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While working remotely, it has become quite easy to get distracted and lose track of time. So how do you stay focused when Youtube, your cozy bed, and your fridge are just a couple of steps away from your workspace? 😅

Simple. You need to be accountable.

Making specific commitments

While making commitments to my colleagues in meetings and chat tools, I follow a specific structure. I share what I have planned to accomplish and within what period. For example: I plan to get this code review done by the end of the day.

By committing to perform a specific activity by a specific date, you are held responsible for that job and you would naturally strive to ensure that it gets fulfilled. It is also good to share your progress along the way to reassure that you are on the right path and to also course-correct if necessary.

Reviewing work

After completing work, I spend some time reviewing it. This allows me to see both the quality of it and the speed at which I was able to get it done. I also list down the things that had gone wrong and what I can do to improve them hereafter.

Finally, if anything is going to be a motivating factor in holding yourself accountable, it is going to be your own desire to produce quality work.

How do you stay accountable while working from home?


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    The first and most basic one is - writing down how many hours I work each day.
    Hitting the goal there.

     

    Then there are many more ways. Daily standups are amazing - that's why pretty much every product team works like this. You have a 15min meeting with your team, saying what you did yesterday, what you plan to do today.

     

    I think in remote work, but also for anyone serious about their productivity - you need a way to write down what work you plan to do, and then what you have done. I use Trello for this.. Normally, you have one tool on team level that everyone is using.

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      Great point about writing down what you plan to do - I think this also aligns with Sarah's point around making specific commitments.

      For the point around standups though, do you have any suggestions to keep these meetings restricted to 15 mins? We usually end up discussing a lot of things & it easily breaches the 40-min time limit every single time. To add more context, we have a small group of 4-5 people in the meeting and all of us have business roles. We share the things we're going to work on during the day before the standup itself to save some time, but it still takes long.

      I ask this because I have been thinking of ditching the daily standup altogether and have a weekly review kind of meeting instead.

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        Hi Ashley,

        With product teams - it is easy to keep the meeting ~15min. Things are happening slowly in product teams, often you need to do 4-8 hours of work independently before there is a need for collaboration.

        While business teams - we also often take even 1 hour when we do daily standup with my co-founder. Decisions need a lot of collaboration. It is fast-paced and group work.

        So maybe there is a _need_ for this kind of daily sync in the business team, even if it is a bit time consuming.

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          True Boris, I just wish we spent lesser time on call early in the morning. It feels like an hour has passed & yet no work done :(

          But I guess that's the downside you've to live with, at least till you don't have much variability in your daily work.

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            We do this kind of meeting after people catch up on their emails etc. in the morning, which is about 1-1.5 hours after the start of the day.

            Maybe this helps!

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      To be honest, as a person who has managed engineering teams for 10 years or so, accountability is a word I try to avoid like the plague. Agile guru Allen Holub summarizes it pretty well in a couple of tweets:

      > "Accountability" and "commitment" are the language of control. A system built on trust and psychological safety doesn't require either concept, because reliably doing your best is the norm. Nobody has to be held accountable for not meeting commitments.

      > Do you "manage" your spouse? Do you "hold them accountable" for cleaning the kitchen? Is "accountability" central to the relationship? 

      > The word "accountability," is a red flag for me. That word usually means "somebody to blame," which effectively destroys any hope of experimentation. A culture of experimentation is essential if you intend to work in an Agile way.

      I instead tend to think/talk in terms of taking responsibility and asking for help when you need it. We shouldn't be afraid if things don't go the right way. We should try to build a trusting, open environment in our teams where people speak up if things aren't go well - even if it's about getting distracted due to working remotely. We need to get the fear out of the system.

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        Interesting perspective Kevin. I like that we should be talking in terms of taking responsibility & asking for help instead but how do you put this objectively or track it?

        In my case, for example, I know I shouldn't be distracted by household chores (say, making lunch) during the day but it's easy for me to make exceptions. However, when I have a daily tracker & hold myself accountable for what I do during the day, I never take a break to do any household chore.

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          If this is about what works for you personally, then do whatever works for you. My point was more about that I wouldn't want that sort of language of "accountability" to permeate the team because that's when people start waiting too long to ask for help on things, where the blame game starts, etc.

          But in terms of figuring out how to get stuff done yourself, you do you.

          If you're struggling with distractions, I'd recommend Indistractable by Nir Eyal: https://www.nirandfar.com/indistractable/

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            Got it. That makes sense.

            Yes, I had read good things about the book but never got to reading it. Maybe I will pick it up now.