10 Things Remote Working Has Taught Me About Learning and the Future of Work

Remote working is the future of work

Nursery. Primary school. Middle school. Secondary school. Undergraduate degree. Masters degree. Post-graduate Certificate in Education. Teaching. For thirty years (almost consecutively) I’ve been a cog in the state education machine. And yet, the best learning I have done has been in the first four months since I left full-time teaching/education and embraced the world of remote working as part of a distributed team with Social INK.

Here are the ten things remote working has taught me about learning and the future of work.

1) The Future of Work Is Looking Increasingly Decentralised

Work as we have known it since the Industrial Revolution is finally evolving. There’s no longer a need for conveyor-belt workers performing mechanical tasks. Automation has long taken care of that. Instead, with improved technology, greater global access to the internet and faster connection speeds, employers are now able to recruit from a global talent pool.

International borders, commutes into work, and skills gaps (like the factory line) will also soon be a thing of the past. Being able to potentially cover all time zones with your distributed workforce and offer a worldwide 24/7 service at a fraction of the cost — that’s the way the wind is blowing.

2) People Are Taking Back Ownership of Their Time

In order to work remotely successfully, you need to be a self-starter. You have to self-motivate and be driven to complete your tasks without having someone looking over your shoulder. It won’t work otherwise. Get up. Get dressed. Start work. Manage your day. But, without the commute to “the office” and without the endless and unnecessary meetings, all of a sudden there are extra hours in the day.

If you’re clever with your scheduling, you can even begin to find time to do things you’ve always wanted to do but never had the working flexibility to do so. How you use your time is up to you. So long as what needs to get done, gets done.

3) Knowledge Isn’t as Important as Skills

You don’t need to know what an oxbow lake is or how it is formed. Or what happened to Henry VIII’s wives (divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived).

Knowledge is freely and readily available if you are willing to seek it out. Everything you need to know is a mouse-click or tap away. But skills. The ability to do something. To add value. That isn’t so abundant. So take time to learn new skills. You never know when they may come in handy.

4) Resilience Is Key

Never give up. Keep trying. Circumstances change. Change is inevitable. It’s how you deal with it that really matters. Learn from failure. I’ve yet to meet anyone who gets everything right first time. Persistence, stoic stubbornness in finding solutions instead of wallowing in self-pity, will drive you to success.

5) Remote Working Requires Adaptability

This is a bit of a combination of Points 3 and 4.

Change happens. Equip yourself to deal with it. Adapt to the changing needs and demands of society/clients/technology. Embrace it as personal and professional growth. And be ready to adapt again in the near future.

6) Be Open and Receptive to New Ideas

You don’t know it all.

There are many people who know things that you don’t. Be open to this. Don’t knock it till you’ve tried. You may just profit from it in some way.

7) There’s an App for That

Whatever you need, whatever it is you do, there’s an app for that.

Equip yourself with the tools that will make you more efficient. And if you find that there isn’t an app for your specific need, you may just have stumbled across a business idea.

8) The Internet Is Your Office

There’s no need for a physical office space (unless you’re in retail — maybe). Do away with the costs of having one and work from wherever you please. It’s freeing and often inspiring. Change your scenery and reap the rewards.

9) Creativity Does Not Mean Art

The creative subjects at school are the arty ones for arty people: Art, Drama, Music.

Actually, creativity is bigger than that. It’s about problem-solving. Being able to offer solutions to problems is less the domain of the artist and more that of the critical thinker. Scientists are creative. As are writers, mathematicians, chefs, manufacturers. Everyone is creative. Figure out how to tap into that and you’re golden.

10) The Best Learning Happens Outside of the Classroom

‘Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.’ ~ Albert Einstein

Make of that what you will.

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Slow Down! Why busy people need to stop and disconnect.

Slow down and watch the world fly past - Train rushing past long exposure

Have you noticed how push notifications actually SHOVE their way loudly into your day? How instant messaging requires INSTANT REPLIES? Otherwise you end up having to scroll through a whole list of posts in the group chat to find out what the hell is going on! If you recognise these tell-tale signs you need to slow down. Breathe. Disconnect. Gain some perspective.

When Push Turns To Shove

Likes, shares and retweets are the new currency of approval and measures of success. We’re infinitely more connected, globally. Everything and everyone is pushing its way onto our phones and into our lives. Notifying us that we are indeed connected. And reminding us that we need to remain connected.

Yet, we’ve become totally disconnected. From real life.

We’re so busy chasing after faster broadband or super fast fibre optic connections. Moaning that 3G is too slow. Groaning because 4G just about manages to buffer a feature length film in full HD.

When are we getting 5G?

Everything is speeding up.

