, I was able to publish the remote blog post, speak with three of our partners, and I finished a good draft of our marketing plan that we discussed last week. I was hoping to have the marketing plan finalized, but I'm still waiting for Suzy to come back from vacation and I'll review it with her when she comes back this week.
This is a helpful email to send to clients, but it's also useful internally. If you're the founder or CEO of the company, your email to staff would look like this:
Hi, all -- Here are our priorities, and direction for this week.
We need to increase sales of our excess inventory. Can the marketing team please put together a plan to sell all the unused inventory we have in our warehouse? If we don't sell it in 30 days, we will have to dispose of the inventory.
Our email campaigns are doing great. Let's do more of them. Let's move from 1 email a week to 2 emails a week.
Cancel all unnecessary meetings not related to sales goals for the next 30 days. We are in crunch-mode time, and I would like for us to focus on tweaks that we can make. I know some of you have important meetings with me as well, but if it's not sales related, please reschedule the invitation for now.
You can also ask your team to send you similar weekly updates on what they've accomplished and their plans for the coming week.
When my team and I send emails like this, clients and teammates usually love it. It reduces their anxiety and gives them more visibility into what each person is focusing on. Also, interruptions decrease significantly because the recipient is reassured that you're on top of things, and don't need a reminder to be working at all times.
This one email can save your company a lot of time.