Lone-Ranger Productivity Tips

Next week I will celebrate my 5 year anniversary of working from home full-time. Here are some tips I’ve picked up.

Work Space

  • A good chair makes all the difference.  A good desk doesn’t make any difference.
  • Good headphones are handy when you need to block noise.  I use over-the ear Sony noise canceling headphones I’ve had for a decade, but if I had to do it over again I’d go cheaper and keep the comfort.
  • For my working telephone I use a battery-powered phone with a speaker option on my home line for work.  It’s Ok, but it ties up the home line.  Recently I splurged on a $20 set of earbuds and started using my cell phone instead.  The calls are clear, and I filter out external noise.
  • I have a great big laptop.  It’s criminally overpowered for what I use it for.  But, if I want to do something ELSE while I’m working, I have power to spare.
  • Walking desks are terrible for typing.  They are worse for detailed mouse-ing.
  • Some people have a problem stopping work.  They feel compelled to check email and see what’s going on on the evenings and week ends.  I avoid that by setting up my work space out of sight. If I saw it all evening I’d be tempted to log in, but since I don’t think about it, I can go all weekend without thinking about work.

Productivity

  • I keep track of tasks with my own system.  Starting with the Pomodoro technique, I simplified it to a spiral bound notebook for tasks.  Instead of a pomodoro timer, I use Shoutcast.com to remind me not to get distracted.  There are fewer commercials and more choice than regular radio.  Using all other task-keeping systems (TidlyWiki, Rally, Getting Things Done) takes too much effort.
  • Communication is key.  You can get about 3 days worth of work done in a day if you have everything you need.  You can waste days and weeks waiting for information.  I do a short daily meeting and I check in with my co-workers at least once or twice a day.
  • It can get lonely.  I get antsy and have to run errands once or twice a week.  Shopping, lunch with others, and driving in the country all help.  Working on housework and working on my own computer-based projects does not.  I don’t go out to coffee shops as much as I thought I would.  Part of that is the comfy chair, part of it is the 10 pound laptop with 90 minutes of battery life.
  • You never, ever, get good gossip.  I’ve been through two layoffs, and I didn’t know about either of them until the day of.

These work for me.  Your mileage may vary.