We need to slow it down. Stop. Disconnect. Unplug.

And let our natural creativity flow.

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” ~ Ferris Bueller

Speed Limit

Here’s an interesting anecdote from someone I know who had to go to Speed School:

“If you drive above the speed limit you might arrive a few minutes earlier at your destination. But you greatly increase your chances of not getting there at all.”

This isn’t exactly revelatory.

Better late than never?

Life’s a marathon, not a sprint?

Slow and steady wins the race?

We’ve all heard these idioms, or variants of them, more often than we’d care to mention. Usually delivered with the gravitas of a sage by a parent. Or grandparent!

Beautifully cliché. Eye-roll inducing. Yet with their basis in a very simple truth.

As old and wrinkly as they may sound (not your parents/grandparents), there’s wisdom behind these idioms.

What’s the big rush?

Stop And Look Around

You only get to appreciate the pace, and fleetingness, of life once you’ve experienced enough of it to look back and wonder where it all went.

So, yes. What’s the big rush?

It’s amazing what you miss when you’re not looking. Ever bumped into someone or something whilst staring at your phone as you walk through town?

Look around you.

Children (especially children who cannot yet read) are highly observant. They don’t miss a thing.

They’re not distracted by the words and symbols that bombard us daily. These things hold no meaning for them. So they take in their surroundings. Completely.

Young children will notice the smallest detail.

Something that may have been there all along. Staring you in the face. But, as a busy adult, you fail to see. Overlook it because there are so many other things drawing your attention. Too much on your mind. Far too many distractions.

All too often, you can find yourself looking at the wrong thing.

Disconnect. Stop viewing the world through a phone.

And these things are getting in the way.

Reducing your productivity. Curtailing your creativity.

This Is Your Life

Rob Dial offers an interesting assessment of our Life Timeline.

With the best years of our life spent as a working adult it’s probably wise to seek enjoyment in what we do. But more importantly is to take time to actually live.

Nobody on their deathbed has ever said “I wish I had spent more time at the office.” ~ Senator Paul Tsongas

Shove those push notifications away!

They can wait.

Disconnect To Reconnect

We may all be infinitely more connected. So civilised and modern. Extremely knowledgeable and advanced. Yet detached from reality and our surroundings.

Everyone is always busy.

It’s as if we need to fill our lives with things to keep us occupied.

But actually, it’s ok to do nothing.

It’s ok to be bored.

And it’s perfectly fine to allow yourself to look out the window and daydream.

Disconnect. Then reconnect. With reality.

Take Time

You can’t make time.

Don’t try to find time.

Take your time instead.

Slow it all down. Take a good look around. Don’t just hear, actually listen.

Observe the world and all its subtleties.

Notice things.

Your capacity for creative thinking will increase.

As will your productivity.

 

Gareth

 

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The Reason You Haven’t Done It Is Because No One Told You To: The Secret To Becoming Immediately More Creative And Productive.

Cardboard robot thinking about how to become more creative and productive

You have lived on a conveyor belt most of your life. It’s time to jump off and be more productive.

Some Assembly Required

The success behind mass production factory lines is they offer consistency. Sameness. A standardised product.

The raw materials are shaped and moulded as per a preconceived design. They are then sent along a conveyor belt and pieced together. By the end of the line you have your product. Fully assembled. And looking the same as every other product on the line.

Industry at its efficient best.

Unpicking The Metaphor

Now imagine the same scenario, but this time change the factory setting to a classroom. The conveyor belt is your compulsory education. And the different parts added along the production line are your subjects and predefined curriculum.

Everybody gets the same. Expectations are that we all learn exactly the same and need the same content in order to be fully functioning human beings.

We all sit the same exams. Because we all need to be standardised.

And any deviation from the expected norm is seen as a defect and steps are taken to fix it back into the standardised shape.

Square pegs are sanded down to fit into round holes.

Told what to think. How to think. When to think. And even what to do with these thoughts and what the expected outcome should be. Which is why you’re not as productive as you could be.

Education Dumbs You Down

There’s an interesting study by NASA which boldly suggests that “We are born creative geniuses and the education system dumbs us down”.

In this study 98% of children tested, between 4 and 5 years old, fell in the genius category of imagination.

And the adults tested?

Only 2%.

The researchers revisited their subjects every five years and found that at age 10, only 30% remained in the genius category of imagination.

A drop of 68% in only five years!

When tested again at age 15, the figure had dropped even further to 12%.

The outcome?

The longer you receive a conventional education the less likely you are to hold on to the creative problem solving and free thinking skills you had as a child.

Why Haven’t You Done It Yet?

Ask yourself this: “If someone tells me to do something, am I more likely to do it?”

