We all have those weeks. I’m having one right now. But web workers are ahead of the game when it comes to surviving intense work weeks. If you’re swamped right now, you may not believe it, but we web workers have at our fingertips a few substantial advantages that we can use to our benefit during super-busy times.
Time zone differences might see you in a conference call in the morning’s small hours, or mean you need to have something done by Sunday, your time, rather than Monday. But by working with the limitations imposed by timezone differences, you can get more done, or at the very least make the most of your hours.
If you’re staying up late, or getting up early, to meet a commitment in another time zone, you might be able to use the time around that commitment to work through some of the less brain-intensive tasks you need to do. Recently, when I had a Skype meeting at 10PM, I spent the hour beforehand, once I’d had dinner, knocking over a few small tasks that took time, but not much focus.
Time zone differences may squeeze your schedule at some points, but equally, they can also buy you time. A weekend shortened by the need to work Sunday to help those for whom it’s Monday may be followed by a legitimate three-day weekend, where you enjoy your usual days off plus the Friday when the others you’re working with are enjoying Saturday.
Time zones may also give you a nice head start on your teammate’s Monday morning — giving you a serene, uninterrupted pocket of work time in which to catch up on last week, and get a jump on this one.
The Absent Presence
One of the great things about web work is, of course, the technology. Depending on your work, technology may give you the ability to appear present when, in fact, you’re flat out working on something else altogether.
The simple ability to create content in advance of the point at which you need it is a huge boon. Using offline and travel time to reply to email, or catch up on work-related reading, videos or podcasts is a case in point. Mobile technology means we can spend time that would otherwise be wasted in a traffic jam checking up on colleagues’ progress, arranging schedules, maintaining a social media presence, or checking invoice payments.
Giving colleagues access to your electronic calendar can also reduce the number of meeting invitations and task requests you need to decline or reschedule in a busy week — and the amount of time you spend managing those requests. Similarly, creating a publicly available task list can allow team members to see what’s on your plate, and allow your team leaders to re-prioritize work as they see fit. This can reduce confusion and delays, as well as allowing you to stay focused on whatever you’re doing at the moment.
Of course, delayed and scheduled publishing means that, given some notice, any article, blog, or other site content can be produced and scheduled in advance, so when the big week arrives, you can dedicate yourself to its tasks, and let your carefully prepared content assets publish themselves. Automated tools — like email autoresponders, voicemail, automatic invoice services, and others — are also a boon for web workers who need to be on top of things even when we’re not around.
Remote Work Bonuses
I think remote web workers enjoy a few bonuses that our onsite colleagues miss. We can very easily ensure we eat well during busy periods, so long as we have a little notice and enough time to get some decent meals in the freezer. No missed lunches for us! We don’t need to waste time finding a cafe to get coffee, or going through the motions of fire drills, water cooler chitchat, or any of the other events that, while unobtrusive in a normal week, can be seriously frustrating when you’re busy.
Instead of waiting, panicked, at our desks for someone to get us a project input, we can IM them to find out when they’ll actually get it to us (I’ve noticed people seem to be more willing to admit realistic timeframes over IM than out loud in an office, with all their colleagues listening). Then, we can use the intervening time to take a break: Fold the washing that’s been waiting patiently in the laundry this past week, walk the dog, or catch up on a few of those small work tasks that don’t take much effort. We get to choose whether we’ll spend the time catching up on work, or the personal-life tasks that also seem to languish when we’re flat out.
This flexibility of time is a huge benefit. If you know your teammate won’t get you what you need until 5:30PM, and you’ll need to spend the evening working on it to meet the deadline, you might decide to use the afternoon to get a head start on whatever you need to do tomorrow, to whip up a hearty soup for next week’s lunches, or simply to take a well-earned break. You’ve been working hard, after all!
What aspects of web work help you to survive crazy working weeks?
Related GigaOM Pro content (sub. req.): Enabling the Web Work Revolution