How to Become a Manager of One

How to Become a Manager of One

When you’re hiring, seek out people who are managers of one, said Basecamp.

But how do you become one?

Here are some practices that helped me get better at it 👇🏾

Day 8 #ship30for30 essay: How to Become a Manager of One.

Image Version

Day 8 Essay

Text version

One of the top skills to thrive in remote work is to become a Manager of One.

What’s that mean? A manager of one is someone who comes up with their own goals and executes them. They don’t need heavy direction. They don’t need daily check-ins. They do what a manager would do — set the tone, assign items, determine what needs to get done, etc. — but they do it by themselves and for themselves. - From _Basecamp'_s signalvnoise blog

Unfortunately, most remote workers do not focus on this meta skill as much as they do on more hard skills related to their work.

Most people think remote work is just working from anywhere outside the office.

But soon they find themselves less and less productive and eventually, burned out. Because,

  • they don't have a system to organize their work

  • tyranny of the urgent trumps the important

  • they find it harder to ask for help

  • work from outside the office doesn't seem like work, so they forget about breaks and vacations.

Good news is, it is easy to turn things around with a little conscious effort. Here's how, step by step:

Step 1: Organize yourself and your work!

Organization is at the core of productivity.

Get yourself in a routine first. Don't wake up and open the laptop from the bed. Use tools to dump all the work related tasks and thoughts out of your brain.

I use Obsidian for capturing all my thoughts and Todoist for tracking all my tasks. This puts me in a relaxed frame of mind so that I know everything is recorded and I don't have to second guess myself every hour.

Step 2: Prioritize ruthlessly!

A lot of us use tools to organize but fail to prioritize. This ends up with the most urgent task taking up our time and we are always in a state of rush.

Prioritize your tasks even if you get it wrong at times. I use priorities in Todoist for that. Make sure every task on your list has a priority set. That way you remove decision making every time you need to pick the next task.

Step 3: Communicate, communicate, communicate! And then communicate some more!!

Communication is key to handling expectations. There is no such thing as over communication. When in doubt always communicate. If you're going to miss a deadline, inform all stakeholders as early as possible. Do not sit on it and come out on the last day.

Step 4: Help and ask for help.

My mentor Daniel Roy Greenfeld calls it the 30 minute rule. Everyone gets stuck. It's okay to ask for help. If you are stuck with something for 30 minutes, ask people for help.

If you're working asynchronously, ask for help and then move on to another task to get back to it later.

Similarly, when you see people asking for help in threads or forums in your official communications, lend a hand whenever you can. Make it a priority to help someone at least once a week.

Step 5: Take breaks and vacations!

It's easy to feel demotivated when you have no one to talk to around you. So, work in intense time boxes and sprinkle mini breaks all across the day.

Take a walk. Take a shower. Do some pushups. Check the social medias (with caution!).

Breaks help us replenish concentration and works like magic to untangle hard problems.

Taking vacations is the logical next step. One sign of managing yourself well is to know when you need long resets. The better sign is to allow yourself to take it more often.

Once these are in place, remote work becomes the Afghan terrain and you become the Taliban. Your competition will have the watches but you'll have all the time to succeed.