How to set priorities and goals in remote work?

The outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic changed the way we work forever. Many teams started to work remotely practically overnight. However, is it easy to switch to remote work in express mode? Such a form of fulfilling duties can be very effective, but we have to pay attention to a few unobvious issues. One of them is setting goals and priorities that will enable effective home office work.

How to set priorities in remote work and why to do it?

Remote working is a challenge in many ways. In particular, it imposes the need for self-discipline and appropriate work organization. From the manager’s perspective, setting certain working hours, for example, will not always result in the effective performance of tasks entrusted to the employee. After all, the idea and the idea of remote work is to be able to perform duties in any place and time! Therefore, it can be stated with certainty that in order to achieve much more measurable effects, it is necessary to focus on the task aspects of work – defining the objectives to be achieved and indicating the priorities that a remote employee should follow. The goal is one of the key conditions for effectiveness in remote work – awareness of the effect that can be achieved enables optimization of the ways leading to its achievement. Moreover, each properly formulated goal should be recorded, preferably using task management tools such as Monday or Asana.

The priorities defined in remote working allow to systematize in your mind the steps that need to be taken to reach it. A meticulous analysis and prioritization of objectives is very important when setting and creating a list of priorities. Determining how urgent and important specific actions are will allow us to save a lot of time by planning work for a given day. The reason for not achieving the main goals is to devote time to secondary issues in the first place. Of course, these tasks can be very important, but they are not the most important. As a consequence, too little time can be left for the key tasks, which in turn will result in a decrease in their quality. However, if we are accountable for the effects of our work and not the time spent on the task, in many cases our work will become more effective and we will do it faster!

However, if we do not create properly constructed goals and priorities, we may suffer serious consequences. What are the consequences? One of the biggest mistakes in managing the time of a remote team is that the employee devotes his time to work, which he does not know the expected effect. As a result, there is a lack of motivation, low quality of results and a sense of meaninglessness of performed duties. By presenting the employee with clear goals to achieve, he or she can look at his or her work from a new perspective and, while performing the tasks, answer the question: how will the performance of this particular activity contribute to the achievement of the assumed goals?

Good practices in remote work

In remote work it is necessary to be involved in the work performed and to focus strongly on the duties performed. Home office is characterized by a greater number of distracting factors than stationary work, therefore a strong focus on the realization of the assumed goals is necessary. It is necessary to separate the employee’s duties from the home office, and while achieving the goal, try to fit in the time allocated for its execution.

Each day at work from home should start with creating a list of tasks to be performed and analysing what tasks are most urgent and what can still wait. On this basis we set priorities for the day. It is also necessary to assess how much time may take to complete a particular task. Often a good solution is to note these assumptions in the Google calendar for example. However, regardless of the system we set up, it is important to return to the created list and realistically relate to the assumptions during work.

How to set goals in remote working?

When setting goals and controlling their validity, it is worth using the concept of goal formulation. S.M.A.R.T. analysis can be used for this purpose. When determining the urgency of tasks in relation to others, we will need a matrix of priorities and time management – I suggest, for example, the Eisenhower Matrix.

SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) are five recommendations related to characteristics that should have a properly formulated purpose. According to this concept, the goal should be:

  • specific – formulated precisely and unambiguously, without the possibility of different interpretations;
  • measurable – Defined in such a way that the degree of achievement of the goal can be quantified. If this is impossible, its realization should be verifiable unambiguously.
  • achievable – realistic. A goal that is too difficult has a negative impact on motivation and results in doubts about its achievability.
  • relevant – valuable for the person realizing it;
  • time-bound – determined on the basis of the time frame for achieving the goal.

Eisenhower’s matrix enables categorization of tasks according to four types:

  • urgent and important – matters of highest priority that require immediate action;
  • important but not urgent – tasks that can be planned later;
  • urgent but not important – tasks that are intended to be assigned to someone else;
  • urgent and void – issues that should be eliminated from the action plan

Such a definition and grouping of goals enables clear understanding of them and, as a result, effective implementation.

What should you pay special attention to in dispersed teams?

Organizing, planning, controlling and motivating employees seems to be much easier when dealing with a team focused on achieving goals in one place – usually the company’s office. Just supporting team members and organizing resources to perform tasks may seem to be easier. It doesn’t have to be like this – working in a distributed mode, all the activities related to employee management can be carried out equally efficiently. However, this management should be based on a few key determinants. Teamwork

The first are clearly formulated, precise and measurable common goals. They unite the dispersed team and involve its individual members in achieving them. However, it is necessary to build a sense of team identity. The sense of community and belonging increases motivation to perform tasks and communication between all the people involved becomes more efficient.

Another important issue is the proper structure of the team, clarification of the roles of individual employees and definition of tasks for a specific role. In addition, people with specific roles must be able to work together as a team. In this case, it is also worthwhile for the team to have an appropriate size, determined according to what goals are set for the team. It has been assumed that teams with strong task orientation should have up to seven members, but already, for example, teams focused on preparing as many ideas or solutions as possible should be more numerous. However, I leave the final assessment to you – remember that this should be determined rationally based on the goals set.

What tools can help to develop priorities in remote work?

Practically every person has his or her own preferences related to the ways of planning their work and tasks to be accomplished. There are many tools for this, but some of them play a key role in remote working.

The first of them is a calendar. It allows you to organize yourself among the planned telephone conversations, videoconferences or deadlines for achieving your goals. The most popular tool of this type is the Google Calendar, which allows you to create events or virtual meetings and invite guests to them, who immediately receive notification of this on their email. I know that some people use paper versions of calendars – this is obviously an effective solution, but I think that the electronic calendar is more functional, especially when we often organize team meetings online. Besides, everyone in the team can have access to our calendar and thus knows when we are available and when they can turn to us for something. Thanks to this, no one writes to us and does not distract us when we need to focus the most.

Another group of tools are project management solutions. Here, it is a sin not to mention Trello, designed for long-term planning of tasks of many people. While working on the goals we can drag a given task to another column, which is a specific stage of the project. There is also a possibility of assigning labels to specific tasks, which determine e.g. the degree of importance of each of them.

Remote work can also be helped by tools designed to create notes, such as Evernote or Zoho Notebook. They allow you to write down ideas or solutions that come to your mind in an orderly and organized way. Any tools dedicated to task list creation, such as Todoist or Google Task List, are also useful. Task lists allow, among other things, to describe them concisely, specify the deadline for completion, deselect already completed tasks, or print a ready list. These are very useful tools that allow you to return to the planned tasks without leaving your computer. If you are a manager, you may also be interested in a course about passed work.

Summary

To sum up, effective remote working is based on skillfully defining goals and setting priorities. In order to effectively carry out one’s duties in the home office mode, high motivation, self-discipline and good organization are necessary. However, in order to maintain order in the tasks to be performed – it is worthwhile for us to use helpful concepts and tools that prevent chaos in the execution of tasks. Remote work undoubtedly has its whims and poses completely different challenges, but the availability of technology and tools meets our expectations – thanks to that with a bit of self-discipline we can effectively organize our activities in the home office mode. We hope that the above entry allowed you to understand how to set goals in remote work.

Emilia Gromulska

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