Do you do things independently because you know there’s a value in being proactive?

Or are you more likely to put things off? Usually to the last minute? Until someone comes along and tells you it needs to get done? Urgently!

Sounds like the student approach to homework and revision to me!

Compliance At What Cost?

As much as educational establishments would like to think that they are equipping students with the knowledge and skills they need for the future, they are sadly doing the opposite.

Self-motivated, Resilient, Independent Thinkers with a propensity for creative problem-solving. They are in steady decline from the age of 4 – school age.

Cartoon of a teacher squaring children's thoughts

Instead we find a preconditioned majority.

Spoon fed. Hand held. Dependent. Passive. With a disdain for an education that they don’t value. Only completing tasks they are told to do, because they are told to do them. Not out of any genuine interest.

And as soon as they are no longer told what to do, they find themselves at a loose end. They can’t cope. Without approval and an imposed direction they lack the skills, confidence and motivation to self-start.

They don’t really want to do what they’re being told to do. But they don’t really know what it is they want to do instead.

So they comply.

Because that’s what everyone else is doing. It’s easier than having to figure things out for yourself. And it gets people off your back.

Turning The 2% Back Into The 98%

Recognising that we are all products straight off a factory assembly line, with an inherent fear of failure, is important if we are to rewire our thinking.

“You must do this if you are to be successful in your exams! You want to get good results right? If you don’t do this in exactly the way you’ve been told, you will fail!”

Sound familiar? Near enough?

We need to stop fearing failure and start embracing it. Start by trying some of these creative exercises.

Don’t wait for someone to tell you to do something. Recognise the value in being proactive.

Do it for yourself.

Not for approval.

Certainly not just because there’s an exam at the end!

There are few standardised tests once you leave education.

The most successful people don’t conform. And they certainly don’t wait around for someone to tell them to do something about it.

Five Steps Towards A More Productive And Creative You

These are easier said than done. But they are fundamental to breaking free from the assembly line mentality of passive acceptance and conformity.

  1. Teach yourself to do things. Don’t wait for someone to teach you.
  2. Learn what you want to learn, how you want to learn.
  3. Ask questions. Don’t expect immediate answers.
  4. Don’t seek approval, but also don’t fear disapproval.
  5. Celebrate difference. Embrace divergent thinking. Forget everything you’ve ever been told you can or cannot do.

Throw yourself into everything you do with the same reckless abandon as a five year old.

Who cares what anyone thinks? Who cares whether you succeed or fail? Get out of your own way.

Break the mould.

Free yourself of conventional thinking. Jump off that conveyor belt and be more productive. Not a product.

What are you waiting for?

Gareth

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Catatonia – What to do when you’re stuck

Being stuck on a task can feel a little bit like this.

There’s always a point in the day, week, month, year, your life, when you get stuck. It’s that point when you find yourself staring a lot. Trapped in a middle-distance focus. Eyes partly glazed. Brow partly furrowed. Brain partly dead.

What’s Going On?

You might be tired. Overworked. Bored. Uninspired. Bored.

So you stare.

And things just continue to happen around you. Out there on the periphery.

You half-acknowledge people. You robotically go through the motions. And when you finally snap out of your catatonic trance you have no recollection of anything that’s happened! 

It’s like being drunk. Only cheaper.

Now What?

These are difficult times.

Perhaps not in the grand scheme of things, but they can feel difficult. Especially when there are things that need doing – there always are – and you just can’t bring yourself to do any of them.

Not interested in the slightest.

In fact. Maybe, if you ignore them, they’ll go away?

Better still, they might get done by someone else!

That’s unless it’s work that only you can do.

You’ve checked your smartphone for the hundredth time. Let out a big long sigh. Done everything imaginable to procrastinate and avoid the inevitable. But it still hasn’t gone away.

What’s The Solution To Being Stuck?

So, here’s the trick.

Banging your head against a brick wall is only going to give you a headache. And, at most, you might scuff the paintwork.

It’s pointless. You’ll get nowhere. You’ll feel worse.

Instead. Do something fun.

Distract your mind with an activity that you love.

Give your mind a rest. Change your focus. Free the subconscious. Let it wander. Break out of your trance.

STOP STARING!

Try a smile. Have a conversation. Write something. Draw something. Mess about on Photoshop. Do a One Minute Brief. Watch a silly YouTube video.

And when you’re done. When you’ve finally forgotten the burden that was weighing you down. Go back to it.

It’ll get done.

Unless the reason you’re stuck is because you went out for a couple of drinks on a school night and you’re hungover.

Then, tough.

Drink some water and soldier on!

I’m off to drink some water.

 

Gareth

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